Friday, July 31, 2009


New from the University of Chicago Press: Bulletproof: Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond by Jennifer Wenzel.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1856 and 1857, in response to a prophet’s command, the Xhosa people of southern Africa killed their cattle and ceased planting crops; the resulting famine cost tens of thousands of lives. Much like other millenarian, anticolonial movements—such as the Ghost Dance in North America and the Birsa Munda uprising in India—these actions were meant to transform the world and liberate the Xhosa from oppression. Despite the movement’s momentous failure to achieve that goal, the event has continued to exert a powerful pull on the South African imagination ever since. It is these afterlives of the prophecy that Jennifer Wenzel explores in Bulletproof.

Wenzel examines literary and historical texts to show how writers have manipulated images and ideas associated with the cattle killing—harvest, sacrifice, rebirth, devastation—to speak to their contemporary predicaments. Widening her lens, Wenzel also looks at how past failure can both inspire and constrain movements for justice in the present, and her brilliant insights into the cultural implications of prophecy will fascinate readers across a wide variety of disciplines.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"God and the Founders"

New from Cambridge University Press: God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson by Vincent Phillip Muñoz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Did the Founding Fathers intend to build a “wall of separation” between church and state? Are public Ten Commandments displays or the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance consistent with the Founders’ understandings of religious freedom? In God and the Founders, Dr. Vincent Phillip Muñoz answers these questions by providing new, comprehensive interpretations of James Madison, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. By analyzing Madison’s, Washington’s, and Jefferson’s public documents, private writings, and political actions, Muñoz explains the Founders’ competing church-state political philosophies. Muñoz explores how Madison, Washington, and Jefferson agreed and disagreed by showing how their different principles of religious freedom would decide the Supreme Court’s most important First Amendment religion cases. God and the Founders answers the question, “What would the Founders do?” for the most pressing church-state issues of our time, including prayer in public schools, government support of religion, and legal burdens on individual’s religious conscience.
Read an excerpt from God and the Founders.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars"

New from Oxford University Press: Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars by William Patry.

About the book, from the publisher:
Metaphors, moral panics, folk devils, Jack Valenti, Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes, predictable irrationality, and free market fundamentalism are a few of the topics covered in this lively, unflinching examination of the Copyright Wars: the pitched battles over new technology, business models, and most of all, consumers.

In Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars , William Patry lays bare how we got to where we are: a bloated, punitive legal regime that has strayed far from its modest, but important roots. Patry demonstrates how copyright is a utilitarian government program--not a property or moral right. As a government program, copyright must be regulated and held accountable to ensure it is serving its public purpose. Just as Wall Street must serve Main Street, neither can copyright be left to a Reaganite "magic of the market."

The way we have come to talk about copyright--metaphoric language demonizing everyone involved--has led to bad business and bad policy decisions. Unless we recognize that the debates over copyright are debates over business models, we will never be able to make the correct business and policy decisions.

A centrist and believer in appropriately balanced copyright laws, Patry concludes that calls for strong copyright laws, just like calls for weak copyright laws, miss the point entirely: the only laws we need are effective laws, laws that further the purpose of encouraging the creation of new works and learning. Our current regime, unfortunately, creates too many bad incentives, leading to bad conduct. Just as President Obama has called for re-tooling and re-imagining the auto industry, Patry calls for a remaking of our copyright laws so that they may once again be respected.
Visit The Patry Copyright Blog.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Saving God"

New from Princeton University Press: Saving God: Religion after Idolatry by Mark Johnston.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this book, Mark Johnston argues that God needs to be saved not only from the distortions of the "undergraduate atheists" (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris) but, more importantly, from the idolatrous tendencies of religion itself. Each monotheistic religion has its characteristic ways of domesticating True Divinity, of taming God's demands so that they do not radically threaten our self-love and false righteousness. Turning the monotheistic critique of idolatry on the monotheisms themselves, Johnston shows that much in these traditions must be condemned as false and spiritually debilitating.

A central claim of the book is that supernaturalism is idolatry. If this is right, everything changes; we cannot place our salvation in jeopardy by tying it essentially to the supernatural cosmologies of the ancient Near East. Remarkably, Johnston rehabilitates the ideas of the Fall and of salvation within a naturalistic framework; he then presents a conception of God that both resists idolatry and is wholly consistent with the deliverances of the natural sciences.

Princeton University Press is publishing Saving God in conjunction with Johnston's forthcoming book Surviving Death, which takes up the crux of supernaturalist belief, namely, the belief in life after death.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses by Stephen H. Norwood.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is the first systematic exploration of the nature and extent of sympathy for Nazi Germany at American universities during the 1930s. Universities were highly influential in shaping public opinion and many of the nation’s most prominent university administrators refused to take a principled stand against the Hitler regime. Universities welcomed Nazi officials to campus and participated enthusiastically in student exchange programs with Nazified universities in Germany. American educators helped Nazi Germany improve its image in the West as it intensified its persecution of the Jews and strengthened its armed forces. The study contrasts the significant American grass-roots protest against Nazism that emerged as soon as Hitler assumed power with campus quiescence, and administrators’ frequently harsh treatment of those students and professors who challenged their determination to maintain friendly relations with Nazi Germany.
Read an excerpt from The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Geopolitics and Empire"

New from Oxford University Press: Geopolitics and Empire: The Legacy of Halford Mackinder by Gerry Kearns.

About the book, from the publisher:
Geopolitics and Empire examines the relations between two phenomena that are central to modern conceptions of international relations. Geopolitics is the understanding of the inter-relations between empires, states, individuals, private companies, NGOs and multilateral agencies as these are expressed and shaped spatially. This view of the world achieved notoriety as the scientific basis claimed by Nazi ideologists of global conquest. However, under this or another name, similar sets of ideas were important on both sides of the Cold War and now have a renewed resonance in debates over the New World Order of the so-called Global War on Terror. Geopolitics is a way of describing the conflicts between states as constrained by both physical and economic space. It makes such conflicts seem inevitable.

The argument of the book is that this view of the world continues to appear salient because it serves to make the projection of force overseas seem an inevitable aspect of the foreign policy of states. This quasi-Darwinian view of international relations makes the pursuit of Empire appear a responsibility of larger and more powerful states. Powerful states must become Empires or submit to others seeking something similar. In its associations with Empire, the study of Geopolitics returns continually to the ideas of a British geographer who never himself used the term. Halford Mackinder is the source of many of the ideas of Geopolitics and by examining his ideas both in their original context and as they have been repeatedly rediscovered and reinvented this book contributes to current discussions of the ideology and practices of the US Empire today.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond"

New from Columbia University Press: Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond by Christopher M. Davidson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A rising economic power, Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, is poised to become a major player in the fortunes of both Third and First World countries. Abu Dhabi owns more than 8 percent of the world's oil reserves, has close to one trillion dollars to invest in sovereign wealth funds, and is about to implement a masterful set of economic initiatives that will yield even greater returns.

Abu Dhabi has begun to eclipse its partner city, Dubai, in terms of sheer wealth and cultural and infrastructural development, opening the world's first Ferrari theme park and erecting satellite branches of the Guggenheim and the Louvre. Author of the best-selling Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success and an expert on Gulf politics, Christopher M. Davidson tracks Abu Dhabi's remarkable growth from a modest, eighteenth-century sheikhdom to its present opulent state. He recounts the dramatic efforts made by the emirate's dynastic family to retain their power, detailing the system of "tribal capitalism" they created in order to reconcile old political allegiances with modern engines of growth. Davidson concludes with potential challenges to Abu Dhabi's political and economic success, including a weakening of civil society, invasive media censorship, an ongoing labor crisis, increasing federal unrest, and persistent underperformance in the education sector.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Living with Hitler"

New from Yale University Press: Living with Hitler: Liberal Democrats in the Third Reich by Eric Kurlander.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book addresses key questions about liberal democrats and their activities in Germany from 1933 to the end of the Nazi regime. While it is commonly assumed that liberals fled their homeland at the first sign of jackboots, in reality most stayed. Some even thrived under Hitler, personally as well as professionally. Historian Eric Kurlander examines the motivations, hopes, and fears of liberal democrats—Germans who best exemplified the middle-class progressivism of the Weimar Republic—to discover why so few resisted and so many embraced elements of the Third Reich.

German liberalism was not only the opponent and victim of National Socialism, Kurlander suggests, but in some ways its ideological and sociological antecedent. That liberalism could be both has crucial implications for understanding the genesis of authoritarian regimes everywhere. Indeed, Weimar democrats’ prolonged reluctance to oppose the regime demonstrates how easily a liberal democracy may gradually succumb to fascism.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Fictions of Justice"

New from Cambridge University Press: Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Sahara Africa by Kamari Maxine Clarke.

About the book, from the publisher:
By taking up the challenge of documenting how human rights values are embedded in rule of law movements to produce a new language of international justice that competes with a range of other formations, this book explores how notions of justice are negotiated through everyday micropractices and grassroots contestations of those practices. These micropractices include speech acts that revere the protection of international rights, citation references to treaty documents, the brokering of human rights agendas, the rewriting of national constitutions, demonstrations of religiosity that make explicit the piety of religious subjects, and ritual practices of forgiveness that involve the invocation of ancestral religious cosmologies – all practices that detail the ways that justice, as a social fiction, is made real within particular relations of power.
Read an excerpt from Fictions of Justice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"From Scottsboro to Munich"

New from Princeton University Press: From Scottsboro to Munich: Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain by Susan D. Pennybacker.

About the book, from the publisher:
Presenting a portrait of engaged, activist lives in the 1930s, From Scottsboro to Munich follows a global network of individuals and organizations that posed challenges to the racism and colonialism of the era. Susan Pennybacker positions race at the center of the British, imperial, and transatlantic political culture of the 1930s--from Jim Crow, to imperial London, to the events leading to the Munich Crisis--offering a provocative new understanding of the conflicts, politics, and solidarities of the years leading to World War II.

Pennybacker examines the British Scottsboro defense campaign, inaugurated after nine young African Americans were unjustly charged with raping two white women in Alabama in 1931. She explores the visit to Britain of Ada Wright, the mother of two of the defendants. Pennybacker also considers British responses to the Meerut Conspiracy Trial in India, the role that antislavery and refugee politics played in attempts to appease Hitler at Munich, and the work of key figures like Trinidadian George Padmore in opposing Jim Crow and anti-Semitism. Pennybacker uses a wide variety of archival materials drawn from Russian Comintern, Dutch, French, British, and American collections. Literary and biographical sources are complemented by rich photographic images.

From Scottsboro to Munich sheds new light on the racial debates of the 1930s, the lives and achievements of committed activists and their supporters, and the political challenges that arose in the postwar years.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"The Wilderness Warrior"

New from Harper: The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this groundbreaking epic biography, Douglas Brinkley draws on never-before-published materials to examine the life and achievements of our "naturalist president." By setting aside more than 230 million acres of wild America for posterity between 1901 and 1909, Theodore Roosevelt made conservation a universal endeavor. This crusade for the American wilderness was perhaps the greatest U.S. presidential initiative between the Civil War and World War I. Roosevelt's most important legacies led to the creation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and passage of the Antiquities Act in 1906. His executive orders saved such treasures as Devils Tower, the Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest.

Tracing the role that nature played in Roosevelt's storied career, Brinkley brilliantly analyzes the influence that the works of John James Audubon and Charles Darwin had on the young man who would become our twenty-sixth president. With descriptive flair, the author illuminates Roosevelt's bird watching in the Adirondacks, wildlife obsession in Yellowstone, hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, ranching in the Dakota Territory, hunting in the Big Horn Mountains, and outdoor romps through Idaho and Wyoming. He also profiles Roosevelt's incredible circle of naturalist friends, including the Catskills poet John Burroughs, Boone and Crockett Club cofounder George Bird Grinnell, forestry zealot Gifford Pinchot, buffalo breeder William Hornaday, Sierra Club founder John Muir, U.S. Biological Survey wizard C. Hart Merriam, Oregon Audubon Society founder William L. Finley, and pelican protector Paul Kroegel, among many others. He brings to life hilarious anecdotes of wild-pig hunting in Texas and badger saving in Kansas, wolf catching in Oklahoma and grouse flushing in Iowa. Even the story of the teddy bear gets its definitive treatment.

Destined to become a classic, this extraordinary and timeless biography offers a penetrating and colorful look at Roosevelt's naturalist achievements, a legacy now more important than ever. Raising a Paul Revere–like alarm about American wildlife in peril—including buffalo, manatees, antelope, egrets, and elk—Roosevelt saved entire species from probable extinction. As we face the problems of global warming, overpopulation, and sustainable land management, this imposing leader's stout resolution to protect our environment is an inspiration and a contemporary call to arms for us all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Who Knew?: Responsiblity Without Awareness"

New from Oxford University Press: Who Knew?: Responsiblity Without Awareness by George Sher.

About the book, from the publisher:
To be responsible for their acts, agents must both perform those acts voluntarily and in some sense know what they are doing. Of these requirements, the voluntariness condition has been much discussed, but the epistemic condition has received far less attention. In Who Knew? George Sher seeks to rectify that imbalance. The book is divided in two halves, the first of which criticizes a popular but inadequate way of understanding the epistemic condition, while the second seeks to develop a more adequate alternative. It is often assumed that agents are responsible only for what they are aware of doing or bringing about--that their responsibility extends only as far as the searchlight of their consciousness. The book criticizes this "searchlight view" on two main grounds: first, that it is inconsistent with our attributions of responsibility to a broad range of agents who should but do not realize that they are acting wrongly or foolishly, and, second, that the view is not independently defensible.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Babysitter: An American History"

New from New York University Press: Babysitter: An American History by Miriam Forman-Brunell.

About the book, from the publisher:
It’s Friday night and Mom and Dad want to have a little fun together on the town. But who can they call to watch the kids? For nearly a century, it’s been the babysitter. Miriam Forman-Brunell brings critical attention to the ubiquitous, yet long-overlooked, role of the babysitter in American history.

Drawing on her extensive research on the history of girls’ culture and employing a broad range of vibrant sources, Forman-Brunell analyzes the figure of the babysitter in the popular imagination. In her quest to gain a fuller picture of this largely uncharted cultural phenomenon, she amassed a wealth of popular artifacts and texts from which to draw: the Babysitter’s Club book series, songs such as the Lunachicks’ "Babysitters on Acid" and the 1960s hit "Baby Sittin’ Boogie," the Little Lulu cartoons, Barbie doll babysitting accessories, the suburban horror movie The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, urban legends, magazines, newspapers, television shows and more. What emerges is a fascinating and multifaceted history.

Forman-Brunell shows that in addition to the obvious fears involved in leaving one’s children in another’s care, babysitters have often been targets for social, cultural, generational, and sexual anxieties, and thus present a fascinating mirror for American society. She also delves into the world of the babysitters, gaining important new perspectives on how the American teenage girl responded to the roles and responsibilities placed upon her throughout the decades.

Maligned as incompetents, airheads, home-wreckers, and worse, babysitters have played an important part in the history of the American home and workforce. With this comprehensive, insightful, and even-handed study, they finally get the attention they deserve.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Crafting the Nation in Colonial India"

New from Palgrave Macmillan: Crafting the Nation in Colonial India by Abigail McGowan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Well before Gandhi popularized hand-spun, hand-woven cloth, British and Indian activists had made crafts central to plans for India’s economic and cultural revival. Combining tradition and employment at a time of industrial transition, crafts appealed to both government officials and nationalist activists alike—even as they bemoaned artisans as conservative and backwards. That connection between development and cultural judgment was not incidental. Drawing on a wide range of craft development initiatives in western India between 1851 and 1922—from art and industrial schools to model factories, pattern books, exhibitions, technical experiments, and cooperatives—McGowan argues that crafts came to political prominence through British and Indian negotiations over power: power over the lower classes, over the economy, and over the future of the country.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"The Hesitant Hand"

New from Princeton University Press: The Hesitant Hand: Taming Self-Interest in the History of Economic Ideas by Steven G. Medema.

About the book, from the publisher:
Adam Smith turned economic theory on its head in 1776 when he declared that the pursuit of self-interest mediated by the market itself--not by government--led, via an invisible hand, to the greatest possible welfare for society as a whole. The Hesitant Hand examines how subsequent economic thinkers have challenged or reaffirmed Smith's doctrine, some contending that society needs government to intervene on its behalf when the marketplace falters, others arguing that government interference ultimately benefits neither the market nor society.

Steven Medema explores what has been perhaps the central controversy in modern economics from Smith to today. He traces the theory of market failure from the 1840s through the 1950s and subsequent attacks on this view by the Chicago and Virginia schools. Medema follows the debate from John Stuart Mill through the Cambridge welfare tradition of Henry Sidgwick, Alfred Marshall, and A. C. Pigou, and looks at Ronald Coase's challenge to the Cambridge approach and the rise of critiques affirming Smith's doctrine anew. He shows how, following the marginal revolution, neoclassical economists, like the preclassical theorists before Smith, believed government can mitigate the adverse consequences of self-interested behavior, yet how the backlash against this view, led by the Chicago and Virginia schools, demonstrated that self-interest can also impact government, leaving society with a choice among imperfect alternatives.

The Hesitant Hand demonstrates how government's economic role continues to be bound up in questions about the effects of self-interest on the greater good.
Read an excerpt from The Hesitant Hand.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Ethnicity, Inc."

New from the University of Chicago Press: Ethnicity, Inc. by John L. and Jean Comaroff.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Ethnicity, Inc. anthropologists John L. and Jean Comaroff analyze a new moment in the history of human identity: its rampant commodification. Through a wide-ranging exploration of the changing relationship between culture and the market, they address a pressing question: Wherein lies the future of ethnicity?

Their account begins in South Africa, with the incorporation of an ethno-business in venture capital by a group of traditional African chiefs. But their horizons are global: Native American casinos; Scotland’s efforts to brand itself; a Zulu ethno-theme park named Shakaland; a world religion declared to be intellectual property; a chiefdom made into a global business by means of its platinum holdings; San “Bushmen” with patent rights potentially worth millions of dollars; nations acting as commercial enterprises; and the rapid growth of marketing firms that target specific ethnic populations are just some of the diverse examples that fall under the Comaroffs’ incisive scrutiny. These phenomena range from the disturbing through the intriguing to the absurd. Through them, the Comaroffs trace the contradictory effects of neoliberalism as it transforms identities and social being across the globe.

Ethnicity, Inc. is a penetrating account of the ways in which ethnic populations are remaking themselves in the image of the corporation—while corporations coopt ethnic practices to open up new markets and regimes of consumption. Intellectually rigorous but leavened with wit, this is a powerful, highly original portrayal of a new world being born in a tectonic collision of culture, capitalism, and identity.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"A Tragedy of Democracy"

New from Columbia University Press: A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America by Greg Robinson.

About the book, from the publisher:
The confinement of some 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, often called the Japanese American internment, has been described as the worst official civil rights violation of modern U. S. history. Greg Robinson not only offers a bold new understanding of these events but also studies them within a larger time frame and from a transnational perspective.

Drawing on newly discovered material, Robinson provides a backstory of confinement that reveals for the first time the extent of the American government's surveillance of Japanese communities in the years leading up to war and the construction of what officials termed "concentration camps" for enemy aliens. He also considers the aftermath of confinement, including the place of Japanese Americans in postwar civil rights struggles, the long movement by former camp inmates for redress, and the continuing role of the camps as touchstones for nationwide commemoration and debate.

Most remarkably, A Tragedy of Democracy is the first book to analyze official policy toward West Coast Japanese Americans within a North American context. Robinson studies confinement on the mainland alongside events in wartime Hawaii, where fears of Japanese Americans justified Army dictatorship, suspension of the Constitution, and the imposition of military tribunals. He similarly reads the treatment of Japanese Americans against Canada's confinement of 22,000 citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry from British Columbia. A Tragedy of Democracy recounts the expulsion of almost 5,000 Japanese from Mexico's Pacific Coast and the poignant story of the Japanese Latin Americans who were kidnapped from their homes and interned in the United States. Approaching Japanese confinement as a continental and international phenomenon, Robinson offers a truly kaleidoscopic understanding of its genesis and outcomes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"If We Could Change the World"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: If We Could Change the World: Young People and America's Long Struggle for Racial Equality by Rebecca de Schweinitz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Rebecca de Schweinitz offers a new perspective on the civil rights movement by bringing children and youth to the fore. In the first book to connect young people and shifting ideas about children and youth with the black freedom struggle, de Schweinitz explains how popular ideas about youth and young people themselves--both black and white--influenced the long history of the movement.

If We Could Change the World brings out the voices and experiences of participants who are rarely heard. Here, familiar events from the black freedom struggle are examined in new ways, and the explanations and motivations for getting involved and taking action are told, often in the words of young people themselves.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, de Schweinitz argues that examining historical constructions of childhood and the roles children have played in history changes the way one understands the past. With de Schweinitz's analysis, young people--elementary age, adolescent, and young adult--take their place as significant historical and political actors in the black freedom struggle.

Monday, July 13, 2009


New from the University of Arizona Press: Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas, From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley by Jennifer P. Mathews.

About the book, from the publisher:
Although Juicy Fruit® gum was introduced to North Americans in 1893, Native Americans in Mesoamerica were chewing gum thousands of years earlier. And although in the last decade “biographies” have been devoted to salt, spices, chocolate, coffee, and other staples of modern life, until now there has never been a full history of chewing gum. Chicle is a history in four acts, all of them focused on the sticky white substance that seeps from the sapodilla tree when its bark is cut. First, Jennifer Mathews recounts the story of chicle and its earliest-known adherents, the Maya and Aztecs. Second, with the assistance of botanist Gillian Schultz, Mathews examines the sapodilla tree itself, an extraordinarily hardy plant that is native only to Mesoamerica and the Caribbean. Third, Mathews presents the fascinating story of the chicle and chewing gum industry over the last hundred plus years, a tale (like so many twentieth-century tales) of greed, growth, and collapse. In closing, Mathews considers the plight of the chicleros, the “extractors” who often work by themselves tapping trees deep in the forests, and how they have emerged as icons of local pop culture—portrayed as fearless, hard-drinking brawlers, people to be respected as well as feared. Before Dentyne® and Chiclets®, before bubble gum comic strips and the Doublemint® twins, there was gum, oozing from jungle trees like melting candle wax under the slash of a machete. Chicle tells us everything that happened next. It is a spellbinding story.
Visit Jennifer P. Mathews' website.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"The Straight State"

New from Princeton University Press: The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America by Margot Canaday.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Straight State is the most expansive study of the federal regulation of homosexuality yet written. Unearthing startling new evidence from the National Archives, Margot Canaday shows how the state systematically came to penalize homosexuality, giving rise to a regime of second-class citizenship that sexual minorities still live under today.

Canaday looks at three key arenas of government control--immigration, the military, and welfare--and demonstrates how federal enforcement of sexual norms emerged with the rise of the modern bureaucratic state. She begins at the turn of the twentieth century when the state first stumbled upon evidence of sex and gender nonconformity, revealing how homosexuality was policed indirectly through the exclusion of sexually "degenerate" immigrants and other regulatory measures aimed at combating poverty, violence, and vice. Canaday argues that the state's gradual awareness of homosexuality intensified during the later New Deal and through the postwar period as policies were enacted that explicitly used homosexuality to define who could enter the country, serve in the military, and collect state benefits. Midcentury repression was not a sudden response to newly visible gay subcultures, Canaday demonstrates, but the culmination of a much longer and slower process of state-building during which the state came to know and to care about homosexuality across many decades.

Social, political, and legal history at their most compelling, The Straight State explores how regulation transformed the regulated: in drawing boundaries around national citizenship, the state helped to define the very meaning of homosexuality in America.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue"

New from Cambridge University Press: Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue by Ryan Patrick Hanley.

About the book, from the publisher:
Recent years have witnessed a renewed debate over the costs at which the benefits of free markets have been bought. This book revisits the moral and political philosophy of Adam Smith, capitalism’s founding father, to recover his understanding of the morals of the market age. In so doing it illuminates a crucial albeit overlooked side of Smith’s project: his diagnosis of the ethical ills of commercial societies and the remedy he advanced to cure them. Focusing on Smith’s analysis of the psychological and social ills endemic to commercial society – anxiety and restlessness, inauthenticity and mediocrity, alienation and individualism – it argues that Smith sought to combat corruption by cultivating the virtues of prudence, magnanimity, and beneficence. The result constitutes a new morality for modernity, at once a synthesis of commercial, classical, and Christian virtues and a normative response to one of the most pressing political problems of Smith’s day and ours.
Read an excerpt from Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Earthly Paradise"

New from Harvard University Press: Earthly Paradise: Myths and Philosophies by Milad Doueihi, translated by Jane Marie Todd.

About the book, from the publisher:
Paradise haunts the Biblical West. At once the place of origin and exile, utopia and final destination, it has shaped our poetic and religious imagination and informed literary and theological accounts of man’s relation with his creator, with language and history. For Kant, Paradise was the inaugural moment for the rise and progress of reason as the agency of human history, slowly but certainly driving humanity away from error and superstition. Nietzsche described it more somberly as the very embodiment of the conflict between humanity and its beliefs.

In Earthly Paradise, Milad Doueihi contemplates key moments in the philosophical reception and uses of Paradise, marked by the rise of critical and historical methods in the Early Modern period. How do modern debates around the nature of evil, free will, and the origin of language grow out of the philosophical interpretations of Paradise as the site of human history? How do the reflections of Spinoza, Pierre Bayle, Leibniz, and their contemporaries inform our current ideas about the Biblical narrative of the Fall? Is Paradise the source of human error or an utopian vision of humanity itself?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Cotton, Climate, and Camels in Early Islamic Iran"

New from Columbia University Press: Cotton, Climate, and Camels in Early Islamic Iran: A Moment in World History by Richard W. Bulliet.

About the book, from the publisher:
A boom in the production and export of cotton made Iran the richest region of the Islamic caliphate in the ninth and tenth centuries. Yet in the eleventh century, Iran's impressive agricultural economy entered a steep decline, bringing the country's primacy to an end.

Richard W. Bulliet advances several provocative theses to explain these hitherto unrecognized historical events. According to Bulliet, the boom in cotton production directly paralleled the spread of Islam, and Iran's agricultural decline stemmed from a significant cooling of the climate that lasted for over a century. The latter phenomenon also prompted Turkish nomadic tribes to enter Iran for the first time, establishing a political dominance that would last for centuries.

Substantiating his argument with innovative quantitative research and recent scientific discoveries, Bulliet first establishes the relationship between Iran's cotton industry and Islam and then outlines the evidence for what he terms the "Big Chill." Turning to the story of the Turks, he focuses on the lucrative but temperature-sensitive industry of cross-breeding one-humped and two-humped camels. He concludes that this unusual concatenation of events had a profound and long-lasting impact not just on the history of Iran but on the development of world affairs in general.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Liberal Loyalty"

New from Princeton University Press: Liberal Loyalty: Freedom, Obligation, and the State by Anna Stilz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Many political theorists today deny that citizenship can be defended on liberal grounds alone. Cosmopolitans claim that loyalty to a particular state is incompatible with universal liberal principles, which hold that we have equal duties of justice to persons everywhere, while nationalist theorists justify civic obligations only by reaching beyond liberal principles and invoking the importance of national culture. In Liberal Loyalty, Anna Stilz challenges both views by defending a distinctively liberal understanding of citizenship.

Drawing on Kant, Rousseau, and Habermas, Stilz argues that we owe civic obligations to the state if it is sufficiently just, and that constitutionally enshrined principles of justice in themselves--rather than territory, common language, or shared culture--are grounds for obedience to our particular state and for democratic solidarity with our fellow citizens. She demonstrates that specifying what freedom and equality mean among a particular people requires their democratic participation together as a group. Justice, therefore, depends on the authority of the democratic state because there is no way equal freedom can be defined or guaranteed without it. Yet, as Stilz shows, this does not mean that each of us should entertain some vague loyalty to democracy in general. Citizens are politically obligated to their own state and to each other, because within their particular democracy they define and ultimately guarantee their own civil rights.

Liberal Loyalty is a persuasive defense of citizenship on purely liberal grounds.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Caught in Play"

New from Stanford University Press: Caught in Play: How Entertainment Works on You by Peter Stromberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Most of us have become so immersed in a book or game or movie that the activity temporarily assumed a profound significance and the outside world began to fade. Although we are likely to enjoy these experiences in the realm of entertainment, we rarely think about what effect they might be having on us. Precisely because it is so pervasive, entertainment is difficult to understand and even to talk about.

To understand the social role of entertainment, Caught in Play looks closely at how we engage entertainment and at the ideas and practices it creates and sustains. Though entertainment is for fun, it does not follow that it is trivial in its effect on our lives. As this work reveals, entertainment generates commitments to values we are not always willing to acknowledge: values of pleasure, self-indulgence, and consumption.
Visit the Caught in Play website and blog.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"A Savage Conflict"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War by Daniel E. Sutherland.

About the book, from the publisher:
The American Civil War is famous for epic battles involving massive armies outfitted in blue and gray uniforms, details that characterize conventional warfare. A Savage Conflict is the first work to treat guerrilla warfare as critical to understanding the course and outcome of the Civil War. Daniel Sutherland argues that irregular warfare took a large toll on the Confederate war effort by weakening support for state and national governments and diminishing the trust citizens had in their officials to protect them.

Sutherland points out that early in the war Confederate military and political leaders embraced guerrilla tactics. They knew that "partizan" fighters had helped to win the American Revolution. As the war dragged on and defense of the remote spaces of the Confederate territory became more tenuous, guerrilla activity spiraled out of state control. It was adopted by parties who had interests other than Confederate victory, including southern Unionists, violent bands of deserters and draft dodgers, and criminals who saw the war as an opportunity for plunder. Sutherland considers not only the implications such activity had for military strategy but also its effects on people and their attitudes toward the war. Once vital to southern hopes for victory, the guerrilla combatants proved a significant factor in the Confederacy's final collapse.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"The Philosophy of Death"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Philosophy of Death by Steven Luper.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Philosophy of Death is a discussion of the basic philosophical issues concerning death, and a critical introduction to the relevant contemporary philosophical literature. Luper begins by addressing questions about those who die: What is it to be alive? What does it mean for you and me to exist? Under what conditions do we persist over time, and when do we perish? Next, he considers several questions concerning death, including: What does dying consist in; in particular, how does it differ from ageing? Must death be permanent? By what signs may it be identified? Is death bad for the one who dies? If so why? Finally he discusses whether, and why, killing is morally objectionable, and suggests that it is often permissible; in particular, (assisted) suicide, euthanasia and abortion may all be morally permissible. His book is a lively and engaging philosophical treatment of a perennially fascinating and relevant subject.
Read an excerpt from The Philosophy of Death.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"The Moral Fool"

New from Columbia University Press: The Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality by Hans-Georg Moeller.

About the book, from the publisher:
Justice, equality, and righteousness—these are some of our greatest moral convictions. Yet in times of social conflict, morals can become rigid, making religious war, ethnic cleansing, and political purges possible. Morality, therefore, can be viewed as pathology-a rhetorical, psychological, and social tool that is used and abused as a weapon.

An expert on Eastern philosophies and social systems theory, Hans-Georg Moeller questions the perceived goodness of morality and those who claim morality is inherently positive. Critiquing the ethical "fanaticism" of Western moralists, such as Immanuel Kant, Lawrence Kohlberg, John Rawls, and the utilitarians, Moeller points to the absurd fundamentalisms and impracticable prescriptions arising from definitions of good. Instead he advances a theory of "moral foolishness," or moral asceticism, extracted from the "amoral" philosophers of East Asia and such thinkers as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Niklas Luhmann. The moral fool doesn't understand why ethics are necessarily good, and he isn't convinced that the moral perspective is always positive. In this way he is like most people, and Moeller defends this foolishness against ethical pathologies that support the death penalty, just wars, and even Jerry Springer's crude moral theater. Comparing and contrasting the religious philosophies of Christianity, Daoism, and Zen Buddhism, Moeller presents a persuasive argument in favor of amorality.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Replenishing the Earth"

New from Oxford University Press: Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld by James Belich.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why are we speaking English? Replenishing the Earth gives a new answer to that question, uncovering a "settler revolution" that took place from the early nineteenth century that led to the explosive settlement of the American West and its forgotten twin, the British West, comprising the settler dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Between 1780 and 1930 the number of English-speakers rocketed from 12 million in 1780 to 200 million, and their wealth and power grew to match. Their secret was not racial, or cultural, or institutional superiority but a resonant intersection of historical changes, including the sudden rise of mass transfer across oceans and mountains, a revolutionary upward shift in attitudes to emigration, the emergence of a settler "boom mentality," and a late flowering of non-industrial technologies--wind, water, wood, and work animals--especially on settler frontiers. This revolution combined with the Industrial Revolution to transform settlement into something explosive--capable of creating great cities like Chicago and Melbourne and large socio-economies in a single generation.

When the great settler booms busted, as they always did, a second pattern set in. Links between the Anglo-wests and their metropolises, London and New York, actually tightened as rising tides of staple products flowed one way and ideas the other. This "re-colonization" re-integrated Greater America and Greater Britain, bulking them out to become the superpowers of their day. The "Settler Revolution" was not exclusive to the Anglophone countries--Argentina, Siberia, and Manchuria also experienced it. But it was the Anglophone settlers who managed to integrate frontier and metropolis most successfully, and it was this that gave them the impetus and the material power to provide the world's leading super-powers for the last 200 years.

This book will reshape understandings of American, British, and British dominion histories in the long 19th century. It is a story that has such crucial implications for the histories of settler societies, the homelands that spawned them, and the indigenous peoples who resisted them, that their full histories cannot be written without it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


New from Yale University Press: Calvin by Bruce Gordon.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the glory days of the French Renaissance, young John Calvin (1509-1564) experienced a profound conversion to the faith of the Reformation. For the rest of his days he lived out the implications of that transformation—as exile, inspired reformer, and ultimately the dominant figure of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin’s vision of the Christian religion has inspired many volumes of analysis, but this engaging biography examines a remarkable life. Bruce Gordon presents Calvin as a human being, a man at once brilliant, arrogant, charismatic, unforgiving, generous, and shrewd.

The book explores with particular insight Calvin’s self-conscious view of himself as prophet and apostle for his age and his struggle to tame a sense of his own superiority, perceived by others as arrogance. Gordon looks at Calvin’s character, his maturing vision of God and humanity, his personal tragedies and failures, his extensive relationships with others, and the context within which he wrote and taught. What emerges is a man who devoted himself to the Church, inspiring and transforming the lives of others, especially those who suffered persecution for their religious beliefs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Untilled Garden"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Untilled Garden: Natural History and the Spirit of Conservation in America, 1740–1840 by Richard W. Judd.

About the book, from the publisher:
This study traces the origins of conservation thinking in America to the naturalists who explored the middle-western frontier between 1740 and 1840. Their inquiries yielded a comprehensive natural history of America and inspired much of the conservation and ecological thinking we associate with later environmental and ecological philosophy. These explorers witnessed one of the great environmental transformations in American history, as the vast forests lying between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi gave way to a landscape of fields, meadows, and pastures. In debating these changes, naturalists translated classical ideas like the balance of nature and the spiritual unity of all species into an American idiom. This book highlights the contributions made by the generation of natural historians who pioneered the utilitarian, ecological, and aesthetic arguments for protecting or preserving nature in America.
Read an excerpt from The Untilled Garden.