Sunday, February 25, 2018

Martin Shuster's "New Television"

Martin Shuster is assistant professor and chair of Judaic Studies in the Center for Geographies of Justice at Goucher College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, New Television: The Aesthetics and Politics of a Genre, and reported the following:
From page 99:
D’Angelo is not squeezed between two institutions, as if the bonds of each are equally compelling (as in Hegel’s famous reading of Antigone), but rather D’Angelo dies because he disavows allegiance to any institution.
Page 99 doesn’t quite capture the whole of New Television, but it does offer an important entryway into my reading of The Wire. The Wire, however, forms only one aspect of the book, indeed, really, only serves as the entryway into the theme of new television, which is an aesthetic and political category. With respect to the former, new television signifies that, roughly with Twin Peaks in the early 1990s, there emerge truly new aesthetic objects on the small screen. With respect to the latter, these objects locate their significance around a particular political conception—of screening a world entirely devoid of normative authority in all of its institutions, except one: the family. The Wire participates in this thematic mode, but we might say only unintentionally or unreflectively, and thereby does not reach the sort of political signification that later shows achieve … a point that New Television attempts to map.
Learn more about New Television at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 23, 2018

Benjamin F. Alexander's "The New Deal's Forest Army"

Benjamin F. Alexander teaches American history at the New York City College of Technology. He is the author of Coxey’s Army: Popular Protest in the Gilded Age.

Alexander applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The New Deal's Forest Army: How the Civilian Conservation Corps Worked, and reported the following:
At the very top of page 99 of my new book on the Civilian Conservation Corps, this little ditty appears:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
While CCCs around me creep;
May no other CCC take
My shoes and shirt before I wake.
It's part of the chapter on social life in the CCC, it's an example of how both camp newspapers and the systemwide paper Happy Days often printed enrollees' creative outputs. More specifically, it comes in the section of that chapter about the pranks that enrollees pulled on each other and especially on newcomers. Under that verse, I write:
An initiate might be woken up late at night and told it was his turn for flagpole duty, a totally fictional assignment, or given a flashlight and a bag and told to go out into the woods to catch a snipe, an equally fictional creature. During the day, he might be sent to the supply room to ask for a nonexistent item such as a skyhook, a clipboard stretcher, a can of striped paint, some elbow grease, or a left-handed monkey wrench.
Soon after, I mention that some snakes got put in beds, both fake and real, and that any enrollee who didn't bathe adequately could get a rough and painful scrubbing with an industrial brush, or "GI Bath."

The motto of the CCC was “We can take it,” and indeed, CCC enrollees did a great deal of hard work. Enrollees planted trees, set up forest fire preventions systems, fought forest fires sometimes losing their lives, built dams and other flood control structures, landscaped public parks, and cut many of the hiking trails that outdoorspeople enjoy the use of today. They did all this under civilian supervision while living in camps of 200 that the Army ran. They were mostly young men whose families were on relief rolls, in a decade marked by the worst depression in the country's history, and indeed most of their pay went not to them but to their families, in most cases their parents.

Not all of the pranks were harmless, and not all of the men who joined the corps could “take it.” Like everything else in the Roosevelt New Deal, the CCC had its good and its bad side. On the balance sheet, what stands out the most is that many (though not all) unemployed Americans got desperately needed jobs, and permanent improvements to America's physical landscape got made. But when you put 200 male teenagers and young adults in barracks for six months, some beds are going to get short-sheeted, rigged to collapse, and outfitted with real or phony snakes for their occupants' displeasure.
Learn more about The New Deal's Forest Army at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sam Rosenfeld's "The Polarizers"

Sam Rosenfeld is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colgate University. He has a PhD in History from Harvard University and studies parties and American political development. His research interests include the history of political parties, the intersection of social movements and formal politics, and the politics of social and economic policymaking.

Rosenfeld applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Polarizers comes toward the end of the introductory section on my chapter on the 1960s. As a result, it’s more big-picture and analytically explicit than the typical pages of detailed historical narrative found throughout the book. And the big-picture argument I’m making in the chapter is this: political developments in the 1960s, for all of their extraordinary social and cultural tumult, marked less a turning point than an acceleration of preexisting dynamics in party politics. They reflected debates over parties’ proper role in American politics that were not new.

The preceding 98 pages have told the story of the postwar emergence of a critique, offered by thinkers and activists on both the right and the left, of the highly unpolarized American party system at midcentury. Both parties contained conservative and liberal factions, policy was made via bipartisan coalitions, and party allegiances often still stemmed from loyalties based on either tradition or non-programmatic material incentives like patronage. A new postwar breed of activists motivated by national policy issues and ideology, buttressed by leading political science scholarship, decried the fuzzy distinctions between the two parties that such arrangements produced. In the name of democracy, they championed restructuring and sorting the parties around coherent and distinct ideological agendas.

1960s activists, though a generation younger than the postwar actors tracked in previous chapters and often motivated by more radical systemic critiques, mounted a challenge to existing party practices that sustained and amplified their predecessors’ “demands for greater moral commitment and attention to issues in party politics.” In accounts of the early work of Students for a Democratic Society, the 1964 convention challenge of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the antiwar nomination challenges of 1968 and their translation into a party reform project, I show how the major social movements of the era “contributed signally to the long-term project of breaking down the transactional elements of political parties and remaking them as more issue-defined and ideological institutions.”

It would take the ensuing, truly pivotal decade of the 1970s for such actors to finally achieve transformative breakthroughs in both parties that served to forge the political world we still inhabit today.
Visit Sam Rosenfeld's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dawn Chatty's "Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State"

Dawn Chatty is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration and former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, Department of International Development, Oxford University and the author of Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East and From Camel to Truck.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Three Armenian delegations from the new republic attended the January 1919 Paris Peace Conference (Hovannisian, 1987). Their public relations success can be found in one of the first acts of the conference, which declared that ‘because of the historical misgovernment of the Turks of subject peoples and the terrible massacres of Armenians and others in recent years, the Allied and Associated Powers are agreed that Armenia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine and Arabia must be completely severed from the Turkish Empire’ and provisionally recognized as independent nations subject to the ‘administrative assistance’ of a Mandatory power.
What happened next is the story which this book tries to tell, the making and unmaking of the Syrian state as a place of refuge for Circassians, Kosovars, and Albanians, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Palestinians, and later Lebanese and Iraqis.

I have written this book in an accessible manner to appeal to most interested readers. Each chapter who found sanctuary in Syria. The final chapter looks at the waves of people who have recently fled Syria and sought asylum in neighbouring countries. For many Syrians, there is disappointment that having provided refuge for displaced people for nearly a century, they are now faced with closed doors beyond their Mediterranean neighbours.
Learn more about Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mark Newman's "Black Nationalism in American History"

Mark Newman is a Reader in History at the University of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of the award-winning Getting Right with God: Southern Baptists and Desegregation, 1945-1995 (2001) and Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi (2004).

Newman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Black Nationalism in American History: From the Nineteenth Century to the Million Man March, and reported the following:
Black Nationalism in American History provides an overview of its development, expression and organization from early manifestations through the Million Man March in Washington D.C. in 1995, when black nationalism’s popularity was greater than it had been in the 1960s. The book avoids either advocacy or condemnation found in many studies and assesses leading scholars’ interpretations against historical evidence. Scholars disagree about defining black nationalism, when it began, what forms it has taken, how popular it has been, and how much it has been independent of or shaped by developments in white society. Outlining black nationalism across two centuries, the book addresses these issues and the often neglected contributions of women. Black Nationalism argues for a broad definition that incorporates demands for self-determination focused on controlling institutions within black communities, and it contends that black nationalism’s shape, appeal, and meaning have reflected the particular circumstances of its time.

Page 99 occurs in the second half of chapter three about the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, and just over halfway through the book, reflecting the fact that the Nation and Malcolm X, its most famous convert and leading minister, were important contributors to, but not originators, of black nationalism. Page 99 concludes a discussion about why Malcolm X left the Nation in 1964 and disputes biographer Manning Marable’s claim that his departure resulted from ‘politics; not personalities.’ Elijah Muhammad, the Nation’s leader, and most of his family had become jealous of Malcolm X’s growing popularity and feared his knowledge of Muhammad’s adulterous affairs and illegitimate children. Suspended ostensibly for welcoming President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Malcolm X tried repeatedly to be reinstated and left only after concluding that Muhammad would never lift a suspension intended to contain and silence him. Page 99 is reflective of the book’s style but not of its overarching themes.
Learn more about Black Nationalism in American History at the Edinburgh University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 16, 2018

Sunaina Maira's "Boycott! The Academy and Justice for Palestine"

Sunaina Maira is the author of Boycott! The Academy and Justice for Palestine and a founding organizer of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Boycott! and reported the following:
Page 99 is a great page to open to in my book! It addresses one of my key arguments about the movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions and for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) more generally. Documenting the history of the expanding academic boycott campaign as a progressive social movement, the book discusses how it is grounded in antiracist and decolonial principles. BDS campaigns have linked Palestine to struggles against militarization, police brutality, incarceration, and violent borders. The book draws on interviews with scholar-activists involved in academic boycott organizing and with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). On this page, I quote Cynthia Franklin, from the University of Hawai’i a, Manoa:
To draw on Darnell Moore and Sa’ed Atshan’s formulation, the “reciprocal solidarities” that have been emerging as those in BDS and other social justice movements come together is resulting not only in emotionally sustaining shared stories and forms of community, but also in concrete forms of mobilization and calls to action for struggles that are at once articulated and place based. The historic M4BL Platform, and its support for BDS, is one example of this; another is Palestinian support for Native Peoples in North America organizing against the Dakota Pipeline. This is the result of organizers in different movements learning from and supporting each other in struggles that are at once articulated and sometimes distinct.
In this chapter, I discuss the endorsement of BDS by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), which grew out of the Black Lives Matter movement, building on the transnational Black-Palestinian solidarity of campaigns such as Ferguson 2 Gaza.

The chapter offers an analysis of the backlash against the boycott movement as a window into the cultural and racial wars in which the Palestine question is embedded. It theorizes the backlash as an archive of repression, going beyond documenting the systematic censorship, defamation, blacklisting, and disciplining of academics, students, and activists who advocate for BDS and Palestinian rights. The backlash illuminates the racial, gender, and class politics of the “backlash network” of Zionist organizations, based on anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia. Israel lobby groups view the cross-racial solidarity and coalitions forged by BDS activists with other progressive movements, including queer and feminist campaigns, as a threat to uncritical support of Israel. They regularly combat the current recasting of solidarity with Palestine as a progressive-left cause by accusing boycott advocates of anti-Semitism.

However, the BDS movement has challenged the taboo on criticism of Israel in the U.S. academy and reframed the oppression of Palestinians through the frameworks of settler colonialism and apartheid, in addition to challenging the military occupation. The academic boycott resolutions endorsed by various academic associations, such as the American Studies Association, have helped transform the Palestine question, situating it in antiracist, internationalist, and indigenous rights frameworks. These campaigns have ruptured the sanctioned narrative about Palestine-Israel and reveal fugitive knowledges hitherto repressed by a powerful status quo. The boycott has thus enlarged academic freedom in the U.S. university and challenged the assaults on academic (and human) freedom for Palestinian scholars and students.
Learn more about Boycott!: The Academy and Justice for Palestine at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Daniel R. DeNicola's "Understanding Ignorance"

Daniel R. DeNicola is Chair and Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College and the author of Learning to Flourish: A Philosophical Exploration of Liberal Education.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Understanding Ignorance: The Surprising Impact of What We Don't Know, and reported the following:
From page 99:
…[I]t is not always the coming-to-hold-this-belief that is the problem; it is the reflective maintaining of such beliefs along with the refusal to disbelieve or discard them that may be voluntary and ethically wrong.

If the content of a belief is judged morally wrong, it is also thought to be false. The belief that one race is clearly inferior or not fully human is not only a morally repugnant, racist tenet; it is also thought to be a false claim—though not by the believer. The falsity of a belief is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a belief to be morally wrong. Neither is the ugliness of the content sufficient for a belief to be morally wrong. There are morally repugnant truths, sadly, but believing them does not make them so. Their moral ugliness is embedded in the world, not in one’s belief about the world.
One of the virulent forms of ignorance is willful ignorance. Its flat rejection of challenging evidence and ideas is often bolstered by false knowledge. In nearly all cases, the willfully ignorant are engaged in the protection of some prior belief or value commitment, an ideology or doctrine. It masks ignorance with false knowledge.

Those who refuse to know, when cornered, sometimes assert a right to believe whatever they want. It is a hollow claim. My page 99 quotation, which is drawn from a section on the ethics of belief, asserts our responsibilities regarding our beliefs. Perhaps we seldom “choose to believe,” but we do have epistemic responsibility for what we believe. Some beliefs are morally repugnant; some are ridiculous and demonstrably false or unjustified; and some are merely stubborn refusals to assent to uncomfortable truths. Some believers think they are wisely skeptical of mainstream “truths”; that they have special access to the “real truth”—usually a conspiracy theory of some sort. Ironically, these misguided attempts to honor the “real truth” are little more than ignorance in elaborate disguise.

Today, we have unprecedented access to vast human knowledge and real-time information. There has never been a better time to learn. Unfortunately, our society is also being engulfed by a culture of ignorance that is characterized by widespread, reprehensible ignorance of matters that affect our ability to live together; by the rejection of expertise in favor of ideology and populist opinion; by the willful ignorance of partisanship, religious intolerance, and privilege. As a result, our society spends far too much time, energy, and capital coping with the willfully ignorant and their impact on policy and practice.

At the heart of this problem is the urgent need to respect the truth. I do not mean that we need to act as though we possess the Truth. That is, in fact, the problem with those who refuse to recognize their own ignorance, the possibility of error, or the potential justification for altering their beliefs. Rather, I mean the ideal of truth, the search for the truth, must guide us; only that permits genuine deliberation, genuine inquiry. Beliefs are factive; they aspire to the truth. It is wrong to use them as epistemic pillows to comfort us in our prejudices.
Learn more about Understanding Ignorance at The MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Peter B. Levy's "The Great Uprising"

Peter B. Levy is a Professor of History at York College, York, PA.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Great Uprising: Race Riots in Urban America during the 1960s, and reported the following:
How did Americans respond to the Great Uprising of the 1960s, the term I use in my recently published book by the same name to describe the race riots of the 1960s? Why were they taking place and how should (and did) the nation respond? To answer these questions, I examine three demographically distinct communities, Cambridge Maryland, a small town of 10,000 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Baltimore, Maryland, one of the nation’s largest industrial cities during the 1960s, and York, Pennsylvania, a mid-sized city whose riot received little attention until 2001 when its two-term mayor, Charlie Robertson, was arrested for allegedly helping to murder a black woman during its 1969 revolt—he was a city policeman at the time.

As I suggest on page 99, Americans were not of one mind when it came to answering the aforementioned questions. “Statements made by a wide variety of officials, from Cambridge Police Chief Brice Kinnamon to Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew, reinforced by sensational media coverage, which highlighted the fiery rhetoric of black radicals like H. Rap Brown … [emphasized] that radicals had caused the revolts and that those who had rioted had done so for fun and profit, not political reasons (p. 99).” In contrast, the Kerner Commission concluded that the “social and economic conditions of the nation’s urban ghettos, not radicals and/or moral failings on the part of blacks (p. 99)” had caused the riots. “Or as the Commission declared in its oft-cited summation of its five hundred plus page report, ‘What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it (pp. 99-100).”

Even though it was a bi-partisan commission and based its findings on the work of hundreds of highly-trained social scientists and the testimony of hundreds more, most Americans, including President Johnson, rejected these claims. As I write on page 99, public polls revealed that “45 percent of whites blamed outside agitators for the nation’s urban unrest, whereas less than one-third … saw either ghetto conditions or ‘promises not kept’ as the cause … [and] 71 percent of whites believed that the riots were ‘part of an organized effort,’ not ‘spontaneous eruptions (p. 99).’” In other words, conservatives won the debate over what had caused the revolts and, in turn, determined that the nation would not respond with renewed efforts to combat the ills of the ghettos, as recommended by the Kerner Commission, but instead favored a “law and order” strategy which prioritized cracking down on radicals and those Agnew and other deemed culpable of enabling them. By re-examining the riots of the 1960s, including the greatest wave of social unrest in modern history, which took place fifty years ago following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, The Great Uprising seeks to enhance our understanding of the causes of the revolts themselves and the nation’s response.
Visit Peter. B. Levy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Japonica Brown-Saracino's "How Places Make Us"

Japonica Brown-Saracino is Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston University. She is the author of A Neighborhood That Never Changes, and editor of The Gentrification Debates.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, How Places Make Us: Novel LBQ Identities in Four Small Cities, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls at the end of the second chapter of How Places Make Us. It contemplates findings from my fieldwork with lesbian, bisexual and queer identified (hereafter “LBQ”) residents of San Luis Obispo, a small city on California’s Central Coast. More specifically, page 99 considers the origins and significance of differences between the sexual identities of those I studied in San Luis Obispo and Ithaca, New York – the college town that the book’s first chapter profiles. I conclude that despite parallels between the demographic characteristics of the two cities and their LBQ populations,
Being LBQ in San Luis Obispo clearly means something vastly different than it does in Ithaca, New York. The enormous contrast between the residents in these two communities reminds that there is no neat chronological progression out of the closet or away from gay and lesbian communities. Contrary to some popular assumptions, gay life in America has not moved away from identity-politics; though the narrative is tempting, we have not stepped in unison from Stonewall to marriage registries and baby showers…. At least in San Luis Obispo, even amid a string of legal and cultural victories, and with unprecedented mainstream acceptance of alternative lifestyles, identity politics – predicated on notions of a common “lesbian” identity – is alive and well.
The persistence of identity politics in San Luis Obispo, evidenced by lesbian-themed clubs, networks, and self-descriptions, presents two puzzles that page 99 begins to wrestle with, and that the rest of the book pursues. First, San Luis Obispo’s lesbian identity politics presents a puzzle because the identities of the LBQ residents I studied in three other cities (Ithaca, NY; Portland, ME; Greenfield, MA) – all of whom share a similar demographic profile – are wildly disparate. In Ithaca and Greenfield most eschew identity politics, thinking of sexual identity as ancillary (one Ithacan told me, “Sometimes you can take sisterhood and shove it”), while Portlanders embrace personalized and hyphenated sexual and gender identities, such as queer-kinky-femme. My discovery of identity politics in San Luis Obispo presents a second puzzle, because, if identity politics persists, many of us would anticipate finding it in less hospitable environs where LBQ residents forge a protective sense of “outside togetherness,” such as in a rural, conservative town. In other words, its persistence in a politically progressive coastal university town challenges extant accounts. This finding from San Luis Obispo, with the rest of the book,
calls us away from strictly temporal and demographic explanations for the formation of LBQ identities, as well as from a spatial map that only recognizes variation across red and blue states, rural and urban locales, and coastal and inland cities.
In this sense, page 99 sets the stage for the book’s argument that cities make us; that subtle differences in city ecology – related to the abundance and acceptance of LBQ residents, local LBQ demographics, and place narratives – shape what it feels like to be LBQ in a city, our interactions with others who do and do not share our traits, and, ultimately, how we think about who we are. We are, in this sense, fundamentally local creatures; despite the confidence many of us have in our ability to shape ourselves and the widespread belief that our core sense of self is immutable, our interactions and self-understanding respond to even very subtle differences in city conditions, creating city-specific identities and communities.
Learn more about How Places Make Us at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A Neighborhood That Never Changes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 9, 2018

Melita M. Garza's "They Came to Toil"

Melita M. Garza is an assistant professor of journalism at Texas Christian University’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, They Came to Toil: Newspaper Representations of Mexicans and Immigrants in the Great Depression, and reported the following:
They Came to Toil shows the reader how English- and Spanish-language newspapers constructed versions of Mexican and Mexican immigrant identity during the deeply xenophobic early years of the Great Depression—a zeitgeist of fear that eerily resonates in many ways with today. Page 99 offers a window into the Spanish nostalgia found in the English-language newspapers, the Hearst-owned San Antonio Light and the independently owned San Antonio Express. The important third newspaper voice, the Mexican-immigrant owned La Prensa, is missing from this page, so reading it in isolation can’t take you into all three separate media worlds depicted in the book. Page 99, however, shines a spotlight on the English-language newspapers’ preservation reporting, an area of news coverage that celebrated one facet of Spanish-speaking immigrants, the Canary Islanders who founded the city of San Antonio.

The mania for restoring San Antonio’s five historic Spanish missions intensified in 1930, with a prime focus on the crown jewel of the chain, Mission San José. Page 99 recounts the Light’s article about a prominent Anglo businessman who returned a wrought iron bar he had stolen as a young man from Mission San José’s historic Rose Window in 1880. “The theft of heritage committed by a ‘freckle-faced boy’ ” and the allegory about its recovery received major play in the Light. The story exemplifies how newspapers’ editorial authority plays a role in what Renato Rosaldo calls “imperialist nostalgia,” in this case, atoning for past Anglo abuse of the Spanish architectural achievements by rebuilding them.

Elsewhere, the book shows how media veneration of these Spanish-speaking pioneers in the early 1930s sharply contrasted with other media rhetoric about immigrants. This was particularly manifest in the Light’s editorials, which argued for deportation of “undesirable” immigrants, even as record numbers of Mexican immigrants were already either forcibly or voluntarily returning to Mexico in repatriation drives. They Came to Toil shows how newspaper sites of memory reveal a consciousness of the past about what it means to be Mexican and American.
Learn more about They Came to Toil at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue