Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Alannah Tomkins's "Medical Misadventure"

Alannah Tomkins is a Professor in History at Keele University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Medical Misadventure in an Age of Professionalisation, 1780-1890, and reported the following:
Medical Misadventure is a book about the ways that professionalising doctors disappointed themselves and others in their attempts to become successful practitioners. Page 99 reflects this intention poignantly, as it falls in a chapter about professional disappointment among men who accepted postings in the Indian Medical Service (IMS).

The IMS had the advantage of offering qualified practitioners a reliable salary at a time when the rewards of medicine could be very uncertain. The British profession was heavily overstocked in the first half of the nineteenth century, so a medical degree might be a pathway to poverty rather than to a lucrative career. In this context a guaranteed income in one’s own preferred field of employment might look attractive; but service in India carried penalties too. It demanded an enforced removal from Britain for years at a time. Entitlement to leave might only come after nine or ten years in post, and the ability to take advantage of that entitlement might depend on the doctor’s having saved enough money to afford it. Men had to supply their own servants – an essential lifestyle feature for the British in India – and find that their salary was dependable but meagre in context. Page 99 dwells on these points, and later pages flag additional drawbacks. Frequent changes of posting meant that friendships could be fleeting and unsatisfactory, rivalries with fellow doctors for well-paid work could be intense, and the risk of dying in Asia was relatively high.

These reflections on professionalising medicine are important because, to date, the historical narrative has placed strong emphasis on success and progress rather than failure and disappointment. Doctors might have met every increasing expectation, from within and without the profession, with dignity and competence; however, lots of men suffered temporary setback or permanent curtailment of their careers in the attempt to become the perfect professional. This book tells their stories and urges for a more prominent place for understandable human failure in medicine, both past and present.
Learn more about Medical Misadventure at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 21, 2017

Gil G. Rosenthal's "Mate Choice"

Gil G. Rosenthal is professor of biology and of ecology and evolutionary biology at Texas A&M University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mate Choice: The Evolution of Sexual Decision Making from Microbes to Humans, and reported the following:
An important personal reason for writing this book was that I felt blinkered by focusing so much on my own experimental work on swordtail fish. It was both humbling and richly fulfilling to learn so much about what other people were doing using different experimental systems and theoretical approaches. I was therefore bemused to turn to page 99 and find it all devoted to the story of how people including myself have thought about mate preferences in swordtails over the past thirty years.

On the other hand, I purposefully used the swordtail narrative as a microcosm of the major themes I try to develop in the book. We started off thinking about the crudest possible preference rule – more is better. The scenario that we proposed was that females – implicitly, all females, all the time – preferred males conferring more gross visual stimulation – males that looked bigger. This bigger-is-better bias was ancient and hadn’t changed much for millions of years, since before there were even swordtails around.

The picture we have now of preferences, in swordtails as in other animals from stalk-eyed flies to Bengalese finches, is a vastly richer one, in which genes, environment, and culture interact to shape a rick diversity of desires and choices - among species, from one individual to the next, and even within the same individual at different times and in different contexts. Page 99 is in the introduction to chapter 4, where our understanding of preference mechanisms moves beyond low-level sensory responses and towards the sophisticated integration of complex stimuli using different senses. I go on to describe mate choice as an intricate process, where one’s genetic makeup and experiences can favor different partners before, during, and after mating. The rest of the book uses an understanding of these mechanisms to inform a view of how mate choice arises and evolves, and in turn how mate choice can both build up and erode genetic barriers between species. Finally, I suggest that work on mate-choice evolution in humans might more fruitfully consider the diversity and complexity of sexual choices in our own species.
Learn more about Mate Choice at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Margaret Morganroth Gullette's "Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People"

Margaret Morganroth Gullette is the author of prize-winning books (Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America and Declining to Decline), and of many essays cited as notable in Best American Essays. Gullette named the field of age studies in 1993 and has been expanding its multi-disciplinary range since. Her father briefly ran a nursery and taught her some of the skills she admires.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People, and reported the following:
Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People is arranged to present increasingly grave instances from the array of ageisms that my research uncovered. In each chapter, something fails the test of fairness, equality, or basic humane dealing. Some are glaring neglects in private or public life, grossly hostile speech, abusive images, cruel practices, threats, incitements to self-harm, or violence. In each chapter, suffering is allowed to speak.

Why does a book about the evils of ageism have a chapter with an odd title—“Vert de Gris, Rescuing the Land Lovers”--about small family farmers around the globe? These producers provide food for more billions than the agro-industrial complex I call Big Farma. Seventy percent, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, are women. Without these indispensable people who feed the world, you and I would not starve, but others would. How would the cash-poor eat, if they didn’t feed themselves?

To my mounting astonishment, I also discovered that most of these remarkable, neglected producers are old. In the US, the average age of the farm population is fifty-eight. Principal American farm operators over sixty-five, the hands-on farmers, now outnumber those under thirty-five by more than seven to one. Not a typo, but a statistic about endurance, not generally known. In the UK, the average age is fifty-nine. In Japan, it is sixty-seven. Thank heaven for the old woman, the old man, with the tractor or the hoe. Their situation is a cause for both gratitude and alarm.

Why is this not widely known? Why are their working conditions so harsh? Why don’t their governments assist them? If we care about hunger, food security, soil degradation, land theft, organic farming and environmental regeneration, we owe attention to these women and men in their plights. Justice may be as simple as listening to survivors and naming malefactors.

I want to give these people a little respect, as Walt Whitman did in “I Sing the Body Electric,” when he narrated his attraction to a farmer, a man of “wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person—he was wise also,” and then noted, in passing, that the man was eighty years old. Page 99 shares with readers some of the suffering and losses that make old farmers the stoic heroes of the vulnerable Earth we all depend on.
Within the fierce macro-history of land losses, physical aging seems a lesser factor. Many researchers count sixty as “old” in censuses of farm work. It might be truer to conditions on the ground to put “old” at fifty-five or even fifty, depending on rural life expectancy in a given country. Ill health in later life represents the accumulated effects of life-long deprivations: farming, despite its cardiovascular benefits, is hard on the body. The risk of injuries and death is higher than in other professions. Exhausting labor and repetitive motions take their toll on the musculoskeletal system. The exposure to sun ravages the skin and damages the eyes; exposure to pesticides can cause organ failure. A 2014 report by the FAO and HelpAge International found that 76.8 percent of the elderly small-holders they surveyed suffered from chronic ailments, including hypertension, backache, vision problems, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Women live longer than men in many developing countries, too. Those who married young and had many children too young are likely to suffer more than men from ill health as they age. One Chinese woman of seventy-three offered a definition: “When one feels too weak to work, one becomes an old person.”

As people lose strength, the need to tend either a garden or a farm can be “acutely depressing and enforce feelings of powerlessness as others may need to be employed to carry out tasks once carried out by oneself with ease.” Frustrations undermine “the long-felt ontological security of ‘home,’ and give rise to the feeling of ‘not being at home.’ ” Past prime working age, some [who can] do leave. [In the United States they may] move closer to their urbanized families to be looked after or to get better access to social and health services and transportation than exist in their isolated and dispersed communities. Others defiantly choose to age in place in overlarge troublesome houses precisely because they can’t face a dismal urban future. They plant seeds in a south-facing window.

Moving away from whatever land they possessed, displaced land lovers find themselves in places where almost everything at ground level is hard-scaping: brick, mortar, concrete, iron. They sit in parks with flowers they can’t touch, grass they are forbidden to walk on, shrubs they could prune better, not a vegetable in sight. Some may like surcease from toil, but to my mind the neatly tended public park fails the public. In cities suffering from disinvestment, residents walk past expensive or substandard grocery stores, toxic dumps, and vacant lots that attract trash, drug dealers, junked cars, and kids with no other place to play. Where are their healing gardens, their fresh vegetables, their aerobic exercise, their chances for chat and longevity?
Page 99 is notable for its intersectional homage, but my favorite pages are the last two of the whole book, “A Declaration of Grievances.” In designer Carolyn Kerchof’s elegant version, a poster of the pages is available free for download.
Learn more about Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People at the Rutgers University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wendy L. Rouse's "Her Own Hero"

Wendy L. Rouse teaches United States History and social science teacher preparation at San Jose State University. Her research interests include childhood, family, and gender history during the Progressive Era.

Rouse applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women's Self-Defense Movement, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Her Own Hero is a perfect page to sum up the main point of the book. This page includes one of the many images I found through the course of my research and is especially relevant because it was an image just like this one that first inspired me to write this book. In fact, if I could have written the book solely as a series of images, I definitely would have since there were so many great illustrations. Pictures can be much more powerful than words.

The particular image on page 99 shows a woman physically fighting back against an attacker on the street. Dressed in the attire typical of a respectable middle class woman of the early twentieth century, this woman’s actions seem anything but typical. Her Own Hero is the story of women, like her, who defied gender boundaries and stretched the limits of acceptable feminine behavior by learning jiu-jitsu and boxing.

Industrialization and urbanization as well as the expansion of women’s rights in the early twentieth century combined to increasingly draw women out into the public world for school, work, and leisure. Yet, the presence of women in what were viewed as traditionally male spaces generated a great deal of backlash. Mashers (a slang term used to describe men who made unwanted sexual advances toward women) harassed women on the streets, making many women fear for their personal safety. Numerous cases of violent physical attacks and sexual assaults made headlines and generated even more anxiety about women in the public sphere. Law enforcement intervened when willing and able, but most women recognized that the police could not be everywhere at once. When women were told that they should probably just stay at home or wait for a male family member to accompany and protect them, they rejected that idea and determined to empower themselves as their own defenders and to physically assert their right to public space.

Her Own Hero explores the variety of ways that women learned to fight back and the political implications of their new physical empowerment.
Learn more about Her Own Hero at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sharon Sassler & Amanda Jayne Miller's "Cohabitation Nation"

Sharon Sassler is Professor of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. Amanda Jayne Miller is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Indianapolis.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships, and reported the following:
From 2003 to 2006 we set out to learn more about an increasingly popular trend among today’s young adults – cohabitation. We interviewed 31 middle class, college educated couples (most of whom worked in professions like architecture, education, business, and health care) and 30 couples we labeled “service class,” who mostly worked in fields like data entry, telemarketing, retail, and food service, and whose education had mostly stopped either a high school degree or some college classes. In the past, these less educated men might have been labeled “working class,” but few worked in blue collar professions. We gathered the stories of their relationships, from when and how they started dating, what precipitated their decision to move in together, to how they shared responsibilities for domestic chores, family planning, and discussions about their futures.

Page 99 of our book is from the chapter, “Family Planning or Failing to Plan?” In it, individuals discuss the prerequisites they believe should be met before they have a child together. While nearly half of our service couples (14) already have a child, often from one partner’s prior relationships, few of our middle class couples are parents. As we open the book to its middle, we read about what the middle class believes should be in place before becoming parents. In general, this meant financial stability, but this was, for them, more than just being able to feed their child an adequate diet.
David, a 30 year old retirement planner, elaborated what financial stability meant to him. “I guess that means to have a certain balance in your bank account, a certain cash flow every month, knowing that you don’t have to rent, you can buy a house, that’s what financially stable means to me.” In light of parenting, he explained that it meant “knowing that you can afford more for the kids, their activities and this and that.” Middle class respondents often mentioned that they wanted to settle into their jobs or climb the corporate ladder prior to embarking on parenthood, or that they wanted their partners to do that. Bree, a 25-year-old accountant, earned more than her partner but wanted to stay home with her children for the first few years of their lives. She explained, “Financially right now everything is really good. I know that he wants to move up in his job, so it would probably be good to wait a couple of years, until he’s really comfortable where he is.” Karen, a 24-year-old graduate student, wanted to defer children to a point in the future where she would be “more established at that point with my career, where I want to be and what I want to be doing and hopefully settled in, you know, where he will have worked for long enough too that we can be in a steady place.” For these respondents, becoming established took time, and therefore childbearing would have to be delayed.
In many ways, the approach to planning children encapsulated the major differences between service and middle class couples on other fronts. As they did with family planning, our middle class respondents were better able to communicate their desires, had time lines for the optimal time for events to occur (such as the appropriate timing to begin discussing engagement and marriage), and were generally amenable to negotiating with partners. Our service class respondents, in contrast, were more often reacting to the imperfect hand they were dealt, and often lacked the ability to articulate a desired life plan, perhaps because they had already been thrown so many curves. Their experiences, therefore, differed dramatically. They moved in together more rapidly, often due to economic exigencies; they experienced unintended pregnancies, even though many were already parents; and their economic situations did not enable them to anticipate enough stability to desire to take the next step in their relationship towards marriage – engagement.
Learn more about Cohabitation Nation at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Niall Kishtainy's "A Little History of Economics"

Niall Kishtainy is a writer, economist and historian, and teaches economic history at LSE.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, A Little History of Economics, and reported the following:
On page 99 of A Little History of Economics, I present the central idea of The Theory of the Leisure Class, which was written at the end of the nineteenth century by the iconoclastic American economist, Thorstein Veblen. Page 99 is a fragment of the long story of economics, which I lay out over 40 chapters beginning in ancient times and ending in the present. Yet Veblen’s idea concerns a fundamental economic question which runs through much of the book: what governs people’s economic behaviour?

In the late nineteenth century the conventional view began to emerge that people make economic decisions rationally: they accurately weigh up the costs and benefits of buying this car or taking that job and then choose accordingly. Veblen looked at the matter differently. He thought that people decide less on the basis of abstract principles of rationality than on instinct and habit, which are shaped by deep-seated social and cultural conditions. This gave him an unusual perspective on capitalist society, as shown in the following sentences from page 99 of my book:
On the face of it, capitalism looks as if it has nothing at all in common with ancient societies of tribespeople with their rain dances, sacrifices of animals to the gods and gifts of shells to neighbouring villages. Rational people in capitalist societies are engaged in buying, selling and profit-making. But in fact, says Veblen, if you look closely you’ll see primitive customs living on in the modern economy. We buy things not so much to satisfy our own desires as a completely rational person would, but in order to be approved of by others.
Veblen tells us that in early societies people gained prestige by being powerful enough not to have to work; ploughing fields and chopping logs came to be seen as demeaning. The American economy of the Gilded Age was much the same, he said. Rich people lived off interest from their inherited fortunes and didn’t have to do any real work. They achieved social status by showing off their jewellery and fur coats. They were the ‘leisure class’ devoted to socially wasteful ‘conspicuous consumption’.

Although Veblen’s kind of economics is today out of fashion, in recent decades economists began to unpick the idea of ‘rational economic man’ and to base new explanations of economic behaviour on psychological theories. They’ve also become increasingly sensitive to the potentially damaging effects of extreme concentrations of wealth; some argue that today’s high levels are the sign of a second Gilded Age. Page 99 of the book, a mere glimpse at the thought of a now neglected economist, is therefore a window onto two fundamental debates in economics that continue to this day.
Visit Niall Kishtainy's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 11, 2017

Erika Gasser's "Vexed with Devils"

Erika Gasser is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Vexed with Devils: Manhood and Witchcraft in Old and New England, and reported the following:
Vexed with Devils analyzes published cases of demonic possession and witchcraft-possession (when those who suffered the spectral torments associated with demonic possession also named a witch as the cause) in England and New England from approximately 1564 to 1700. It examines the role of gender in published accounts about men and women who performed the symptoms of possession, and analyzes particular cases of men who were accused of witchcraft by possessed accusers or who published possession propaganda. Despite the overwhelming association of witchcraft with women, I argue that manhood was a crucial factor in the articulation of judgment upon both the women and men who were implicated in these incidents.

Page 99 features a long quotation by Cotton Mather, the eminent New England Puritan minister, from the introduction to one of his books in which he expresses his determination to publish his own book alongside those of greater men, in an elegant combination of arrogance and humility: “Go then, my little book, as a Lackey to the more elaborate Essayes of those learned men.” That sentence always makes me smile, because I can’t help but be captivated by Mather’s complexities. He believed that he and his family knew how to order New England as a proper godly colony and dared to hope that he was among God’s predestined Saints, but the Puritan denial of assurance meant that he constantly struggled between an overweening pride and an awareness of his unworthiness. Mather wrote that in 1689, just before the well-known Salem witchcraft trials in 1692, and despite his reaching for modesty the tone broadcasts his confidence. I have found it very interesting to observe how his tone changed over the next few years.

The long quotation speaks to a very specific moment, and so in that sense the first half of the page may not represent the book as a whole, but later on in the page I reiterate one of its central tenets, that “Mather drew upon a tradition of English witchcraft-possession writing, from the controversies of the late sixteenth century to the cases that had emerged across the seventeenth century. Despite fluctuations in the volume of printed cases, and the dramatic political, religious, and social turmoil of the period, claims to interpret preternatural phenomena remained closely implicated in claims to patriarchal authority and order.” I go on to explain that at the cultural level, manhood and womanhood continued to matter for all participants in possession cases in ways that show considerable continuity rather than the decline of credulity we expect and associate with the Enlightenment. In the end, I do think that page 99 gives a kind of encapsulation of the book, with the added bonus of a window into Cotton Mather’s particular struggles.
Learn more about Vexed with Devils at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mitch Kachun's "First Martyr of Liberty"

Mitch Kachun is Professor of History at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is author of Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915 and co-editor of The Curse of Caste; or the Slave Bride: A Rediscovered African American Novel by Julia C. Collins.

Kachun applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, First Martyr of Liberty: Crispus Attucks in American Memory, and reported the following:
Page 99 contains a full-page image: a line drawing from Arthur Huff Fauset’s 1927 book for young readers, For Freedom: A Biographical Story of the Negro. The image shows Attucks giving a speech to a crowd of white Boston colonists. This image and the text from pages 98 and 100 touch on some of the book’s central themes.

We have little evidence about Crispus Attucks. Probably, Attucks was born a slave in Massachusetts around 1723 and was of mixed African and Native American ancestry. He escaped in 1750, then worked as a sailor and dockworker. On March 5, 1770, Attucks was part of a Boston mob harassing British troops. The troops fired and Attucks and four others were killed in what came to be known as the Boston Massacre.

Over the past 250 years, Attucks has often been presented as an American patriot, the first to die for American Independence. However, some have argued that he was either a street thug who got what he deserved or merely an insignificant bystander. Americans continue to debate who Attucks was and how (or if) he should be remembered.

First Martyr of Liberty explores the relationship between Attucks’s actual life and the myths that have grown around him. I examine literature, poetry, drama, music, art, television, histories, textbooks, commemorations, and more to clarify what we actually know about Attucks and to illustrate how Americans go about constructing a shared public understanding of the nation’s past.

The chapter that includes page 99 examines the 1920s and 1930s, a period shaped by the mass migration of blacks into northern cities; the cultural flowering of the Harlem Renaissance; the expanding political activism of the New Negro movement; and the emergence of movies, radio, and other mass media. Page 98 discusses Fauset’s book and several other works that present wild speculations about Attucks as if they were facts. It is extremely unlikely, for example, that Attucks gave public speeches. Page 100 discusses the emergence in the 1920s of a new wave of highly trained black scholars researching and writing black history. This section exemplifies African Americans’ longstanding efforts to incorporate their story into the mainstream narrative of American history, while also demonstrating the problems with trying to create a plausible story about Attucks that can be supported with evidence.

In the 21st century Americans continue to debate Crispus Attucks’s place in the nation’s history. First Martyr of Liberty engages the paradoxes and politics involved with remembering and forgetting and illuminates the contested terrain upon which we construct our understandings of American heroes, American patriotism, the American historical narrative, and the question of who “belongs” as a part of the nation and its story. I hope you’ll give it a look!
Learn more about First Martyr of Liberty at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: First Martyr of Liberty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 7, 2017

Noah Benezra Strote's "Lions and Lambs"

Noah Benezra Strote is associate professor of European history at North Carolina State University. He is a former fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Lions and Lambs: Conflict in Weimar and the Creation of Post-Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
Page 99 throws the reader into a dramatic scene of Lions and Lambs. It is December 1932 in Germany, many are speaking about the possibility of civil war, and the embattled chancellor, Kurt von Schleicher – the last man to serve in that position before Adolf Hitler – is giving an unrealistic speech about unity and mutual respect. Here, as in the entire first half of the book, I present a new interpretation of the historic failure of Germany’s first experiment with liberal democracy known as the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). Unlike previous scholars, who have often claimed that the republic collapsed due to political immaturity and economic crisis, I show that democratic institutions in Germany became unworkable because national elites held incompatible visions for the country’s future. With their elected leaders opposed to one another like “lions and lambs,” many opted for the decisiveness of a dictator.

The page is part of a section in which I explain a troubling phenomenon related to the democratic collapse: as German politics became more polarized, why did so many conservative Christians ally with Hitler’s hate-filled Nazi Party, and why did so few speak out against its antisemitic ideology? An unexpected reason, I found, was that in the preceding decades, Christian leaders desperately feared that their religion was losing its age-old influence on key public institutions such as the judiciary and the school system. They chose to cooperate with the Nazis largely because Hitler promised to establish Germany as a “Christian state” and to defeat the left, whom they had come to perceive as enemies.

Page 99 therefore reveals an essential aspect of the history I reconstruct in Lions and Lambs. In the second half of the narrative, which begins on Page 147, the action shifts from the intractability of political conflict to the creation of political consensus after the fall of Nazism. The remainder of the book demonstrates how the very same men and women who had once perceived each other as “enemies” ended up collaborating in the reconstruction of liberal democracy after 1945 in what became the Federal Republic of Germany, otherwise known as West Germany. Both sides of the earlier conflict – in this case conservative Christians and the more secular left – made painful compromises on previously held values as a price for consensus and stability. In this way, the book presents a pre-history of present-day Germany, where, in no small part due to the memory of Nazism, a majority still values compromise and stability above all kinds of political experimentation.
Learn more about Lions and Lambs at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Jean Kazez's "The Philosophical Parent"

Jean Kazez teaches philosophy at Southern Methodist University. She is the author of Animalkind: What We Owe to Animals and The Weight of Things: Philosophy and the Good Life.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Philosophical Parent: Asking the Hard Questions about Having and Raising Children, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the first page of chapter seven: “Whose Child is This?” Here’s how the chapter begins:
You’ve decided to have a child, conceived and gestated her, and given birth. Now what? You hold your child, gaze upon her in awe, feed her, kiss her—her, the child you gave birth to. It’s so important that you do all these things with the right child that every baby wears an identification bracelet in the hospital nursery, and mix-ups are regarded as a total fiasco.

Are mix-ups really a fiasco? Most people think so, including the very rare person who is involved in one. Sue McDonald and Marti Miller were both born in Wisconsin in 1951, and raised in the same small town. Mary Miller, who gave birth to Sue, suspected a mix-up when she brought her new baby home from the hospital...
I tell this story, which I heard on a 2008 episode of This American Life, to broach the question why parents have a right to bring home and raise their biological children. The Miller family did a perfectly good job of raising Marti; the McDonald family did a perfectly good job of raising Sue. But everyone was terribly upset when the mix-up came to light. The situation violated the norm that says biological parents ought to know which child is theirs, and should have the prerogative to bring that child home.

But why is that the norm? The prerogative-to-raise part of the question becomes particularly acute in a better-off-elsewhere situation, a situation in which there is one baby, a set of biological parents, and also a much better equipped set of prospective parents. Why is it up to the biological parents, assuming they’re not unfit, whether they raise the child?

As simple and fundamental as the question is, there isn’t agreement among philosophers about the answer. Some think that biological parents don’t actually have special prerogatives—that we assume that they do only out of a sort of “blood bias.” I examine that idea in chapter 8, but in Chapter 7 I present my own position, which centers on the idea that, to their creators, children are “second selves but separate.” The basic idea can be found in Aristotle, but I expand on it and argue that it helps us understand parental prerogatives, including the prerogative to raise the child you’ve brought into the world.
Learn more about The Philosophical Parent at Jean Kazez's website and the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sarah M. Stitzlein's "American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens"

Sarah M. Stitzlein is Professor of Education and Affiliated Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. She earned her bachelor's degree in Philosophy and master's degree in Curriculum & Teacher Leadership from Miami University and earned her doctorate in Philosophy of Education from the University of Illinois. Her primary areas of scholarship are philosophy of education, pragmatism, educational equality, political agency, and education for democracy. Her previous books, Teaching for Dissent: Political Activism and Citizenship Education and Breaking Bad Habits of Race and Gender: Transforming Identity in Schools earned her the American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Award.

Stitzlein applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens: Supporting Democracy in the Age of Accountability, and reported the following:
Indeed, page 99, gets at the heart of my book and the argument I put forth within it. In fact, it is the place in the book where I lay out one of my most fundamental claims. There, I differentiate accountability—including the blaming of teachers that we’ve heard so much about in recent years—from responsibility. Whereas, accountability is typically a backward-looking determination of whether a person or institution has fulfilled its duties, I explain how responsibility is forward-driven action concerned with the well-being of others. In the context of education, and most notably for teachers, this means care for children. But, in the larger context as democratic citizens, I explain that we also have a role responsibility relative to public schools. “In other words, certain obligations and concerns for consequences result from the nature of being a citizen bound to others in economic, political, social, and normative relationships or through shared experiences and problems” (p. 99). In order to keep democracy strong, we have a responsibility to protect institutions, such as public schools, that facilitate just and equitable opportunities for living good lives amongst our future generations.

This point about our responsibility as citizens is fundamental to my larger claims in this book. While we often hear about the poor performance of students and teachers, the current educational crisis is at heart not about accountability, but rather citizen responsibility. Yet, citizens increasingly do not feel that public schools are our schools, that we have influence over them or responsibility for their outcomes. Citizens have become watchdogs of public institutions largely from the perspective of consumers, without seeing ourselves as citizens who compose the public of public institutions. Accountability becomes more about finding failure and placing blame on our schools and teachers, rather than about taking responsibility as citizens for shaping our expectations of schools, determining the criteria we use to measure their success, or supporting schools in achieving those goals.

This book sheds light on recent shifts in education and citizenship, helping the public to understand not only how schools now work, but also how citizens can take an active role in shaping them. It provides citizens with tools, habits, practices, and knowledge necessary to support schools. It offers a vision of how we can cultivate citizens who will continue to support public schools and thereby keep democracy strong.
Learn more about American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Yaniv Roznai's "Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments"

Yaniv Roznai is an assistant professor at the Radzyner Law School of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC). He specializes in comparative constitutional law, constitutional theory, legisprudence, and public international law. Roznai holds a PhD and LLM from the London School of Economics, and LLB and BA degrees in law and government from the IDC. He is also an elected board member and secretary general of the Israeli Association of Public Law.

Roznai applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments: The Limits of Amendment Powers, and reported the following:
The book deals with the question, can constitutional amendments be unconstitutional? One of the most widely debated issues in comparative constitutional theory, constitutional design, and constitutional adjudication. The book describes and analyses the increasing tendency in global constitutionalism to substantively limit formal changes to constitutions.

When I opened page 99 (with great curiosity!) in order to see whether it is representative of the book, I was amused at first sight; the page appears in a chapter which is relatively secondary to the book’s main questions: a chapter on “supra-constitutional unamendability” which examines limitations on constitutional amendment powers that are external to the constitutional system and above it, such as natural law or international law. The first half of the page deals with Switzerland, the constitution of which grants “explicit constitutional recognition to the position that jus cogens norms of international law were a limitation to constitutional amendments.” Ford’s statement, I thought, was completely inaccurate for the book. However, after a second thought, and when thinking of the second part of the page, it actually appears that much can be learned from page 99. I quote here the final paragraph of that page in full:
At first glance, the above examples demonstrate that, in some jurisdictions, international law may be normatively positioned even above the constitution itself. However, one must be cautious when evaluating such alleged supremacy of international law within the domestic constitutional order: as Gerald Neuman remarks, ‘even if a constitutional provision accords supremacy to international law, that provision itself will be subject to amendment, if necessary by resort to the constitution-giving power of the people’. This observation demands clarification. An ordinary constitutional provision granting international law supremacy can indeed be subject to future amendments. However, if such a constitutional provision were to be drafted as an ‘unamendable’ provision, it would bind the amendment powers. Hence, an explicit unamendability to not violate certain rules of international law would also apply to constitutional amendment powers. Of course, a similar unamendable provision would not limit or bind the original constituent power.
This paragraph provides, firstly, a mini-summary of that chapter. Nowadays, certain rules of international law now impose limits on what can be accomplished through formal constitutional change. However, such supremacy of international law, I argue, is still qualified as it is based on the constitution itself which may provide such superiority. Nonetheless, the constitution may be amended or replaced by a new constitution. Secondly, this paragraph provides insights into the book’s larger argument: explicit limits on constitutional amendment power are valid and restrict the holder of amendment powers. The amendment power is a delegated legal competence which must obey those explicit conditions stipulated in the constitution. To amend the constitution so as to abolish unamendable principles would be an “unconstitutional constitutional amendment”. However, in their primary constitution-making capacity, the people’s – not the delegated organs – can change even unamendable provisions via a proper channel of higher-level democratic participation and deliberations.

By using constitutional theory and a wide comparative study, the book thus aims to explain what the nature of amendment power is, what its limitations are, and what the role of constitutional courts is and should be when enforcing limitations on constitutional amendments.
Learn more about Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wendy Pearlman's "We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled"

Wendy Pearlman is the Martin and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, where she specializes in Middle East politics. She is the author of We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Syrian Chronicles, Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement, and Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada.

Pearlman applied the “Page 99 Test” to We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled and reported the following:
Between 2012 and 2016, I traveled across the Middle East and Europe, interviewing more than three hundred displaced Syrians. My new book, We Crossed A Bridge and It Trembled, uses the narratives that I collected to chronicle the origins and evolution of the Syrian conflict exclusively through the words of Syrians who have lived it. The book is divided into eight parts that respectively probe the suffocating fear under the authoritarian regime of Hafez al-Assad (1970-2000), the rise and fall of hope for change after his son Bashar’s assumption of power in 2000, the euphoric launch of peaceful protests in 2011, the regime’s violent response, the militarization of the rebellion, the everyday experience of living war, the mass flight of refugees, and citizens’ concluding reflections making sense of these tumultuous events. Each part is comprised entirely of personal testimonials which range from poetry-like fragments a sentence in length to anecdotes unfolding over pages.

Page 99 is the first entry in Part IV: Crackdown, which examines both government attempts to repress the popular uprising and how a cross-section of people experienced that repression. The entire page is dedicated to these words from Miriam, a 20-something woman from Aleppo whom I interviewed in Jordan in summer 2012:If Bashar had only come out in his first speech and said, “I am with you, my people. I want to help you and be with you step by step,” I can guarantee you one million percent that he would have been the greatest leader in the Arab world. He had that kind of potential. Instead, he assumed that the Syrian people love him, that they don’t understand anything, and that they’ll follow him no matter what. But we weren’t as foolish as the government thought we were.Consistent with the “Page 99 Test,” this passage reveals the conviction guiding the book as a whole: Syrians’ voices offer not only a way to feel the human dimension of this cruel conflict, but also analysis and insight critical for understanding its complexities. Here Miriam conveys a central, oft-forgotten point of the Syrian tragedy: it was not inevitable. When tens and then hundreds and thousands of Syrians went into the streets in early 2011, they initially called for reform, not regime change. They wanted a greater margin of freedom of expression, removal of brazenly corrupt officials, repeal of the 48-year-old Emergency Law that allowed imprisonment without charge or trial, etc. Bashar al-Assad retained great personal popularity at the time. Had his government eschewed bloodshed and recognized the legitimacy of citizens’ simple demands, it could have avoided war. When it instead chose to treat unarmed protesters as “terrorists” to be killed, tortured, and eliminated, it unleashed the violence that continues to ravage the country until today.

We Crossed A Bridge and It Trembled reveals how all of this happened. Page 99 reminds us that it did not have to happen this way.
Learn more about We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled and follow Wendy Pearlman on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 28, 2017

David Papineau's "Knowing the Score"

David Papineau is a professor of philosophy of natural science at Kings College London and a distinguished professor of philosophy at the City University of New York. The author of eight philosophy books, he lives in London, United Kingdom.

Papineau applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Knowing the Score: What Sports Can Teach Us About Philosophy (And What Philosophy Can Teach Us About Sports), and reported the following:
On this page of the book you will find some examples of rule-stretching in sport, including Fosbury’s Flop, belly-putting in golf, and Kevin Pietersen’s switch-hitting. This is in the course of a chapter that takes a largely tolerant attitude to gamesmanship (in Stephen Potter’s original definition: “How to win games without actually cheating”) – on the grounds that someone who isn’t looking for new ways to win isn't really trying.

Not that the book endorses all kinds of sporting transgressions. The chapter on Gamesmanship is the last of three in a section of the book entitled ‘Rules’, which distinguishes carefully between the formal rules applied by the officials, the code of fair play recognized by the athletes, and forms of sporting behaviour that are genuinely acceptable. My general line is that it’s generally all right to break the official rules, as long as it’s in line with the code of fair play – but that we need to watch out for cases where the athletes’ code starts licensing objectively nasty practices (like rampant drug use in cycling, or faking injury to get an opponent penalized in soccer).

I also use this discussion of sporting ethics to draw some general philosophical morals. Just as codes of fair play trump the official rules on the sports field, so do moral considerations trump the law of the land: it is often morally best to break the law and take the penalty, I argue, in real life as in sport. Similarly, the sporting context clarifies the relation between socially arbitrary conventions and objective morality: by and large, conventions simply specify the means by which different societies, or sports, uphold such universal values as courtesy and keeping your promises (which is why one and the same action can be moral in one society, or sport, but immoral in another).

This illustrates the general message of the book: sports offer philosophical insights that aren’t easily available elsewhere. I use sporting themes to probe a wide range of central philosophical issues: mind and action, altruism and cooperation, citizenship and nationality, identity and tradition. Time and again, the sporting evidence casts a novel light on long-standing philosophical problems. I've come to think of sports as the philosophical equivalent of particle accelerators in physics. Just as particle accelerators allow physicists to find out how matter behaves in exceptional high-energy conditions, so sports show us things about human beings that aren’t normally apparent in less testing conditions.
Visit David Papineau's website.

The Page 99 Test: Philosophical Devices.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Eric Kurlander's "Hitler’s Monsters"

Eric Kurlander is professor of history at Stetson University. His books include The Price of Exclusion: Ethnicity, National Identity, and the Decline of German Liberalism, 1989–1933 and Living With Hitler: Liberal Democrats in the Third Reich, 1933-1945.

Kurlander applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Hitler’s Monsters happens to be the first page of "Chapter Four: The Third Reich’s War on the Occult. Anti-Occultism, Hitler’s Magicians’ Controversy, and the Hess Action." Chapter Four, which is pivotal, explores the Nazis’ contradictory policies and attitudes toward the occult in the years immediately after Hitler’s seizure of power. It opens with three epigraphs. The first, from Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, urges Germans (and Nazis) not to embrace “unclear mythical concepts” propagated by “German prophets” who, per Hitler in Mein Kampf, “like to clothe themselves in bearskins” and claim to have “created National Socialism some forty years before [the Führer].”

The second epigraph comes from a May 1941 exchange between an official in Alfred Rosenberg Party Education Ministry, charged with policing the occult, and the head of Hitler’s Chancellery, Martin Bormann. Even after the Gestapo moved to combat “the overweening spread of astrology for profit” in 1937, the official complained, Hitler’s Deputy Rudolf Hess, not to mention Heinrich Himmler, had insisted that “‘scientific astrology’ be spared from this measure.” “Thereafter it became increasingly clear,” the official continued, that proponents of Enlightenment faced a “struggle” against this “consolidated group” within the Nazi Party “for the sponsorship of astrology and occultism.”

The third epigraph, an excerpt from a 1960 interview with SS professor Ernst Anrich. Looking back on the Third Reich, Anrich recalled that the “whole background of the ban on astrology” as well as the “partial persistence” of occultism in the 1930s “is interesting not only as an individual case, but speaks to the manifold contradictions within National Socialism which I have often related.”

Which begs the question: Why these contradictions? Why did the Third Reich not move more aggressively to curb occultism? Chapter Four begins to answer this question, a central theme in Hitler’s Monsters, by looking at Nazi efforts to police the occult during the first four years of the Third Reich. It then turns to the regime’s haphazard efforts to promote “enlightenment” after 1937, culminating in what I call Hitler’s Magician’s Controversy. This alternately absurd and amusing controversy regarding the legality of “magic” culminated in February 1941, when Hitler and the Gestapo decided to side with professional magicians against debunkers out to undermine popular belief in occultism. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the subsequent 1941 “Hess Action” against the occult–– a June response to Hess’s embarrassing flight to Scotland in May of that year–– which nonetheless ended as quickly as it had begun.

In Chapter Four and throughout later chapters I argue that the Third Reich’s “zigzag course” in policing the occult can be explained by the fact that the Nazis embraced many elements of occult and border scientific thinking. When the regime worked to repress or “coordinate” esoteric groups, it had more to do with controlling and utilizing occult doctrines than eliminating them outright. Like esotericists and border scientists more generally, the Nazis worked carefully to distinguish between commercial and popular occultism, on the one hand, and “scientific” occultism on the other. If Third Reich may have been hostile toward commercial, for-profit, boulevard occultism, “serious” practitioners of “scientific” occultism, Chapter Four concludes, enjoyed remarkable latitude, even extensive sponsorship, by the Third Reich.
Learn more about Hitler's Monsters at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Eric Kurlander's Living with Hitler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 24, 2017

Heather Vrana's "This City Belongs to You"

Heather Vrana is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Florida.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, This City Belongs to You: A History of Student Activism in Guatemala, 1944-1996, and reported the following:
This City Belongs to You follows several generations of students at Guatemala’s only public university, the Universidad de San Carlos (USAC). Each chapter explores how students engaged with the university as an institution and Guatemalan and (to a lesser extent) U.S. state apparatuses in the years between 1944 and 1996, a period marked by revolution, counterrevolution, and civil war. Through these encounters, USAC students (called San Carlistas) forged a loose consensus around faith in the principles of liberalism, especially belief in equal liberty, the constitutional republic, political rights, and the responsibility of university students to lead the nation. I call this consensus student nationalism. It was crucial to the meaning of the middle class across the twentieth century.

Student nationalism was a shared project for identity-making, premised on the inclusions and exclusions of citizenship. But it did not depend on the successful formation of a nation-state or even necessarily a territory. Nationalism was less something one had or believed than a way of making political claims. It helped to bring San Carlistas into enduring fraternal bonds with their classmates. As the civil war progressed and the military and police declared war on the university, San Carlistas used student nationalism to wage culture wars over historical memory. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, the reactionary forces became ever more brutal. Some students turned away from oppositional politics and focused on their studies, work, or family life. Some left USAC for one of the newer private universities, which were much safer. Others remained involved in USAC politics, often seeking support from international human rights organizations. A small number left the university to join the guerrilla and some of them were killed.

The Coda extends beyond the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, bearing witness to the poignancy of a community’s willingness to die for an idea at the hands of the government. In short, this is a history of many generations of young people: their hopes, their actions, their role in social change; attempts to control them; their struggles against the government; and their encounters with the school as a state apparatus and a crucial site for resistance and celebration.

Page 99 finds Guatemala in a moment of reckoning in late 1957, when the electoral route to political change proved illusory. As such, it marks a poignant turning point.
Visit Heather Vrana's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Leigh Fought's "Women in the World of Frederick Douglass"

Leigh Fought is Assistant Professor of History at LeMoyne College. She is the author of Southern Womanhood and Slavery: A Biography of Louisa S. McCord and an editor of The Frederick Douglass Papers: Series Three: Correspondence, Volume 1: 1842-1852.

Fought applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins:
At this point in the tour, Garrison fell deathly ill, leaving Douglass to continue alone and allowing him to meet with others uncensored. If the Boston Clique had rejected Douglass’s proposal as a potential burden and competition, others saw him, his fame, and the financing he brought from England as a possible savior.
This is high drama. We meet nineteenth-century, African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass early in his career, recently returned from two years abroad, flush with the means and desire to begin his own antislavery newspaper. Instead, his allies in the American Antislavery Society have thwarted his plans, insisting that he will better serve the cause as a lecturer and sending him on another multiple-week tour. He dodges them, finding others willing to pool their resources and entrust him with an editorship.

Page 99 concludes a three page expositionary pause that introduces a series of events crucial to the book’s central thesis. Page 100 returns to the main argument that women made Frederick Douglass with the machinations of Quaker reformer Amy Post bringing Douglass to Rochester to establish The North Star. Not long after, English abolitionist Julia Griffiths applied her business acumen to rescue the paper from the brink of failure and mobilize a heretofore dormant group of reformist women to support it. Success of the paper allowed Douglass economic, political, and intellectual independence through which he could prove that African Americans were capable of self-reliance. Furthermore, he used the paper’s office and pages to offer patronage and support to African American causes and leaders, both male and female. The success of this paper made him the celebrity Frederick Douglass.

The Griffiths friendship was also one of many with white women throughout his life, including his second marriage. The prurient interest that these associations have excited (but not those with black women) both then and now only underscores anxieties about black male sexuality around white women. Douglass and the women, therefore, used their acquaintance, public and non-illicit, challenge the hypocrisy and racism inherent in those fears.

Likewise, with his wife Anna, he challenged stereotypes of black families; and these two projects were often at odds. Moreover, his personal development as an abolitionist took him further away from the man that Anna had married. The tension that played out in their home began here and opened a window into the difficulties of life in an upwardly mobile black family subjected to constant public scrutiny.

While page 99 takes a break from the main argument of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, the quality of the whole is probably revealed in the storytelling, prose, and depth of research. If the page bores, infuriates, or intrigues the reader, thus will the book.
Learn more about Women in the World of Frederick Douglass at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Women in the World of Frederick Douglass.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sabine Frühstück's "Playing War"

Sabine Frühstück is Professor of Modern Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her publications include Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan and Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory, and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army.

Frühstück applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Playing War: Children and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan, and reported the following:
Page 99 describes why contemporary Japanese critics hardly participate in the debate about militaristic and other violent video games and their impact on children’s cognition and behavior. Very briefly: it’s about the extremely low violent crime rate in Japan and about the low profile of its military forces. In the book at large, I interrogate how essentialist notions of childhood and militarism in Japan and, to some degree beyond, have been productively intertwined, how assumptions about childhood and war have converged, and how children and childhood have worked as symbolic constructions and powerful rhetorical tools—particularly in the decades between the nation- and empire-building efforts of the late nineteenth century and the uneven manifestations of globalization at the beginning of the twenty-first. The modern figure of the child has emerged from a set of contradictory assumptions about children: that children are innately attracted to war, and that they are exceptionally vulnerable to its violence. This concept of childhood has thus served as a trope of both innocence and immaturity and wildness and uncontrollability. Within this fused view, children have been variably thought of as being simultaneously in need of rescue, protection, guidance, control, and suppression. At one time, children’s bodies were close to the ground, playfully pursuing territorial advances, almost physically one with the soil. They were envisioned as ever-ready soldiers, constantly signaling that war is natural, inherently human, and indefinitely inevitable. At another time, children were seen as all innocence and as equipped with a pronounced moral authority that relies on that very innocence. As carriers of human emotions, children appeared as proof of the authenticity and naturalness of these emotions—and, finally, epitomized by their very (demographically speaking) disappearance, they functioned as signifier and representation of national decline. The book covers the time between Japan’s first modern wars of the late nineteenth century to our current moment. More than 40 images are incorporated in the analysis.
Learn more about Playing War at the University of California Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rick Wartzman's "The End of Loyalty"

Rick Wartzman is director of the KH Moon Center for a Functioning Society at the Drucker Institute, a part of Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of four books, including his latest, The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to The End of Loyalty and reported the following:
Page 99 of The End of Loyalty picks up the narrative as two titans of American business history—Lem Boulware, the savvy labor relations chief at General Electric, and Jim Carey, the president of the International Union of Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers—are squaring off in the early 1950s. Boulware was a master of circumventing the union, making the case to GE’s workers that they were being treated fairly and that being part of the IUE was a waste. “It must now be obvious to our employees,” the company asserted, “that membership in a union will not get them anything they would not be able to get without a union.”

But Carey wasn’t about to roll over:
As a ten-year-old boy, he liked to brag, he had led his Philadelphia schoolmates in a classroom strike against excessive homework. Carey was a bantam, small in physical stature but profane and truculent, once telling a company negotiator in the middle of contract talks: “I’ll break every bone in your body. Damn it, I’ll come over there and bust you right in the mouth.” One union man remembered that they had to change the ashtrays in the bargaining room to aluminum because Carey would smash the glass ones.
This to-and-fro underscores the importance that unions like the IUE had in the forging of the social contract between employer and employee in America —job security, good pay, excellent health coverage, and a pension you could count on. By extension, it also helps to explain why all of those things have eroded so badly, now that less than 7% of private-sector workers in this country belong to a union (down from more than 30% in the 1950s).

To be sure, The End of Loyalty is not focused on labor-management relations. Its lens is much bigger than that—and, as a social history as much as a business book, it looks at a wide array of forces that have caused the weakening of the nation’s middle class. Among them: globalization and heightened competition from low-wage countries; the introduction of labor-saving technology; a newfound willingness to lay off enormous numbers of people even when there’s no crisis at hand; the outsourcing of all manner of work; the decline of manufacturing and the rise of third-rate service jobs. Fueling all of these forces, meanwhile, is corporate America’s obsession with “maximizing shareholder value,” which has explicitly elevated the wants of investors over the needs of employees.

Still, Page 99 is a great reminder of this essential fact: Because of their ability to act collectively, workers across the economy were once able to counterbalance the inherent strength of corporate America. This translated into higher wages, better benefits, and improved working conditions not only for those who carried a union card but for millions more blue-collar workers whose employers followed the patterns set by organized labor. Benefit packages for millions of nonunion white-collar workers were also based on what unfolded at the bargaining table.

In short, the nation never would have had so many good jobs without unions.
Learn more about The End of Loyalty at the Hachette Book Group website.

The Page 99 Test: Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

Alan E. Bernstein's "Hell and Its Rivals"

Alan E. Bernstein is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Arizona. He is the author of The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds.

Bernstein applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hell and Its Rivals: Death and Retribution among Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Early Middle Ages, and reported the following:
Hell and Its Rivals studies the history of belief in hell during the amazingly creative centuries that saw the patristic period in Christianity, the composition of the Talmud in rabbinic Judaism, and the formation of the Qur’an in Islam. All three religions threatened the worst sinners and non-believers with eternal punishment. Still today, many take hell on faith but, as a historian, I go farther and ask what realities in society inspired and maintained the idea. Page 99 opens a chapter that explains how slavery played that role. Slavery subjected its victims to chains, darkness, confinement, branding, dismemberment, and the unending descent of slave status from mother to children. The endless liability of slaves to torture gave hell a fatal plausibility. Many parables therefore used the relationship between slaves and masters to illustrate the system of rewards and punishments in this world and the next. “Things are images through which we consider the nature of their causes” said one leading theorist of the age. All three religions employed this hierarchy of symbols to communicate afterlife realities.

Beyond this common system of signification, the three religions met and similarly resisted the alternatives that became hell’s rivals: relief, end, and escape. One possibility was that the damned could enjoy relief in hell on religious holidays. Another posited an end to hell because its divinely administered discipline would effectively cleanse sinners of fault and thus end liability to punishment. The third proposed that the very pious could intercede for their kin or their friends and pray them out of torment. All three religions met the challenges posed by these rival notions on similar terms to defend eternal, unchangeable punishment. In subsequent centuries, each damned the others in the everlasting hell they defined and defended together!
Learn about Hell and Its Rivals at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 15, 2017

William Lafi Youmans's "An Unlikely Audience"

William Lafi Youmans is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. Broadly interested in questions of transnationalism, power and communication, his primary research interests include global news, technology, law and politics. His other areas of research interest include international broadcasting, Middle East politics, and Arab-American studies.

Youmans applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera's Struggle in America, and reported the following:
My book is about Al Jazeera’s decade-long ambition to build an American audience. An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera’s Struggle in America tells the story of this largely failed effort.

It should have appeared improbable from the start. Could Al Jazeera really reverse the long history of unidirectional news and information flow from the United States to the Arab world? From the cultural politics of US-Arab relations to the barriers of entry in the crowded American TV news market, the Qatar-based network faced tremendous obstacles.

Still, it established three different US-facing news outlets: Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera America and AJ+. The first, an international channel, floundered as cable companies refused it carriage. It withdrew from the US. Then, the America-only channel closed after only a few short years and exorbitant expenditures. Only with its final offshoot, the digital news pioneer AJ+, has the network found success attracting an American audience.

By page 99, the book was several pages into an analysis of one key event that encapsulated the network’s renewed visibility during the Arab spring, which many lauded as “Al Jazeera’s moment.”

In mid-May, 2011, Al Jazeera held a forum in Washington, DC to celebrate its newfound popularity and promote it further. On the first night of the event, senior politicians Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator John McCain spoke. They lauded Al Jazeera English’s reporting from the sites of protest that captivated the world. Such accolades were a far cry from the vilification the network experienced during the Bush administration.

Page 99 introduces prominent Al Jazeera figures at the forum who personified the problems and prospects of the channel’s desire to be widely seen in the United States. Their biographies help tell the story of Al Jazeera in America.
Visit William Youmans's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Maurice Roche's "Mega-Events and Social Change"

Maurice Roche is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mega-Events and Social Change: Spectacle, legacy and public culture, and reported the following:
Western-originated mega-events like Olympic Games and World Expos are being increasingly affected and challenged by new vectors of global social change in the 21stC. Mega-Events and Social Change aims to illustrate and sociologically analyse three of these dynamics. These are the media shift from mass press and television to the internet; the onset of global ecological crises and ‘green’ policy responses particularly in cities; and the geo-political shift involved in the rise of China and other non-Western world regions. The book is structured into three parts which address each of these social changes and their implications for mega-events in order.

Page 99 is part of the first discussion concerned with the rise of the internet and the challenges this has created for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a leading mega-event organizer. These particularly include the rise of internet ‘piracy’, or the infringement of copyright involved in unauthorised copying or streaming of live event television. At this point the book explores the IOC’s development of various ‘hard’ (legally punitive) and ‘soft’ (informative) ways of controlling the piracy problem from the 2008 Beijing Olympics onwards.
A few days after the impressive and much-watched Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympics an internet site (TorrentFreak) which monitors and comments on legal and non-legal online video-streaming reported that ‘even though it was free to watch on TV all around the world ......over a million people have already downloaded the opening ceremony via BitTorrent’ (TF 2008a). The IOC seems to have registered this report and responded to it.
The IOC’s response was to try to make an example of a notorious Swedish internet company using BitTorrent, namely The Pirate Bay, which played a leading role in infringing its Beijing Games television copyright. It requested assistance from the Swedish government in blocking the company’s operation. Later the government had the co-founders of the company fined and eventually jailed. Since the Beijing Games although the IOC’s media policy has continued this ’hard’ approach it has also developed a ‘softer’ approach aimed at young people, ‘digital natives’. This has involved live video-streaming of the London 2012 Games on the IOC’s YouTube channel, and the creation of a permanent online Olympic television channel.

These developments illustrate the book’s general argument that mega-event organizers now need to continuously adapt and evolve their events and event-contexts if they are to manage the new problems which contemporary social changes throw at them. However these adaptations, even if temporarily successful, by no means guarantee the long-term survival of the mega-event genres with which we are all familiar.
Learn more about Mega-Events and Social Change at the Manchester University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Erica Wagner's "Chief Engineer"

Erica Wagner is the author of Gravity: Stories; Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters; and Seizure: A Novel. Pas de Deux/A Concert of Stories, co-written with storyteller Abbi Patrix and musician and composer Linda Edsjö, tours around the world. Twice a judge of the Man Booker Prize, she was literary editor of The Times (London) for seventeen years, and she is now a contributing writer for New Statesman and consulting literary editor for Harper's Bazaar, as well as writing for many publications in Britain and the United States.

Wagner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge, and reported the following:
When Washington Roebling undertook the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge following his father's death in 1869, he was beginning a task which would test him severely; the job would take 14 years and would break his health, though never his spirit. But Washington already knew what it was to be tested. He had joined the Union Army in 1861 as a private; when he left the army in early 1865, he had risen through the ranks to colonel, and would be known as Col. Roebling for the rest of his long life. Three quarters of a million Americans died in that terrible war, and Washington took part in a great many of its most deadly battles. Page 99 of Chief Engineer finds him at the most deadly of them all, the Battle of Antietam, in September, 1862. When it was over, nearly 6,000 men lay dead, another 17,000 wounded.

Washington fought near the Dunker church which still stands on that Maryland field: a plain, whitewashed structure built by a pacifist German sect who believed in full-immersion baptism. Washington's vivid recollections bring the dreadful scenes vividly to the reader's mind; and bluntly dispel any notion of war's romance. “The appearance of the battlefield was horrible," he wrote. "The hot… sun changed a corpse into a swollen mass of putridity in a few hours — too rotten to be moved. Long trenches were dug, wide and deep, into which bodies, thousands of them, were tumbled pell mell, carried on fence rails or yanked with ropes, unknown, unnamed, unrecognised. This is the kind of glory most people get who go to war."

Certainly Washington's years in the Union Army were a critical part of his life: not least because, a couple of years later, he would meet his remarkable wife thanks to his service: Emily Warren was the daughter of his commanding officer in 1864, General G. K. Warren. So page 99 is not unrepresentative of a very important period in Washington's -- and the nation's -- life.

But there's another reason that page 99 stands out for me. For on it is mentioned a map which Washington made of the battlefield, just a day after the fighting ended. He drew it on a sheet of yellow paper which measures twenty by twenty-five inches; on the map each detail of the battlefield is carefully delineated: Washington was a master draughtsman, and this drawing is an extraordinary example of his skill. On the right of the map is marked the ford by which Major General "Fighting Joe" Hooker's men crossed Antietam creek, and the line of his advance round to the right, over the top of the map. In the middle, just south of a little cornfield, is marked in Washington’s tiny writing "place where Hooker was shot in the foot". The map has the purity of an abstraction, for all its precision: yet Washington would have drawn it when those bodies he described so dreadfully — and which can be seen in Alexander Gardner’s famous photographs of the battlefield — would still have been lying where they fell.

The map itself is in the archive of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and was recently and painstakingly restored. It isn't reproduced in Chief Engineer, because it would have been impossible to do it justice; but holding it in my hands was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my research for this book.
Visit Erica Wagner's website.

Writers Read: Erica Wagner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dale Hudson's "Vampires, Race, and Transnational Hollywoods"

Dale Hudson is an associate professor in the Film and New Media Program at New York University Abu Dhabi and a digital curator for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Vampires, Race, and Transnational Hollywoods, and reported the following:
From page 98:
The setting of these Vampire-Westerns in the Southwest demonstrates that the Hollywood Gothic was somewhat always about representing the contemporary United States. On Hollywood’s back-lots and sound stages, so-called exotic locations like China, Arabia, and Transylvania, alongside mythical heritage locations, like England, reveal their actual shooting location in southern California through inconsistent accents and costumes. With stars, personas also make reality difficult to differentiate completely from illusion. Lugosi’s performance of Count Dracula somewhat overlapped with his performance of “himself” as a political exile. In an interview at the height of his fame, he identifies as a “Hungarian by birth” and “an American now.” Few contested his patriotism despite his accent. Vampire hunters may have murdered the accented Count Dracula, but accents faded, particularly among its vampire-cowboys. The deathly departure of Mexican-born Drake renders him as a frontier fighter, a self-sacrificing figure of nation building. If “the saga of European immigration has long been held up as proof of the openness of American society, the benign and absorptive powers of American capitalism, and the robust health of American democracy” (Jacobson 1998: 12), classical Hollywood vampire films offer revisionist and alternative histories, albeit in supernatural terms, to acknowledge the nation’s transnational coordinates. Classical Hollywood vampire films address controversial questions. They serve as one means by which fantasies and anxieties about immigration were evoked on screen without representing them directly during moments of radical social transformation and redefinition of legal categories.
Page 99 contains only a few endnotes, so I’m cheating by looking at page 98, which provides a good sense of the reading strategy for Hollywood films that the book proposes. I try to understand how audiences, both at the time of the film’s original release and today, negotiate contradictions between images of “America” in vampire films and their own experiences of the United States.

Earlier in the chapter, I consider how Hollywood makes Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania appear strange by littering it with animals indigenous to southern California, such as armadillos and opossums. For me, the choice is less interesting as a marker of low-budget production than how it makes the story not only one about vampires, but also about immigrant experiences. The costumes and sets for Transylvania are actually similar to ones used in films, produced by private companies and public institutions, to recruit and assimilate European immigrants. The figure of the vampire also draws upon representations of Latin Lovers in Hollywood miscegenation melodramas. The films are about indirect representation.

What the page does not include is the book’s analysis of the political economies of film, television, and digital media, which I argue frame possible readings. The book disrupts the notion that Hollywood is unequivocally American any more than the U.S. history is unequivocally national. I look at various mechanisms by which Hollywood intervened in media production in Europe following the second World War, off-shored production to the Philippines in the 1970s and later to Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, México, South Africa, and elsewhere.

I selected the figure of the vampire due to its historical mutations and migrations, which I thought were an appropriate for thinking about Hollywood, which has mutated and migrated so much that it seems more accurate to refer to it in the plural as Hollywoods. I was also intrigued by the number of philosophers who turned to supernatural figures to conceptualize citizenship and nationality. I wondered whether vampire media might convey such ideas to wider audiences than books on political philosophy — or even journalism on immigrant rights, racial justice, nonhuman animal rights, environmental justice, and related issues.
Learn more about Vampires, Race, and Transnational Hollywoods at the Edinburgh University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue