Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Against War and Empire"

New from Yale University Press: Against War and Empire: Geneva, Britain, and France in the Eighteenth Century by Richard Whatmore.

About the book, from the publisher:
As Britain and France became more powerful during the eighteenth century, small states such as Geneva could no longer stand militarily against these commercial monarchies. Furthermore, many Genevans felt that they were being drawn into a corrupt commercial world dominated by amoral aristocrats dedicated to the unprincipled pursuit of wealth. In this book Richard Whatmore presents an intellectual history of republicans who strove to ensure Geneva’s survival as an independent state. Whatmore shows how the Genevan republicans grappled with the ideas of Rousseau, Voltaire, Bentham, and others in seeking to make modern Europe safe for small states, by vanquishing the threats presented by war and by empire.
Richard Whatmore is professor of intellectual history and the history of political thought at the University of Sussex.

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Reforming Hollywood"

New from Oxford University Press: Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies by William D. Romanowski.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hollywood and Christianity often seem to be at war. Indeed, there is a long list of movies that have attracted religious condemnation, from Gone with the Wind with its notorious "damn," to The Life of Brian and The Last Temptation of Christ. But the reality, writes William Romanowski, has been far more complicated--and remarkable.

In Reforming Hollywood, Romanowski, a leading historian of popular culture, explores the long and varied efforts of Protestants to influence the film industry. He shows how a broad spectrum of religious forces have played a role in Hollywood, from Presbyterians and Episcopalians to fundamentalists and evangelicals. Drawing on personal interviews and previously untouched sources, he describes how mainline church leaders lobbied filmmakers to promote the nation's moral health and, perhaps surprisingly, how they have by and large opposed government censorship, preferring instead self-regulation by both the industry and individual conscience. "It is this human choice," noted one Protestant leader, "that is the basis of our religion." Tensions with Catholics, too, have loomed large--many Protestant clergy feared the influence of the Legion of Decency more than Hollywood's corrupting power. Romanowski shows that the rise of the evangelical movement in the 1970s radically altered the picture, in contradictory ways. Even as born-again clergy denounced "Hollywood elites," major studios noted the emergence of a lucrative evangelical market. 20th Century-Fox formed FoxFaith to go after the "Passion dollar," and Disney took on evangelical Philip Anschutz as a partner to bring The Chronicles of Narnia to the big screen.

William Romanowski is an award-winning commentator on the intersection of religion and popular culture. Reforming Hollywood is his most revealing, provocative, and groundbreaking work on this vital area of American society.
Visit the Reforming Hollywood Facebook page.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"From Colony to Nationhood in Mexico"

New from Cambridge University Press: From Colony to Nationhood in Mexico: Laying the Foundations, 1560-1840 by Sean F. McEnroe.

About the book, from the publisher:
In an age of revolution, Mexico's creole leaders held aloft the Virgin of Guadalupe and brandished an Aztec eagle perched upon a European tricolor. Their new constitution proclaimed "the Mexican Nation is forever free and independent." Yet the genealogy of this new nation is not easy to trace. Colonial Mexico was a patchwork state whose new-world vassals served the crown, extended the empire's frontiers, and lived out their civic lives in parallel Spanish and Indian republics. Theirs was a world of complex intercultural alliances, interlocking corporate structures, and shared spiritual and temporal ambitions. Sean F. McEnroe describes this history at the greatest and smallest geographical scales, reconsidering what it meant to be an Indian vassal, nobleman, soldier, or citizen over three centuries in northeastern Mexico. He argues that the Mexican municipality, state, and citizen were not so much the sudden creations of a revolutionary age as the progeny of a mature multiethnic empire.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"The Bride and the Dowry"

New from Yale University Press: The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War by Avi Raz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Israel’s victory in the June 1967 Six Day War provided a unique opportunity for resolving the decades-old Arab-Zionist conflict. Having seized the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights, Israel for the first time in its history had something concrete to offer its Arab neighbors: it could trade land for peace. Yet the political deadlock persisted after the guns fell silent. This book asks why.

Avi Raz places Israel’s conduct under an uncompromising lens. His penetrating book examines the critical two years following the June war and substantially revises our understanding of how and why Israeli-Arab secret contacts came to naught. Mining newly declassified records in Israeli, American, British, and United Nations archives, as well as private papers of individual participants, Raz dispels the myth of overall Arab intransigence and arrives at new and unexpected conclusions. In short, he concludes that Israel’s postwar diplomacy was deliberately ineffective because its leaders preferred land over peace with its neighbors. The book throws a great deal of light not only on the post-1967 period but also on the problems and pitfalls of peacemaking in the Middle East today.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Presidential Saber Rattling"

New from Cambridge University Press: Presidential Saber Rattling: Causes and Consequences by B. Dan Wood.

About the book, from the publisher:
The founders of the American republic believed presidents should be wise and virtuous statesmen consistently advocating community interests when conducting American foreign policy. Yet the most common theoretical model used today for explaining the behavior of politicians is grounded in self-interest, rather than community interest. This book investigates whether past presidents acted as noble statesmen or were driven by such self-interested motivations as reelection, passion, partisanship, media frenzy, and increasing domestic support. The book also examines the consequences for the nation of presidential behavior driven by self-interest. Between 1945 and 2008, presidents issued 4,269 threats to 19 different countries. Professor B. Dan Wood evaluates the causes and consequences of these threats, revealing the nature of presidential foreign policy representation and its consistency with the founding fathers' intentions.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Roots of Ecology"

New from the University of California Press: Roots of Ecology: Antiquity to Haeckel by Frank N. Egerton.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ecology is the centerpiece of many of the most important decisions that face humanity. Roots of Ecology documents the deep ancestry of this now enormously important science from the early ideas of Herodotos, Plato, and Pliny, up through those of Linnaeus and Darwin, to those that inspired Ernst Haeckel's mid-nineteenth-century neologism ecology. Based on a long-running series of regularly published columns, this important work gathers a vast literature illustrating the development of ecological and environmental concepts, ideas, and creative thought that has led to our modern view of ecology. Roots of Ecology should be on every ecologist's shelf.
Frank N. Egerton is Professor Emeritus in the History Department at University of Wisconsin in Parkside.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Elusive Victories"

New from Oxford University Press: Elusive Victories: The American Presidency at War by Andrew J. Polsky.

About the book, from the publisher:
On April 4, 1864, Abraham Lincoln made a shocking admission about his presidency during the Civil War. "I claim not to have controlled events," he wrote in a letter, "but confess plainly that events have controlled me." Lincoln's words carry an invaluable lesson for wartime presidents, writes Andrew J. Polsky in this seminal book. As Polsky shows, when commanders-in-chief do try to control wartime events, more often than not they fail utterly.

In Elusive Victories, Polsky provides a fascinating study of six wartime presidents, drawing larger lessons about the limits of the power of the White House during armed conflict. He examines, in turn, Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, showing how each gravely overestimated his power as commander-in-chief. In each case, these presidents' resources did not match the key challenges that recur from war to war. Both Lincoln and Johnson intervened in military operations, giving orders to specific units; yet both struggled with the rising unpopularity of their conflicts. Both Wilson and Bush entered hostilities with idealistic agendas for the aftermath, yet found themselves helpless to enact them. With insight and clarity, Polsky identifies overarching issues that will inform current and future policymakers. The single most important dynamic, he writes, is the erosion of a president's freedom of action. Each decision propels him down a path from which he cannot turn back. When George W. Bush rejected the idea of invading Iraq with 400,000 troops, he could not send such a force two years later as the insurgency spread. In the final chapter, Polsky examines Barack Obama's options in light of these conclusions, and considers how the experiences of the past might inform the world we face now.

Elusive Victories is the first book to provide a comprehensive account of presidential leadership during wartime, highlighting the key dangers that presidents have ignored at their peril.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"The German Minority in Interwar Poland"

New from Cambridge University Press: The German Minority in Interwar Poland by Winson Chu.

About the book, from the publisher:
The German Minority in Interwar Poland analyzes what happened when Germans from three different empires – the Russian, Habsburg, and German – were forced to live together in one, new state. After the First World War, German national activists made regional distinctions among these Germans and German-speakers in Poland, with preference initially for those who had once lived in the German Empire. Rather than becoming more cohesive over time, Poland's ethnic Germans remained divided and did not unite within a single representative organization. Polish repressive policies and unequal subsidies from the German state exacerbated these differences, while National Socialism created new hierarchies and unleashed bitter intra-ethnic conflict among German minority leaders. Winson Chu challenges prevailing interpretations that German nationalism in the twentieth century viewed "Germans" as a homogeneous, single group of people. His revealing study shows that nationalist agitation could divide as well as unite an embattled ethnicity.

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Useful Enemies"

New from Yale University Press: Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them by David Keen.

About the book, from the publisher:
There are currently between twenty and thirty civil wars worldwide, while at a global level the Cold War has been succeeded by a "war on drugs" and a "war on terror" that continues to rage a decade after 9/11. Why is this, when we know how destructive war is in both human and economic terms? Why do the efforts of aid organizations and international diplomats founder so often?

In this important book David Keen investigates why conflicts are so prevalent and so intractable, even when one side has much greater military resources. Could it be that endemic disorder and a "state of emergency" are more useful than bringing conflict to a close? Keen asks who benefits from wars--whether economically, politically, or psychologically—and argues that in order to bring them successfully to an end we need to understand the complex vested interests on all sides.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Working Knowledge"

New from Harvard University Press: Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn by Joel Isaac.

About the book, from the publisher:
The human sciences in the English-speaking world have been in a state of crisis since the Second World War. The battle between champions of hard-core scientific standards and supporters of a more humanistic, interpretive approach has been fought to a stalemate. Joel Isaac seeks to throw these contemporary disputes into much-needed historical relief. In Working Knowledge he explores how influential thinkers in the twentieth century’s middle decades understood the relations among science, knowledge, and the empirical study of human affairs.

For a number of these thinkers, questions about what kinds of knowledge the human sciences could produce did not rest on grand ideological gestures toward “science” and “objectivity” but were linked to the ways in which knowledge was created and taught in laboratories and seminar rooms. Isaac places special emphasis on the practical, local manifestations of their complex theoretical ideas. In the case of Percy Williams Bridgman, Talcott Parsons, B.F. Skinner, W.V.O. Quine, and Thomas Kuhn, the institutional milieu in which they constructed their models of scientific practice was Harvard University. Isaac delineates the role the “Harvard complex” played in fostering connections between epistemological discourse and the practice of science. Operating alongside but apart from traditional departments were special seminars, interfaculty discussion groups, and non-professionalized societies and teaching programs that shaped thinking in sociology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, science studies, and management science. In tracing this culture of inquiry in the human sciences, Isaac offers intellectual history at its most expansive.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Healing Elements"

New from the University of California Press: Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine by Sienna R. Craig.

About the book, from the publisher:
Tibetan medicine has come to represent multiple and sometimes conflicting agendas. On the one hand it must retain a sense of cultural authenticity and a connection to Tibetan Buddhism; on the other it must prove efficacious and safe according to biomedical standards. Recently, Tibetan medicine has found a place within the multibillion-dollar market for complementary, traditional, and herbal medicines as people around the world seek alternative paths to wellness. Healing Elements explores how Tibetan medicine circulates through diverse settings in Nepal, China, and beyond as commercial goods and gifts, and as target therapies and panacea for biophysical and psychosocial ills. Through an exploration of efficacy – what does it mean to say Tibetan medicine “works”? – this book illustrates a bio-politics of traditional medicine and the meaningful, if contested, translations of science and healing that occur across distinct social ecologies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Peerless and Periled"

New from Stanford University Press: Peerless and Periled: The Paradox of American Leadership in The World Economic Order by Kati Suominen.

About the book, from the publisher:
As the world economy emerges from the financial crisis, critics are announcing an end of the American era. The United States is said to be in an inexorable decline, and the expectation for the 21st century is for China to eclipse America and for the contours of global governance to blur. The loss of America's preeminent status will undercut our sway abroad and our safety and standard of living at home. But is America really done? Is the American era really over?

In this provocative account, based on interviews with senior policymakers and cutting-edge research, Kati Suominen argues that talk of the end of Pax Americana is more smoke than fire. The international crisis did not fundamentally change the way the world is run. The G20 is but an American-created sequel to the G8, the US dollar still reigns supreme, and no country has resigned from the US-built, post-war financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund. This continuity reflects an absence of alternatives; there are no rival orders that would match the growth and globalization generated by leaving the United States at the helm.

But Washington has no time for complacency. The American order is peerless, but it is also imperiled. To transcend this critical moment in history, the United States must step up and lead. Only America can uphold its order. In an interdependent world economy of rising powers, the US must stand for strategic multilateralism: striking deals with pivotal powers to tame destabilizing financial imbalances, securing free and fair markets abroad for US banks and businesses, and transforming the IMF and emerging Asian and European financial schemes into rapid responders to instability.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Fighting for the Soul of Germany"

New from Harvard University Press: Fighting for the Soul of Germany: The Catholic Struggle for Inclusion after Unification by Rebecca Ayako Bennette.

About the book, from the publisher:
Historians have long believed that Catholics were late and ambivalent supporters of the German nation. Rebecca Ayako Bennette’s bold new interpretation demonstrates definitively that from the beginning in 1871, when Wilhelm I was proclaimed Kaiser of a unified Germany, Catholics were actively promoting a German national identity for the new Reich.

In the years following unification, Germany was embroiled in a struggle to define the new nation. Otto von Bismarck and his allies looked to establish Germany as a modern nation through emphasis on Protestantism and military prowess. Many Catholics feared for their future when he launched the Kulturkampf, a program to break the political and social power of German Catholicism. But these anti-Catholic policies did not destroy Catholic hopes for the new Germany. Rather, they encouraged Catholics to develop an alternative to the Protestant and liberal visions that dominated the political culture. Bennette’s reconstruction of Catholic thought and politics sheds light on several aspects of German life. From her discovery of Catholics who favored a more “feminine” alternative to Bismarckian militarism to her claim that anti-socialism, not anti-Semitism, energized Catholic politics, Bennette’s work forces us to rethink much of what we know about religion and national identity in late nineteenth-century Germany.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Governing Animals"

New from Oxford University Press: Governing Animals: Animal Welfare and the Liberal State by Kimberly K. Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
What is the role of government in protecting animal welfare? What principles should policy makers draw on as they try to balance animal welfare against human liberty?

Much has been written in recent years on our moral duties towards animals, but scholars and activists alike have neglected the important question of how far the state may go to enforce those duties. Kimberly K. Smith fills that gap by exploring how liberal political principles apply to animal welfare policy. Focusing on animal welfare in the United States, Governing Animals begins with an account of the historical relationship between animals and the development of the American liberal welfare state. It then turns to the central theoretical argument: Some animals (most prominently pets and livestock) may be considered members of the liberal social contract. That conclusion justifies limited state intervention to defend their welfare - even when such intervention may harm human citizens. Taking the analysis further, the study examines whether citizens may enjoy property rights in animals, what those rights entail, how animals may be represented in our political and legal institutions, and what strategies for reform are most compatible with liberal principles. The book takes up several policy issues along the way, from public funding of animal rescue operations to the ethics of livestock production, animal sacrifice, and animal fighting.

Beyond even these specific policy questions, this book asks what sort of liberalism is suitable for the challenges of the twenty-first century. Smith argues that investigating the political morality of our treatment of animals gives us insight into how to design practices and institutions that protect the most vulnerable members of our society, thus making of our shared world a more fitting home for both humans and the nonhumans to which we are so deeply connected.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Taiko Boom"

New from the University of California Press: Taiko Boom: Japanese Drumming in Place and Motion by Shawn Bender.

About the book, from the publisher:
With its thunderous sounds and dazzling choreography, Japanese taiko drumming has captivated audiences in Japan and across the world, making it one of the most successful performing arts to emerge from Japan in the past century. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among taiko groups in Japan, Taiko Boom explores the origins of taiko in the early postwar period and its popularization over the following decades of rapid economic growth in Japan’s cities and countryside. Building on the insights of globalization studies, the book argues that taiko developed within and has come to express new forms of communal association in a Japan increasingly engaged with global cultural flows. While its popularity has created new opportunities for Japanese to participate in community life, this study also reveals how the discourses and practices of taiko drummers dramatize tensions inherent in Japanese conceptions of race, the body, gender, authenticity, and locality.
Shawn Bender is a Cultural Anthropologist and Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at Dickinson College.

Friday, June 15, 2012

"The Production of Difference"

New from Oxford University Press: The Production of Difference: Race and the Management of Labor in U.S. History by David R. Roediger and Elizabeth D. Esch.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1907, pioneering labor historian and economist John Commons argued that U.S. management had shown just one "symptom of originality," namely "playing one race against the other."

In this eye-opening book, David Roediger and Elizabeth Esch offer a radically new way of understanding the history of management in the United States, placing race, migration, and empire at the center of what has sometimes been narrowly seen as a search for efficiency and economy. Ranging from the antebellum period to the coming of the Great Depression, the book examines the extensive literature slave masters produced on how to manage and "develop" slaves; explores what was perhaps the greatest managerial feat in U.S. history, the building of the transcontinental railroad, which pitted Chinese and Irish work gangs against each other; and concludes by looking at how these strategies survive today in the management of hard, low-paying, dangerous jobs in agriculture, military support, and meatpacking. Roediger and Esch convey what slaves, immigrants, and all working people were up against as the objects of managerial control. Managers explicitly ranked racial groups, both in terms of which labor they were best suited for and their relative value compared to others. The authors show how whites relied on such alleged racial knowledge to manage and believed that the "lesser races" could only benefit from their tutelage. These views wove together managerial strategies and white supremacy not only ideologically but practically, every day at workplaces. Even in factories governed by scientific management, the impulse to play races against each other, and to slot workers into jobs categorized by race, constituted powerful management tools used to enforce discipline, lower wages, keep workers on dangerous jobs, and undermine solidarity.

Painstakingly researched and brilliantly argued, The Production of Difference will revolutionize the history of labor and race in the United States.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Born Together—Reared Apart"

New from Harvard University Press: Born Together—Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study by Nancy L. Segal.

About the book, from the publisher:
The identical “Jim twins” were raised in separate families and met for the first time at age thirty-nine, only to discover that they both suffered tension headaches, bit their fingernails, smoked Salems, enjoyed woodworking, and vacationed on the same Florida beach. This example of the potential power of genetics captured widespread media attention in 1979 and inspired the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart. This landmark investigation into the nature-nurture debate shook the scientific community by demonstrating, across a number of traits, that twins reared separately are as alike as those raised together.

As a postdoctoral fellow and then as assistant director of the Minnesota Study, Nancy L. Segal provides an eagerly anticipated overview of its scientific contributions and their effect on public consciousness. The study’s evidence of genetic influence on individual differences in traits such as personality (50%) and intelligence (70%) overturned conventional ideas about parenting and teaching. Treating children differently and nurturing their inherent talents suddenly seemed to be a fairer approach than treating them all the same. Findings of genetic influence on physiological characteristics such as cardiac and immunologic function have led to more targeted approaches to disease prevention and treatment. And indications of a stronger genetic influence on male than female homosexuality have furthered debate regarding sexual orientation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"New Babylonians"

New from Stanford University Press: New Babylonians: A History of Jews in Modern Iraq by Orit Bashkin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Although Iraqi Jews saw themselves as Iraqi patriots, their community—which had existed in Iraq for more than 2,500 years—was displaced following the establishment of the state of Israel. New Babylonians chronicles the lives of these Jews, their urban Arab culture, and their hopes for a democratic nation-state. It studies their ideas about Judaism, Islam, secularism, modernity, and reform, focusing on Iraqi Jews who internalized narratives of Arab and Iraqi nationalisms and on those who turned to communism in the 1940s.

As the book reveals, the ultimate displacement of this community was not the result of a perpetual persecution on the part of their Iraqi compatriots, but rather the outcome of misguided state policies during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Sadly, from a dominant mood of coexistence, friendship, and partnership, the impossibility of Arab-Jewish coexistence became the prevailing narrative in the region—and the dominant narrative we have come to know today.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Jobs for the Boys"

New from Harvard University Press: Jobs for the Boys: Patronage and the State in Comparative Perspective by Merilee S. Grindle.

About the book, from the publisher:
Patronage systems in the public service are universally reviled as undemocratic and corrupt. Yet patronage was the prevailing method of staffing government for centuries, and in some countries it still is. In Jobs for the Boys, Merilee Grindle considers why patronage has been so ubiquitous in history and explores the political processes through which it is replaced by merit-based civil service systems. Such reforms are consistently resisted, she finds, because patronage systems, though capricious, offer political executives flexibility to achieve a wide variety of objectives.

Grindle looks at the histories of public sector reform in six developed countries and compares them with contemporary struggles for reform in four Latin American countries. A historical, case-based approach allows her to take into account contextual differences between countries as well as to identify cycles that govern reform across the board. As a rule, she finds, transition to merit-based systems involves years and sometimes decades of conflict and compromise with supporters of patronage, as new systems of public service are politically constructed. Becoming aware of the limitations of public sector reform, Grindle hopes, will temper expectations for institutional change now being undertaken.

Monday, June 11, 2012

"The Last Lost World"

New from Viking: The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene by Lydia V. Pyne and Stephen J. Pyne.

About the book, from the publisher:
An enlightening investigation of the Pleistocene’s dual character as a geologic time—and as a cultural idea

The Pleistocene is the epoch of geologic time closest to our own. It’s a time of ice ages, global migrations, and mass extinctions—of woolly rhinos, mammoths, giant ground sloths, and not least early species of Homo. It’s the world that created ours.

But outside that environmental story there exists a parallel narrative that describes how our ideas about the Pleistocene have emerged. This story explains the place of the Pleistocene in shaping intellectual culture, and the role of a rapidly evolving culture in creating the idea of the Pleistocene and in establishing its dimensions. This second story addresses how the epoch, its Earth-shaping events, and its creatures, both those that survived and those that disappeared, helped kindle new sciences and a new origins story as the sciences split from the humanities as a way of looking at the past.

Ultimately, it is the story of how the dominant creature to emerge from the frost-and-fire world of the Pleistocene came to understand its place in the scheme of things. A remarkable synthesis of science and history, The Last Lost World describes the world that made our modern one.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"Jefferson's Freeholders and the Politics of Ownership in the Old Dominion"

New from Cambridge University Press: Jefferson's Freeholders and the Politics of Ownership in the Old Dominion by Christopher Michael Curtis.

About the book, from the publisher:
Jefferson's Freeholders explores the historical processes by which Virginia was transformed from a British colony into a Southern slave state. It focuses on changing conceptualizations of ownership and emphasizes the persistent influence of the English common law on Virginia's postcolonial political culture. The book explains how the traditional characteristics of land tenure became subverted by the dynamic contractual relations of a commercial economy and assesses the political consequences of the law reforms that were necessitated by these developments. Nineteenth-century reforms seeking to reconcile the common law with modern commercial practices embraced new democratic expressions about the economic and political power of labor, and thereby encouraged the idea that slavery was an essential element in sustaining republican government in Virginia. By the 1850s, the ownership of human property had replaced the ownership of land as the distinguishing basis for political power with tragic consequences for the Old Dominion.
Christopher Michael Curtis is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History & Sociology at Claflin University.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

"The Contagious City"

New from Cornell University Press: The Contagious City: The Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia by Simon Finger.

About the book, from the publisher:
By the time William Penn was planning the colony that would come to be called Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia at its heart, Europeans on both sides of the ocean had long experience with the hazards of city life, disease the most terrifying among them. Drawing from those experiences, colonists hoped to create new urban forms that combined the commercial advantages of a seaport with the health benefits of the country. The Contagious City details how early Americans struggled to preserve their collective health against both the strange new perils of the colonial environment and the familiar dangers of the traditional city, through a period of profound transformation in both politics and medicine.

Philadelphia was the paramount example of this reforming tendency. Tracing the city's history from its founding on the banks of the Delaware River in 1682 to the yellow fever outbreak of 1793, Simon Finger emphasizes the importance of public health and population control in decisions made by the city’s planners and leaders. He also shows that key figures in the city’s history, including Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush, brought their keen interest in science and medicine into the political sphere. Throughout his account, Finger makes clear that medicine and politics were inextricably linked, and that both undergirded the debates over such crucial concerns as the city’s location, its urban plan, its immigration policy, and its creation of institutions of public safety. In framing the history of Philadelphia through the imperatives of public health, The Contagious City offers a bold new vision of the urban history of colonial America.

Friday, June 8, 2012

"The Body of the Conquistador"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492-1700 by Rebecca Earle.

About the book, from the publisher:
This fascinating history explores the dynamic relationship between overseas colonisation and the bodily experience of eating. It reveals the importance of food to the colonial project in Spanish America and reconceptualises the role of European colonial expansion in shaping the emergence of ideas of race during the Age of Discovery. Rebecca Earle shows that anxieties about food were fundamental to Spanish understandings of the new environment they inhabited and their interactions with the native populations of the New World. Settlers wondered whether Europeans could eat New World food, whether Indians could eat European food and what would happen to each if they did. By taking seriously their ideas about food we gain a richer understanding of how settlers understood the physical experience of colonialism and of how they thought about one of the central features of the colonial project. The result is simultaneously a history of food, colonialism and race.
Rebecca Earle is Professor in History and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Comparative American Studies at the University of Warwick.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder"

New from Oxford University Press: Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder: International Cooperation Against Illicit Trade by Asif Efrat.

About the book, from the publisher:
From human trafficking to the smuggling of small arms to the looting of antiquities, illicit trade poses significant threats to international order. So why is it so difficult to establish international cooperation against illicit trade? Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder offers a novel, thought-provoking answer to this crucial question.

Conventional wisdom holds that criminal groups are the biggest obstacle to efforts to suppress illicit trade. Contrarily, Asif Efrat explains how legitimate actors, such as museums that acquire looted antiquities, seek to hinder these regulatory efforts. Yet such attempts to evade regulation fuel international political conflicts between governments demanding action against illicit trade and others that are reluctant to cooperate. The book offers a framework for understanding the domestic origins of these conflicts and how the distribution of power shapes their outcome. Through this framework, Efrat explains why the interests of governments vary across countries, trades, and time. In a fascinating empirical analysis, he solves a variety of puzzles: Why is the international regulation of small arms much weaker than international drug control? What led the United States and Britain to oppose the efforts against the plunder of antiquities, and why did they ultimately join these efforts? How did American pressure motivate Israel to tackle sex trafficking? Efrat's findings will change the way we think about illicit trade, offering valuable insights to scholars, activists, and policymakers.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Free Will and Consciousness"

New from Lexington Books: Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will by Gregg D. Caruso.

About the book, from the publisher:
In recent decades, with advances in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, the idea that patterns of human behavior may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction and renewed interest in the age-old problem of free will. In this book, Gregg D. Caruso examines both the traditional philosophical problems long associated with the question of free will, such as the relationship between determinism and free will, as well as recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to consciousness and human agency. He argues that our best scientific theories indeed have the consequence that factors beyond our control produce all of the actions we perform and that because of this we do not possess the kind of free will required for genuine or ultimate responsibility. It is further argued that the strong and pervasive belief in free will, which the author considers an illusion, can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness. Indeed, the primary goal of this book is to argue that our subjective feeling of freedom, as reflected in the first-person phenomenology of agentive experience, is an illusion created by certain aspects of our consciousness.
Visit Gregg D. Caruso's website.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Endowed by Our Creator"

New from Yale University Press: Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Michael I. Meyerson.

About the book, from the publisher:
The debate over the framers’ concept of freedom of religion has become heated and divisive. This scrupulously researched book sets aside the half-truths, omissions, and partisan arguments, and instead focuses on the actual writings and actions of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and others. Legal scholar Michael I. Meyerson investigates how the framers of the Constitution envisioned religious freedom and how they intended it to operate in the new republic.

Endowed by Our Creator shows that the framers understood that the American government should not acknowledge religion in a way that favors any particular creed or denomination. Nevertheless, the framers believed that religion could instill virtue and help to unify a diverse nation. They created a spiritual public vocabulary, one that could communicate to all—including agnostics and atheists—that they were valued members of the political community. Through their writings and their decisions, the framers affirmed that respect for religious differences is a fundamental American value. Now it is for us, Meyerson concludes, to determine whether religion will be used to alienate and divide or to inspire and unify our religiously diverse nation.

Monday, June 4, 2012


New from the University of Chicago Press: Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities by Carl H. Nightingale.

About the book, from the publisher:
When we think of segregation, what often comes to mind is apartheid South Africa, or the American South in the age of Jim Crow—two societies fundamentally premised on the concept of the separation of the races. But as Carl H. Nightingale shows us in this magisterial history, segregation is everywhere, deforming cities and societies worldwide.

Starting with segregation’s ancient roots, and what the archaeological evidence reveals about humanity’s long-standing use of urban divisions to reinforce political and economic inequality, Nightingale then moves to the world of European colonialism. It was there, he shows, segregation based on color—and eventually on race—took hold; the British East India Company, for example, split Calcutta into “White Town” and “Black Town.” As we follow Nightingale’s story around the globe, we see that division replicated from Hong Kong to Nairobi, Baltimore to San Francisco, and more. The turn of the twentieth century saw the most aggressive segregation movements yet, as white communities almost everywhere set to rearranging whole cities along racial lines. Nightingale focuses closely on two striking examples: Johannesburg, with its state-sponsored separation, and Chicago, in which the goal of segregation was advanced by the more subtle methods of real estate markets and housing policy.

For the first time ever, the majority of humans live in cities, and nearly all those cities bear the scars of segregation. This unprecedented, ambitious history lays bare our troubled past, and sets us on the path to imagining the better, more equal cities of the future.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Fashion beyond Versailles"

New from LSU Press: Fashion beyond Versailles: Consumption and Design in Seventeenth-Century France by Donna Bohanan.

About the book, from the publisher:
As the epicenters of style and innovation, the cities of Paris and Versailles dominate studies of consumerism in seventeenth-century France, but little scholarship exists on the material culture, fashion, and consumption patterns in the provinces. Donna J. Bohanan’s Fashion beyond Versailles fills this historiographical gap by examining the household inventories of French nobles and elites in the southern province of Dauphiné.

Much more than a simple study of the decorative arts, Fashion beyond Versailles investigates the meaning of material ownership. By examining postmortem registries and archival publications, Bohanan reveals the social imperatives, local politics, and high fashion trends that spurred the consumption patterns of provincial communities.

In doing so, she reveals a closer relationship between consumer behavior of Versailles and the provinces than most historians have maintained. Far-reaching in its sociological and psychological implications, Fashion beyond Versailles both makes use of and contributes to the burgeoning literature on material culture, fashion, and consumption.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Selling Women"

New from the University of California Press: Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan by Amy Stanley.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book traces the social history of early modern Japan’s sex trade, from its beginnings in seventeenth-century cities to its apotheosis in the nineteenth-century countryside. Drawing on legal codes, diaries, town registers, petitions, and criminal records, it describes how the work of “selling women” transformed communities across the archipelago. By focusing on the social implications of prostitutes’ economic behavior, this study offers a new understanding of how and why women who work in the sex trade are marginalized. It also demonstrates how the patriarchal order of the early modern state was undermined by the emergence of the market economy, which changed the places of women in their households and the realm at large.
Amy Stanley is Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University.

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Presidents and Civil Liberties from Wilson to Obama"

New from Cambridge University Press: Presidents and Civil Liberties from Wilson to Obama: A Story of Poor Custodians by Samuel Walker.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book is a history of the civil liberties records of American presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama. It examines the full range of civil liberties issues: First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, press, and assembly; due process; equal protection, including racial justice, women's rights, and lesbian and gay rights; privacy rights, including reproductive freedom; and national security issues. The book argues that presidents have not protected or advanced civil liberties, and that several have perpetrated some of worst violations. Some Democratic presidents (Wilson and Roosevelt), moreover, have violated civil liberties as badly as some Republican presidents (Nixon and Bush). This is the first book to examine the full civil liberties records of each president (thus, placing a president's record on civil rights with his record on national security issues), and also to compare the performance on particular issues of all the presidents covered.
Visit Samuel Walker's website.