Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Unclear Physics"

New from Cornell University Press: Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya Failed to Build Nuclear Weapons by Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Many authoritarian leaders want nuclear weapons, but few manage to acquire them. Autocrats seeking nuclear weapons fail in different ways and to varying degrees—Iraq almost managed it; Libya did not come close. In Unclear Physics, Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer compares the two failed nuclear weapons programs, showing that state capacity played a crucial role in the trajectory and outcomes of both projects. Braut-Hegghammer draws on a rich set of new primary sources, collected during years of research in archives, fieldwork across the Middle East, and interviews with scientists and decision makers from both states. She gained access to documents and individuals that no other researcher has been able to consult. Her book tells the story of the Iraqi and Libyan programs from their origins in the late 1950s and 1960s until their dismantling.

This book reveals contemporary perspectives from scientists and regime officials on the opportunities and challenges facing each project. Many of the findings challenge the conventional wisdom about clandestine weapons programs in closed authoritarian states and their prospects of success or failure. Braut-Hegghammer suggests that scholars and analysts ought to pay closer attention to how state capacity affects nuclear weapons programs in other authoritarian regimes, both in terms of questioning the actual control these leaders have over their nuclear weapons programs and the capability of their scientists to solve complex technical challenges.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 26, 2016

"Village Atheists"

New from Princeton University Press: Village Atheists: How America's Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation by Leigh Eric Schmidt.

About the book, from the publisher:
A much-maligned minority throughout American history, atheists have been cast as a threat to the nation’s moral fabric, barred from holding public office, and branded as irreligious misfits in a nation chosen by God. Yet, village atheists—as these godless freethinkers came to be known by the close of the nineteenth century—were also hailed for their gutsy dissent from stultifying pieties and for posing a necessary secularist challenge to majoritarian entanglements of church and state. Village Atheists explores the complex cultural terrain that unbelievers have long had to navigate in their fight to secure equal rights and liberties in American public life.

Leigh Eric Schmidt rebuilds the history of American secularism from the ground up, giving flesh and blood to these outspoken infidels, including itinerant lecturer Samuel Porter Putnam; rough-edged cartoonist Watson Heston; convicted blasphemer Charles B. Reynolds; and atheist sex reformer Elmina D. Slenker. He describes their everyday confrontations with devout neighbors and evangelical ministers, their strained efforts at civility alongside their urge to ridicule and offend their Christian compatriots. Schmidt examines the multilayered world of social exclusion, legal jeopardy, yet also civic acceptance in which American atheists and secularists lived. He shows how it was only in the middle decades of the twentieth century that nonbelievers attained a measure of legal vindication, yet even then they often found themselves marginalized on the edges of a God-trusting, Bible-believing nation.

Village Atheists reveals how the secularist vision for the United States proved to be anything but triumphant and age-defining for a country where faith and citizenship were—and still are—routinely interwoven.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"God and the Green Divide"

New from the University of California Press: God and the Green Divide: Religious Environmentalism in Black and White by Amanda J. Baugh.

About the book, from the publisher:
American environmentalism historically has been associated with the interests of white elites. Yet religious leaders in the twenty-first century have helped instill concern about the earth among groups diverse in religion, race, ethnicity, and class. How did that happen and what are the implications? Building on scholarship that provides theological and ethical resources to support the “greening” of religion, God and the Green Divide examines religious environmentalism as it actually happens in the daily lives of urban Americans. Baugh demonstrates how complex dynamics related to race, ethnicity, and class factor into decisions to “go green.” By carefully examining negotiations of racial and ethnic identities as central to the history of religious environmentalism, this work complicates assumptions that religious environmentalism is a direct expression of theology, ethics, or religious beliefs.
Amanda Baugh is Assistant Professor of Religion and Environment at California State University, Northridge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 24, 2016

"John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy"

New from Princeton University Press: John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy by Luke Mayville.

About the book, from the publisher:
Long before “the one percent” became a protest slogan, American founding father John Adams feared the power of a class he called simply “the few”—the wellborn, the beautiful, and especially the rich. In John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy, Luke Mayville presents the first extended exploration of Adams’s preoccupation with a problem that has a renewed urgency today: the way in which inequality threatens to corrode democracy and empower a small elite. By revisiting Adams’s political writings, Mayville draws out the statesman’s fears about the danger of oligarchy in America and his unique understanding of the political power of wealth—a surprising and largely forgotten theory that promises to illuminate today’s debates about inequality and its political consequences.

Adams believed that wealth is politically powerful in modern societies not merely because money buys influence, but also because citizens admire and even sympathize with the rich. He thought wealth is powerful in the same way that beauty is powerful—it distinguishes its possessor and prompts reactions of approval and veneration. Citizens vote for—and with—the rich not because, as is often said, they hope to be rich one day, but because they esteem the rich and submit to their wishes. Mayville explores Adams’s theory of wealth and power in the context of his broader concern about social and economic inequality, and also examines his ideas about how oligarchy might be countered.

A compelling work of intellectual history, John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy also has important lessons for today’s world of increasing inequality.
Visit Luke Mayville's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Money, Power, and Influence in Eighteenth-Century Lithuania"

New from Stanford University Press: Money, Power, and Influence in Eighteenth-Century Lithuania: The Jews on the Radziwill Estates by Adam Teller.

About the book, from the publisher:
It has often been claimed that Jews have a penchant for capitalism and capitalist economic activity. With this book, Adam Teller challenges that assumption. Examining how Jews achieved their extraordinary success within the late feudal economy of the eighteenth-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he shows that economic success did not necessarily come through any innate entrepreneurial skills, but through identifying and exploiting economic niches in the pre-modern economy—in particular, the monopoly on the sale of grain alcohol.

Jewish economic activity was a key factor in the development of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and it greatly enhanced the incomes, and thereby the social and political status, of the noble magnates, including the powerful Radziwiłł family. In turn, with the magnate's backing, Jews were able to leverage their own economic success into high status in estate society. Over time, relations within Jewish society began to change, putting less value on learning and pedigree and more on wealth and connections with the estate owners.

This groundbreaking book exemplifies how the study of Jewish economic history can shed light on a crucial mechanism of Jewish social integration. In the Polish-Lithuanian setting, Jews were simultaneously a despised religious minority and key economic players, with a consequent standing that few could afford to ignore.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Founding Weimar"

New from Cambridge University Press: Founding Weimar: Violence and the German Revolution of 1918-1919 by Mark Jones.

About the book, from the publisher:
The German Revolution of 1918-1919 was a transformative moment in modern European history. It was both the end of the German Empire and the First World War, as well as the birth of the Weimar Republic, the short-lived democracy that preceded the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship. A time of great political drama, the Revolution saw unprecedented levels of mass mobilisation and political violence, including the 'Spartacist Uprising' of January 1919, the murders of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, and the violent suppression of strikes and the Munich Councils' Republic. Drawing upon the historiography of the French Revolution, Founding Weimar is the first study to place crowds and the politics of the streets at the heart of the Revolution's history. Carefully argued and meticulously researched, it will appeal to anyone with an interest in the relationship between violence, revolution, and state formation, as well as in the history of modern Germany.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

'"Keep the Damned Women Out"'

New from Princeton University Press: "Keep the Damned Women Out": The Struggle for Coeducation by Nancy Weiss Malkiel.

About the book, from the publisher:
As the tumultuous decade of the 1960s ended, a number of very traditional, very conservative, highly prestigious colleges and universities in the United States and the United Kingdom decided to go coed, seemingly all at once, in a remarkably brief span of time. Coeducation met with fierce resistance. As one alumnus put it in a letter to his alma mater, “Keep the damned women out.” Focusing on the complexities of institutional decision making, this book tells the story of this momentous era in higher education—revealing how coeducation was achieved not by organized efforts of women activists, but through strategic decisions made by powerful men.

In America, Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth began to admit women; in Britain, several of the men’s colleges at Cambridge and Oxford did the same. What prompted such fundamental change? How was coeducation accomplished in the face of such strong opposition? How well was it implemented? Nancy Weiss Malkiel explains that elite institutions embarked on coeducation not as a moral imperative but as a self-interested means of maintaining a first-rate applicant pool. She explores the challenges of planning for the academic and non-academic lives of newly admitted women, and shows how, with the exception of Mary Ingraham Bunting at Radcliffe, every decision maker leading the charge for coeducation was male.

Drawing on unprecedented archival research, “Keep the Damned Women Out” is a breathtaking work of scholarship that is certain to be the definitive book on the subject.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Luxury and Rubble"

New from the University of California Press: Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon by Erik Harms.

About the book, from the publisher:
Luxury and Rubble is the tale of two cities in Ho Chi Minh City. It is the story of two planned, mixed-use residential and commercial developments that are changing the face of Vietnam’s largest city. Since the early 1990s, such developments have been steadily reorganizing urban landscapes across the country. For many Vietnamese, they are a symbol of the country’s emergence into global modernity and of post-socialist economic reforms. However, they are also sites of great contestation, sparking land disputes and controversies over how to compensate evicted residents. In this penetrating ethnography, Erik Harms vividly portrays the human costs of urban reorganization as he explores the complex and sometimes contradictory experiences of individuals grappling with the forces of privatization in a socialist country.
Erik Harms is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Southeast Asia Studies at Yale University and the author of Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 19, 2016

"American Prophets"

New from Princeton University Press: American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals and Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice by Albert J. Raboteau.

About the book, from the publisher:
American Prophets sheds critical new light on the lives and thought of seven major prophetic figures in twentieth-century America whose social activism was motivated by a deeply felt compassion for those suffering injustice.

In this compelling and provocative book, acclaimed religious scholar Albert Raboteau tells the remarkable stories of Abraham Joshua Heschel, A. J. Muste, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer—inspired individuals who succeeded in conveying their vision to the broader public through writing, speaking, demonstrating, and organizing. Raboteau traces how their paths crossed and their lives intertwined, creating a network of committed activists who significantly changed the attitudes of several generations of Americans about contentious political issues such as war, racism, and poverty. Raboteau examines the influences that shaped their ideas and the surprising connections that linked them together. He discusses their theological and ethical positions, and describes the rhetorical and strategic methods these exemplars of modern prophecy used to persuade their fellow citizens to share their commitment to social change.

A momentous scholarly achievement as well as a moving testimony to the human spirit, American Prophets represents a major contribution to the history of religion in American politics. This book is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about social justice, or who wants to know what prophetic thought and action can mean in today's world.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Assassin of Youth"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger's War on Drugs by Alexandra Chasin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from its establishment in 1930 until his retirement in 1962, Harry J. Anslinger is the United States’ little known first drug czar. Anslinger was a profligate propagandist with a flair for demonizing racial and immigrant groups and perhaps best known for his zealous pursuit of harsh drug penalties and his particular animus for marijuana users. But what made Anslinger who he was, and what cultural trends did he amplify and institutionalize? Having just passed the hundredth anniversary of the Harrison Act—which consolidated prohibitionist drug policy and led to the carceral state we have today—and even as public doubts about the drug war continue to grow, now is the perfect time to evaluate Anslinger’s social, cultural, and political legacy.

In Assassin of Youth, Alexandra Chasin gives us a lyrical, digressive, funny, and ultimately riveting quasi-biography of Anslinger. Her treatment of the man, his times, and the world that arose around and through him is part cultural history, part kaleidoscopic meditation. Each of the short chapters is anchored in a historical document—the court decision in Webb v. US (1925), a 1935 map of East Harlem, FBN training materials from the 1950s, a personal letter from the Treasury Department in 1985—each of which opens onto Anslinger and his context. From the Pharmacopeia of 1820 to death of Sandra Bland in 2015, from the Pennsylvania Railroad to the last passenger pigeon, and with forays into gangster lives, CIA operatives, and popular detective stories, Chasin covers impressive ground. Assassin of Youth is as riotous and loose a history of drug laws as can be imagined—and yet it culminates in an arresting and precise revision of the emergence of drug prohibition.

Today, even as marijuana is slowly being legalized, we still have not fully reckoned with the racist and xenophobic foundations of our cultural appetite for the severe punishment of drug offenders. In Assassin of Youth, Chasin shows us the deep, twisted roots of both our love and our hatred for drug prohibition.
Visit Alexandra Chasin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue