Sunday, March 31, 2024

Julie Hanlon Rubio's "Can You Be a Catholic and a Feminist?"

Julie Hanlon Rubio is Shea-Heusaman Professor Christian Social Ethics at Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, and previously served on the faculty at St. Louis University for nearly two decades. Her research and writing focus on family, sexuality, feminism, and politics. She is the author or editor of six books, including Hope for Common Ground: Mediating the Personal and the Political in a Divided Church (2016).

Rubio applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Can You Be a Catholic and a Feminist?, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Can You Be a Catholic and a Feminist? deals with the contested issue of abortion. It is in the middle of chapter four, “Life.” The top part of page contains the end of a section titled, “Unresolvable Tensions” in which I outline divisions between Catholics and feminists and describe earlier attempts to move past them. “The lines first drawn in the 1970s have hardened, so that those who disagree rarely engage, and all of this makes Catholic feminism seem all but impossible.” The bottom of the page is the beginning of a section titled, “Starting in a Different Place,” in which I offer a constructive response to the impasse in the form of a “turn to narratives of pregnancy, pregnancy loss [including both miscarriage and abortion], and birth.” As I turn to women’s experience, “I attempt to take seriously Catholic concerns about the humanity of unborn children and feminist commitments to women’s bodily autonomy.” The last sentence reminds readers that here “as in earlier chapters” I am trying to get at the depth and complexity of Catholicism and feminism in order to forge a path toward authentic Catholic feminist belonging.

Page 99 reveals a lot about my book. Here I describe both the feminist movement for reproductive justice and the prolife movement which includes many committed Catholics. I say that I will describe a range of women’s life experiences. Many readers will be skeptical of my plan to read these different experiences together. Liberal feminist readers may worry that my use of the term “unborn children” signals a lack of commitment to feminism. Conservative Catholic readers may wonder if my use of the term “bodily autonomy” signals a lack of commitment to Catholic faith. In fact, I am trying to honor the wisdom of both traditions and bring them together.

My approach in the book is complicated. I argue that being Catholic and feminist is possible, but only by acknowledging tensions, understanding commonalities, and finding creative paths of belonging. In chapters on sex, work, marriage, life, gender, power, and prayer, the book explores possible paths of “conscious belonging.” In the early chapters, I am able to show that belonging is not so difficult. The chapter on life marks the transition to harder cases where lots of tension remains and creative adaptation is necessary.

On the issue of abortion, tensions between the feminist commitment to respecting bodily autonomy and the Catholic commitment to valuing unborn children run deep. But feminists and Catholics both value experience as a source of moral wisdom. In this chapter I step back from the politics of abortion and listen to women’s stories. Viewing these stories through Catholic and feminist lenses, I see common threads emerging. Catholics and feminists are both trying to respect important values. A Catholic feminist can see both tensions and commonality. She can commit to a practice of encounter and accompaniment.

The strategy offered in this chapter requires the hard work of listening to different voices and balancing conflicting values. It demonstrates that the more you know about Catholicism and feminism, the deeper the problem of being Catholic and feminist becomes.

But I try to show in my book that the reverse is also true. Knowing more reveals more of the wisdom of both traditions and more of what they share. With the best of feminism, a credible way of being Catholic, and of living a meaningful life in a broken world, emerges. I hope readers come away believing that the difficult path of conscious belonging is worth taking.
Learn more about Can You Be a Catholic and a Feminist? at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Robert Shea Terrell's "A Nation Fermented"

Robert Shea Terrell is an assistant professor of history at Syracuse University, where he specializes in Modern Germany and Europe, with a research focus on commodity and food history. His research has been funded by the J. William Fulbright Commission, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., among other institutions. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California San Diego.

Terrell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Nation Fermented: Beer, Bavaria, and the Making of Modern Germany, and reported the following:
Opening my book to page 99 drops you a few pages into the fourth chapter, which analyzes regional and national cultures of beer in the 1950s and 1960s. The page details the formation of Bierwerbe G.m.b.H.—a nationwide community advertising entity in West Germany—and the development of its flagship advertisement, the so-called Blue Medallion. The page goes into the origins and design considerations behind the ad which was intended to promote beer regardless of brand. By the end of 1951, the image “was plastered across West Germany; upwards of 300,000 signs and posters were produced, paid for with a communal budget of 900,000DM, generated by collecting 10 Pfennigs per hectoliter from member breweries.” The page ends by noting that in addition to the Blue Medallion, Bierwerbe G.m.b.H. went on to develop myriad “advertising initiatives ranging from posters to ads in magazines and newspapers, and eventually, on radio and television.”

Those seeking to pull the core ideas of the book out of page 99 will find it difficult. The page does not capture a great deal of the book including some of the main content areas, analytic themes, and overarching arguments. Indeed, even within the chapter, this page only speaks to a national-level advertising initiative, while the rest of the chapter looks at similar developments in the southeastern state of Bavaria as well as national, regional, and gendered consumer practices and social norms.

To further undermine the usefulness of the Page 99 Test in the case of my book, the chapter in question is—for all that I like about it—perhaps the least integral to my bigger arguments. As a whole, A Nation Fermented argues that Bavarian industrial and political interests transformed national cultures of production and consumption throughout the twentieth century. I emphasize how this is the case in everything from tax law to consumer culture to international stereotypes. But page 99 constitutes part of a chapter that retains the most tension between regional and national histories. By the end of the chapter I argue that while provincialism in consumer practices remained, they became less divisive as beer, stripped of brand or locality, became emblematic of an emerging West German consumer culture.
Learn more about A Nation Fermented at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 29, 2024

David Stefan Doddington's "Old Age and American Slavery"

David Stefan Doddington is Senior Lecturer in American History at Cardiff University. He is the author of Contesting Slave Masculinity in the American South.

Doddington applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Old Age and American Slavery, and reported the following:
If readers (please may there be some…) opened page 99 of Old Age and American Slavery, they would get a clear sense of the broader arguments in part one of the book. In these opening chapters I emphasize the rapacious character of American slavery, and the calculated abuse of enslavers, by showing how Black elders were exploited as much as possible, or neglected, sold, and abandoned where not. Page 99 offers one of the most well-known examples of such behavior, highlighting the famed Black activist and fugitive author Frederick Douglass’s recollections of the treatment of his grandmother, Betsey, by her enslaver:
“Finding that she was of but little value; that her frame was already racked with the pains of old age and that complete helplessness was fast stealing over her once active limbs – [her enslaver] took her to the woods, built her a little hut with a mud chimney and then gave her the bounteous pleasure of there supporting herself in utter loneliness; thus virtually turning her out to die.”
This section of Douglass’s narrative is well-known. However, the book complicates and extends the discussion by noting how in later versions of his life-story Douglass notes that Betsey was saved from this fate by Captain Auld, his own former slaver. As Douglass puts it: “The fact is, that, after writing my narrative describing the condition of my grandmother, Capt. Auld’s attention being thus called to it, he rescued her from her destitution.”

Douglass condemned the individuals who exploited his grandmother for as long as they could, and then cynically abandoned her, and he insisted that such treatment was the logical conclusion in a society built on exploitation. Readers who opened page 99 would thus get a stark indicator of the broader arguments in my book about the violence and tragedies of American slavery; they would have a clear sense of the significance of age to slavers, and to enslaved people, and how aging factored into the broader dynamics of slavery at an institutional and individual level. Notwithstanding her “rescue,” the treatment of Betsey reveals the systemic violence of enslavers who sought profit from the bodies and labor of enslaved people. Douglass could not save every elder.
Learn more about Old Age and American Slavery at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Neil Gong's "Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics"

Neil M. Gong is an assistant professor of sociology at UC San Diego, where he researches psychiatric services, homelessness, and how communities seek to maintain social order.

His book, Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics: Mental Illness and Homelessness in Los Angeles, compares public safety net and elite private psychiatric programs to better understand inequality in mental health care.

Gong applied the “Page 99 Test” to Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics and reported the following:
Page 99 reveals some of the core themes of my book: how material resources, class culture, and visions of the future shape the treatment of serious mental illness. In this section I’m interviewing an owner of a psychiatric group home, who is explaining why there are lots of flophouses but almost no high-quality long-term residences in Los Angeles—even for the rich. Some of the difficulty in making elite care homes stems from zoning restrictions, neighborhood opposition, and less immediate profit in comparison with intensive, short-term programs. But some of it is also about consumer expectations and dreams. Wealthy families might be willing to spend $30k a month on a short-term program by the beach that promises to “fix” their loved one. But they don’t want to hear that their adult child will have to live in a care home forever. As I put it on page 99, “[Families] envisioned the creation of a respectable, middle- or upper-class life for the patient, not a life of safety and basic management.” In other words, elite treatment providers are selling the (sometimes unrealistic) dream of a full recovery.

In the rest of Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics, readers will learn about care for the poor and formerly homeless client. There is no such promise of rehabilitation--much less the promise of a future middle class life-- in the flophouse or the subsidized apartment unit. On the contrary, it is expected that people will continue to be symptomatic, use drugs, and otherwise behave bizarrely. One could call these patients “free,” or call them abandoned. Without enough staff and therapeutic resources for such rehabilitation, most poor patients are left to their own devices.

In sharp contrast to the neglect of the poor, the privileged may feel hemmed in and dominated by expensive care and parents who have unrealistic expectations. Poor and rich patients are both harmed, then, but often in different ways. Part of the book discusses what this means for social theory (e.g., it contradicts theories predicting the local state will “discipline” the poor social deviant) and the rest addresses workable policy solutions to create a better psychiatric system for everyone.
Visit Neil Gong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Amin Ghaziani's "Long Live Queer Nightlife"

Amin Ghaziani is professor of sociology and Canada Research Chair in Urban Sexualities at the University of British Columbia. He is the award-winning author of The Dividends of Dissent, Sex Cultures, and There Goes the Gayborhood?. His work has been featured widely in international media outlets, including the New Yorker, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, USA Today, and British Vogue.

Ghaziani applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Long Live Queer Nightlife: How the Closing of Gay Bars Sparked a Revolution, and reported the following:
Imagine that you have handed me years of journal or diary entries. Now, watch as I select one random page from among the hundreds that animate your life. I say to you, “I wonder if I would get a good or a poor idea of the whole of your life from this one page.” How would you respond?

I am delighted about the publication of my new book, Long Live Queer Nightlife. Unlike an essay or academic article, the format of a book invites the writer, and the reader, into a collaborative, long term, slow-mo relationship with a set of ideas. For me, this includes trying to understand why LGBTQ+ venues are closing around the world, how local governments are responding, moving from City Hall to the streets and asking people about their impressions, strategizing about how to exploit the structural weakness of capitalism, sharing personal experiences of exclusion from my life, connecting those experiences with the specter of non-belonging that the 112 people I interviewed bravely shared with me, seeing how queer creatives cultivate nightlife scenes defined by intentional inclusion and an intersectional queerness, and emphasizing the life-enhancing and deeply political virtues of joy.

Page 99, by itself, cannot possibly let you see or feel these powerful sinews of nightlife, particularly the underground scenes where I take you in the book.

Still, the page is interesting on its own. It involves a discussion about the Joiners, a legendary pub in East London that closed. What happened to the Joiners was not an isolated incident but, rather, part of a systemic threat of redevelopment. On page 99, you can appreciate my commitments to shifting from deficit and decline (an emphasis on closures) to asset (accenting strategies of preservation and creation). One approach that activists are pursuing, as you will read about on page 99, is a planning principle called “Asset of Community Value.” The listing gives activists priority to purchase the building and to determine its future use. Their goal is to reopen the space as London’s first community-owned and community-run pub.

Whether you start on page 99, the beginning of the book, or jump elsewhere into it, I hope you enjoy the party—and understand afresh why queer nightlife matters.
Visit Amin Ghaziani's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

George G. Szpiro's "Perplexing Paradoxes"

George G. Szpiro is an author and journalist who was a longtime correspondent for the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung. His many books include Numbers Rule: The Vexing Mathematics of Democracy, from Plato to the Present (2010) and Risk, Choice, and Uncertainty: Three Centuries of Economic Decision-Making (2020). Szpiro was on the faculty at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Perplexing Paradoxes: Unraveling Enigmas in the World Around Us, and reported the following:
On page 99 you will see nothing but a picture of 10,000 dots randomly scattered within a square that contains an inscribed circle. The caption says “Simulating the number Pi.”

The graph is an illustration of the paradox – and the power -- of random numbers. The paradox is that if someone shows you a sequence of numbers, claiming that they are random, there is no way of verifying that they are, in fact, random. Because if you ‘recognize’ the sequence as random, it is, by definition, not random.

The power of random numbers, on the other hand, is that one can use them for many kinds of simulations. For example -- and this is what is shown on page 99 -- by counting the randomly generated dots that fall within the inscribed circle, and dividing that number by the total of all the points in the square (10,000 in our case), one actually simulates the number Pi (3.14159…). This technique of using random numbers is called Monte Carlo simulation, after the famous casino in France.

Page 99 on its own would be an unfortunate choice for casual browsing because browsers may erroneously believe that this is a book about mathematics. Unless they are open to learning about mathematical ideas, they may be discouraged from exploring the book further. And they would miss out because, firstly, the paradox of random numbers is not very mathematical, and, secondly, it is only one paradox out of sixty that I describe in the book. There are many more paradoxes about subjects like economics, linguistics, religion, law, philosophy, logic … and yes, also about mathematics, physics and statistics.
Visit George G. Szpiro's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 25, 2024

Felicia B. George's "When Detroit Played the Numbers"

Felicia B. George is a native Detroiter who loves Detroit history and culture. She earned her doctorate in anthropology from Wayne State University, where she is now an adjunct professor.

George applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, When Detroit Played the Numbers: Gambling's History and Cultural Impact on the Motor City, and reported the following:
On page 99, readers catch a glimpse of a sensational trial that rocked Detroit in the early 1940s, involving numbers banker Everett Watson. In 1940s Detroit, a realty company operated entirely by blacks, led by Watson, garnered praise for extending loans to black Detroiters when other institutions refused, enabling numerous black Detroiters to purchase homes and businesses. However, Watson and his associates found themselves embroiled in a significant trial related to a numbers graft conspiracy, one of the largest gambling criminal trials in the country at the time. The prosecutor, Chester O’Hara, systematically excluded black jurors, justifying it with prejudiced views about black Detroiters and their supposed involvement in gambling. This bias was reinforced by societal stereotypes, as evidenced by a department store advertisement perpetuating the belief that blacks were superstitious gamblers. Page 99 illuminates the systemic racism and discrimination prevalent in the justice system and society at large during that period.

Does page 99 effectively provide readers with an accurate snapshot of the book? To some extent. Page 99 offers a glimpse into the broader narrative of "playing the numbers," or the illegal lottery, in Detroit. It serves to introduce readers to my writing style and offers just enough insight into the book to awaken their interest. While the page encapsulates one of the important themes of the book, it represents only a small fraction of a much larger story that traces the history of numbers gambling from 1919 to the 2000s and does not fully portray the unfolding of other crucial themes and events integral to the history of numbers gambling in Detroit.

When Detroit Played the Numbers is a gritty tale of ingenuity and determination, taking readers on a journey exploring how playing the numbers evolved from a state-condemned crime to an encouraged legal activity. It delves into issues of race, politics, and the scandals that emerged along the way. Readers will discover how the nickels and dimes wagered by Detroiters contributed to the rise of Joe Louis's career. They will witness the ousting of a Detroit mayor supported by the Ku Klux Klan and revisit the sensational trial that dominated the city's headlines for over three years, resulting in the incarceration of the city's former mayor, county prosecutor, county sheriff, several Detroit Police officers, and two of Detroit's most influential numbers operators. This is a tale teeming with the highs and lows of the city, offering just one of many narratives reflecting Detroit's hopes and dreams.
Learn more about When Detroit Played the Numbers at the Wayne State University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Rachel S. Gross's "Shopping All the Way to the Woods"

Rachel S. Gross is an environmental and cultural historian of the modern U.S. and an assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado Denver.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Shopping All the Way to the Woods: How the Outdoor Industry Sold Nature to America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Shopping All the Way to the Woods plants us in the post-World War II era when army navy stores were the main way that Americans shopping for outdoor activities found gear. Americans who bought army surplus clothing and equipment liked the thrill of the shopping experience where they searched through piles of junk to find well-priced treasures. Radio and television shows of the 1950s captured the war surplus shop experience by poking fun at the shoppers who encountered unexpected, and sometimes useless inventory.

Page 99 captures three important insights from the book, so the test works reasonably well. First, it shows what the experience of acquiring outdoor gear looked like—messy, fun, sometimes even a little silly. Second, it highlights the theme of authenticity, which was crucial to many outdoor consumers not just in the 1950s but throughout the century. Finally, the page situates readers in a longer arc of twentieth century commercial transformations: products that came from the military were transitioning to a civilian market.

Nonetheless, the page does not capture the book’s larger argument about the construction of the outdoor identity. Nor does it point to the products, especially down sleeping bags and tents, that many readers will enjoy in this chapter on “Pup Tents and Mummy Bags: Spreading Surplus to the Masses.”
Visit Rachel S. Gross's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Jessica Carey-Webb's "Eyes on Amazonia"

Jessica Carey-Webb is an assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of New Mexico. Her research specializes in environmental cultural studies of Latin America. In particular, she focuses on the historical development, environmental representation, and sustainable future of the Brazilian Amazon.

Carey-Webb applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Eyes on Amazonia: Transnational Perspectives on the Rubber Boom Frontier, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Eyes on Amazonia: Transnational Perspectives on the Rubber Boom Frontier delves into one of the key characters in the book, the Brazilian modernist Mário de Andrade. It explains his complicated relationship to his own racial identity and some of the aspects of the Brazilian modernist movement, a conflicted movement itself which sought to synthesize a European avant-garde with a national identity rooted in uniquely Brazilian cultural aspects (such as indigeneity, environment, colonial history, etc.). This page presents Andrade’s Amazonian travel narrative, The Apprentice Tourist, describing his approach toward Amazonian culture which subscribes to some aspects of a modernist ethos, but also deviates in his signature sardonic and playful style.

Page 99 gives a decent summary of the work as a whole. While the book examines a multitude of different international explorers who went to the Amazon to document their findings primarily during the first rubber boom (1875-1912), this page and chapter instead examine the legacies of the rubber boom from Andrade’s perspective written in 1927-28. Andrade is one of the most famous Brazilian authors of all time whose journey in the Amazon is somewhat underexamined, and the page is thus representative of the book as it examines both central and peripheral explorers of the Amazon. Page 99 also mentions other topics that are of importance to the book including racial and personal identity, portrayals of indigeneity by non-Indigenous people, and the travel narrative form. Page 99 situates Andrades’ travel narrative within an international framework and the various cultural movements occurring globally, however it does not address the environmental implications of his work, a central aspect of the book overall.

Eyes on Amazonia addresses exploratory missions (from French, Brazilian, North American, German, and Colombian perspectives) that mapped, photographed, and wrote about their visions for the future of Indigenous people and the environment. The book offers five comparative case studies of traveler’s representations of Amazonia from diverse source materials, in multiple languages, by explorers from different countries of origin, and with wide-ranging views of the region and its peoples. While sharing histories of their own experiences, these travel writers all traverse territories under extreme economic and environmental exploitation at varying moments of emerging national authority. Their depictions demonstrate the unequal power dynamics within the Amazonian “contact zone.” As travelers in the Amazon region, the authors in Eyes on Amazonia project futuristic ideas onto a space that is foreign to them, and, in turn, they write highly racialized visions of their surroundings.
Learn more about Eyes on Amazonia at the Vanderbilt University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 22, 2024

Jeffrey E. Anderson's "Voodoo: An African American Religion"

Jeffrey E. Anderson is professor of history and associate director of the School of Humanities at the University of Louisiana–Monroe. He is author of The Voodoo Encyclopedia: Magic, Ritual, and Religion; Hoodoo, Voodoo, and Conjure: A Handbook; and Conjure in African American Society.

Anderson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Voodoo: An African American Religion, and reported the following:
Page 99 is one of my favorites in Voodoo: An African American Religion. At the top of it is a picture of Lala Hopkins, a Voodoo practitioner interviewed and photographed by the Louisiana Writers’ Project sometime around 1940. She was dressed in a Mardi Gras costume and was performing a ritual while dancing or pacing beside some burning candles, which are just visible at the right-hand bottom of the image. Below the picture, the first full sentence reads, “Lala Hopkins likewise provided them [Louisiana Writers’ Project workers] with a spell that combined the Catholic feature of candles with distinctly non-Christian elements of animal sacrifice and supplication of a deity whom she called Onzoncare, known elsewhere as Assonquer.” Immediately following this sentence is a new paragraph that focuses on amulets from Missouri, known as luck balls.

While the picture and small amount of text do not capture every aspect of Voodoo, they certainly hit on some of its key features. First, both the picture and text regarding Lala Hopkins is an excellent illustration of my overarching goal of explaining Voodoo as a distinctly African American faith. While it clearly embodied African spirituality, it was not simply an African or even Haitian religion transplanted to the U.S. Instead, while its ancestry stretches most directly to the religions and magic of Benin, Senegal, and the Congos, it has been far from static and readily adapted to its new home in the Mississippi River Valley.

The second paragraph, which describes an aspect of the style of Voodoo once practiced in Missouri, illustrates one of my secondary goals: emphasizing that the religion was not confined to New Orleans. While it is true that most of the written sources describing the faith focus on the city, that is primarily because it was a major urban area well before the Civil War with multiple newspapers and a constant stream of new arrivals to whom journalists could direct sensational tales of Voodoo rites. The reputation of New Orleans as the home of Voodoo survived the Civil War and attracted later writers and researchers, among them Zora Neale Hurston and Robert Tallant, who elaborated on the work of their predecessors. On the other hand, credible witnesses describe the religion elsewhere along the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, with the best descriptions surviving from Missouri.

Having defined Voodoo as an African American religion centered on the Mississippi River Valley, I have done my best to accurately trace its history starting with its African roots through the ordeal of slavery in the colonial and antebellum South to the 1940s, when the Louisiana Writers’ Project supplied both the best and last descriptions of its initiations.
Learn more about Voodoo: An African American Religion at the LSU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Narges Bajoghli, Vali Nasr, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, and Ali Vaez's "How Sanctions Work"

Narges Bajoghli is an anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins SAIS. Vali Nasr is Professor of International Affairs and Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins SAIS. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani is Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech. Ali Vaez is the Director of the International Crisis Group Iran Project.

Salehi-Isfahani applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, How Sanctions Work: Iran and the Impact of Economic Warfare, and reported the following:
Page 99 of our book begins a section entitled, “Impact on the Middle Class.” It uses household survey data to show that US comprehensive sanctions have hurt Iran’s middle class. The section uses familiar criteria to define middle class status using per capita household expenditures from survey data, which considers as middle class all individuals with expenditures between twice and five times the World Bank poverty line of about $6.60 per person per day (in 2017 Purchasing Power Parity dollars). According to this definition, since 2011 (before sanctions) about 8 million Iranians (or 10% of the population) have fallen into lower income groups. Compared to where the middle class share would have been had the country continued to grow normally the loss is at least twice as large.

In the case of Iran, the middle class plays a particularly important role in the country’s social and political development. This is because much of the tensions in the Islamic Republic result from the wide gap between the government’s strict interpretation of the pious lifestyle and its anti-western ideology and the aspirations of a rising middle class. So, if I had to pick a page that best communicates the message of the book, page 99 would be as good as any.

To be sure, the heaviest cost of the punitive US sanctions has been borne by the poor, who cannot afford to lose more income, not the middle class. Poverty rates are now twice their 2011 level. Western proponents of sanctions had hoped that an immiserizing population would force its government to accede to US demands. The book argues that in this sense sanctions have failed. At no point in the past decade has the Islamic regime seemed in danger of losing control, and it has not changed its behavior in a manner the US had hoped for. Indeed, as recent events demonstrate, years of harsh sanctions have strengthened – not weakened -- Iran’s position as a regional power, posing an even bigger challenge to US hegemony in the Middle East than in the past.

Our book suggests an explanation for this adverse outcome: Having crushed the main source of political moderation in Iran—the middle class – US sanctions have empowered an adversary.
Learn more about How Sanctions Work at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Emily Conroy-Krutz's "Missionary Diplomacy"

Emily Conroy-Krutz is a historian of nineteenth-century America specializing in global history of the early American republic. She has particular interests in American empire and the international dimensions of American religion and reform. He first book, Christian Imperialism: Converting the World in the Early American Republic (2015) focuses on the American foreign mission movement and American imperialism through the 1840s. Her second book, Missionary Diplomacy: Religion and Nineteenth-Century American Foreign Relations (2024) focuses on the connections between Protestant missions and the US Department of State from 1810 to 1924. She teaches at Michigan State University.

Conroy-Krutz applied the “Page 99 Test” to Missionary Diplomacy and reported the following:
Page 99 of Missionary Diplomacy finds us in the Ottoman Empire, where American missionaries are asking the United States to send more consular representatives to support them in their work. Missionaries did not think there was a sufficient American presence in the region to guarantee their safety. Yet this did not stop them from proceeding. Instead, they appealed to the government to extend its reach. At the center of the page, we see missionaries celebrating the arrival of US warships in 1834. They were relieved at “the sight of our flag” and expected that the show of American strength would allow them to “derive important protection in times of danger.”

So how does the Page 99 Test work for Missionary Diplomacy? Surprisingly well, actually. It’s hard to get the essence of a 275-page book on a single page, but this discussion of missionary connections to the consular system helps to get at some of the book’s central themes. How did missionaries shape American diplomacy? And how was the mission movement shaped by American policy? These questions guided much of the book’s research, and we can see some of the answers to both questions play out in this short snippet from the larger text.

In the first hundred pages of the book, readers will have learned about the different geographies of the early nineteenth century missionary and diplomatic projects. Missionary interest in “converting the world” had them seeking out places that were not of immediate concern to American diplomats in the first half of the century—Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, and Africa. Missionaries positioned themselves as the American experts on these regions of the world and sought to direct American attention to (and shape American understandings of) the places that they cared about. Over the course of the century, this saw missionaries calling for a more robust diplomatic and consular presence across the globe. The 1834 missionaries celebrating the arrival of warships provide one example of an entanglement that would only grow over the course of the century.

The rest of the book examines the ways that missionaries drew American diplomats into new spaces, shaped discussions about foreign policy, and framed global issues for an American audience. Chapters explore mission work in China, Japan, Korea, the Caroline Islands, Hawaii, Turkey, Iran, Greece, Congo, and more. If the idea of missionaries cheering at the sight of warships surprises you, the book will provide many opportunities to consider the ways that the mission movement both shaped and was shaped by American foreign policy through the first world war.
Visit Emily Conroy-Krutz's website.

The Page 99 Test: Christian Imperialism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Elizabeth Pearson's "Extreme Britain"

Elizabeth Pearson, formerly a BBC radio journalist, is Lecturer in Criminology with the Conflict, Violence and Terrorism Research Centre at Royal Holloway, University of London, and an associate fellow with the Royal United Services Institute and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. She co-authored Countering Violent Extremism: Making Gender Matter.

Pearson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Extreme Britain: Gender, Masculinity and Radicalization, and reported the following:
Extreme Britain is about masculinities in extreme groups, and by chance, this page explains a key concept, ‘masculinity challenges’, and how they feature in pathways to the anti-Islam far right. The important point here is that violence and confrontation have meaning that is rooted in class and place. Violence enables men – and women too, but I get to that later - to claim the ideological ownership of physical space. Violence helps create extreme men and on this page, one far right activist, formerly in the British Army, explains a milestone moment of violence in his path to the far right.

The Page 99 test works really well in telling readers what Extreme Britain is about. The book explores radicalisation as a ‘masculinity project’: extremists aim to fulfil certain ideals of manhood in their radicalisation journeys. Violence, class, race and faith are really essential to the stories that ‘extremists’ in both the far right, and in a quasi-jihadist network, told me about how their lives turned out. And masculinity is a useful concept to understand how these actors understand themselves: what kind of manhood they aspire to, how women fit into hierarchies of gender and power in their groups, what kinds of sexual and moral behaviours make real men – and women.

Page 99 is in a chapter about the lives of the far-right actors before they joined the group. It shows how their gender values relate to their ideas about citizenship, and Britishness. It also shows how much their identities are rooted in their local spaces, friendships and antagonisms. In the next chapter, the book goes on to show how those gender values and masculinities are exploited in far-right groups, how they are continued there, and amplified. For instance, the idea that real men can handle themselves on the street, in a fight, to protect ‘their’ women and culture, and that elite liberals who cannot do that are inauthentic, and have no right to condescend to them on how they live.

What the page doesn’t reveal is the different masculinities and values in the jihadist network. Nor does it explain how women navigate these male-dominated groups, and the strategies they use to deal with the misogyny inherent in extreme networks, to take their place, and even to lead organisations, in the case of the far right.

The book is about Britain, but anyone who follows US politics, and is interested in populism, the far right and anti-Islam rhetoric will find a lot here that resonates. Masculine competition, misogyny, class and wider attitudes towards feminism and the state are key to understanding the popularity of Donald Trump, admired by all the far-right actors in my book. Page 99 encapsulates much of this and is a great place to start – (although I’d still recommend readers begin the book at page 1!)
Learn more about Extreme Britain at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2024

Kristin M. Girten's "Sensitive Witnesses"

Kristin M. Girten is Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Sensitive Witnesses: Feminist Materialism in the British Enlightenment, and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book Sensitive Witnesses, I present a fundamental distinction between two highly popular and influential periodicals of the eighteenth century: Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s The Spectator (1711-12) and Eliza Haywood’s The Female Spectator (1744-46). The former is perhaps best known as a highly popular and influential accompaniment to eighteenth-century British coffee-house culture, which was instrumental in helping to establish the modern public sphere. The latter is often characterized as the first periodical written by a woman for women—and thus viewed as having set the stage for today’s glamour magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue. As its title attests, The Female Spectator broadcasts its association to Addison and Steele’s earlier publication. Throughout its copious pages, Haywood’s eponymous narrator regularly refers to “Mr. Spectator” as her “brother.” Moreover, Haywood adopts and adapts many of The Spectator’s key features. For instance, though they both center around an eponymous narrator, they are portrayed as having been conceived and composed by a committee. Furthermore, they both similarly appeal to a broad readership (including both men and women), inviting their readers to become correspondents and regularly including and responding to their readers’ letters in their papers. (It is uncertain whether the letters they incorporate are real or fictional.) However, on page 99, I present one key way in which Haywood’s Female Spectator deviates from its predecessor: namely, in its portrayal of sympathy. I argue that, whereas The Spectator models and promotes a version of sympathy that corresponds to what would be theorized by Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) a few decades after the periodical’s publication, Haywood’s Female Spectator embodies a version of sympathy that instead accords with that portrayed by David Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature (1739). Moreover, I demonstrate on page 99 that Smith’s theory of sympathy is founded on a notion of impartiality whereby the ability of one to feel sympathy for another is contingent on one’s success at cultivating a sense of indifference. Somewhat ironically, according to Smith, it is only when we can “moderate” our feelings through indifference that we are able to feel for another person (which Smith portrays as “form[ing] some idea of his sensations.” It is such a conception of sympathy that Addison and Steele’s Spectator exemplifies and from which Haywood’s Female Spectator departs.

Page 99 focuses on the antithesis of the sensitive witness—the “impartial observer,” which I characterize throughout the book as a “modest witness.” However, as the sensitive witnesses my book studies regularly perceive and style themselves in critical opposition to the modest witness, to recognize who the sensitive witness is not is to gain valuable insight into who she is. In fact, the feminist materialists my book explores perceived the practice of sensitive witnessing as both a challenge and alternative to the practice of modest witnessing. Moreover, it was precisely the modest witness’s claim to indifference they repudiated. Informed by materialism, they disputed the feasibility of such indifference, insisting instead that to be a creature in this atomically infused cosmos is to be radically open to one’s environment and, thus, to be constantly and irresistibly vulnerable (sensitive) to stimulation.

Page 99 sets up my discussion of how Eliza Haywood criticizes the indifference and related masculine modesty cultivated, asserted, and encouraged by The Spectator. Though Haywood’s parodic technique is unique, the criticism she poses is illustrative of the critical thread that distinguishes and runs throughout the various feminist works my book addresses. Not all of the authors I study are as overtly concerned with sympathy as Haywood is. However, all of the sensitive witnesses my book explores were similarly critical of the presumption of “impartiality” that Adam Smith as well as Addison and Steele encouraged and performed. Moreover, informed by a sense of material continuity, sensitive witnessing is distinguished by a belief in the kinship between self and other, which resonates with Haywood’s Humean understanding of sympathy. Whereas the modest witness evokes Smith’s “impartial spectator,” the sensitive witness challenges notions of impartiality and perceives relationships as based on connectedness (or, to quote Hume, “resemblance”) rather than separation.

Sensitive Witnesses shows how a group of female British authors of the Enlightenment transformed their perceived propensity, as women, to be distinctly sensitive or sympathetic to others from a philosophical impediment into a philosophical advantage. They employ principles of Epicurean materialism to show the infeasibility of the impartiality and masculine modesty that their male philosophical counterpart frequently claimed for themselves. With support from these principles, they encourage their readers—both male and female—to trade modesty for sensitivity, suggesting that doing so is not only appropriate given the nature of the cosmos but also beneficial to scientific discovery.
Learn more about Sensitive Witnesses at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2024

David L. Kirchman's "Microbes"

David L. Kirchman was the Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor of Marine Studies at the University of Delaware until he retired in 2020 and was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography. Author of over 175 papers and two books, and editor of the "bible" of microbial oceanography (Microbial Ecology of the Oceans), Kirchman worked on the marine carbon cycle in regions around the world, from the Arctic to Antarctica. He received a B.A. from Lawrence University and the Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Kirchman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Microbes: The Unseen Agents of Climate Change, and reported the following:
Page 99 is part of a chapter titled “Slow Carbon and Deep Time,” which begins by describing how the White Cliffs of Dover were formed by the deposition of chalk made by algae over millions of years—over “deep time,” a term coined by John McPhee to capture the immensity of geological eras, periods, epochs, and ages. Page 99 starts to lay out the evidence for the microbial origin of another geological feature: limestone-rich rocks in the Akademikerbreen Group located in Spitsbergen, an island off the northern coast of Norway. Based on chemical clues and microscopic fossils, paleontologists believe the limestone was formed by bacteria and other microbes that grew in layers, one piled on another which accrued over eons. So, the building blocks for the White Cliffs of Dover and the massive limestone bluffs in Spitsbergen are from the smallest organisms, unseen except under a microscope. These rocks appear in discussions of climate change because they store 100,000 times more carbon than is in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas. Microbes and carbon-rich rocks are a big part of the carbon cycle and of explanations for climate change that occurred in the geological past.

Superficially at least, page 99 isn’t like the rest of Microbes: The Unseen Agents of Climate Change. Much of the book is about the uptake and release of carbon dioxide by microbes as part of the “fast carbon cycle,” which runs much more quickly than the glacial pace of microbes in the “slow carbon cycle” described on page 99 and in the rest of the Slow Carbon chapter. Other chapters discuss the release and degradation by microbes of two other important greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide.

Yet, page 99 hints at the overall message of the book: microbes are huge sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, and what microbes do with these gases has to be considered in thinking about climate change. In the future, microbes could release even more carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, exacerbating the climate change problem now threatening the planet. But microbes may also be part of the solution. Microbes already directly or indirectly sequester a lot of carbon dioxide away from the atmosphere, and biofuels made by microbes help to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Other solutions relying on microbes could do more. In short, understanding the biggest environmental problem now facing society depends on the smallest organisms, the microbes.
Learn more about Microbes: The Unseen Agents of Climate Change at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2024

Donna J. Nicol's "Black Woman on Board"

Donna J. Nicol is the Associate Dean for Personnel and Curriculum in the College of Liberal Arts at California State University Long Beach (CSULB).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Black Woman on Board: Claudia Hampton, the California State University, and the Fight to Save Affirmative Action, and reported the following:
On page 99, Dr. Claudia Hampton, the California State University (CSU) system’s first Black woman trustee, is chairing her first committee - the committee to appoint a president at the CSU Dominguez Hills campus in 1976. To help contextualize why Hampton asked to chair this committee, page 99 first refutes commonly held myth that the site for the CSU Dominguez Hills campus was chosen to appease Black activists and parents who complained to then-governor Pat Brown about the lack of educational opportunities for Black youth in South Los Angeles following the 1965 Watts Riots. Much of what is understood about California as a racial utopia is based in myth and the historical record shows that the site for the CSU Dominguez Hills campus was chosen for financial reasons, not racial considerations. By the mid-1970s, Dominguez Hills had a predominantly Black student body and Hampton wanted to ensure that the next president would be a strong advocate for continued Black student access. Concerned with the increasing political battles between Blacks and Asian Americans in the City of Carson where CSU Dominguez Hills was located, Hampton insisted that the next president had to be a white man who would remain neutral in local politics, while remaining a stalwart champion of African American educational interests. Page 99 begins telling the story of how Claudia Hampton lobbied for the appointment of Donald Gerth, former CSU Chico president, as the right white man for the job.

The Page 99 Test works well for my book because it gives readers some early insight into the political strategist that Claudia Hampton was throughout her tenure on the board. Page 99 falls in the middle of an explication of how Hampton used quiet observation of board culture and extensive preparation before board meetings to secure support for the policies, programs, and personnel she championed. Later in the same chapter, readers learn that Hampton went as far as cooking dinner for the white male board members and campus presidents at her home to gain access to the informal ‘telephone network’ where deals were made, and votes were counted behind closed doors. In cooking dinner for the white men of the board, I maintain that “Hampton strategically disarmed the threat posed by her race by playing to the gender norm of the day, using sly civility and respectability as resistance tools” (p. 102). I argue throughout the book that Hampton used Bhabha’s concept of “sly civility” as a resistance strategy against the deeply embedded culture of racism and sexism that was pervasive on the CSU Board of Trustees when she was appointed in 1974. By building personal relationships with fellow trustees and serving on multiple committees in her twenty years on the board, Hampton ensured that affirmative action programs were funded, helped increase the number of faculty and students of color in the system, and developed policies to hold campus officials accountable for the implementation of system-mandated affirmative action faculty hiring and student admissions programs.

The primary aim of Black Woman on Board is to fill the critical gap in the literature about race and gender in the appointment and exercise of university trustee power. Black women’s leadership at this level during this time was unprecedented. So, this story about Claudia Hampton and her strategies and actions in supporting affirmative action in the CSU system, and her relationships with key figures in the system and within state legislature is critical for our understanding how university boards can either thwart or support educational access for all, regardless of their race, gender, or income.
Visit Donna J. Nicol's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Matthieu Grandpierron's "Nostalgic Virility as a Cause of War"

Matthieu Grandpierron is associate professor of international relations and political science at the Catholic University of Vendée.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Nostalgic Virility as a Cause of War: How Leaders of Great Powers Cope with Status Decline, and reported the following:
Page 99 gives an overall view of how well one of the rival hypothesis to the major argument of the book performs at explaining the British decision to reconquer the Falklands islands invaded in 1982 by Argentina. As such, page 99 explains that the idea of going to war for natural resources is a myth and can’t explain the war.

Therefore, the test of page 99 simply does not work at all for my book If a reader opens the book at page 99, he or she won’t just have a very succinct idea of a rival argument tested, but he or she won’t be reading about the main argument developed in the book and tested throughout several case studies.

What page 99 reveals is still interesting to read precisely because it disproves one of the arguments argued in the existing literature. To be more precise, economic considerations (getting access to natural resources) are mentioned in declassified governmental archives, but the argument is used to justify why the Falklands should be handed over to Argentina and not defended. Indirectly page 99 shows the relevance of the book: providing a new way of understanding decision-making processes and the need to use new explanatory and theoretical frameworks to better understand past events and more importantly events that are occurring today in a changing world. Giving new ways of understanding what happens in the world is what my book tries to do by offering a new framework called “nostalgic virility” and that articulates understanding of states status with leaders interpretation of history and of what being virile means.
Learn more about Nostalgic Virility as a Cause of War at the McGill-Queens University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Arthur Goldwag's "The Politics of Fear"

Arthur Goldwag is the author of The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right (2012), Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies (2009), Isms &; Ologies (2007), and The Beliefnet Guide to Kabbalah (2005). His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Salon, Truthout, the SPLC’s Hatewatch blog, and others.

Goldwag applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Politics of Fear: The Peculiar Persistence of American Paranoia, and reported the following:
So I opened The Politics of Fear to page 99, and about two paragraphs down, this is what I found:
Then came 2015 and the inexorable ascent of Donald Trump. Though Jeb Bush had been the favorite of the Republican establishment, Trump surged to the top of the polls and stayed there. I published an op-ed in The New York Times in which I called Trump ‘the latest in a long line of demagogues that have appeared throughout American history to point accusing fingers at Blacks, foreigners, Masons, Jews, socialists, central bankers and others.’ White nationalists were energized to see so unapologetically ‘pro-white’ a politician, I wrote, and ‘would-be Joe-the-Plumbers are inspired to see someone who talks and seemingly thinks just like they do and yet who has so much money.’ Trump’s poisonous message, I concluded, ‘may carry him to the White House.’
Page 99 certainly captures my feelings about Trump back then. But what a reader who read jus

t that one page would miss are the efforts I make throughout its nearly 300 other pages to put our current crisis in its historical, cultural, and economic contexts.

I’m not so much interested in Trump as I am in the phenomenon of Trumpism, whose seeds, I argue, were planted at America's founding. Eruptions of QAnon-level paranoia have happened time and again throughout our history, whenever the two main wires that feed into the American identity cross. One of them is Protestant religiosity. The other is the worldly individualism that we associate with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Each is bottom-up and anti-aristocratic, and both are compatible with capitalism. But they are not always compatible with each other; touch them together and they spark.

I write about America’s long-standing urban/rural divide, the ravages of technological displacement, the fear of racial displacement, and the psychic toll that the false promises of the Prosperity Gospel exact from our economy’s left-behinds. I explore what cognitive dissonance theory tells us about the stickiness of irrational beliefs, revisiting Leon Festinger’s When Prophecy Fails, the classic ethnographic study of the members of a UFO cult whose behaviors when the world failed to end on the day their leader said it would eerily anticipated QAnon believers’ in the wake of Trump's electoral defeat.

I write about America’s oldest hatred, which is anti-Catholicism, and the rise of Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style antisemitism in the last century, which informs the many flavors of paranoid conspiracism today. I do some on-the-ground reporting at a Trump rally, whose crowds, it seemed, were less interested in Trump’s bombast than spending time with each other.

When I started writing The Politics of Fear in 2021, my great fear was that as Trump faded into obscurity, we would forget how perilously close to the brink our democracy had come. Now, I almost think of it as a letter to the future, a piece of evidence for its historians to parse as they sift through the ruins and try to figure out what happened.
Visit Arthur Goldwag's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Anne Berg's "Empire of Rags and Bones"

Anne Berg is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of On Screen and Off: Cinema and the Making of Nazi Hamburg.

Berg applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Empire of Rags and Bones: Waste and War in Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test proved to be a poor fit for my book. Page 99 provides framing and background information rather than provide a sense of the role of waste and recycling played in the Third Reich.

Page 99 of Empire of Rags and Bones provides an overview of the infamous General Plan East, the plan for the occupation and colonization of the Soviet Union drawn up in anticipation of the Nazi invasion.

The experiences gathered in Nazi occupied Poland served as a guide. Given the vast expanse of Soviet territory the regime was determined to mine and gut the so-called subsidy zones and develop the so-called surplus zones to extract food stuffs and agricultural products for their own needs.

Of particular interest here is both the unequivocally genocidal intent of the plan and its anticipated differential treatment for agriculturally developed areas. Essentially, the General Plan East provided not only an “economic blueprint” but an environmental categorization of Soviet territory. The main goal was to “develop” the agriculturally fertile regions of the black earth territory in Ukraine. In order to satisfy the needs of the Reich and its occupying forces across Europe from grain reserves in Ukraine, the regime anticipated the deliberate starvation of millions of populations in the more industrialized northern regions, the so-called forest zone, around Moscow and St. Petersburg.

As becomes clear over the rest of the book, even the "colonial development" envisioned as part of the General Plan Ost, ultimately resorted to mining people and the land for secondary and inferior materials. Nazi Germany was a waste regime. It imagined Germans to be a people without space, strapped for essential resources, encircled by powerful enemies and threatened by degeneration from within. Accordingly, Nazi Germany developed an economic rationale that understood waste utilization as resource production. Neither “green” nor driven by environmental stewardship or care, the regime expressly linked waste avoidance and recycling with the politics of internal purging and imperial expansion. Labor extraction was key to the regime’s imperial agenda. The proliferating complex of ghettoes and camps that extended across Nazi-occupied Europe, became a crucial node in the regime’s waste management infrastructure. Under horrendous conditions, prisoners recycled the remnants of war and genocide, they processed waste and secondary materials on an industrial scale, they turned rags and textile wastes into uniforms for the Wehrmacht and German police formations, they disassembled military equipment, sorted metal junk, decommissioned munitions, recycled old shoes, and turned human hair into felt boots for the German army. In this fashion, the Nazi regime squeezed labor and material from subjected populations, attempting to close the raw material cycle and power the war machine to final victory. In the end, the regime suffocated in the glut of the very materials that were to guarantee its economic viability.
Learn more about Empire of Rags and Bones at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2024

Guido Bonsaver's "America in Italian Culture"

Guido Bonsaver is Professor of Italian Cultural History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Pembroke College. He studied at the universities of Bologna and Verona, and completed his PhD while teaching at Reading University. Before arriving at Oxford in 2003, he taught at the universities of Sussex, Kent, and Royal Holloway London. In 2012 he was appointed Ufficiale dell'Ordine al Merito della Repubblica by the Italian government in recognition of his contribution to Italian culture. He has collaborated with a variety of media outlets such as BBC radio and television channels, RAI radio and tv channels, and various specialist and generalist journals. His research work centres on Italy's post-Unification cultural history, with a particular interest in literature and cinema.

Bonsaver applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, America in Italian Culture: The Rise of a New Model of Modernity, 1861-1943, and reported the following:
Page 99 in this book discusses what image of the USA did migrants from Italy have before they embarked on their transatlantic trip. In most cases, they were semi-illiterate peasants hence their positive but vague image of America as a land of hope was very different from the patronising views produced in print by Italy’s elite classes. This single page does a good job in introducing the first half of the book, which deal with the image and influence of American culture during the years between Italy’s unification, in 1866, and World War One. Class differences were so marked in those times that I found it necessary to explore how different social milieus saw America in a different light. This page is also illustrative of the importance of the interaction between the arrival of American culture in Italy and the role played by millions of Italians who migrated there, most of them keeping close ties with their homeplace.

What remains out of that single page is the second half of the book which deals with the interwar years and the influence of Mussolini’s Fascist regime. During that period, migration to the USA was reduced to a trickle as a consequence of anti-immigration policies by the US government. At the same time, it is during the interwar years that the impact of American culture – from jazz music, to contemporary fiction, comics, Hollywood films and mass-production techniques – becomes dominant across all social classes and in all sectors of the culture industry. Indeed, I argue that this is the first example of the development in Italy of what we call “mass culture”. Another interesting aspect of the second half of the book is its exploration of the tension between the overwhelming presence of American culture and the nationalistic policies of the fascist regime which, particularly after 1938, attempted and failed to stem the flow.
Learn more about America in Italian Culture at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Matthew A. Sears's "Sparta and the Commemoration of War"

Matthew A. Sears is Professor of Classics at the University of New Brunswick. He is the author of Athens, Thrace, and the Shaping of Athenian Leadership (2013) and of Understanding Greek Warfare (2019). He is also the co-author (with C. Jacob Butera) of Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece: A Guide to their History, Topography, and Archaeology (2019).

Sears applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Sparta and the Commemoration of War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Sparta and the Commemoration of War concludes the third chapter of the book, a section on how the Spartans commemorated the Persian Wars, especially the last stand of the Three Hundred at Thermopylae in 480 BCE. The page states that the Spartans did not think of themselves as liberators, but instead focused on the excellence, glory, and fame of their war dead. Other states that did focus their commemorations on freedom-fighting, such as Athens and Corinth, tended to be more interventionist and fight more wars than the Spartans did after the Persian invasion. The Spartans eventually embraced liberation rhetoric too, which led them to fight more wars just as their Greek counterparts did.

The Page 99 Test, to be frank, works freakishly well for Sparta and the Commemoration of War. The paragraphs on this page encapsulate the main argument of the book, that, counterintuitively, when the Spartans emphasized what we would now consider “bad” reasons for fighting – glory, fame, and so on – they fought less often and less destructively than when they later claimed to fight for “good” reasons – such as for freedom or selflessly in the interests of all Greeks.

We sometimes talk about our own war dead in terms of glory and manly heroism, but we usually focus on self-sacrifice for higher ideals and altruistic campaigns on behalf of others. Yet, like the example of the Spartans reveals, commemorating war in terms of soldiers dying for freedom has done little to prevent war or mitigate its horrors. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true, which the Spartans themselves found out.

How we remember war and commemorate the fallen reveals a lot about how we understand war in general, and has a bearing on how likely we are to fight wars in the future. We might not want to exalt glory and fame above all else as the Spartans did, but we should not mistake the commemorative rhetoric of freedom as being somehow anti-war. Ancient Sparta warns us that the language of liberation can disguise war-mongering, and, in the end, it does not often bring genuine liberation at all. Readers jumping to page 99 will find this core idea spelled out pretty clearly.
Learn more about Sparta and the Commemoration of War at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2024

James Gerber's "Border Economies"

James Gerber is a nonresident fellow at Rice University’s Center for the U.S. and Mexico in its Baker Institute for Public Policy and emeritus professor of economics at San Diego State University, where he also served as director of the Latin American Studies program. He is the author of A Great Deal of Ruin: Financial Crises Since 1929 and the textbook International Economics, now in its eighth edition.

Gerber applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Border Economies: Cities Bridging the U.S.-Mexico Divide, and reported the following:
Page 99 throws the reader into the middle of the discussion in Mexico in the 1960s about the reasons for a special manufacturing zone that eventually became a concentrated region of manufacturing on the border known as the maquiladora industry. The debate in Mexico centered around the need to create jobs for workers at the border, many of whom had been migrant workers under the U.S. guest worker program, known as the bracero program, that was terminated by the United States on January 1, 1965. The core idea of the book is that Mexican and U.S. border communities are highly interactive, each responding to conditions that originate on the opposite side of the border. The discussion on page 99 is but one of the many cases where Mexican policy makers and leaders found it in their interest to consider how best to respond to changes that were happening on the U.S. side. Throughout the book, those kinds of considerations are matched by mirror-image cases where U.S. interests responded to changes in Mexico. So, while the discussion on page 99 does not expose the reader to the breadth or depth of the book, it does reflect a theme that runs through the entire work.
Learn more about Border Economies at the University of Arizona Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Chris Haufe's "Do the Humanities Create Knowledge?"

Chris Haufe is the Elizabeth M. and William C. Treuhaft Professor of the Humanities and Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of How Knowledge Grows (2022) and Fruitfulness (2024).

Haufe applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Do the Humanities Create Knowledge?, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test passed with flying colors.

Page 99 features the beginning of the section “Essence and Exemplification,” which delivers the conceptual foundation on which the rest of the book’s claims ultimately rest. The point of this section is to resist the notion that the interminable debates that characterize much of the scholarly discourse in the humanities are either an indication that the humanities lack a sufficiently powerful investigate method to uncover the facts about which they are arguing, or (2) an indication that there are actually no facts with which these debates are concerned.

The real issue here is that scholars in the humanities are fundamentally focused on drawing out and articulating deep features of human experience, features that for most people lie beyond the realm of what they can describe, or even beyond awareness itself. There are things that we know but cannot articulate. One of the primary jobs of the humanities scholar is to develop articulations of ideas and presuppositions which are tacitly held but which nevertheless play a significant role in human life. By looking for patterns across exemplary instances of human achievement — classic works of art and literature, for example — we are able to grasp in a general way the essence of properties like elegance and beauty, as they were conceived of by the communities of scholars who studied those patterns.
Visit Chris Haufe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Alexis McGee's "From Blues to Beyoncé"

Alexis McGee is Assistant Professor of Research in the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at the University of British Columbia.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, From Blues to Beyoncé: A Century of Black Women's Generational Sonic Rhetorics, and reported the following:
You’ll find one of the key arguments of not only the third chapter but also of the whole book on page 99. Here, I discuss an important difference between having a name imposed onto one’s self and having to find ways that speak back to the name’s connotations. This chapter begins by discussing how names work to grant or take away power as well as agency. Page 99 specifically addresses how that kind of “naming by un-naming” has been used in America’s social, cultural, and economic histories to undermine Black women and, in effect, promote racist stereotypes.

This unpacking of names is only the beginning though. To really understand the chapter, and book more broadly, readers should move beyond page 99. The larger argument of the chapter focuses on the ways Black women music artists speak back to the problematic philosophical understanding of “Black folks being out of time”-- as in not having a history—which we know is false.

While page 99 demonstrates a fragment of topics discussed in this book, it does prove to be a pretty useful soundbite. Readers will get a fairly good idea of my writing style, at the very least, and, at most, get a sense of how I recenter Black women in some of the more common discussions swirling around in pop culture: Is Beyoncé a feminist? What’s changed for Black women in music since vinyl records? Why should I read celebrity autobiographies? Of course page 99 doesn’t answer these specific questions, but the discussion on that page may help reader be open to thinking about those answers in new ways.
Learn more about From Blues to Beyoncé at the SUNY Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue