Off the Page: A Columbia University Press Podcast (2023)

Kevin Munger, "Generation Gap: Why the Baby Boomers Still Dominate American Politics and Culture" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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InGeneration Gap:Why the Baby Boomers Still Dominate American Politics and Culture(Columbia UP, 2022),Kevin Munger marshals novel data and survey evidence to argue that generational conflict will define the politics of the next decade. He shows that a common "cohort consciousness" binds aging Boomer voters into a bloc--but a shared identity and purpose among Millennials and Gen Z could topple Boomer power.Kevin Munger is an assistant professor of political science and social data analytics at Penn State University.Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network.

Jan 25, 2023

Matthew Smith, "The First Resort: The History of Social Psychiatry in the United States" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Social psychiatry was a mid-twentieth-century approach to mental health that stressed the prevention of mental illness rather than its treatment. Its proponents developed environmental explanations of mental health, arguing that socioeconomic problems such as poverty, inequality, and social isolation were the underlying causes of mental illness. The influence of social psychiatry contributed to the closure of psychiatric hospitals and the emergence of community mental health care during the 1960s. By the 1980s, however, social psychiatry was in decline, having lost ground to biological psychiatry and its emphasis on genetics, neurology, and psychopharmacology.The First Resort: The History of Social Psychiatry in the United States(Columbia UP, 2022) is a history of the rise and fall of social psychiatry that also explores the lessons this largely forgotten movement has to offer today. Matthew Smith examines four ambitious projects that investigated the relationship between socioeconomic factors and mental illness in Chicago, New Haven, New York City, and Nova Scotia. He contends that social psychiatry waned not because of flaws in its preventive approach to mental health but rather because the economic and political crises of the 1970s and the shift to the right during the 1980s foreclosed the social changes required to create a more mentally healthy society. Smith also argues that social psychiatry provides timely insights about how progressive social policies, such as a universal basic income, can help stem rising rates of mental illness in the present day.Claire Clarkis a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine.

Jan 10, 2023

Daniel Barish, "Learning to Rule: Court Education and the Remaking of the Qing State, 1861-1912" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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The late Qing was a time of great turmoil and upheaval but also a time of great possibility, as scholars, officials, the press, and revolutionaries all sought to find ways to shape China’s future. For many, as explored in Daniel Barish’s new book,Learning to Rule: Court Education and the Remaking of the Qing State, 1861-1912(Columbia UP, 2022), the solution lay not outside the Qing butwithinit — with the emperor himself.Learning to Ruleexplores the education of the final three Qing emperors, looking at how debates about Western learning, foreign language education, the Manchu Way, and constitutionalism played out in the classrooms of the Qing emperors. Not only is this an intimate and deeply human look at the emperor and court life, it also shows just how involved the Qing was in global conversations about the role and education of a monarch, with many drawing on the examples of rulers in Russia and Japan when proposing their own plans for the Qing. Vividly written, this book will be of interest to any readers looking to learn about the late Qing, modern Chinese history, and the history of global empires — as well as those who might be curious about what it was like to try to teach the Son of Heaven.Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike. She can be reached at

Dec 27, 2022

Stuart Klawans, "Crooked, But Never Common: The Films of Preston Sturges" (Columbia UP, 2023)

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In a burst of creativity unmatched in Hollywood history, Preston Sturges directed a string of all-time classic comedies from 1939 through 1948--The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story,andThe Miracle of Morgan's Creekamong them--all from screenplays he alone had written.Stuart Klawans'Crooked, But Never Common: The Films of Preston Sturges(Columbia UP, 2023) pays close attention to Sturges' celebrated dialogue, but also to his films surprisingly intricate structures, marvelous use of a standard roster of character actors, and effective composition of shots. Klawans goes deeper than this, though, providing compelling readings of the underlying personal philosophy depicted in these films, which for all their seen-it-all cynicism nonetheless express firmly-held values, among them a fear for conformity and crowd-mentality, a dread of stasis, and a respect for intelligence, whether of a billionaire or of a Pullman porter. This is a book that will return you to these great films with new eyes.Andy Boydis a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.

Dec 25, 2022

Quentin Bruneau, "States and the Masters of Capital: Sovereign Lending, Old and New" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Today, states' ability to borrow private capital depends on stringent evaluations of their creditworthiness. While many presume that this has long been the case, Quentin Bruneau argues that it is a surprisingly recent phenomenon--the outcome of a pivotal shift in the social composition of financial markets. Investigating the financiers involved in lending capital to sovereigns over the past two centuries, Bruneau identifies profound changes in their identities, goals, and forms of knowledge.InStates and the Masters of Capital(Columbia University Press, 2022), he shows how an old world made up of merchant banking families pursuing both profit and status gradually gave way to a new one dominated by large companies, such as joint stock banks and credit rating agencies, exclusively pursuing profit. Lacking the web of personal ties to sovereigns across the world that their established rivals possessed, these financial institutions began relying on a different form of knowledge created to describe and compare states through quantifiable data: statistics. Over the course of this epochal shift, which only came to an end a few decades ago, financial markets thus reconceptualized states. Instead of a set of individuals to be known in person, they became numbers on a page. Raising new questions about the history of sovereign lending, this book illuminates the nature of the relationship between states and financial markets today--and suggests that it may be on the cusp of another major transformation.Quentin Bruneau is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College.Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network (Twitter: @caleb_zakarin).

Dec 18, 2022

Agathe Demarais, "Backfire: How Sanctions Reshape the World Against U.S. Interests" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Sanctions have become the go-to foreign policy tool for the United States. Coercive economic measures such as trade tariffs, financial penalties, and export controls affect large numbers of companies and states across the globe. Some of these penalties target nonstate actors, such as Colombian drug cartels and Islamist terror groups; others apply to entire countries, including North Korea, Iran, and Russia. U.S. policy makers see sanctions as a low-cost tactic, but in reality these measures often fail to achieve their intended goals--and their potent side effects can even harm American interests.Backfire: How Sanctions Reshape the World Against U.S. Interests(Columbia UP, 2022) explores the surprising ways sanctions affect multinational companies, governments, and ultimately millions of people around the world.Drawing on interviews with experts, policy makers, and people in sanctioned countries, Agathe Demarais examines the unintended consequences of the use of sanctions as a diplomatic weapon. The proliferation of sanctions spurs efforts to evade them, as states and firms seek ways to circumvent U.S. penalties. This is only part of the story. Sanctions also reshape relations between countries, pushing governments that are at odds with the U.S. closer to each other--or, increasingly, to Russia and China.Full of counterintuitive insights spanning a wide range of topics, from commodities markets in Russia to Iran's COVID response and China's cryptocurrency ambitions, Backfire reveals how sanctions are transforming geopolitics and the global economy--as well as diminishing U.S. influence. This insider's account is an eye-opening, accessible, and timely book that sheds light on the future of sanctions in an increasingly multipolar world.Mathias Fuelling is a doctoral candidate in History at Temple University, working on a political history of Czechoslovakia in the immediate post-WWII years. He can be found on Twitter at

Nov 29, 2022

Joseph McBride, "Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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The director and cowriter of some of the world's most iconic films―including Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., Some Like It Hot, and The Apartment―Billy Wilder earned acclaim as American cinema's greatest social satirist. Though an influential fixture in Hollywood, Wilder always saw himself as an outsider. His worldview was shaped by his background in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and work as a journalist in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power, and his perspective as a Jewish refugee from Nazism lent his films a sense of the peril that could engulf any society.In this critical study, Joseph McBride offers new ways to understand Wilder's work, stretching from his days as a reporter and screenwriter in Europe to his distinguished as well as forgotten films as a Hollywood writer and his celebrated work as a writer-director. In contrast to the widespread view of Wilder as a hardened cynic, McBride reveals him to be a disappointed romantic. Wilder's experiences as an exile led him to mask his sensitivity beneath a veneer of wisecracking that made him a celebrated caustic wit. Amid the satirical barbs and exposure of social hypocrisies, Wilder’s films are marked by intense compassion and a profound understanding of the human condition.Mixing biographical insight with in-depth analysis of films from throughout Wilder's career as a screenwriter and director of comedy and drama, and drawing on McBride's interviews with the director and his collaborators, this book casts new light on the full range of Wilder's rich, complex, and distinctive vision.Joseph McBride is a film historian and professor in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University. His many books include the critical study How Did Lubitsch Do It? (Columbia, 2018) as well as acclaimed biographies of Frank Capra, John Ford, and Steven Spielberg and three books on Orson Welles.Morteza Hajizadeh is a Ph.D. graduate in English from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests are Cultural Studies; Critical Theory; Environmental History; Medieval (Intellectual) History; Gothic Studies; 18thand 19thCentury British Literature.YouTube Channel.Twitter.

Nov 24, 2022

Michael Genovese, "The Modern Presidency: Six Debates That Define the Institution" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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The Modern Presidency: Six Debates That Define the Institution(Columbia University Press, 2022)is a concisely written book that helps makes sense of the most powerful office in America. Michael frames each chapter through a key conundrum about the nature of the presidency. He presents the strongest cases for the sides of every major debate, along with his own view. In addition to providinginsight into the modern American presidency, Michael demonstrates how to think about tough issues with remarkable clarity.Michael A. Genoveseis professor of political science and president of the global policy institute at Loyola Marymount University.Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network (Twitter: @caleb_zakarin).

Nov 22, 2022

Howard Chiang, "Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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As a broad category of identity, “transgender” has given life to a vibrant field of academic research since the 1990s. Yet the Western origins of the field have tended to limit its cross-cultural scope. Howard Chiang proposes a new paradigm for doing transgender history in which geopolitics assumes central importance. Defined as the antidote to transphobia, transtopia challenges a minoritarian view of transgender experience and makes room for the variability of transness on a historical continuum.Against the backdrop of the Sinophone Pacific, Chiang argues that the concept of transgender identity must be rethought beyond a purely Western frame. At the same time, he challenges China-centrism in the study of East Asian gender and sexual configurations. Chiang brings Sinophone studies to bear on trans theory to deconstruct the ways in which sexual normativity and Chinese imperialism have been produced through one another. Grounded in an eclectic range of sources—from the archives of sexology to press reports of intersexuality, films about castration, and records of social activism—this book reorients anti-transphobic inquiry at the crossroads of area studies, medical humanities, and queer theory. Timely and provocative,Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific(Columbia UP, 2021) highlights the urgency of interdisciplinary knowledge in debates over the promise and future of human diversity.Howard Chiang proposes a new paradigm for doing transgender history in which geopolitics assumes central importance. Defined as the antidote to transphobia, transtopia challenges a minoritarian view of transgender experience and makes room for the variability of transness on a historical continuum.Please join Howard in conversation with Thomas Baudinette to learn more about this book's exciting theoretical interventions into the fields of trans studies, gender and sexuality studies, and Sinophone studies.Thomas Baudinetteis Lecturer in International Studies at Macquarie University, Australia.

Nov 14, 2022

Nancy Woloch, "The Insider: A Life of Virginia C. Gildersleeve" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Virginia C. Gildersleeve was the most influential dean of Barnard College, which she led from 1911 to 1947. An organizer of the Seven College Conference, or “Seven Sisters,” she defended women's intellectual abilities and the value of the liberal arts. She also amassed a strong set of foreign policy credentials and, at the peak of her prominence in 1945, served as the sole woman member of the U.S. delegation to the drafting of the United Nations Charter. But her accomplishments are undercut by other factors: she had a reputation for bias against Jewish applicants for admission to Barnard and early in the 1930s voiced an indulgent view of the Nazi regime.In this biography, historian Nancy Woloch explores Gildersleeve’s complicated career in academia and public life. At once a privileged insider, prone to elitism and insularity, and a perpetual outsider to the sexist establishment in whose ranks she sought to ascend, Gildersleeve stands out as richly contradictory. The book examines her initiatives in higher education, her savvy administration, her strategies for gaining influence in academic life, the ways that she acquired and deployed expertise, and her drive to take part in the world of foreign affairs. Woloch draws out her ambivalent stance in the women’s movement, concerned with women’s status but opposed to demands for equal rights. Tracing resonant themes of ambition, competition, and rivalry,The Insider: A Life of Virginia C. Gildersleeve(Columbia UP, 2022)masterfully weaves Gildersleeve’s life into the histories of education, international relations, and feminism.Jane Scimecais Professor of History at Brookdale Community College.

Nov 09, 2022

Ksenia Chizhova, "Kinship Novels of Early Modern Korea: Between Genealogical Time and the Domestic Everyday" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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In the face of a Korean cultural world preoccupied with newness, literary output from the more measured and regulated Choson period (1392-1910) can seem difficult to engage with for readers both inside and outside the country. But as Ksenia Chizhova’sKinship Novels of Early Modern Korea: Between Genealogical Time and the Domestic Everyday(Columbia UP, 2021)shows, a particular genre of late-Chsoson lineage novels reflect not only the staid norms of Confucian patriarchy and heredity, but also a more textured world of unruly emotions, gendered family disputes, calligraphic creativity and scandal simmering under the surface of mundane domestic life.Ed Pulfordis an Anthropologist and Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and indigeneity in northeast Asia.

Nov 01, 2022

Michael Francis Laffan, "Under Empire: Muslim Lives and Loyalties Across the Indian Ocean World, 1775–1945" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Michael Francis Laffan’sUnder Empire:Muslim Lives and Loyalties Across the Indian Ocean World, 1775–1945(Columbia University Press, 2022) traces a tapestry of historical actors, empires, and ideas across the Indian Ocean world. Starting with an imam banished from eastern Indonesia to the Cape of Good Hope in 1780 to build a new Muslim community with a mix of fellow exiles, enslaved people, and even the men tasked with supervising his detention. To nineteenth-century colonial chroniclers who invent the legend of the “loyal Malay” warrior, whose anger can be tamed through the “mildness” of British rule. And a Tunisian-born teacher who arrived in Java from Istanbul in the early twentieth century becomes an enterprising Arabic-language journalist caught between competing nationalisms. Telling these stories and many more, Michael Laffan offers a sweeping exploration of two centuries of interactions among Muslim subjects of empires and future nation-states around the Indian Ocean world.Under Empirefollows interlinked lives and journeys, examining engagements with Western, Islamic, and pan-Asian imperial formations to consider the possibilities for Muslims in an imperial age. It ranges from the dying era of the trading companies in the late eighteenth century through the period of Dutch and British colonial rule up to the rise of nationalist and cosmopolitan movements for social reform in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Laffan emphasizes how Indian Ocean Muslims by turn asserted loyalty to colonial states in pursuit of a measure of religious freedom or looked to the Ottoman Empire or Egypt in search of spiritual unity. Bringing the history of Southeast Asian Islam to African and South Asian shores,Under Empireis an expansive and inventive account of Muslim communal belonging on the world stage.Michael Francis Laffanis professor of history and Paula Chow Chair in International and Regional Studies at Princeton University. He is the author ofIslamic Nationhood and Colonial Indonesia(2003) andThe Makings of Indonesian Islam(2011) as well as the editor ofBelonging Across the Bay of Bengal(2017).Kelvin Ngco-hosted the episode. He is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University, History Department. His research interests broadly lie in the history of imperialism and anti-imperialism in the early-twentieth-century Indian Ocean circuit.Tamara Fernando co-hosted the episode. She is aPast & Presentpostdoctoral fellowat the Institute for Historical Research, London, and an incoming assistant professor in the history of the global south at SUNY Stony Brook University. Her present book project,Of Mollusks and Men, is a history of pearl diving across the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mannar and the Mergui archipelago. She is interested in histories of science, environment, and labour across the Indian Ocean.Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmiis a Ph.D. candidate at PrincetonUniversity, Near Eastern Studies Department. His research focuses on the intersection of law, the occult, and the environment across the western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email atalmaazmi@princeton.eduor on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome

Oct 24, 2022

Matthew W. King, "In the Forest of the Blind: The Eurasian Journey of Faxian's Record of Buddhist Kingdoms" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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What would an “anti-field history” of Buddhist Studies look like? What does the social history of knowledge look like when it both includes and exceeds the West/Nonwest binary, the ethnonational subject, the secular humanist gaze, and the moral narratives and metaphysical content of modernism? Matt W. King explores these critical questions and models innovative approaches in his second monograph,In the Forest of the Blind(Columbia University Press 2022), which uses Faxian’sRecord of Buddhist Kingdomsto expose “ecologies of interpretation” in both nineteenth-century European Orientalist scholarship and Inner Asian monastic cultures.Although Faxian’sThe Record of Buddhist Kingdoms(Foguoji) is a fifth-century CE travelogue about the Chinese Buddhist monk’s journey into Central and South Asia, it later became the subject of Europe’s first study of “Buddhist Asia” in the nineteenth century in Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat’sRelation des Royaumes Bouddhiques, which was then translated from French into Mongolian by the Buryat scholar Dorji Banzarov, and then by the Mongolian monk Zava Damdin Lubsangdamdin from Mongolian into Tibetan.Tracing this fascinating history of trans-Eurasian circulation of knowledge production, King argues that “the circulatory history of Faxian’sRecordis not simply about Buddhist Asia forged in Europe into other places that were not Europe,” rather, the story is organized “by a chain of site-specific and differing orientations to knowledge itself – of treatments for traces of the past, of methodology.”In six creatively organized chapters, King discusses first discusses how Faxian’sRecord“orders time by means of space” in its early Chinese context, and then delves into the history of Orientalist Buddhist Studies showing how Abel-Rémusat’s “poaching” of Qing sources facilitated the disciplining of Buddhist Asia into an object of a transregional science. In Chapters 3 and 5, we see an inversion of the Orientalist gaze and learn about the reception and reinterpretation of Orientalist scholarship among the “Oriental” subjects themselves, who attempted to make sense of Buddhist history, geography, and Asia’s place and time in the world through Faxian’sRecord, via Abel-Rémusat’s translation and scholarship. Here, King shows us that Abel-Rémusat’s science of Buddhist Asia was turned, or rather silenced, intochö-jung(history of the Dharma).Unlike models from world history and transcultural studies that tend to focus on movement, contact, and exchange,In the Forest of the Blindinstead focuses innovatively on connected but place-bound interpreters who hardly knew of each other and “who began anew from the silence of analytical practices staged elsewhere.” As an example of an “anti-field history,” this book, in King’s words, attempts “not to look past the fetish of the subject, but to find the disciplinary implications of centerless, overlapping, and mutually incomprehensible relations of knowledge-power that are coproductive but unbeholden to any specific relation of force (such as colonizer/colonized).” The aim of the book, King explains, is “to imagine new disciplinary futures in Buddhist and Asian studies by implicating the disciplinary present in a more diverse, global, subversive, and dispersed disciplinary past that is more attentive to negative space and absence than to impact or influence.”Ending the book with a complete, annotated English translation of the Tibetan version of Faxian’sRecord,which was translated from a Mongolian translation of the French translation of the Chinese original,In the Forest of the Blindprovides the readers with rich notes about continuities and discrepancies across all four trans-Eurasian versions.Matthew King is an Associate Professor in Transnational Buddhism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

Oct 19, 2022

Arthur Bradley, "Unbearable Life: A Genealogy of Political Erasure" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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In ancient Rome, any citizen who had brought disgrace upon the state could be subject to a judgment believed to be worse than death: damnatio memoriae, condemnation of memory. The Senate would decree that every trace of the citizen's existence be removed from the city as if they had never existed in the first place. Once reserved for individuals, damnatio memoriae in different forms now extends to social classes, racial and ethnic groups, and even entire peoples. In modern times, the condemned go by different names-"enemies of the people;" the "missing," the "disappeared," "ghost" detainees in "black sites"-but they are subject to the same fate of political erasure.Arthur Bradley explores the power to render life unlived from ancient Rome through the War on Terror. He argues that sovereignty is the power to decide what counts as being alive and what does not: to make life "unbearable," unrecognized as having lived or died. In readings of Augustine, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Robespierre, Schmitt, and Benjamin, Bradley asks: What is the "life" of this unbearable life? How does it change and endure across sovereign time and space, from empires to republics, from kings to presidents? To what extent can it be resisted or lived otherwise? A profoundly interdisciplinary and ambitious work, Unbearable Life rethinks sovereignty, biopolitics, and political theology to find the radical potential of a life that neither lives or dies.Morteza Hajizadeh is a Ph.D. graduate in English from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests are Cultural Studies; Critical Theory; Environmental History; Medieval (Intellectual) History; Gothic Studies; 18thand 19thCentury British Literature.YouTube Channel.Twitter.

Oct 18, 2022

Sanjay Krishnan, "V. S. Naipaul's Journeys: From Periphery to Center" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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The author of more than thirty books of fiction and nonfiction and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, V. S. Naipaul (1932–2018) is one of the most acclaimed authors of the twentieth century. He is also one of the most controversial. Before settling in England, Naipaul grew up in Trinidad in an Indian immigrant community, and his depiction of colonized peoples has often been harshly judged by critics as unsympathetic, misguided, racist, and sexist. Yet other readers praise his work as containing uncommonly perceptive historical and psychological insight.InV. S. Naipaul's Journeys: From Periphery to Center(Columbia UP, 2020), Sanjay Krishnan offers new perspectives on the distinctiveness and power of Naipaul’s writing, as well as his shortcomings, trajectory, and complicated legacy. While recognizing the flaws and prejudices that shaped and limited Naipaul’s life and art, this book challenges the binaries that have dominated discussions of his writing. Krishnan reads Naipaul as self-subverting and self-critical, engaged in describing his own implication in what he saw as the malaise of the postcolonial world. Krishnan brings together close readings of major novels with considerations of Naipaul’s work as a united project, as well as nuanced assessments of Naipaul’s political commentary on ethnic nationalism and religious fundamentalism. Krishnan provides a Naipaul for contemporary times, illuminating how his life and work shed light on debates regarding migration, diversity, sectarianism, displacement, and other global challenges.ProfessorSanjay Krishnan is teaches English at Boston University.Gargi Binju is a researcher at the University of Tübingen.

Oct 05, 2022

Michele Moody-Adams, "Making Space for Justice: Social Movements, Collective Imagination, and Political Hope" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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A standard way of proceeding in political philosophy is to start with some form of conceptual inquiry: we first try to figure out what justice, equality, and freedomareand only then we may eventually begin thinking about how these goods might be pursued and achieved. On this approach, although socialactivismis perhaps necessary to counteract the worst kinds of social deprivation, it is alsoprematurefrom the philosophical standpoint: as we still are debating what justiceis, present efforts tobring about justiceare risky at best.In her new book,Making Space for Justice: Social Movements, Collective Imagination, and Political Hope(Columbia University Press, 2022),Michele Moody-Adamstravels a different path. She begins by looking at social movements and argues that they not only canteach usabout what justice is, but that they often play a necessary role in clarifying our normative concepts.

Oct 03, 2022

Rahul Sagar, "To Raise a Fallen People: The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Indian Views on International Politics" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Most people tend to mark the beginning of Indian international relations thought to Nehru, and his self-proclaimed attempt to build a true non-aligned movement and more enlightened international system.But Indian thought didn’t emergesui generisafter Indian independence, as Rahul Sagar notes in his edited anthology,To Raise a Fallen People: The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Indian Views on International Politics(Juggernaut / Columbia University Press: 2022).Rahul collects writings from Indian thinkers on a variety of topics: the threat posed by Russia, the value of free trade, discrimination faced by Indians at home and overseas, showing the diversity of views present in Indian political debate long before 1945.In this interview, Rahul and I talk about these collected writings, and what they tell us about India then and, perhaps India today.Rahul Sagar is Global Network Associate Professor of Political Science at New York University Abu Dhabi. His other books includeSecrets and Leaks: The Dilemma of State Secrecy(Princeton University Press: 2013) andThe Progressive Maharaja: Sir Madhava Rao’s Hints on the Art and Science of Government(Oxford University Press: 2022). He can be followed on Twitter at@rahulsagar.You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays atThe Asian Review of Books, including its review ofTo Raise A Fallen People. Follow on Twitter at@BookReviewsAsia.Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at@nickrigordon.

Sep 29, 2022

Peter Coviello, "Vineland Reread" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Vinelandis hardly anyone’s favorite Thomas Pynchon novel. Marking Pynchon’s return after vanishing for nearly two decades following his epicGravity’s Rainbow, it was initially regarded as slight, a middling curiosity. However, for Peter Coviello, the oft-overlookedVinelandopens up new ways of thinking about Pynchon’s writing and about how we read and how we live in the rough currents of history.InVineland Reread(Columbia UP, 2021), Covielloreads Pynchon’s offbeat novel of sixties insurgents stranded in the Reaganite summer of 1984 as a delirious stoner comedy that is simultaneously a work of heartsick fury and political grief: a portrait of the hard afterlives of failed revolution in a period of stifling reaction. Offering a roving meditation on the uses of criticism and the practice of friendship, the fashioning of publics and counterpublics, the sentence and the police, Coviello argues thatVinelandis among the most abundant and far-sighted of late-century American excursions into novelistic possibility. Departing from visions of Pynchon as the arch-postmodernist, erudite and obscure, he discloses an author far more companionable and humane. In Pynchon’s harmonizing of joyousness and outrage, comedy and sorrow, Coviello finds a model for thinking through our catastrophic present.Interview by Christian B. Long.

Sep 28, 2022

Christopher Nichols and David Milne, "Ideology in U.S. Foreign Relations: New Histories" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Ideology drives American foreign policy in ways seen and unseen. Racialized notions of subjecthood and civilization underlay the political revolution of eighteenth-century white colonizers; neoconservatism, neoliberalism, and unilateralism propelled the post–Cold War United States to unleash catastrophe in the Middle East. Ideologies order and explain the world, project the illusion of controllable outcomes, and often explain success and failure. How does the history of U.S. foreign relations appear differently when viewed through the lens of ideology?Christopher Nichols and David Milne'sIdeology in U.S. Foreign Relations: New Histories(Columbia UP, 2022) explores the ideological landscape of international relations from the colonial era to the present. Contributors examine ideologies developed to justify—or resist—white settler colonialism and free-trade imperialism, and they discuss the role of nationalism in immigration policy. The book reveals new insights on the role of ideas at the intersection of U.S. foreign and domestic policy and politics. It shows how the ideals coded as “civilization,” “freedom,” and “democracy” legitimized U.S. military interventions and enabled foreign leaders to turn American power to their benefit. The book traces the ideological struggle over competing visions of democracy and of American democracy’s place in the world and in history. It highlights sources beyond the realm of traditional diplomatic history, including nonstate actors and historically marginalized voices. Featuring the foremost specialists as well as rising stars, this book offers a foundational statement on the intellectual history of U.S. foreign policy.Grant Golub is an Ernest May Fellow in History and Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and a PhD candidate in U.S. and international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His research examines the politics of American grand strategy during World War II. Follow him on Twitter @ghgolub.

Sep 28, 2022

Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, "The Quantified Scholar: How Research Evaluations Transformed the British Social Sciences" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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How do metrics and quantification shape social science? InThe Quantified Scholar: How Research Evaluations Transformed the British Social Sciences(Columbia UP, 2022),Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, anAssociate Professor in sociologyat theUniversity of California, San Diego, explores this question using a case study of British academia. The book combines a rich array of quantitative and qualitative analysis, demonstrating the transformation of working conditions, institutional contexts, and research areas since the introduction of a metrics and quantification regime during the 1980s. Highlighting the complexity and ambivalences of metrics and quantification, as well as the uneven distribution of positive and negative impacts, the book offers essential reading for every academic, irrespective of the nation or institution in which they work. It also will be important for those seeing to better understand the role of metrics and markets in contemporary life.Dave O'Brienis Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries, at the University of Sheffield.

Sep 26, 2022

John Kieschnick, "Buddhist Historiography in China" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Since the early days of Buddhism in China, monastics and laity alike have expressed a profound concern with the past. In voluminous historical works, they attempted to determine as precisely as possible the dates of events in the Buddha's life, seeking to iron out discrepancies in varying accounts and pinpoint when he delivered which sermons. Buddhist writers chronicled the history of the Dharma in China as well, compiling biographies of eminent monks and nuns and detailing the rise and decline in the religion's fortunes under various rulers. They searched for evidence of karma in the historical record and drew on prophecy to explain the past. John Kieschnick provides an innovative, expansive account of how Chinese Buddhists have sought to understand their history through a Buddhist lens. Exploring a series of themes in mainstream Buddhist historiographical works from the fifth to the twentieth century, he looks not so much for what they reveal about the people and events they describe as for what they tell us about their compilers' understanding of history. Kieschnick examines how Buddhist doctrines influenced the search for the underlying principles driving history, the significance of genealogy in Buddhist writing, and the transformation of Buddhist historiography in the twentieth century. This book casts new light on the intellectual history of Chinese Buddhism and on Buddhists' understanding of the past.As I say in the interview,Buddhist Historiography in China(Columbia University Press, 2022) is one of those that you hope exists out there somewhere, and are delighted when you find out it does!This book is highly recommended not only for those with a keen interest in Buddhism and Chinese history, but also those fascinated by questions of historiography and temporarily more broadly.Lance Pursey is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Aberdeen where they work on the history and archaeology of the Liao dynasty. They are interested in questions of identity, and the complexities of working with different kinds of sources textually and materially.

Sep 16, 2022

Nicholas Gamso, "Art After Liberalism" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Art After Liberalism(Columbia UP, 2022) is an account of creative practice at a moment of converging political and social rifts – a moment that could be described as a crisis of liberalism. The apparent failures of liberal thinking are a starting point for an inquiry into emergent ways of living, acting, and making art in the company of others.What happens when the framework of the nation-state, the figure of the enterprising individual, and the premise of limitless development can no longer be counted on to produce a world worth living in? It is increasingly clear that these commonplace liberal conceptions have failed to improve life in any lasting way. In fact, they conceal fundamental connections to enslavement, colonization, moral debt, and ecological devastation.Nicholas Gamso speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the ills of liberalism and art’s role in deciding on what may come after the impasse.Nicholas Gamsois a writer and academic who works across theory, visual culture, performance, and space/place. He’s an editor atPlaces.Kara Walker,A Subtlety, 2014Manaf Halbouni,Monument, 2017Warren Kanders controversy at the WhitneyTriple Chaserby Forensic ArchitectureMy conversations with and onForensic ArchitectureWolfgang Tillmansand hisanti-Brexit campaignRen HangPierre d’Alancaisezis a contemporary art curator, cultural strategist, researcher. Sometime scientist, financial services professional.

Sep 12, 2022

Jonathan Wyrtzen, "Worldmaking in the Long Great War: How Local and Colonial Struggles Shaped the Modern Middle East" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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It is widely believed that the political problems of the Middle East date back to the era of World War I, when European colonial powers unilaterally imposed artificial borders on the post-Ottoman world in postwar agreements. This book offers a new account of how the Great War unmade and then remade the political order of the region. Ranging from Morocco to Iran and spanning the eve of the Great War into the 1930s, it demonstrates that the modern Middle East was shaped through complex and violent power struggles among local and international actors.Jonathan Wyrtzen shows how the cataclysm of the war opened new possibilities for both European and local actors to reimagine post-Ottoman futures. After the 1914–1918 phase of the war, violent conflicts between competing political visions continued across the region. In these extended struggles, the greater Middle East was reforged. Wyrtzen emphasizes the intersections of local and colonial projects and the entwined processes through which states were made, identities transformed, and boundaries drawn. This book’s vast scope encompasses successful state-building projects such as the Turkish Republic and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as short-lived political units—including the Rif Republic in Morocco, the Sanusi state in eastern Libya, a Greater Syria, and attempted Kurdish states—that nonetheless left traces on the map of the region. Drawing on a wide range of sources,Worldmaking in the Long Great War: How Local and Colonial Struggles Shaped the Modern Middle East(Columbia UP, 2022) retells the origin story of the modern Middle East.Ronay Bakan is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.

Sep 09, 2022

Eva-Maria Muschik, "Building States: The United Nations, Development, and Decolonization, 1945–1965" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Postwar multilateral cooperation is often viewed as an attempt to overcome the limitations of the nation-state system. However, in 1945, when the United Nations was founded, large parts of the world were still under imperial control. Building States investigates how the UN tried to manage the dissolution of European empires in the 1950s and 1960s—and helped transform the practice of international development and the meaning of state sovereignty in the process.InBuilding States: The United Nations, Development, and Decolonization, 1945–1965(Columbia University Press, 2022) Dr. Eva-Maria Muschik argues that the UN played a key role in the global proliferation and reinvention of the nation-state in the postwar era, as newly independent states came to rely on international assistance. Drawing on previously untapped primary sources, she traces how UN personnel—usually in close consultation with Western officials—sought to manage decolonization peacefully through international development assistance.Examining initiatives in Libya, Somaliland, Bolivia, the Congo, and New York, Dr. Muschik shows how the UN pioneered a new understanding and practice of state building, presented as a technical challenge for international experts rather than a political process. UN officials increasingly took on public-policy functions, despite the organization’s mandate not to interfere in the domestic affairs of its member states. These initiatives, Dr. Muschik suggests, had lasting effects on international development practice, peacekeeping, and post-conflict territorial administration. Casting new light on how international organizations became major players in the governance of developing countries,Building Stateshas significant implications for the histories of decolonization, the Cold War, and international development.This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

Aug 16, 2022

Timothy Bewes, "Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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What is the purpose of a novel? What purpose or logic do literary critics assign to a novel? How has the novel changed? What does that mean for its readers and literary criticism in the contemporary era? What does novel share with cinema and what does that mean for contemporary thought?Timothy Bewes provides brilliant insights on these questions in his book,Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age(Columbia UP, 2022).Everywhere today, we are urged to “connect.” Literary critics celebrate a new "honesty" in contemporary fiction or call for a return to "realism." Yet such rhetoric is strikingly reminiscent of earlier theorizations. Two of the most famous injunctions of twentieth-century writing - E. M. Forster's “Only connect . . .” and Fredric Jameson’s “Always historicize!” - helped establish connection as the purpose of the novel and its reconstruction as the task of criticism. But what if connection was not the novel’s modus operandi but the defining aesthetic ideology of our era-and its most monetizable commodity? What kind of thought is left for the novel when all ideas are acceptable as long as they can be fitted to a consumer profile?This book develops a new theory of the novel for the twenty-first century. In the works of writers such as J. M. Coetzee, Rachel Cusk, James Kelman, W. G. Sebald, and Zadie Smith, Timothy Bewes identifies a mode of thought that he calls "free indirect," in which the novel's refusal of prevailing ideologies can be found. It is not situated in a character or a narrator and does not take a subjective or perceptual form. Far from heralding the arrival of a new literary genre, this development represents the rediscovery of a quality that has been largely ignored by theorists: thought at the limits of form. Free Indirect contends that this self-awakening of contemporary fiction represents the most promising solution to the problem of thought today.Iqra Shagufta Cheemais writer, researcher, and chronic procrastinator. When she does write, she writes in the areas of postmodernist postcolonial literatures, transnational feminisms, gender and sexuality studies, and film studies. Check out her latest book chapterQueer Love: He is also Made in Heaven. She can be reached via email atIqraSCheema@gmail.comorTwitter.

Aug 02, 2022

Marc David Baer, "German, Jew, Muslim, Gay: The Life and Times of Hugo Marcus" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Hugo Marcus (1880–1966) was a man of many names and many identities. Born a German Jew, he converted to Islam and took the name Hamid, becoming one of the most prominent Muslims in Germany prior to World War II. He was renamed Israel by the Nazis and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp before escaping to Switzerland. He was a gay man who never called himself gay but fought for homosexual rights and wrote queer fiction under the pen name Hans Alienus during his decades of exile.InGerman, Jew, Muslim, Gay: The Life and Times of Hugo Marcus(Columbia University Press, 2020), Marc David Baer uses Marcus’s life and work to shed new light on a striking range of subjects, including German Jewish history and anti-Semitism, Islam in Europe, Muslim-Jewish relations, and the history of the gay rights struggle. Baer explores how Marcus created a unique synthesis of German, gay, and Muslim identity that positioned Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as an intellectual and spiritual model. Marcus’s life offers a new perspective on sexuality and on competing conceptions of gay identity in the multilayered world of interwar and postwar Europe. His unconventional story reveals new aspects of the interconnected histories of Jewish and Muslim individuals and communities, including Muslim responses to Nazism and Muslim experiences of the Holocaust. An intellectual biography of an exceptional yet little-known figure,German, Jew, Muslim, Gayilluminates the complexities of twentieth-century Europe’s religious, sexual, and cultural politics.Marc David Baer is professor of international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science.Armanc Yildizis a doctoral candidate in Social Anthropology with a secondary field in Studies in Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University. He is also the founder of Academics Write, where he supports scholars in their writing projects as a writing coach and developmental editor.

Jun 24, 2022

Joseph A. Boone, "The Homoerotics of Orientalism" (Columbia UP, 2014)

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One of the largely untold stories of Orientalism is the degree to which the Middle East has been associated with "deviant" male homosexuality by scores of Western travelers, historians, writers, and artists for well over four hundred years. And this story stands to shatter our preconceptions of Orientalism.To illuminate why and how the Islamicate world became the locus for such fantasies and desires, Boone deploys a supple mode of analysis that reveals how the cultural exchanges between Middle East and West have always been reciprocal and often mutual, amatory as well as bellicose. Whether examining European accounts of Istanbul and Egypt as hotbeds of forbidden desire, juxtaposing Ottoman homoerotic genres and their European imitators, or unlocking the homoerotic encoding in Persian miniatures and Orientalist paintings, this remarkable study models an ethics of crosscultural reading that exposes, with nuance and economy, the crucial role played by the homoerotics of Orientalism in shaping the world as we know it today.A contribution to studies in visual culture as well as literary and social history,The Homoerotics of Orientalism(Columbia UP, 2014) draws on primary sources ranging from untranslated Middle Eastern manuscripts and European belles-lettres to miniature paintings and photographic erotica that are presented here for the first time.Joseph Allen Boone is a professor of English and gender studies at the University of Southern California and the author of Libidinal Currents: Sexuality and the Shaping of Modernism and Tradition Counter Tradition: Love and the Form of Fiction. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the Huntington, the Stanford Humanity Center, and the American Council of Learned Societies and has been in residency at the Liguria Center at Bogliasco, the Rockefeller-Bellagio Center, and the Valparaiso Foundation.Morteza Hajizadeh is a Ph.D. graduate in English from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests are Cultural Studies; Critical Theory; Environmental History; Medieval (Intellectual) History; Gothic Studies; 18thand 19thCentury British Literature.YouTube Channel.Twitter.

Jun 22, 2022

Eli Friedman, "The Urbanization of People: The Politics of Development, Labor Markets, and Schooling in the Chinese City" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Amid a vast influx of rural migrants into urban areas, China has allowed cities wide latitude in providing education and other social services. While millions of people have been welcomed into the megacities as a source of cheap labor, local governments have used various tools to limit their access to full citizenship.The Urbanization of People: The Politics of Development, Labor Markets, and Schooling in the Chinese City(Columbia University Press, 2022) byEli D. Friedmanreveals how cities in China have granted public goods to the privileged while condemning poor and working-class migrants to insecurity, constant mobility, and degraded educational opportunities. Using the school as a lens on urban life, Eli Friedman investigates how the state manages flows of people into the city. He demonstrates that urban governments are providing quality public education to those who need it least: school admissions for nonlocals heavily favor families with high levels of economic and cultural capital. Those deemed not useful are left to enroll their children in precarious resource-starved private schools that sometimes are subjected to forced demolition. Over time, these populations are shunted away to smaller locales with inferior public services.Based on extensive ethnographic research and hundreds of in-depth interviews, this interdisciplinary book details the policy framework that produces unequal outcomes as well as providing a fine-grained account of the life experiences of people drawn into the cities as workers but excluded as full citizens.Michael O. Johnston, Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. His most recent research, “The Queen and Her Royal Court: A Content Analysis of Doing Gender at a Tulip Queen Pageant,” was published in Gender Issues Journal. He researches culture, social identity, placemaking, and media representations of social life at festivals and celebrations. He is currently working on a book titled Community Media Representations of Place and Identity at Tug Fest: Reconstructing the Mississippi River. You can learn more about Dr. Johnston on his website, Google Scholar, on Twitter @ProfessorJohnst, or by email at

Jun 20, 2022

Michael Berry, "The Musha Incident: A Reader on the Indigenous Uprising in Colonial Taiwan" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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On October 27, 1930, members of six Taiwanese indigenous groups ambushed the Japanese attendees of an athletic competition at the Musha Elementary School, killing 134. The uprising came as a shock to Japanese colonial authorities, whose response was swift and brutal. Heavy artillery and battalions of troops assaulted the region, spraying a wide area with banned poison gas. The Seediq from Mhebu, who led the uprising, were brought to the brink of genocide.Over the ensuing decades, the Musha Incident became seen as a central moment in Taiwan’s colonial history, and different political regimes and movements have seized on it for various purposes. Under the Japanese, it was used to attest to the “barbarity” of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes; the Nationalist regime cited the uprising as proof of the Taiwanese peoples’ heroism and solidarity with the Chinese in resisting the Japanese; and pro-independence groups in Taiwan have portrayed the Seediq people and their history as exemplars of Taiwan’s “authentic” cultural traditions, which stand apart from that of mainland China.This book brings together leading scholars to provide new perspectives on one of the most traumatic episodes in Taiwan’s modern history and its fraught legacies. Contributors from a variety of disciplines revisit the Musha Incident and its afterlife in history, literature, film, art, and popular culture. They unravel the complexities surrounding it by confronting a history of exploitation, contradictions, and misunderstandings. The book also features conversations with influential cultural figures in Taiwan who have attempted to tell the story of the uprising.Michael Berryis professor of modern Chinese literature and film at the University of California, Los Angeles. His books includeSpeaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers(2005) andA History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film(2008), and he is the translator of several novels, including Chang Ta-chun’sWild Kids: Two Novels About Growing Up(2000) and Wu He’sRemains of Life(2017).Li-Ping Chenis Postdoctoral Scholar and Teaching Fellow in the East Asian Studies Center at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include literary translingualism, diaspora, and nativism in Sinophone, inter-Asian, and transpacific contexts.

Jun 15, 2022

Andie Tucher, "Not Exactly Lying: Fake News and Fake Journalism in American History" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Long before the current preoccupation with “fake news,” American newspapers routinely ran stories that were not quite, strictly speaking, true. Today, a firm boundary between fact and fakery is a hallmark of journalistic practice, yet for many readers and publishers across more than three centuries, this distinction has seemed slippery or even irrelevant. We see this play in pink slime local news sites and in the proliferation of truthersclaiming to do their own research because of a deep distrust in the mainstream media.InNot Exactly Lying: Fake News and Fake Journalism in American History(Columbia UP, 2022)Tucher argues that the creation of outward forms of factuality unleashed new opportunities for falsehood: News doesn’t have to be true as long as it looks true. Propaganda, disinformation, and advocacy—whether in print, on the radio, on television, or online—could be crafted to resemble the real thing. Dressed up in legitimate journalistic conventions, this “fake journalism” became inextricably bound up with right-wing politics, to the point where it has become an essential driver of political polarization.In the book and in this conversation,Tucher explores how American audiences have argued over what’s real and what’s not—and why that matters for democracy.Andie Tucher the H. Gordon Garbedian Professor and the director of the Communications Ph.D. Program at the Columbia Journalism School.Jenna Spinelleis a journalism instructor at Penn State's Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. She's also the communications specialist for the university's McCourtney Institute for Democracy, where she hosts and produces the Democracy Works podcast.

Jun 13, 2022

Rosalind Galt, "Alluring Monsters: The Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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InAlluring Monsters: The Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization(Columbia University Press, 2021), film scholar Rosalind Galt offers a cinematic exploration of the pontianak, a female vampire ghost whose origins stem back to pre-Islamic animist tradition but who is continues to be feared and revered in Malay cultures to this day. In the 1950s, the pontianak haunted the screens of late colonial Singapore in a series of popular films that combined appeals to indigenous animism with the affective force of the horror genre. Although the pontianak would disappear from view following the breakdown of the studio system, she would once again wreak havoc in postcolonial Southeast Asian film and society from the early 2000s onwards. In this book, Galt explores the enduring appeal of the Pontianak, framing her as an ambivalent agent of gender subversion, a precolonial figure of disturbance within postcolonial cultures, and a haunting presence that sheds light on a range of questions—surrounding race, religion, nationalism, and modernity—in Malaysia and Singapore. AsAlluring Monstersdemonstrates, the Pontianak has much to tell us about intersecting issues of decolonisation: femininity and modernity; globalisation and indigeneity; racial identities and nation; Islam and animism; and heritage and environmental destruction.Jules O’Dwyer is Research Fellow in Film Studies and French at the University of Cambridge.

Jun 06, 2022

The Future of the Brain: A Conversation with Daniel Graham

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When people describe the brain they often compare it to a computer. In fact, the metaphor of the brain as a computer has defined the field for decades now. And in many ways, it works – the are many respects in which the brain is like a computer. But there are other aspects of the brain which are not captured by the computer metaphor which is why the neuroscientist Daniel Graham is suggesting another paradigm for understanding the brain. In his bookAn Internet in Your Head: A New Paradigm for How the Brain Works(Columbia UP, 2021),he argues that the brain is a communication system, like the internet.Owen Bennett-Jonesis a freelance journalist and writer. A former BBC correspondent and presenter he has been a resident foreign correspondent in Bucharest, Geneva, Islamabad, Hanoi and Beirut. He is recently wrote a history of the Bhutto dynasty which was published by Yale University Press.

May 31, 2022

Todd McGowan, "Universality and Identity Politics" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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The great political ideas and movements of the modern world were founded on a promise of universal emancipation. But in recent decades, much of the Left has grown suspicious of such aspirations. Critics see the invocation of universality as a form of domination or a way of speaking for others, and have come to favor a politics of particularism—often derided as “identity politics.” Others, both centrists and conservatives, associate universalism with twentieth-century totalitarianism and hold that it is bound to lead to catastrophe.This book develops a new conception of universality that helps us rethink political thought and action. Todd McGowan argues that universals such as equality and freedom are not imposed on us. They emerge from our shared experience of their absence and our struggle to attain them. McGowan reconsiders the history of Nazism and Stalinism and reclaims the universalism of movements fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia. He demonstrates that the divide between Right and Left comes down to particularity versus universality. Despite the accusation of identity politics directed against leftists, every emancipatory political project is fundamentally a universal one—and the real proponents of identity politics are the right wing. Through a wide range of examples in contemporary politics, film, and history,Universality and Identity Politics(Columbia UP, 2020)offers an antidote to the impasses of identity and an inspiring vision of twenty-first-century collective struggle.Todd McGowan is professor of film studies at the University of Vermont. His previous Columbia University Press books areThe Impossible David Lynch(2007),Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets(2016), andEmancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution(2019). He is the coeditor of the Diaeresis series at Northwestern University Press with Slavoj Žižek and Adrian Johnston. He is also cohost of theWhy Theory podcast, which brings continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory together to examine cultural phenomena.

May 19, 2022

Corey Byrnes, "Fixing Landscape: A Techno-Poetic History of China’s Three Gorges" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Corey Byrnes’Fixing Landscape: A Techno-Poetic History of China’s Three Gorges(Columbia University Press, 2019) is a work of considerable historical and disciplinary depth. Byrnes brings together the Tang dynasty poetry of Du Fu, Song travel writing about the same, late Qing cartographic ventures, texts written by Western travelers in the 19thand 20thcenturies, as well as contemporary Chinese film and landscape art (among many other sources) to analyze how the Three Gorges region has been written and rewritten. The books’ title, and its critical intervention, turns on the dual meaning of “fixing.” A “fixed” landscape is both a (constructed) space of cultural coherence and a terrain continuously altered to hew to social, political, economic, and even moral demands. By investigating aesthetic forms that seek to represent and mold the Three Gorges, Byrnes investigates how “landscape ideas act materially in the production of space.” The text is rich with sustained close readings of visual and textual landscape aesthetics; such formal analysis is in turn deftly woven into elegant arguments that speak not only to Chinese studies, but disciplines such as media theory and the environmental humanities. I greatly enjoyed our conversation, and the chance to speak to Corey about a book whose first iteration as a graduate project I witnessed in the early days of my own doctorate, an editing process about which you will hear more in the following episode.Julia Keblinska is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Center for Historical Research at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.

May 19, 2022

Michael G. Flaherty and K. C. Carceral, "The Cage of Days: Time and Temporal Experience in Prison" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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Prisons operate according to the clockwork logic of our criminal justice system: we punish people by making them “serve” time.The Cage of Days: Time and Temporal Experience in Prison(Columbia UP, 2022) combines the perspectives of K. C. Carceral, a formerly incarcerated convict criminologist, and Michael G. Flaherty, a sociologist who studies temporal experience. Drawing from Carceral’s field notes, his interviews with fellow inmates, and convict memoirs, this book reveals what time does to prisoners and what prisoners do to time.Carceral and Flaherty consider the connection between the subjective dimensions of time and the existential circumstances of imprisonment. Convicts find that their experience of time has become deeply distorted by the rhythm and routines of prison and by how authorities ensure that an inmate’s time is under their control. They become obsessed with the passage of time and preoccupied with regaining temporal autonomy, creating elaborate strategies for modifying their perception of time. To escape the feeling that their lives lack forward momentum, prisoners devise distinctive ways to mark the passage of time, but these tactics can backfire by intensifying their awareness of temporality. Providing rich and nuanced analysis grounded in the distinctive voices of diverse prisoners,The Cage of Daysexamines how prisons regulate time and how prisoners resist the temporal regime.Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author based in Cambridge, England. Her book, Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation, and Love (Brevis Press) was published in 2021.

May 12, 2022

Guangtian Ha, "The Sound of Salvation: Voice, Gender, and the Sufi Mediascape in China" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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The Jahriyya Sufis—a primarily Sinophone order of Naqshbandiyya Sufism in northwestern China—inhabit a unique religious soundscape. The hallmark of their spiritual practice is the “loud” (jahr) remembrance of God in liturgical rituals featuring distinctive melodic vocal chants.The first ethnography of this order in any language,The Sound of Salvation: Voice, Gender, and the Sufi Mediascape in China(Columbia UP, 2021) draws on nearly a decade of fieldwork to reveal the intricacies and importance of Jahriyya vocal recitation. Guangtian Ha examines how the use of voice in liturgy helps the Jahriyya to sustain their faith and the ways it has enabled them to endure political persecution over the past two and a half centuries. He situates the Jahriyya in a global multilingual network of Sufis and shows how their characteristic soundscapes result from transcultural interactions among Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Chinese Muslim communities. Ha argues that the resilience of Jahriyya Sufism stems from the diversity and multiplicity of liturgical practice, which he shows to be rooted in notions of Sufi sainthood. He considers the movement of Jahriyya vocal recitation to new media forms and foregrounds the gendered opposition of male voices and female silence that structures the group’s rituals.Spanning diverse disciplines—including anthropology, ethnomusicology, Islamic studies, sound studies, and media studies—and using Arabic, Persian, and Chinese sources,The Sound of Salvationoffers new perspectives on the importance of sound to religious practice, the role of gender in Chinese Islam, and the links connecting Chinese Muslims to the broader Islamic world.

May 09, 2022

Ta-wei Chi, "The Membranes: A Novel" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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It is the late twenty-first century, and Momo is the most celebrated dermal care technician in all of T City. Humanity has migrated to domes at the bottom of the sea to escape devastating climate change. The world is dominated by powerful media conglomerates and runs on exploited cyborg labor. Momo prefers to keep to herself, and anyway she’s too busy for other relationships: her clients include some of the city’s best-known media personalities. But after meeting her estranged mother, she begins to explore her true identity, a journey that leads to questioning the bounds of gender, memory, self, and reality.First published in Taiwan in 1995,The Membranesis a classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese. Chi Ta-wei weaves dystopian tropes—heirloom animals, radiation-proof combat drones, sinister surveillance technologies—into a sensitive portrait of one young woman’s quest for self-understanding. Predicting everything from fitness tracking to social media saturation, this visionary and sublime novel stands out for its queer and trans themes. The Membranes reveals the diversity and originality of contemporary speculative fiction in Chinese, exploring gender and sexuality, technological domination, and regimes of capital, all while applying an unflinching self-reflexivity to the reader’s own role. Ari Larissa Heinrich’s translation brings Chi’s hybrid punk sensibility to all readers interested in books that test the limits of where speculative fiction can go.Chi Ta-wei is a renowned writer and scholar from Taiwan. Chi’s scholarly work focuses on LGBT studies, disability studies, and Sinophone literary history, while his award-winning creative writing ranges from science fiction to queer short stories. He is an associate professor of Taiwanese literature at the National Chengchi University.Ari Larissa Heinrich is a professor of Chinese literature and media at the Australian National University. They are the author ofChinese Surplus: Biopolitical Aesthetics and the Medically Commodified Body(2018) and other books, and the translator of Qiu Miaojin’s novelLast Words from Montmartre(2014).Morteza Hajizadeh is a Ph.D. graduate in English from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests are Cultural Studies; Critical Theory; Environmental History; Medieval (Intellectual) History; Gothic Studies; 18thand 19thCentury British Literature.YouTube Channel.Twitter.

Apr 26, 2022

Tony Shaw and Giora Goodman, "Hollywood and Israel: A History" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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From Frank Sinatra’s early pro-Zionist rallying to Steven Spielberg’s present-day peacemaking, Hollywood has long enjoyed a “special relationship” with Israel. This book offers a groundbreaking account of this relationship, both on and off the screen. Tony Shaw and Giora Goodman investigate the many ways in which Hollywood’s moguls, directors, and actors have supported or challenged Israel for more than seven decades. They explore the complex story of Israel’s relationship with American Jewry and illuminate how media and soft power have shaped the Arab-Israeli conflict.InHollywood and Israel: A History(Columbia University Press, 2022),Shaw and Goodman draw on a vast range of archival sources to demonstrate how show business has played a pivotal role in crafting the U.S.-Israel alliance. They probe the influence of Israeli diplomacy on Hollywood’s output and lobbying activities but also highlight the limits of ideological devotion in high-risk entertainment industries. The book details the political involvement with Israel—and Palestine—of household names such as Eddie Cantor, Kirk Douglas, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Vanessa Redgrave, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert De Niro, and Natalie Portman. It also spotlights the role of key behind-the-scenes players like Dore Schary, Arthur Krim, Arnon Milchan, and Haim Saban.Bringing the story up to the moment, Shaw and Goodman contend that the Hollywood-Israel relationship might now be at a turning point. Shedding new light on the political power that images and celebrity can wield,Hollywood and Israelshows the world’s entertainment capital to be an important player in international affairs.Nathan Abrams is a professor of film at Bangor University in Wales []. His most recent work is on film director Stanley Kubrick [https://oxford.universitypress...]. To discuss and propose a book for interview you can reach him Twitter: @ndabrams

Apr 08, 2022

David Hajdu and John Carey, "A Revolution in Three Acts: The Radical Vaudeville of Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, and Julian Eltinge" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Too often, vaudeville is seen from the perspective of its decline: it is the corny, messy art form that predated the book musical, or that gave us Chaplin, Keaton, and the Marx Brothers. Rarely is it seen as the populistavant-garde form it was at its height. David Hajdu and John Carey's graphic history,A Revolution in Three Acts: The Radical Vaudeville of Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, and Julian Eltinge(Columbia University Press, 2021), corrects this misconception, giving us illustrated biographies of three of the genre's most outré and successful stars. Eva Tanguay challenged contemporary gender roles through her outrageous behavior and sexually suggestive songs. Julian Eltinge also subverted gendered expectations of femininity by performing them to the hilt -- but as a man. And Bert Williams, a black man who performed in black face, tried to use his fame to soften the hard edges of Jim Crow bigotry but eventually became exhausted by the racism he encountered within the entertainment industry. These three performers truly were revolutionary, and their stories should be known to any theatre fan or historian.Andy Boydis a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.

Apr 06, 2022

Ellen Jones, "Literature in Motion: Translating Multilingualism Across the Americas" (Columbia UP, 2022)

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InLiterature in Motion: Translating Multilingualism Across the Americas(Columbia University Press, 2022), Ellen C. Jones centers not just translation butmultilingualismas both an artistic practice and scholarly lens through which to examine the production and reception of literature across the Americas. Focusing on writers who use mixed language forms such as “Spanglish,” “Portunhol,” and “Frenglish,” she shows how these authors and their translators use multilingualism to disrupt binaries and hierarchies in language, gender, and literary production itself.In this episode of NBN, Ellen Jones discusses the complex relationship and perceived tensions between translation and multilingualism, the sociopolitical forces that have shaped the status of multilingualism within the United States, her experience translating Susana Chávez-Silverman’s multilingual writing, multilingualism as queer practice in Giannina Braschi’sYo-Yo Boing!and Tess O’Dwyer’s English-only translation ofYo-Yo Boing!, indigenous multilingualism in Wilson Bueno’sMar Paraguayoand its public life as an art exhibition by Andrew Forster in collaboration with translator Erín Moure, the collaborative joy of editing special issues on multilingualism for the literary journalAsymptote, and more. Tune in to learn about all this and more!Ellen C. Jones is a literary translator, writer, and editor based in Mexico City.Jennifer Gayoung Leeis a writer and data analyst based in New York City.

Mar 29, 2022

Peter B. Lavelle, "The Profits of Nature: Colonial Development and the Quest for Resources in Nineteenth-Century China" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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InThe Profits of Nature: Colonial Development and the Quest for Resources in Nineteenth-Century China(Columbia UP, 2020), Peter Lavelle offers a fascinating narrative history of natural resource development in China during the tumultuous 19th-century. Faced with an unprecedented confluence of natural disasters, wars, rebellions, foreign incursions and social problems, Qing Dynasty officials and elites looked to the natural world as a source of wealth, security and power. Lavelle grounds his narrative in the life and career of Zuo Zongtang (1812-1885), who was an avid student of geography and agricultural sciences, in addition to being one the leading statesmen of his generation. In efforts to rebuild livelihoods, relieve demographic pressures, secure government revenues and expand control over borderland regions, Zuo and his contemporaries harnessed long-standing traditions of knowledge and established new connections between China's borderlands and its eastern regions. What emerges fromThe Profits of Natureis a fresh and richly detailed chapter in late Qing history, written through the nexus of crisis, Qing colonialism and the environment.Zachary Lowell holds an MA in global studies from Humboldt-Universtität zu Berlin.

Mar 22, 2022

Susan Chan Egan and Pai Hsien-yung, "A Companion to the Story of the Stone: A Chapter-By-Chapter Guide" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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A Companion to The Story of the Stone: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide(Columbia UP, 2021),co-authored by Susan Chan Egan and Pai Hsien-yung (Columbia University Press, 2021), is a straightforward guide to the Chinese literary classic,The Story of the Stone(also known asDream of the Red Chamber), that was written at a time when readers had plenty of leisure to sort through the hundreds of characters and half a dozen subplots that weave in and out of the book’s 120 chapters.The Story of the Stoneis widely held to be the greatest work of Chinese literature, beloved by readers ever since it was first published in 1791. The story revolves around the young scion of a mighty clan who, instead of studying for the civil service examinations, frolics with his maidservants and girl cousins. The narrative is cast within a mythic framework in which the protagonist’s rebellion against Confucian strictures is guided by a Buddhist monk and a Taoist priest. Embedded in the novel is a biting critique of imperial China’s political and social system.Each chapter ofA Companion to The Story of the Stone: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guidesummarizes and comments on each chapter of the novel. The companion provides English-speaking readers—whether they are simply dipping into this novel or intent on a deep analysis of this masterpiece—with the cultural context to enjoy the story and understand its world. The book is keyed to David Hawkes and John Minford’s English translation ofThe Story of the Stoneand includes an index that gives the original Chinese names and terms.Susan Chan Eganis an independent scholar. She is the author ofA Latterday Confucian: Reminiscences of William Hung (1893–1980)(1987), coauthor ofA Pragmatist and His Free Spirit: The Half-Century Romance of Hu Shi and Edith Clifford Williams(2009), and cotranslator of Wang Anyi’sThe Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai(Columbia, 2008), among other books.Pai Hsien-yung(Bai Xianyong) is an acclaimed fiction writer and a professor emeritus of East Asian languages and cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books includeTaipei People(1971) andCrystal Boys(1983). He has taughtThe Story of the Stonefor decades and is the author of a popular three-volume guide in Chinese on which this book is based.Linshan Jiangis Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research interests are modern and contemporary literature, film, and popular culture in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan; trauma and memory studies; gender and sexuality studies; queer studies; as well as comparative literature and translation studies.

Mar 21, 2022

Poulomi Saha, "An Empire of Touch: Women's Political Labor and the Fabrication of East Bengal" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Can subalterns speak? Now an iconic question from a prominent postcolonial studies scholar Gayatri Spivak, the question interrogates the in-built assumption about the locatable agency in an individual. Postcolonial studies have grappled with the question of legibility and limitations of archives. In her pathbreaking work,An Empire of Touch: Women's Political Labor and the Fabrication of East Bengal(Columbia UP, 2019), Poulomi Saha disrupts the binaries of nation/individual and agency/silence by arguing that women’s labor is a political one that articulate their relational aspirations through the tactile. In this contemporary moment with neoliberalism’s co-optation of ethnonationalism and an increasing disciplinary turn towards ethnicity as culture, Saha emphasizes the urgency of postcolonialism to prioritize political project in literary critiques and understand the connections between global capital and intimate, material life of women’s labor.The book is divided into three parts: “Reading the Body Politic,” “The Fetish of Nationalism,” and “International Basket Case.” In the first section, Saha provides a theoretical framework through her reading of Pritilata Waddedar’s body to disrupt the individualistic idea of agency and signify gendered refusal. In the second part, Saha brings Tagore’s understanding of fetish to rethink non-sovereignty as not a loss but rather an enthrallment that allowed women to express their attachment todesh(home). In the third part, Saha problematizes the power of a name by analyzing the production of discourses aroundbirangona(war heroines)and connect the devaluation of clothes to the larger history of development where women’s labor simultaneously turned into an object of empowerment and erasure. Saha’s rich and insightful book will be an important read for scholars who are interested in development, history of labor, and feminist theories.Poulomi Saha is associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. Her first book,An Empire of Touch,was awarded the 2020 Harry Levin Prize for Outstanding First Book from the American Comparative Literature Association. Da In Ann Choi is a PhD student at UCLA in the Gender Studies department. Her research interests include care labor and migration, reproductive justice, social movement, citizenship theory, and critical empire studies. She can be reached at

Mar 11, 2022

Joseph L. Graves and Alan H. Goodman, "Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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The science on race is clear. Common categories like “Black,” “white,” and “Asian” do not represent genetic differences among groups. But if race is a pernicious fiction according to natural science, it is all too significant in the day-to-day lives of racialized people across the globe. Inequities in health, wealth, and an array of other life outcomes cannot be explained without referring to “race”—but their true source isracism. What do we need to know about the pseudoscience of race in order to fight racism and fulfill human potential?InRacism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions(Columbia UP, 2021), two distinguished scientists tackle common misconceptions about race, human biology, and racism. Using an accessible question-and-answer format, Joseph L. Graves Jr. and Alan H. Goodman explain the differences between social and biological notions of race. Although there are many meaningful human genetic variations, they do not map onto socially constructed racial categories. Drawing on evidence from both natural and social science, Graves and Goodman dismantle the malignant myth of gene-based racial difference. They demonstrate that the ideology of racism created races and show why the inequalities ascribed to race are in fact caused by racism.Graves and Goodman provide persuasive and timely answers to key questions about race and racism for a moment when people of all backgrounds are striving for social justice.Racism, Not Raceshows readers why antiracist principles are both just and backed by sound science.Adam Bobeck is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Leipzig. His PhD is entitled “Object-Oriented Azadari: Shi’i Muslim Rituals and Ontology”.For more about his work, see

Mar 10, 2022

Edward Tyerman, "Internationalist Aesthetics: China and Early Soviet Culture" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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I am joined for my interview with Edward Tyerman by Ed Pulford, another host on our channel. Together, we discuss Edward’s new book,Internationalist Aesthetics: China and Early Soviet Culture(Columbia University Press, 2021).Internationalist Aestheticsexamines how knowledge of China is produced in the early Soviet period through the aesthetic idiom of internationalism. Tyerman shows how artist intellectuals, especially Sergei Tretyakov, the book’s protagonist, make China affectively sensible for Russian audiences. Each chapter takes on a separate medium: travelogue, stage, film, and “bio-narrative,” to think through how Soviet aesthetes negotiate old and new forms to demystify China, a nation that even in the revolutionary environment of 1920s Russia, was still understood through recourse to orientalist tropes. The book ultimately spans a very short period, a slither of the 1920s, a moment of opportunity before the Guomindang’s persecution of the communists in China in 1927 and a moment of aesthetic possibility before the purges of the 1930s in Russia. Join us in our conversation about how a certain mode of “Chinese studies” emerges in the media aesthetics of this turbulent period.Julia Keblinska is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Center for Historical Research at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.

Mar 08, 2022

Aubrey Clayton, "Bernoulli's Fallacy: Statistical Illogic and the Crisis of Modern Science" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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There is a logical flaw in the statistical methods used across experimental science. This fault is not a minor academic quibble: it underlies a reproducibility crisis now threatening entire disciplines. In an increasingly statistics-reliant society, this same deeply rooted error shapes decisions in medicine, law, and public policy with profound consequences. The foundation of the problem is a misunderstanding of probability and its role in making inferences from observations.Aubrey Clayton traces the history of how statistics went astray, beginning with the groundbreaking work of the seventeenth-century mathematician Jacob Bernoulli and winding through gambling, astronomy, and genetics. Clayton recounts the feuds among rival schools of statistics, exploring the surprisingly human problems that gave rise to the discipline and the all-too-human shortcomings that derailed it. He highlights how influential nineteenth- and twentieth-century figures developed a statistical methodology they claimed was purely objective in order to silence critics of their political agendas, including eugenics.Clayton provides a clear account of the mathematics and logic of probability, conveying complex concepts accessibly for readers interested in the statistical methods that frame our understanding of the world. He contends that we need to take a Bayesian approach--that is, to incorporate prior knowledge when reasoning with incomplete information--in order to resolve the crisis. Ranging across math, philosophy, and culture,Bernoulli's Fallacy: Statistical Illogic and the Crisis of Modern Science(Columbia UP, 2021) explains why something has gone wrong with how we use data--and how to fix it.Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland.

Feb 10, 2022

Michele Alacevich, "Albert O. Hirschman: An Intellectual Biography" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Despite the virtually unanimous agreement about his importance, describing Hirschman’s legacy and influence on others is not an easy task— arguably because he was indeed in a league of his own. His search for fresh perspectives was so eclectic that, as many have noted, no recognizable school has ever developed in his footsteps …– Michele Alacevich,Albert O. Hirschman – An Intellectual Biography(2021)These thoughts from the concluding chapter of Michele Alacevich’s latest bookAlbert O. Hirschman:An Intellectual Biography(Columbia University Press, 2021), speaks to the remarkable life and scholarship as analyzed and described in the professor’s concise and stimulating book of 330 pages including notes and index. In this episode Professor Alacevich explains the significance and ongoing relevance of the interesting work of the political economist and social scientist Hirschman who was a product of the Weimar Republic, and who later became a founding member of The Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. As many listeners know, Hirschman authored books such asExit, Voice, and Loyalty,The Passions and The Interests, andThe Rhetoric of Reaction– just a few of his more recognizable titles as Michele discusses many others in this interview.For instance, Professor Alacevich describes the 1977,The Passions and The Interests,as a history of ideas wherein Hirschman tried to make sense of political developments of the time in Latin America by examining the link between economic growth and dictatorship. He also talks about the 1967,Development Projects Observed, as insightful analysis that the original publisher reissued in 2015 with a Foreword by Cass Sunstein and an Afterword written by Michele even though he modestly does not mention his own contribution in this conversation.This new book examines the ideas and scholarly debate surrounding Hirschman’s scholarly work and is a nice complement to the 2013,The Worldly Philosopher, a Hirschman biography by Jeremy Adelman. Professor Alacevich shares many interesting insights about the relevance of Hirschman’s approach today – from how the problem of democracy was a unifying theme in his scholarship including the more formal economic analysis, as well as his emphasis on how ‘doubt’ must be at the heart of a working democracy. Michele’s thoughtful analysis of Hirschman’s important ideas and works is well-worth a listen as is a reading of his engaging intellectual biography.Michele Alacevich is a professor of Economic History and Thought at the University of Bologna, and is currently working on a history of development economics in relation to the three questions of economic growth, democracy, and environmental sustainability.Keith Krueger lectures at the SILC Business School in Shanghai University.

Feb 09, 2022

Sunny Xiang, "Tonal Intelligence: The Aesthetics of Asian Inscrutability During the Long Cold War" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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InTonal Intelligence:The Aesthetics of Asian Inscrutability During the Long Cold War(Columbia University Press, 2020), Sunny Xiang reads the archives of US intelligence agencies alongside Asian American literature to develop a method of reading fortonerather than content, and shows us how doing so allows us to rethink both the nature of war itself and the construction of race during the long cold war.On this episode of New Books in Asian American Studies, SunnyXiang chats about militarization and war as a way of life, race and rumor in Kazuo Ishiguro's work,Induk Pahk and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s differing approaches to incorporating the story of Korean independence activist Yu Guan Soon into their work, Ha Jin as an entryway to thinking about the boundaries between Asian American studies and Asian studies approaches to Asian/American literature, her hope for a multilingual future for Asian American studies, the limits of representation as a political goal, the nature of Asian American student groups on college campuses, and howTonal Intelligencehelps us understand (and respond to!) someGoodreads readers’ disappointment that Eugene Lim’sDear Cyborgsisn’t the superhero novel they expected. Listen for more!Sunny Xiang isan associate professorin the English Department at Yale University.Jennifer Gayoung Leeis a writer and data analyst based in New York City.

Jan 31, 2022

Peter Krause and Ora Szekely, "Stories from the Field: A Guide to Navigating Fieldwork in Political Science" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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How do researchers navigate the complexities of the field?InStories from the Field: A Guide to Navigating Fieldwork in Political Science(Columbia UP, 2020),political scientists from a diverse range of biographical and academic backgrounds describe their research experiences in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, ranging from archival work to interviews with combatants. In sharing their stories, the book's forty-four contributors provide accessible illustrations of methods like conducting surveys and interviews, practical questions of health and safety, and general principles such as the importance of flexibility, creativity, and interpersonal connections.Peter Krause is Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston College and Research Affiliate with the MIT Security Studies Program. He is the author ofRebel Power: Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win(Cornell University Press, 2017), co-editor with Kelly Greenhill ofCoercion: The Power to Hurt in International Politics(Oxford University Press, 2018), and co-editor with Ora Szekely ofStories from the Field: An Unorthodox Guide to Fieldwork(New York: Columbia University Press, 2020). His research focuses on Middle East politics, terrorism and political violence, and nationalism and revolution. His current book project analyzes which rebel groups take power 'the day after' regime change.Ora Szekely is Associate Professor of Political Science at Clark University. Her research focuses on the politics, behavior, and ideologies of armed groups in the Middle East, including ideologies of gender and the relationship between propaganda and violence against civilians. In addition to co-editingStories from the Field: A Guide to Navigating Fieldwork in Political Science(2020), she is the co-author ofInsurgent Women(2019), and the author ofThe Politics of Militant Group Survival in the Middle East (2016)and a forthcoming book about the civil war in Syria. Her research is based on fieldwork across the Middle East.Aditya Srinivasan assisted with this episode.Lamis Abdelaatyis an assistant professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She is the author ofDiscrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees(Oxford University Press, 2021). Email her comments atlabdelaa@syr.eduor tweet to@LAbdelaaty.

Jan 24, 2022

Dominique Townsend, "A Buddhist Sensibility: Aesthetic Education at Tibet's Mindröling Monastery" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Founded in 1676 during a cosmopolitan early modern period, Mindröling monastery became a key site for Buddhist education and a Tibetan civilizational center. Its founders sought to systematize and institutionalize a worldview rooted in Buddhist philosophy, engaging with contemporaries from across Tibetan Buddhist schools while crystallizing what it meant to be part of their own Nyingma school. At the monastery, ritual performance, meditation, renunciation, and training in the skills of a bureaucrat or member of the literati went hand in hand. Studying at Mindröling entailed training the senses and cultivating the objects of the senses through poetry, ritual music, monastic dance, visual arts, and incense production, as well as medicine and astrology.Dominique Townsend investigates the ritual, artistic, and cultural practices inculcated at Mindröling to demonstrate how early modern Tibetans integrated Buddhist and worldly activities through training in aesthetics. Considering laypeople as well as monastics and women as well as men,A Buddhist Sensibility: Aesthetic Education at Tibet's Mindröling Monastery(Columbia UP, 2021)sheds new light on the forms of knowledge valued in early modern Tibetan societies, especially among the ruling classes. Townsend traces how tastes, values, and sensibilities were cultivated and spread, showing what it meant for a person, lay or monastic, to be deemed well educated. Combining historical and literary analysis with fieldwork in Tibetan Buddhist communities, this book reveals how monastic institutions work as centers of cultural production beyond the boundaries of what is conventionally deemed Buddhist.Jue Liangis scholar of Buddhism in general, and Tibetan Buddhism in particular. My research examines women in Tibetan Buddhist communities past and present using a combination of textual and ethnographical studies.

Jan 03, 2022

David Sulzer, "Music, Math, and Mind: The Physics and Neuroscience of Music" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Why does a clarinet play at lower pitches than a flute? What does it mean for sounds to be in or out of tune? How are emotions carried by music? Do other animals perceive sound like we do? How might a musician use math to come up with new ideas?This book offers a lively exploration of the mathematics, physics, and neuroscience that underlie music in a way that readers without scientific background can follow. David Sulzer, also known in the musical world as Dave Soldier, explains why the perception of music encompasses the physics of sound, the functions of the ear and deep-brain auditory pathways, and the physiology of emotion. He delves into topics such as the math by which musical scales, rhythms, tuning, and harmonies are derived, from the days of Pythagoras to technological manipulation of sound waves. Sulzer ranges from styles from around the world to canonical composers to hip-hop, the history of experimental music, and animal sound by songbirds, cetaceans, bats, and insects. He makes accessible a vast range of material, helping readers discover the universal principles behind the music they find meaningful.Written for musicians and music lovers with any level of science and math proficiency, including none,Music, Math, and Mind: The Physics and Neuroscience of Music(Columbia UP, 2021) demystifies how music works while testifying to its beauty and wonder.Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. To discuss and propose the book for an interview you can reach her

Dec 30, 2021

Eric Hayot, "Humanist Reason: A History, an Argument, a Plan" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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InHumanist Reason: A History, an Argument, a Plan(Columbia UP, 2021),Eric Hayot develops the concept of “humanist reason” to understand the nature and purpose of humanist intellectual work and lays out a serious of principles that undergird this core idea. Rather than appealing to familiar ethical or moral rationales for the importance of the humanities,Humanist Reasonlays out a new vision that moves beyond traditional disciplines to demonstrate what the humanities can tell us about our world.Eric Hayot is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at Penn State University, where he is also Director of the Center for Humanities and Information. His books includeChinese Dreams: Pound, Brecht, Tel quell(U of Michigan P),The Hypothetical Mandarin: Sympathy, Modernity, and Chinese Pain(Oxford UP),On Literary Worlds(Oxford UP),The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities(Columbia UP), and, most recently,Humanist Reason(Columbia UP), published in 2021. He edited and co-edited numerous books and in 2018 he published with Lea Pao a translation of Peter Janich’sWhat is Information?(U of Minnesota P).Bryant Scott is a professor in the Liberal Arts department at Texas A & M University at Qatar.

Dec 03, 2021

Álvaro Santana-Acuña, "Ascent to Glory: How One Hundred Years of Solitude Was Written and Became a Global Classic" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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One Hundred Years of Solitudeis a revered classic today fifty five years after it was first published in 1967. Today I talked to Alvaro Santana Acuña a sociologist and historian who describes the ingredients that went into manufacturing the success of this book. InAscent to Glory: How One Hundred Years of Solitude Was Written and Became a Global Classic(Columbia UP, 2020), Alvaro Santana-Acuña first deconstructs the “fake news” surrounding García Márquez and then describes the cultural brokers, the literary cognoscenti of the Boom, the gatekeepers, the Spanish publishing industry and the Casa de las Americas who made theOne Hundred Years of Solitudea bestseller across generations. The multitudinous references in this book are part of the archives that Alvaro Santana-Acuña has curated for an exhibition “Gabriel Garcia Márquez – The Making of a Global Writer” by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin which will run till January 2022.Minni Sawhneyis a professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Delhi

Dec 03, 2021

Amy Fried and Douglas B. Harris, "At War with Government: How Conservatives Weaponized Distrust from Goldwater to Trump" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Political Scientists Amy Fried (University of Maine) and Douglas B. Harris (Loyola University Maryland) have a new book,At War with Government: How Conservatives Weaponized Distrust from Goldwater to Trump(Columbia UP, 2021), that looks at the question of distrust within American politics and how that distrust has moved from healthy skepticism to a weapon to be used to divide citizens and undermine the entire governmental system in the United States. Part of this is an historical examination, starting with the basic skepticism about power that was present in North America even before the Founding period. But the thrust of the book traces this distrust of government over the past half century, and highlights how it has become more overt, and more of a rhetorical tool used, in particular, by members of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.Fried and Harris explain how this narrative of distrust in government has been used as an organizing umbrella for the contemporary Republican Party, as the strategic glue that holds together social conservatives, economic conservatives and libertarians, and national security hawks. This is the same organizing umbrella that was also implemented by politicians, especially in the use of the Southern Strategy, to pull the southern states into the Republican coalition over the past half century. This weaponization of distrust has been used, as the authors, note, in four different areas that can be seen again and again across historical periods during the last fifty years; these four areas include building organization, winning elections, securing policy gains, and moving functional power into the political institutions when they are controlled by the GOP. This use of distrust has also been woven into the conservative political identity, pulling in racial components and advocacy against the government itself to continue to build this political coalition. Fried and Harris make use of a lot of different archival sources to examine and explain how conservative elites have used this distrust strategically to help turn out voters, build the political organization, and construct a rhetorical narrative that indicts the American political system.At War with Government: How Conservatives Weaponized Distrust from Goldwater to Trumphelps to explain not only the rise of Donald Trump, but also the asymmetrical polarization in which voters now find themselves in the U.S. system, and how Trump and those who preceded him capitalized on American distrust of and skepticism towards government.Lilly J. Gorenis professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book,Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics(University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor ofMad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America(Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). Email her comments at or tweet to@gorenlj.

Dec 02, 2021

Eva von Redecker, "Praxis and Revolution: A Theory of Social Transformation" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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The concept of revolution marks the ultimate horizon of modern politics. It is instantiated by sites of both hope and horror. Within progressive thought, “revolution” often perpetuates entrenched philosophical problems: a teleological philosophy of history, economic reductionism, and normative paternalism. At a time of resurgent uprisings, how can revolution be re-conceptualized to grasp the dynamics of social transformation and disentangle revolutionary practice from authoritarian usurpation?Eva von Redecker reconsiders critical theory’s understanding of radical change in order to offer a bold new account of how revolution occurs. She argues that revolutions are not singular events but extended processes: beginning from the interstices of society, they succeed by gradually re-articulating social structures toward a new paradigm. Developing a theoretical account of social transformation,Praxis and Revolutionincorporates a wide range of insights, from the Frankfurt School to queer theory and intersectionality. Its revised materialism furnishes prefigurative politics with their social conditions and performative critique with its collective force.Von Redecker revisits the French Revolution to show how change arises from struggle in everyday social practice. She illustrates the argument through rich literary examples—a ménage à trois inside a prison, a radical knitting circle, a queer affinity group, and petitioners pleading with the executioner—that forge a feminist, open-ended model of revolution.Praxis and Revolution: A Theory of Social Transformation(Columbia UP, 2021) urges readers not only to understand revolutions differently but also to situate them elsewhere: in collective contexts that aim to storm manifold Bastilles—but from within.Eva von Redecker is a German critical theorist and public philosopher, currently based at the University of Verona as the recipient of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship. She was previously a research associate at Humboldt University of Berlin and she has also taught at Goethe University Frankfurt and the New School.Lucy Duggan is a writer and translator. She is the author of the novelTendrils(2014).Fulya Pinar is a PhD candidate in the department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. Her work focuses on alternative economies, refugee care, and migration in Turkey.

Nov 29, 2021

Nicole Willock, "Lineages of the Literary: Tibetan Buddhist Polymaths of Socialist China" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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What happened to the Buddhist scholars who stayed behind in Tibet and China after the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans fled from the People’s Liberation Army in 1959?InLineages of the Literary: Tibetan Buddhist Polymaths of Socialist China(Columbia University Press 2021), Nicole Willock discovers through the stories and writings of the “Three Polymaths” (Tib.mkhas pa mi gsum) of socialist China that contrary to common assumptions, Tibetan Buddhist leaders active in the People’s Republic of China were not mere political “collaborators.” Willocks reveals in the book that the three Buddhist polymaths, Tséten Zhabdrung (1910 – 1985), Mugé Samten (1914 – 1993), and Dungkar Rinpoché (1927 – 1997) alternately safeguarded, taught, adapted, celebrated, and discarded religious epistemes, practices, and institutions in a post-Cultural Revolution PRC.The title of the “Three Polymaths” is often used to refer to Mar Shakyamuni, Yo Géjung, and Tsang Rabsel, who according to Tibetan Buddhist historiography, preserved the Buddhist monastic lineage from the tyrannical king Langdarma (d. 842) one millennium ago. Willock points out that since the early 1980s, the title of the “Three Polymaths” has been passed on to the twentieth-century Buddhist scholars Tséten Zhabdrung, Mugé Samten, and Dungkar Rinpoché, who became not only heroes to many Tibetans in China but also cultural icons symbolizing both the survival and the continuance of Tibetan culture in the post-Mao era.InLineages of the Literary,Willock explores the Three Polymaths’ writings from a wide range of literary genres, including more traditional ones such as autobiographical life writing (Tib.byung ba brjod pa) and Buddhist poetry, as well as modern innovations such as encyclopedia entries (Tib.tshig mdzod) and academic essays (Tib.dpyad rtsom). Willock argues that the writings of the Three Polymaths highlight the way they adapt and disregard religious epistemes for the purposes of revitalizing Tibetan culture in their own fashion.Interestingly, the Three Polymaths’ writings do not engage explicitly with the social-political contexts of their lives. What is revealed instead, Willock argues, is how these three Tibetan Buddhist leaders acted as moral agents who strategically deployed Buddhist epistemes to impart varying visions of Tibetan culture in the post-Mao era. Taking Saba Mahmood’s idea of “moral agency,” Willock finds that “[T]he culturally specific disciplines and religious epistemes that [the Three Polymaths] accessed in their unique subject positions as male Géluk Buddhist elites allowed them, unlike many other leaders in post-Mao China, to cross state-imposed divides between secular and religious institutions that might otherwise have been impossible to bridge.”Daigengna Duoer is a Ph.D. student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation is a digital humanities project mapping transnational and transregional Buddhist networks connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and the Japanese Empire.

Nov 17, 2021

Robert Brooks, "Artificial Intimacy: Virtual Friends, Digital Lovers, and Algorithmic Matchmakers" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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What happens when the human brain, which evolved over eons, collides with twenty-first-century technology? Machines can now push psychological buttons, stimulating and sometimes exploiting the ways people make friends, gossip with neighbors, and grow intimate with lovers. Sex robots present the humanoid face of this technological revolution―yet although it is easy to gawk at their uncanniness, more familiar technologies based in artificial intelligence and virtual reality are insinuating themselves into human interactions. Digital lovers, virtual friends, and algorithmic matchmakers help us manage our feelings in a world of cognitive overload. Will these machines, fueled by masses of user data and powered by algorithms that learn all the time, transform the quality of human life?Robert Brooks,Artificial Intimacy: Virtual Friends, Digital Lovers, and Algorithmic Matchmakers(Columbia UP, 2021) offers an innovative perspective on the possibilities of the present and near future. The evolutionary biologist Rob Brooks explores the latest research on intimacy and desire to consider the interaction of new technologies and fundamental human behaviors. He details how existing artificial intelligences can already learn and exploit human social needs―and are getting better at what they do. Brooks combines an understanding of core human traits from evolutionary biology with analysis of how cultural, economic, and technological contexts shape the ways people express them. Beyond the technology, he asks what the implications of artificial intimacy will be for how we understand ourselves.Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. To discuss and propose the book for an interview you can reach her

Nov 15, 2021

Machiko Ōgimachi, "In the Shelter of the Pine: A Memoir of Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu and Tokugawa Japan" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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In the early eighteenth century, the noblewoman Ōgimachi Machiko composed a memoir of Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, the powerful samurai for whom she had served as a concubine for twenty years. Machiko assisted Yoshiyasu in his ascent to the rank of chief adjutant to the Tokugawa shogun. She kept him in good graces with the imperial court, enabled him to study poetry with aristocratic teachers and have his compositions read by the retired emperor, and gave birth to two of his sons. Writing after Yoshiyasu’s retirement, she recalled it all—from the glittering formal visits of the shogun and his entourage to the passage of the seasons as seen from her apartments in the Yanagisawa mansion.In the Shelter of the Pineis the most significant work of literature by a woman of Japan’s early modern era. Featuring Machiko’s keen eye for detail, strong narrative voice, and polished prose studded with allusions to Chinese and Japanese classics, this memoir sheds light on everything from the social world of the Tokugawa elite to the role of literature in women’s lives. Machiko modeled her story onThe Tale of Genji, illustrating how the eleventh-century classic continued to inspire its female readers and provide them with the means to make sense of their experiences. Elegant, poetic, and revealing,In the Shelter of the Pineis a vivid portrait of a distant world and a vital addition to the canon of Japanese literature available in English.Jingyi Liis a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.

Nov 04, 2021

Robert Hellyer, "Green with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America's Tea Cups" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Robert Hellyer’sGreen with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America's Tea Cups(Columbia UP, 2021) is a tale of American and Japanese teaways, skillfully weaving together stories of Midwesterners drinking green tea (with milk and sugar, to be sure), the recent and complex origins of Japan's love of now-ubiquitoussencha, Ceylon tea merchants exploiting American racism, Chinese tea production expertise, and the author’s own family history in the Japan-America tea trade going back to the nineteenth century. Transnational histories and commodities histories are notoriously delicate dances, but Hellyer has produced a very readable and eye-opening look at the modern history and culture of tea.Green with Milk and Sugarwill be of interest to a diverse group of historians—scholars of North America, East Asia, commerce and trade, food, etc.—but also to a general audience who will be pulled in by the author’s personal connections as well as the delightfully jargon-free narrative.Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese language and history in the University of Bergen's Department of Foreign Languages.

Oct 15, 2021

Elizabeth Lacouture, "Dwelling in the World: Family, House, and Home in Tianjin, China, 1860-1960" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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To call the hundred years that straddle the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries as a radical period of change for China is an understatement, moving from the Imperial period, through the Republican era, and ending in the rise of the PRC.Dr. Elizabeth LaCouture’sDwelling in the World: Family, House, and Home in Tianjin, China, 1860–1960, published by Columbia University Pres explores this history by looking at Tianjin: a city divided into nine foreign concessions, and perhaps, at the time, the world’s most cosmopolitan—and colonized—cities. With a focus on family and the home, Dr. Lacouture explores the interplay between these massive political changes and the lives of ordinary people.In this interview, Dr LaCouture.and I talk about Tianjin, changing Chinese politics, and how that affected views of gender, the family, and the home. We also investigate the thorny distinction between modernization and Westernization.Dr. Elizabeth LaCouture is the founding director of the Gender Studies Program at the University of Hong Kong, where she is an assistant professor of gender studies and history.You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays atThe Asian Review of Books, including its review ofDwelling in the World. Follow onFacebookor on Twitter at@BookReviewsAsia.Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at@nickrigordon.

Oct 14, 2021

Michael Yudell, "Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the Twentieth Century" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Race, while drawn from the visual cues of human diversity, is an idea with a measurable past, an identifiable present, and an uncertain future. The concept of race has been at the center of both triumphs and tragedies in American history and has had a profound effect on the human experience.Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the Twentieth Century(Columbia UP, 2018)revisits the origins of commonly held beliefs about the scientific nature of racial differences, examines the roots of the modern idea of race, and explains why race continues to generate controversy as a tool of classification even in our genomic age. Surveying the work of some of the twentieth century's most notable scientists,Race Unmaskedreveals how genetics and related biological disciplines formed and preserved ideas of race and, at times, racism. A gripping history of science and scientists,Race Unmaskedelucidates the limitations of a racial worldview and throws the contours of our current and evolving understanding of human diversity into sharp relief.About the author: Michael Yudell is a public health ethicist, award-winning historian, and professor and Vice Dean at the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University. He is the co-editor of the Columbia University Press Series Race, Inequality, and Health and the author of several books, including Race Unmasked, for which he won the Arthur J. Viseltear Award from the American Public Health Association.About the interviewer: Hussein Mohsen is a PhD/MA Candidate in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics/History of Science and Medicine at Yale University. His research interests include machine learning, cancer genomics, and the history of human genetics. For more about his work, visit

Oct 08, 2021

Paul Milgrom, "Discovering Prices: Auction Design in Markets with Complex Constraints" (Columbia UP, 2017)

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Neoclassical economic theory shows that under the right conditions, prices alone can guide markets to efficient outcomes. But what if it it’s hard to find the right price? In many important markets, a buyer’s willingness to pay for one good (say, the right to use a certain part of the radio spectrum range in San Francisco) will depend on the price of another complementary good (the right to use that same spectrum in Los Angeles). The number of possible combinations can rapidly become incalculably complex. Such complex markets require new collaborations between economists and computer scientists to create designs that are both incentive compatible and computationally tractable.InDiscovering Prices: Auction Design in Markets with Complex Constraints(Columbia UP, 2017), 2020 Economics Nobel Memorial Prize winnerPaul Milgromdiscusses some of the new economics theory he has developed to help address these challenging contexts, in which neither unfettered market forces nor top-down planning will work well. In our interview we explore these ideas in the context of the most complex auction ever created, the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction.This auction, designed and planned by a team led by Professor Milgrom with his companyAuctionomics, purchased underutilized broadcast spectrum from television stations and sold it onward to telecoms providers. This reallocation helped improve wireless network performance and pave the way for 5G wireless services, while also generating over $7 billion for the US treasury.HostPeter Lorentzenis an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a newdigital economy-focused Master's program in Applied Economics.

Oct 06, 2021

Gonzalo Lizarralde, "Unnatural Disasters: Why Most Responses to Risk and Climate Change Fail But Some Succeed" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Unnatural Disasters: Why Most Responses to Risk and Climate Change Fail But Some Succeed(Columbia UP, 2021) offers a new perspective on our most pressing environmental and social challenges, revealing the gaps between abstract concepts like sustainability, resilience, and innovation and the real-world experiences of people living at risk. Gonzalo Lizarralde explains how the causes of disasters are not natural but all too human: inequality, segregation, marginalization, colonialism, neoliberalism, racism, and unrestrained capitalism. He tells the stories of Latin American migrants, Haitian earthquake survivors, Canadian climate activists, African slum dwellers, and other people resisting social and environmental injustices around the world. Lizarralde shows that most reconstruction and risk-reduction efforts exacerbate social inequalities. Some responses do produce meaningful changes, but they are rarely the ones powerful leaders have in mind.

Sep 22, 2021

Emily Erikson, "Trade and Nation: How Companies and Politics Reshaped Economic Thought" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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How can ideas from sociology help us understand history and economics? InTrade and Nation: How Companies and Politics Reshaped Economic Thought(Columbia UP, 2021),Emily Erikson,Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale and Academic Director of the Fox International Fellowship, explores the major shift, which occurred during the seventeenth century, in the history and philosophy of economics. The book combines computational methods from sociology with a detailed and close engagement with historical sources and the philosophy of economics. It demonstrates how a key set of merchants proved highly influential in setting the terms of economics, in the context of the specific conditions and institutional settings in England during the period. The book also offers comparative analysis, adding depth to the numerous methods of testing its core hypothesis about what really drove the changes in economics. Clearly written, and deeply engaging, the book is essential reading for scholars in economics and the social sciences, as well as in history and the humanities. Dave O'Brienis Chancellor's Fellow, Cultural and Creative Industries, at the University of Edinburgh's College of Art.

Sep 15, 2021

Hoyt Long, "The Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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InThe Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age(Columbia UP, 2021), Hoyt Long offers both a reinterpretation of modern Japanese literature through computational methods and an introduction to the history, theory, and practice of looking at literature through numbers. He weaves explanations of these methods and their application together with reflection on the kinds of reasoning such methodologies facilitate.Hoyt LongisAssociate Professor of Japanese Literature, and East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.Katie McDonoughis Senior Research Associate, The Alan Turing Institute.

Sep 14, 2021

Jessica Namakkal, "Unsettling Utopia: The Making and Unmaking of French India" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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After India achieved independence from the British in 1947, there remained five scattered territories governed by the French imperial state. It was not until 1962 that France fully relinquished control. Once decolonization took hold across the subcontinent, Western-led ashrams and utopian communities remained in and around the former French territory of Pondicherry—most notably the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the Auroville experimental township, which continue to thrive and draw tourists today.Unsettling Utopia: The Making and Unmaking of French India(Columbia UP, 2021) presents a new account of the history of twentieth-century French India to show how colonial projects persisted beyond formal decolonization. Through the experience of the French territories, Jessica Namakkal recasts the relationships among colonization, settlement, postcolonial sovereignty, utopianism, and liberation, considering questions of borders, exile, violence, and citizenship from the margins. She demonstrates how state-sponsored decolonization—the bureaucratic process of transferring governance from an imperial state to a postcolonial state—rarely aligned with local desires. Namakkal examines the colonial histories of the Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville, arguing that their continued success shows how decolonization paradoxically opened new spaces of settlement, perpetuating imperial power. Challenging conventional markers of the boundaries of the colonial era as well as nationalist narratives,Unsettling Utopiasheds new light on the legacies of colonialism and offers bold thinking on what decolonization might yet mean.Jessica Namakkalis assistant professor of the practice in international comparative studies at Duke University.Samee Siddiquiis a PhD Candidate at the Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His dissertation explores discussions relating to religion, race, and empire between South Asian and Japanese figures in Tokyo from 1905 until 1945.

Sep 14, 2021

Aaron Y. Zelin, "Your Sons Are at Your Service: Tunisia's Missionaries of Jihad" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Tunisia became one of the largest sources of foreign fighters for the Islamic State—even though the country stands out as a democratic bright spot of the Arab uprisings and despite the fact that it had very little history of terrorist violence within its borders prior to 2011. InYour Sons Are at Your Service: Tunisia's Missionaries of Jihad(Columbia UP, 2020), Aaron Y. Zelin uncovers the longer history of Tunisian involvement in the jihadi movement and offers an in-depth examination of the reasons why so many Tunisians became drawn to jihadism following the 2011 revolution. Zelin highlights the longer-term causes that affected jihadi recruitment in Tunisia, including the prior history of Tunisians joining jihadi organizations and playing key roles in far-flung parts of the world over the past four decades. He contends that the jihadi group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia was able to take advantage of the universal prisoner amnesty, increased openness, and the lack of governmental policy toward it after the revolution. In turn, this provided space for greater recruitment and subsequent mobilization to fight abroad once the Tunisian government cracked down on the group in 2013. Zelin marshals cutting-edge empirical findings, extensive primary source research, and on-the-ground fieldwork, including a variety of documents in Arabic going as far back as the 1980s and interviews with Ansar al-Sharia members and Tunisian fighters returning from Syria. The first book on the history of the Tunisian jihadi movement, Your Sons Are at Your Service is a meticulously researched account that challenges simplified views of jihadism’s appeal and success.Beth Windischis a national security practitioner.

Aug 27, 2021

Maria Stepanova, "The Voice Over: Poems and Essays" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Is it just a coincidence that three books by the major Russian writer Maria Stepanovahave appeared in English in 2021? Why does Maria Stepanova deploy sucha rich variety of voices and forms? What are the challenges of translating her poetry? Who are the pantheon of deceased writers who seem to haunt her every line?In this conversation, the editor ofThe Voice Over: Poems and Essays(Columbia UP, 2021),Irina Shevelenko talks about Stepanova's poetry and prose with Duncan McCargo. Irina elaborates on her wonderful introduction to the collection and explains how she assembled an outstanding team of translators to help bring this work to an international audience. Both Duncan and Irina read extracts from Stepanova's work.(Maria Stepanova is the author of over ten poetry collections as well as three books of essays and the documentary novelIn Memory of Memory.)(US: New Directions, Canada: Book*hug Press, UK: Fitzcarraldo),which was shortlisted for the 2021 Man Booker International Prize.Her poetry collectionWar of the Beasts and the Animalswas published by Bloodaxe Books, also in 2021.She is the recipient of several Russian and international literary awards.Irina Shevelenko is professor of Russian at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Translations are by: Alexandra Berlina, Sasha Dugdale, Sibelan Forrester, Amelia Glaser, Zachary Murphy King, Dmitry Manin, Ainsley Morse, Eugene Ostashevsky, Andrew Reynolds, and Maria Vassileva.For a video of the May 2021 launch event forThe Voice Over, featuring Maria Stepanova and several of the translators, seeBook Launch of Maria Stepanova’sThe Voice Over: Poems and Essays– A Reading and Conversation – CREECA – UW–Madison ( Stepanova is one of the most powerful and distinctive voices of Russia’s first post-Soviet literary generation. An award-winning poet and prose writer, she has also founded a major platform for independent journalism. Her verse blends formal mastery with a keen ear for the evolution of spoken language. As Russia’s political climate has turned increasingly repressive, Stepanova has responded with engaged writing that grapples with the persistence of violence in her country’s past and present. Some of her most remarkable recent work as a poet and essayist considers the conflict in Ukraine and the debasement of language that has always accompanied war.The Voice Overbrings together two decades of Stepanova’s work, showcasing her range, virtuosity, and creative evolution. Stepanova’s poetic voice constantly sets out in search of new bodies to inhabit, taking established forms and styles and rendering them into something unexpected and strange. Recognizable patterns of ballads, elegies, and war songs are transposed into a new key, infused with foreign strains, and juxtaposed with unlikely neighbors. As an essayist, Stepanova engages deeply with writers who bore witness to devastation and dramatic social change, as seen in searching pieces on W. G. Sebald, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Susan Sontag. Including contributions from ten translators,The Voice Overshows English-speaking readers why Stepanova is one of Russia’s most acclaimed contemporary writers.

Aug 27, 2021

Benjamin Ho, "Why Trust Matters: An Economist's Guide to the Ties That Bind Us" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Do you trust corporations? Do you trust politicians? Do you trust the science? Does anyone trust anyone anymore?InWhy Trust Matters: An Economist's Guide to the Ties That Bind Us(Columbia UP, 2021), ProfessorBen Horeveals the surprising importance of trust to how we understand our day-to-day economic lives. Starting with the earliest societies and proceeding through the evolution of the modern economy, he explores its role across an astonishing range of institutions and practices, surveying and synthesizing research across economics, political science, psychology, and other disciplines, and presents his own cutting-edge behavioral economics research on the role of apologies in restoring trust. He argues that we trust far more than we may realize, and that mostly this is a good thing.Check out theNew Yorker's review of the book.Ben Ho is an associate professor at Vassar College. Ho applies economic tools like game theory and experimental design to topics like apologies, trust, identity, inequality and climate change. Before Vassar, he taught MBA students at Cornell, served as lead energy economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and worked/consulted for Morgan Stanley and several tech startups. Professor Ho also teaches at Columbia University where he is a faculty affiliate for the Center for Global Energy Policy. His work has been featured in theNew York Timesand theWall Street Journal. Ho holds seven degrees from Stanford and MIT in economics, education, political science, math, computer science and electrical engineering.Peter Lorentzenis economics professor at the University of San Francisco. He heads USF'sApplied Economics Master's program, which focuses on the digital economy. His research is mainly on China's political economy.

Aug 26, 2021

Lynne Huffer, "Foucault`s Strange Eros" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Lynne Huffer, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Womens and Gender Studies at Emory University to speaks widely about the body of her work, including herher new book,Foucault’s Strange Eros, out in 2020 with Columbia University Press.What is the strange eros that haunts Foucault’s writing? In this deeply original consideration of Foucault’s erotic ethics, Lynne Huffer provocatively rewrites Foucault as a Sapphic poet. She uncovers eros as a mode of thought that erodes the interiority of the thinking subject. Focusing on the ethical implications of this mode of thought, Huffer shows how Foucault’s poetic archival method offers a way to counter the disciplining of speech.At the heart of this method is a conception of the archive as Sapphic: the past’s remains are, like Sappho’s verses, hole-ridden, scattered, and dissolved by time. Listening for eros across fragmented texts, Huffer stages a series of encounters within an archive of literary and theoretical readings: the eroticization of violence in works by Freud and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, the historicity of madness in the Foucault-Derrida debate, the afterlives of Foucault’s antiprison activism, and Monique Wittig’s Sapphic materialism. Through these encounters,Foucault’s Strange Erosconceives of ethics as experiments in living that work poetically to make the present strange. Crafting fragments that dissolve into Sapphic brackets, Huffer performs the ethics she describes in her own practice of experimental writing.Foucault’s Strange Eroshints at the self-hollowing speech of an eros that opens a space for the strange. Jana Byarsis the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.

Aug 23, 2021

Tom Phuong Le, "Japan's Aging Peace: Pacifism and Militarism in the Twenty-First Century" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Since the end of World War II, Japan has not sought to remilitarize, and its postwar constitution commits to renouncing aggressive warfare. Yet many inside and outside Japan have asked whether the country should or will return to commanding armed forces amid an increasingly challenging regional and global context and as domestic politics have shifted in favor of demonstrations of national strength.Tom Phuong Le offers a novel explanation of Japan’s reluctance to remilitarize that foregrounds the relationship between demographics and security.Japan's Aging Peace: Pacifism and Militarism in the Twenty-First Century(Columbia UP, 2021) demonstrates how changing perceptions of security across generations have culminated in a culture of antimilitarism that constrains the government’s efforts to pursue a more martial foreign policy. Le challenges a simple opposition between militarism and pacifism, arguing that Japanese security discourse should be understood in terms of “multiple militarisms,” which can legitimate choices such as the mobilization of the Japan Self-Defense Forces for peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief missions. Le highlights how factors that are not typically linked to security policy, such as aging and declining populations and gender inequality, have played crucial roles. He contends that the case of Japan challenges the presumption in international relations scholarship that states must pursue the use of force or be punished, showing how widespread normative beliefs have restrained Japanese policy makers. Drawing on interviews with policy makers, military personnel, atomic bomb survivors, museum coordinators, grassroots activists, and other stakeholders, as well as analysis of peace museums and social movements,Japan’s Aging Peaceprovides new insights for scholars of Asian politics, international relations, and Japanese foreign policy. Jingyi Liis a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.

Aug 18, 2021

Margarita M. Balmaceda, "Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union" (Wilson Center, 2021)

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Margarita Balmaceda’sRussian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union(Columbia University Press, 2021) is a meticulous exploration of a complex system of energy supplies involving Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union. While originating in Russia, energy supplies, as the author asserts, undergo changes and transformations when being delivered to various destinations. What do these changes inform about the nature of both energy resources and power? Offering an insightful framework in which the two concepts can be understood,Russian Energy Chainscomplicates the issue of energy supplies that are inextricable from the dynamics of power relations on the interstate level. In addition to acute commentaries on the current role and status of Russia in the energy market, Margarita Balmaceda offers references to various time periods to illustrate how politically and geographically entangled energy systems are.Russian Energy Chainsprovides a detailed account of the development of the energy power that Russia seems to both offer and usurp; the book guides the reader through the complexity of power relations that include Ukraine and the European Union and helps better understand the current debate about Nord Stream-2. On a larger level, Margarita Balmaceda invites the discussion of the future of the energy market in terms of domestic and international policies.Nataliya Shpylova-Saeedis a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University

Aug 13, 2021

Kevin McGruder, "Philip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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What was Harlem before its Renaissance, and how did it come to be? InPhilip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem(Columbia University Press, 2021), historian Kevin McGruder, Associate Professor at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, explores the life of the remarkable Philip Anthony Payton Jr., a real estate entrepreneur who bought building after building at the turn of the 20thcentury in the core of Harlem, defined as 125thSt. to 135thSt. between 5thand 8thAvenues. In doing so, McGruder uncovers much about Black life in New York during the period between the Civil War and the Great Migration and makes an important contribution to the history of housing segregation in the United States.David Hamilton Gollandis professor of history, coordinator of humanities, and president of the faculty senate at Governors State University in Chicago's southland.@DHGolland.

Aug 13, 2021

Aaron Passell, "Preserving Neighborhoods: How Urban Policy and Community Strategy Shape Baltimore and Brooklyn" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Historic preservation is typically regarded as an elitist practice. In this view, designating a neighborhood as historic is a project by and for affluent residents concerned with aesthetics, not affordability. It leads to gentrification and rising property values for wealthy homeowners, while displacement afflicts longer-term, lower-income residents of the neighborhood, often people of color.Through rich case studies of Baltimore and Brooklyn, Aaron Passell complicates this story, exploring how community activists and local governments use historic preservation to accelerate or slow down neighborhood change. He argues that this form of regulation is one of the few remaining urban policy interventions that enable communities to exercise some control over the changing built environments of their neighborhoods. In Baltimore, it is part of a primarily top-down strategy for channeling investment into historic neighborhoods, many of them plagued by vacancy and abandonment. In central Brooklyn, neighborhood groups have discovered the utility of landmark district designation as they seek to mitigate rapid change with whatever legal tools they can. The contrast between Baltimore and Brooklyn reveals that the relationship between historic preservation and neighborhood change varies not only from city to city, but even from neighborhood to neighborhood. In speaking with local activists, Passell finds that historic district designation and enforcement efforts can be a part of neighborhood community building and bottom-up revitalization.Featuring compelling narrative interviews alongside quantitative data,Preserving Neighborhoods: How Urban Policy and Community Strategy Shape Baltimore and Brooklyn(Columbia UP, 2021) is a nuanced mixed-methods study of an important local-level urban policy and its surprisingly varied consequences.Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM is the Principal Architect for TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC, an Architecture firm specializing in Residential Architecture and Virtual Reality. He has authored two books, “Contractors CANNOT Build Your House,” and “Six Months Now, ARCHITECT for Life.” He is an Adjunct Professor at Alfred State College and the Director of Education for the AIA Rochester Board of Directors. Always eager to help anyone understand the world of Architecture, he can be reached by sending an email tobtoepfer@toepferarchitecture.

Aug 11, 2021

Yves Agid, "Subconsciousness: Automatic Behavior and the Brain" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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We are conscious of only a small fraction of our lives. Because the brain constantly receives an enormous quantity of information, we need to be able to do things without thinking about them—to act in “autopilot” mode. Automatic behaviors—the vast majority of our activities—occur without our conscious awareness, or subconsciously. Yet the physiological basis of subconsciousness remains poorly understood, despite its vast importance for physical and mental health.The neurodegenerative disease expert Yves Agid offers a groundbreaking and accessible account of subconsciousness and its significance. He pinpoints the basal ganglia—the ancient “basement of the brain”—as the main physiological hub of the subconscious. Agid examines its roles in the control and production of automatic behavior, including motor, intellectual, and emotional processes. He highlights the consequences for various brain pathologies, showing how malfunctions of the subconscious have clinical repercussions including not only abnormal involuntary movements, as seen in Parkinson’s disease, but also psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorders and depression. Based on this understanding, Agid considers how seeing the basal ganglia as a therapeutic target can aid development of potential new treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders.Shedding new light on the physiological bases of our behavior and mental states,Subconsciousness: Automatic Behavior and the Brain(Columbia UP, 2021)provides an innovative exploration of the complexities of the mind, with implications ranging from clinical applications to philosophy’s thorniest problems.Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. To discuss and propose the book for an interview you can reach her

Aug 06, 2021

Hoyt Long, "The Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Ideas about how to study and understand cultural history—particularly literature—are rapidly changing as new digital archives and tools for searching them become available. This is not the first information age, however, to challenge ideas about how and why we value literature and the role numbers might play in this process.The Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age(Columbia UP, 2021) tells the longer history of this evolving global conversation from the perspective of Japan and maps its potential futures for the study of Japanese literature and world literature more broadly.Hoyt Long offers both a reinterpretation of modern Japanese literature through computational methods and an introduction to the history, theory, and practice of looking at literature through numbers. He weaves explanations of these methods and their application to literature together with critical reflection on the kinds of reasoning such methodologies facilitate. Chapters guide readers through increasingly complex techniques while making novel arguments about topics of fundamental concern, including the role of quantitative thinking in Japanese literary criticism; the canonization of modern literature in print and digital media; the rise of psychological fiction as a genre; the transnational circulation of modernist forms; and discourses of race under empire. Long models how computational methods can be applied outside English-language contexts and to languages written in non-Latin scripts. Drawing from fields as diverse as the history of science, book history, world literature, and critical race theory, this book demonstrates the value of numbers in literary study and the values literary critics can bring to the reading of difference in numbers. Jingyi Liis a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.

Aug 03, 2021

Kevin McGruder, "Philip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Today I talked toKevin McGruder about his new bookPhilip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem(Columbia UP, 2021)In a moment of hope, even faith, African-Americans inspired by Booker T. Washington believed at the start of the 21stcentury that prospering financially would lead them to fair and even-standing with their fellow white citizens in America. In that vein, Philip Payton launched the Afro-American Realty Company in 1904 and in doing so took on the big-money crowd. Up against him, for instance, was the Hudson Realty Company that numbered among its backers the Bloomingdale family. To an amazing extent, Payton managed in his short life to engineer real estate deals that made Harlem the home base for many of the African-Americans coming north in the Great Migration of the World War One era. Was it an entirely smooth journey for Payton? No, it wasn’t—as McGruder points out in this episode that brings into account “racial capitalism” and the looming shadow of Woodrow Wilson’s divisive approach to race relations.Kevin McGruder is an associate professor of history at Antioch College. He’s also the author of Race and Real Estate and in the 1990s was the director of real estate development for the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a nonprofit church-based organization in Harlem.Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of eight books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. ( To check out his related blog, visit

Jul 29, 2021

Gayle Rogers, "Speculation: A Cultural History from Aristotle to AI" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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In a world that purports to know more about the future than any before it, why do we still need speculation? Insubstantial speculations – from utopian thinking to high-risk stock gambles – often provoke backlash, even when they prove prophetic. Why does this hypothetical way of thinking generate such controversy?Gayle Rogers, author ofSpeculation: A Cultural History from Aristotle to AI(Columbia UP, 2021),speaks with Pierre d’Alancaisez about the intellectual history of speculation: from the mirror and the watch tower, the Calvinist reformation, the scientific revolution, through Jane Austen, to the founding of the United States, and the shape of contemporary capitalism – with booms, manias, busts, and bubbles along the way. Unraveling these histories and many other disputes, Rogers argues that what has always been at stake in arguments over speculation, and why it so often appears so threatening, is the authority to produce and control knowledge about the future.Gayle Rogersis professor and chair of English at the University of Pittsburgh.Pierre d’Alancaisezis a contemporary art curator, cultural strategist, researcher. Sometime scientist, financial services professional.

Jul 26, 2021

Yurou Zhong, "Chinese Grammatology: Script Revolution and Literary Modernity, 1916-1958" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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In 1928 linguist Yuen Ren Chao had reason to celebrate. The Nationalist government had just recognized his system for writing Chinese,Gwoyeu Romatzyh, so he gleefully wrote (using the system) in his diary:"G.R. yii yu jeou yueh 26 ry gong buh le. Hooray!!!" (G.R. was officially announced on September 26. Hooray!!!). He was not the only one excited about the prospect of scraping Chinese characters either.In the global context of phonocentric dominance both the Nationalists and the Communists waged war on Chinese characters,seeking new, scientific, modern, and entirelyphoneticwriting system.Ultimately, however, Chao's three exclamation marks were somewhat in vain. China's "script revolution" ended, and the Chinese Communist Party opted to simplify Chinese characters instead — aprocess and history deftly traced byChinese Grammatology:Script Revolution and Literary Modernity, 1916–1958(Columbia University Press, 2019). InChinese GrammatologyYurou Zhong explores the history of the script revolution,tracing where it came from, how itchanged over time, and how it was finally contained. Sharply written, beautifully constructed and filled with fascinated case studies, this is a real treat for those interested in modern Chinese history and literature, as well as anyone curious about global script reforms in the twentieth century.Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike. She can be reached at

Jul 15, 2021

Leah DeVun, "The Shape of Sex: Nonbinary Gender from Genesis to the Renaissance" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Leah DeVun is an Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University. Leah DeVun focuses on the history of gender, sexuality, science, and medicine in pre-modern Europe and on contemporary queer and transgender studies. Her first bookProphecy, Alchemy, and the End of Timewon the 2013 John Nicholas Brown Prize for an outstanding first book on medieval history. She has published articles in theGLQ, WSQ, Journal of the History of Ideas,among others, and co-edited Trans Historicities, a special issue of theTransgender Studies Quarterlyin 2018. Leah is also an artist and curator whose work explores queer, feminist, and gender nonconforming history. Her work has appeared in the ONE Archives Gallery, the Leslie-Lohman Museum, and the Houston Center for Photography, among other venues. This episode discusses Leah’s second bookThe Shape of Sex: Nonbinary Gender from Genesis to the Renaissancepublished in 2021 by Columbia University Press and which sold out of its first printing.Leo Valdes is a Ph.D. student in the History department at Rutgers University. They study 20th century Black American and Latinx history centering trans and gender variant people’s politics and resistance.

Jun 29, 2021

Peter E. Hamilton, "Made in Hong Kong: Transpacific Networks and a New History of Globalization" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Between 1949 and 1997, Hong Kong transformed from a struggling British colonial outpost into a global financial capital.Made in Hong Kong:Transpacific Networks and a New History of Globalization(Columbia University Press, 2021)delivers a new narrative of this metamorphosis, revealing Hong Kong both as a critical engine in the expansion and remaking of postwar global capitalism and as the linchpin of Sino-U.S. trade since the 1970s.InMade in Hong Kong,Peter E. Hamilton explores the role of an overlooked transnational Chinese elite who fled to Hong Kong amid war and revolution. Despite losing material possessions, these industrialists, bankers, academics, and other professionals retained crucial connections to the United States. They used these relationships to enmesh themselves and Hong Kong with the U.S. through commercial ties and higher education. By the 1960s, Hong Kong had become a manufacturing powerhouse supplying American consumers, and by the 1970s it was the world’s largest sender of foreign students to American colleges and universities. Hong Kong’s reorientation toward U.S. international leadership enabled its transplanted Chinese elites to benefit from expanding American influence in Asia and positioned them to act as shepherds to China’s reengagement with global capitalism. After China’s reforms accelerated under Deng Xiaoping, Hong Kong became a crucial node for China’s export-driven development, connecting Chinese labor with the U.S. market.Peter E.Hamiltonis ahistorian of China and the World. Fromfall 2021, he will beAssistantProfessor in World History at Lingnan University in HongKong. His research has been published inTwentieth-Century China,The International History of Review,The Journal of Historical Sociology, and numerous media outlets.Ghassan Moazzinis an Assistant Professor at theHong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciencesand theDepartment of Historyat the University of Hong Kong. He works on the economic and business history of 19th and 20th century China, with a particular focus on the history of foreign banking, international finance and electricity in modern China. His first book, tentatively titled Banking on the Chinese Frontier: Foreign Banks and Global Finance in Modern China, 1870–1919, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

Jun 29, 2021

Nikki Usher, "News for the Rich, White, and Blue: How Place and Power Distort American Journalism" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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The future of local news and the connection between local news and democracy are two of the hottest topics in philanthropy, education, and media these days. Nikki Usher addresses both head-on in her new book,News for the Rich, White, and Blue:How Place and Power Distort American Journalism(Columbia University Press, 2021).In the book and in this conversation, Usher recasts the challenges facing journalism in terms of place, power, and inequality. She questions longstanding beliefs about the relationship between local news and civic engagement and separates observed behavior from myths about American democracy and the media's role within it.Drawing on more than a decade of field research in newsrooms across the United States, Usher illuminateshow news organizations strategize about the future and offers ideasfor how they can meet community information needs in an inclusive, equitable way.Nikki Usheris an associate professor in the College of Media at theUniversity of Illinois .Jenna Spinelleis a journalism instructor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn Stateand host of theDemocracy Works podcast.

Jun 23, 2021

Stephen Murray, "Notre-Dame of Amiens: Life of the Gothic Cathedral" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Notre-Dame of Amiens is one of the great Gothic cathedrals. Its construction began in 1220, and artistic production in the Gothic mode lasted well into the sixteenth century. InNotre-Dame of Amiens: Life of the Gothic Cathedral(Columbia UP, 2020), Stephen Murray invites readers to see the cathedral as more than just a thing of the past: it is a living document of medieval Christian society that endures in our own time.Murray tells the cathedral’s story from the overlapping perspectives of the social groups connected to it, exploring the ways that the layfolk who visit the cathedral occasionally, the clergy who use it daily, and the artisans who created it have interacted with the building over the centuries. He considers the cycles of human activity around the cathedral and shows how groups of makers and users have been inextricably intertwined in collaboration and, occasionally, conflict. The book travels around and through the spaces of the cathedral, allowing us to re-create similar passages by our medieval predecessors. Murray reveals the many worlds of the cathedral and brings them together in the architectural triumph of its central space.A beautifully illustrated account of a grand, historically and religiously important building from a variety of perspectives and in a variety of time periods, this book offers readers a memorable tour of Notre-Dame of Amiens that celebrates the cathedral’s eight hundredth anniversary.Notre-Dame of Amiensis enhanced by high-resolution images, liturgical music, and animations embedded in an innovative website.Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM is the Principal Architect for TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC, an Architecture firm specializing in Residential Architecture and Virtual Reality. He has authored two books, “Contractors CANNOT Build Your House,” and “Six Months Now, ARCHITECT for Life.” He is an Adjunct Professor at Alfred State College and the Director of Education for the AIA Rochester Board of Directors. Always eager to help anyone understand the world of Architecture, he can be reached by sending an email tobtoepfer@toepferarchitecture.

Jun 22, 2021

Amaka Okechukwu, "To Fulfill These Rights: Political Struggle Over Affirmative Action and Open Admissions" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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In 2014 and 2015, students at dozens of colleges and universities held protests demanding increased representation of Black and Latino students and calling for a campus climate that was less hostile to students of color. Their activism recalled an earlier era: in the 1960s and 1970s, widespread campus protest by Black and Latino students contributed to the development of affirmative action and open admissions policies. Yet in the decades since, affirmative action has become a magnet for conservative backlash and in many cases has been completely dismantled.InTo Fulfill These Rights: Political Struggle Over Affirmative Action and Open Admissions(Columbia University Press, 2019), Amaka Okechukwu offers a historically informed sociological account of the struggles over affirmative action and open admissions in higher education. Through case studies of policy retrenchment at public universities, she documents the protracted―but not always successful―rollback of inclusive policies in the context of shifting race and class politics.To Fulfill These Rightsprovides a new analysis of the politics of higher education, centering the changing understandings and practices of race and class in the United States.Amaka Okechukwu is an Assistant Professor of sociology at George Mason University.Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at

Jun 11, 2021

Peter Morey, "Islamophobia and the Novel" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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In an era of rampant Islamophobia, literary representations of Muslims and anti Muslim bigotry tell us a lot about changing concepts of cultural difference. InIslamophobia and the Novel(Columbia University Press, 2018),Peter Morey, Professor at the University of Birmingham, analyzes how recent works of fiction have framed and responded to the rise of anti-Muslim prejudice, showing how their portrayals of Muslims both reflect and refute the ideological preoccupations of media and politicians in the post-9/11 West. Morey discusses novels embodying a range of positions—from the avowedly secular to the religious, and from texts that appear to underwrite Western assumptions of cultural superiority to those that recognize and critique neoimperial impulses. Contemporary literature’s capacity to unveil the conflicted nature of anti-Muslim bigotry expands our range of resources to combat Islamophobia. This, in turn, might contribute to Islamophobia’s eventual dismantling. In our conversation we discussed anti-Muslim prejudice, the tension between narrative and power, literature and its relationship to Islamophobia, the “market for the Muslim,” stereotyping, authenticity and the burden of representation, aesthetic expectations, economic constraints, multiculturalism, securitization, effects of 9/11, the global novel, and Critical Muslim LiteraryStudies.Kristian Petersenis an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on hiswebsite, follow him on Twitter@BabaKristian, or email him

Jun 11, 2021

Eric Schluessel, "Land of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Eric Schluessel’sLand of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia(Columbia UP, 2020) looks at what happened when, at the end of the Qing, Chinese Confucian revivalists gained control of the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang and sought to transform it. Yet this is not a book about high politics or discourse — far from it. This is a book about what this civilizing project looked like on the ground, how it played out in “everyday politics,” and how Turkic-speaking Muslims felt about and responded to attempts to transform them into Chinese-speaking Confucians. Centering on the voices and experiences of ordinary people in the oasis of Turpan,Land of Strangersis filled with stories of prostitution, human trafficking, venereal disease, families divided by war, and so much more. Reading across the Turpan archive this book combines records in both Chinese and Chaghatay, laying bare the difficulties revivalists encountered in educating children and showing how interpreters went about 'translating' oral Chaghatay, and throughout it emphasizes how the negotiation of place, difference, and identity was continual and fraught.This beautifully written and meticulously researched book is a must read for anyone interested in Chinese history, the history of Central Asia, colonialism, and empire, as well as any historians who might get a particular thrill in seeing the “ragged” sources Eric is dealing with so expertly pieced together.Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike. She can be reached at

Jun 04, 2021

Bernard E. Harcourt, "Critique and Praxis: A Critical Philosophy of Illusions, Values, and Action" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Critical philosophy has always challenged the division between theory and practice. At its best, it aims to turn contemplation into emancipation, seeking to transform society in pursuit of equality, autonomy, and human flourishing. Yet today’s critical theory often seems to engage only in critique. These times of crisis demand more. InCritique and Praxis: A Critical Philosophy of Illusions, Values, and Action(Columbia University Press, 2020), Bernard E. Harcourt challenges us to move beyond decades of philosophical detours and to harness critical thought to the need for action. In a time of increasing awareness of economic and social inequality, Harcourt calls on us to make society more equal and just. Charting a vision for political action and social transformation, Harcourt argues that instead of posing the question, “What is to be done?” we must now turn it back onto ourselves and ask, and answer, “What more am I to do?”. The book advocates for a new path forward that constantly challenges each and every one of us to ask what more we can do to realize a society based on equality and justice. Kai Wortmanis a PhD candidate at the Institute of Education, University of Tübingen, interested in philosophy of education.

May 31, 2021

Gavin Arnall, "Subterranean Fanon: An Underground Theory of Radical Change" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In this episode, J.J. Mull interviews Gavin Arnall, author ofSubterranean Fanon: An Underground Theory of Radical Change(Columbia University Press, 2020). Arnall traces an internal division throughout Fanon’s work between two distinct modes of thinking about change. He contends that there are two Fanons: a dominant Fanon who conceives of change as a dialectical process of becoming and a subterranean Fanon who experiments with an even more explosive underground theory of transformation. In this conversation, Arnall touches on various Fanonian traditions and what they have to tell us about contemporary psychiatric and psychoanalytic practice.J.J. Mull is a poet, training clinician, and graduate student at Smith College School for Social Work living in Northampton, MA. He can be reached

May 25, 2021

Justene Hill Edwards, "Unfree Markets: The Slaves' Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Justene Hill Edwards is the author ofUnfree Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina(Columbia University Press, 2021).Unfree Marketsfocuses in on an area of slavery’s history that has seldom been explore: the economic lives of enslaved people, and its meaning for them, enslavers, non-enslavers, and the institution of slavery itself. Hill Edwards explores how the complicated history of the slaves’ economy from the colonial period to the Civil War, showing the relationship between it and the development of capitalism in the nation. Through a history of enterprise, cultivation, markets, and people, Hill Edwards shows just how much the tenuous the connection between economic activity and freedom for the enslaved became throughout this time period, and what that meant for everyone involved.JusteneHill Edwards is an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia.Derek Litvak is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland—College Park.

May 19, 2021

Heath Brown, "Homeschooling the Right: How Conservative Education Activism Erodes the State" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Political Scientist Heath Brown’s new book,Homeschooling the Right: How Conservative Education Activism Erodes the State(Columbia UP, 2021)is an excellent overview of the homeschooling movement in the United States, but it is much more than an exploration of that movement, since it centers on the way that this movement developed into a parallel political structure within states and localities with substantial capacity to influence policy and politics. Brown notes that initially the homeschool movement was ideologically diverse, but that over the past forty years it has become much more directly connected to conservative politics and the Religious Right. As parents chose to opt out of public education and provide education for their children at home, an entire industry grew up around this undertaking, providing, in the pre-internet days, support, content, approaches, and the means to help parents negotiate this at home. Along the way, as this movement continued to grow and expand, even though it was composed of only a fraction of school-age children, it also became a politically vocal movement, with lobbyists who worked on behalf of homeschoolers to keep government intrusion and regulation at bay.These threads came together and helped to mobilize the members of the homeschool movement. Brown argues that the ideology and the political dimensions of the homeschool movement ultimately migrated over to the Tea Party Movement that takes root in the first decade of the 21stcentury, since the homeschool ideas are pulling together conservative libertarianism in the anti-government, anti-regulatory vein, and the reintegration of Christian beliefs within academic settings. As we discussed the book, Brown noted that every Republican presidential candidate over the past two decades has paid attention to the homeschool movement, and that President George W. Bush made a point of thanking the homeschool parents and children who had worked so diligently on his campaign and with the GOPGet Out The Voteefforts, since the homeschool students were able to fold these experiences into their curriculum and assignments. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which developed to provide legal support for home school advocates across the states, had initially become a key player in conservative politics, but has now refocused much more narrowly, specifically on homeschool policy.Homeschooling the Rightalso gets at the complicated position of the homeschool movement within a democracy, since the movement itself is a way of removing the individual or the family from the public sphere. What is ironic, and important to understand, as Brown notes, is that this political movement has a louder, heightened political voice because of the capacity to mobilize many of its adherents, thus it is both actively inside and outside the political sphere.This is a wonderfully written book and so accessible to readers—and it will be of interest to many across a broad spectrum of disciplines.Lilly J. Gorenis professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book,Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics(University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor ofMad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America(Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). Email her comments at or tweet to@gorenlj.

May 06, 2021

Michael L. Siciliano, "Creative Control: The Ambivalence of Work in the Culture Industries" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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How should we understand creative work? InCreative Control: The Ambivalence of Work in the Culture Industries(Columbia UP, 2021),Michael Siciliano, anassistant professor of sociology at Queen's University, Canada, explores this question through a comparison of a recording studio and a digital content creation company. The book considers the meaning and practice of ‘creative’ labour, considering its ambivalences, the passions and commitments, as well as the compromises and alienations associated with this area of economy and society. It represents a crucial intervention to the literature on cultural production, as well as offering an important understanding of the impact of digital modes of distribution and production on creative industries. A rich and fascinating comparative ethnography, the book is essential reading across humanities and social sciences, as well as for anyone interested in understanding contemporary culture.

May 06, 2021

Robert Snyder, "All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants, and the Making of New York" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants, and the Making of New Yorkby Frederick M. Binder, David M. Reimers, and Robert W. Snyder (Columbia University Press, 2019) covers almost 500 years of New York City’s still unfolding story of cultural diversity and political conflict, economic dynamism and unmatched human diversity. This briskly paced volume – which updates a first edition originally published in the mid-1990s – reminds us that today’s hot button debates about immigration, inequality, and globalization have, in various earlier forms, long played roles in the evolution and development of one of the world’s great cities.Bruce Cory is editorial advisor atThe Center for New York City Affairsat The New School.

May 04, 2021

Herbert Terrace, "Why Chimpanzees Can't Learn Language and Only Humans Can" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Through discussion of his famous 1970s experiment alongside new research, inWhy Chimpanzees Can’t Learn Language and Only Humans Can(Columbia University Press, 2019), Herbert Terrace argues that, despite the failure of famous attempts to teach primates to speak, from these efforts we can learn something important: the missing link between non-linguistic and linguistic creatures is the ability to use words, notto form sentences. Situating language-learning as a capacity gained through conversation, not primarily representing internal thought, Terrace takes naming as the first step towards language. By drawing on research in developmental psychology, paleoanthropology, and linguistics, Terrace builds a case for understanding human language as grounded in social interaction between mother and child, rather than an inevitable, asocial result of a person’s development.Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Philosophy atYale-NUS College. His research focuses on Sanskrit philosophy of language and epistemology. He is the author ofLanguage, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy(Bloomsbury Press, 2019) and host of the podcastSutras (and stuff).

Apr 21, 2021

Richard Kearney, "Touch: Recovering Our Most Vital Sense" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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In this episode, I interview Richard Kearney, professor of philosophy at Boston College, about his most recent book,Touch: Recovering Our Most Vital Sense. out through Columbia University Press. The basic premise ofTouchis twofold: on the one hand, we have lost touch with our most basic sense, that of touch, the tactile; on the other hand, we must bring touch back to our lives. Kearney weaves together investigations of the centrality of touch that span the history of philosophy with discussions of its role in modern therapies and reflections on cultural tactility. Making the case for the complementarity of touch and technology, this book is a passionate plea to recover a tangible sense of community and the joys of life with others.Britt Edelen is a Ph.D. student in English at Duke University. He focuses on modernism and the relationship(s) between language, philosophy, and literature. You can find him onTwitteror send him anemail.

Apr 19, 2021

Richard Jean So, "Redlining Culture: A Data History of Racial Inequality and Postwar Fiction" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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What is the story of race in American fiction? InRedlining Culture: A Data History of Racial Inequality and Postwar Fiction(Columbia University Press, 2020),Richard Jean So, an assistant professor of English in the Department of English at McGill University, uses computational and quantitative methods, alongside close textual analysis, to demonstrate the institutional whiteness of the US publishing industry. Even as the rise of multiculturalism has been celebrated in American fiction, So shows how publishing houses, reviewers, prize givers, and audiences still focused on a minority of Minority authors, with little evidence of change during the second half of the twentieth century. Moreover, although as the struggle for recognition seemed to be won within universities, the literary world continued to exclude authors of colour. In addition, the book engages with, and draws inspiration from, the work and career of Toni Morrison, offering findings that will engage across both the humanities and social sciences. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in race and literature, along with anyone interested in explaining and understanding why race continues to be essential to understanding contemporary culture.Dave O'Brienis Chancellor's Fellow, Cultural and Creative Industries, at the University of Edinburgh's College of Art.

Apr 16, 2021

David Brophy, "In Remembrance of the Saints: The Rise and Fall of an Inner Asian Sufi Dynasty" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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David Brophy's translation of Muhammad Sadiq Kashghari'sIn Remembrance of the Saints: The Rise and Fall of an Inner Asian Sufi Dynasty(Columbia University Press, 2021)represents the first comprehensive translation of the textinto English. The translation includes a detailed introduction that not onlycontextualizes the text and its author, but alsodescribes how it reflects thereligious and political landscape of the region in the 18th century.Because it sheds light onthe Qing conquest of Xinjiang, the role of Naqshbandi Sufis in the region, and the relations between the Muslims of the Tarim Basin andneighboring groups like theJunghars and the Kyrgyz,Brophy's translation will be of great interestto students and scholars of Central Asia, China, and the Islamic world.Nicholas Seayis a PhD student at Ohio State University

Apr 14, 2021

Laura Moretti, "Pleasure in Profit: Popular Prose in Seventeenth-Century Japan" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In the seventeenth century, Japanese popular prose flourished as waves of newly literate readers gained access to the printed word. Commercial publishers released vast numbers of titles in response to readers’ hunger for books that promised them potent knowledge. However, traditional literary histories of this period position the writings of Ihara Saikaku at center stage, largely neglecting the breadth of popular prose.InPleasure in Profit: Popular Prose in Seventeenth-Century Japan(Columbia UP, 2020), Laura Moretti investigates the vibrant world of vernacular popular literature. She marshals new data on the magnitude of the seventeenth-century publishing business and highlights the diversity and porosity of its publishing genres. Moretti explores how booksellers sparked interest among readers across the spectrum of literacies and demonstrates how they tantalized consumers with vital ethical, religious, societal, and interpersonal knowledge. She recasts books as tools for knowledge making, arguing that popular prose engaged its audience cognitively as well as aesthetically and emotionally to satisfy a burgeoning curiosity about the world.Crucially, Moretti shows, readers experienced entertainment within the didactic, finding pleasure in the profit gained from acquiring knowledge by interacting with transformative literature. Drawing on a rich variety of archival materials to present a vivid portrait of seventeenth-century Japanese publishing, Pleasure in Profit also speaks to broader conversations about the category of the literary by offering a new view of popular prose that celebrates plurality.Jingyi Liis a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.

Mar 26, 2021

Daniel Poch, "Licentious Fictions: Ninjō and the Nineteenth-Century Japanese Novel" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Nineteenth-century Japanese literary discourse and narrative developed a striking preoccupation withninjō—literally “human emotion,” but often used in reference to amorous feeling and erotic desire. For many writers and critics, fiction’s capacity to foster both licentiousness and didactic values stood out as a crucial source of ambivalence. Simultaneously capable of inspiring exemplary behavior and a dangerous force transgressing social norms,ninjōbecame a focal point for debates about the role of the novel and a key motor propelling narrative plots.InLicentious Fictions: Ninjō and the Nineteenth-Century Japanese Novel(Columbia UP, 2019), Daniel Poch investigates the significance ofninjōin defining the literary modernity of nineteenth-century Japan. He explores how cultural anxieties about the power of literature in mediating emotions and desire shaped Japanese narrative from the late Edo through the Meiji period. Poch argues that the Meiji novel, instead of superseding earlier discourses and narrative practices surroundingninjō, complicated them by integrating them into new cultural and literary concepts. He offers close readings of a broad array of late Edo- and Meiji-period narrative and critical sources, examining how they shed light on the great intensification of the concern surroundingninjō. In addition to proposing a new theoretical outlook on emotion,Licentious Fictionschallenges the divide between early modern and modern Japanese literary studies by conceptualizing the nineteenth century as a continuous literary-historical space.

Mar 23, 2021

Eric Hayot, "Humanist Reason: A History. An Argument. A Plan" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Scientists have scientific reason and use the scientific method. Humanists have... Emotion? Close reading? Not so, argues Eric Hayot inHumanist Reason: A History. An Argument. A Plan(Columbia UP, 2021). Contrary to popular belief, the humanities involve both reasoning and methods. Humanist reason, Hayot shows, is philosophically and historically grounded and applicable to almost every discipline. Part history of philosophy, part methods handbook, and part manifesto,Humanist Reasonwill change the way we advocate for the humanities in the twenty-first century.Claire Clarkis a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine. She teaches and writes about health behavior in historical context.

Mar 17, 2021

Steven Collins, "Wisdom as a Way of Life: Theravāda Buddhism Reimagined" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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This wide-ranging and powerful book argues that Theravāda Buddhism provides ways of thinking about the self that can reinvigorate the humanities and offer broader insights into how to learn and how to act.Steven Collinsargues that Buddhist philosophy should be approached in the spirit of its historical teachers and visionaries, who saw themselves not as preservers of an archaic body of rules but as part of a timeless effort to understand what it means to lead a worthy life. He contends that Buddhism should be studied philosophically, literarily, and ethically using its own vocabulary and rhetorical tools. Approached in this manner, Buddhist notions of the self help us rethink contemporary ideas of self-care and the promotion of human flourishing.Collins details the insights of Buddhist texts and practices that promote the ideal of active and engaged learning, offering an expansive and lyrical reflection on Theravāda approaches to meditation, asceticism, and physical training. He explores views of monastic life and contemplative practices as complementing and reinforcing textual learning, and argues that the Buddhist tenet that the study of philosophy and ethics involves both rigorous reading and an ascetic lifestyle has striking resonance with modern and postmodern ideas.A bold reappraisal of the history of Buddhist literature and practice,Wisdom as a Way of Life: Theravāda Buddhism Reimagined(Columbia University Press, 2020)offers students and scholars across the disciplines a nuanced understanding of the significance of Buddhist ways of knowing for the world today.

Mar 16, 2021

Xiaomei Chen, "Staging Chinese Revolution: Theater, Film, and the Afterlives of Propaganda" (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Xiaomei Chen'sStaging Chinese Revolution: Theater, Film, and the Afterlives of Propaganda(Columbia UP, 2016) examines the changing place of revolutionary propaganda in a changing China. Chen analyzes the "grey areas" in deceptively simple plays and films, showing how a contemporary film about Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping can also be read as an indictment of the corruption and inequality of "socialism with Chinese characteristics." In our discussion we also touch on Xiaomei's family's history as prominent Chinese actors and her own intellectual journey, beginning as a Red Guard and ending as a tenured professor at UC Davis.Andy Boydis a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.

Mar 10, 2021

Han Yu, "Mind Thief: The Story of Alzheimer's" (Columbia UP, 2021)

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Alzheimer’s disease, a haunting and harrowing ailment, is one of the world’s most common causes of death. Alzheimer’s lingers for years, with patients’ outward appearance unaffected while their cognitive functions fade away. Patients lose the ability to work and live independently, to remember and recognize. There is still no proven way to treat Alzheimer’s because its causes remain unknown.Mind Thief: The Story of Alzheimer's(Columbia UP, 2021) is a comprehensive and engaging history of Alzheimer’s that demystifies efforts to understand the disease. Beginning with the discovery of “presenile dementia” in the early twentieth century, Han Yu examines over a century of research and controversy. She presents the leading hypotheses for what causes Alzheimer’s; discusses each hypothesis’s tangled origins, merits, and gaps; and details their successes and failures. Yu synthesizes a vast amount of medical literature, historical studies, and media interviews, telling the gripping stories of researchers’ struggles while situating science in its historical, social, and cultural contexts. Her chronicling of the trajectory of Alzheimer’s research deftly balances rich scientific detail with attention to the wider implications. In narrating the attempts to find a treatment, Yu also offers a critical account of research and drug development and a consideration of the philosophy of aging. Wide-ranging and accessible, Mind Thief is an important book for all readers interested in the challenge of Alzheimer’s.

Mar 03, 2021

Nira Wickramasinghe, "Slave in a Palanquin: Colonial Servitude and Resistance in Sri Lanka" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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For hundreds of years, the island of Sri Lanka was a crucial stopover for people and goods in the Indian Ocean. For the Dutch East India Company, it was also a crossroads in the Indian Ocean slave trade. Slavery was present in multiple forms in Sri Lanka—then Ceylon—when the British conquered the island in the late eighteenth century and began to gradually abolish slavery. Yet the continued presence of enslaved people in Sri Lanka in the nineteenth century has practically vanished from collective memory in both the Sinhalese and Tamil communities.Nira Wickramasingheuncovers the traces of slavery in the history and memory of the Indian Ocean world, exploring moments of revolt in the lives of enslaved people in the wake of abolition. She tells the stories of Wayreven, the slave who traveled in the palanquin of his master; Selestina, accused of killing her child; Rawothan, who sought permission for his son to be circumcised; and others, enslaved or emancipated, who challenged their status.Drawing on legal cases, petitions, and other colonial records to recover individual voices and quotidian moments, Wickramasinghe offers a meditation on the archive of slavery. She examines how color-based racial thinking gave way to more nuanced debates about identity, complicating conceptions of blackness and racialization. A deeply interdisciplinary book with a focus on recovering subaltern resistance,Slave in a Palanquin: Colonial Servitude and Resistance in Sri Lanka(Columbia University Press, 2020) offers a vital new portrait of the local and transnational worlds of the colonial-era Asian slave trade in the Indian Ocean.Nira Wickramasinghe is Chair Professor of Modern South Asian Studies at Leiden University. Her books includeMetallic Modern: Everyday Machines in Colonial Sri Lanka(2014) andSri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History(second edition, 2015).Samee Siddiquiis a former journalist who is currently a PhD Candidate at the Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can find him on twitter @ssiddiqui83

Mar 03, 2021

Debashree Mukherjee, "Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In 1935, the writer Baburao Patel writes the following about Bombay’s film industry:“In India, with financing conditions still precarious, the professional film distributor thrives. . . . He comes with a fortune made in share and cotton gambling, advances money to the producer at a killing rate of interest plus a big slice of royalty and recovers his investment by blackmailing the exhibitors into giving heavy and uneconomic minimum guarantees. His only aim in life is to multiply his rupee and in prosecuting this aim he does not worry about the future of the industry or about the existence of the producer or exhibitor.”It’s a hectic time for India’s film industry, as it is for films everywhere, as the silent era becomes the talking era. Debashree Mukherjee’sBombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City(Columbia University Press: 2020) examines this key period of India’s film industry, from finance and casting to screenwriting and production, and brings into view the experiences of the marginalised film workers and forgotten film studios that made up this early period of industry.In this interview, Debashree and I talk about the transition from silent to talking movies in Bombay, along with the historical context and working conditions for those in the city’s historical film industry.Those interested in learning more about the film industry in 1930s Bombay can visit the Wildcat of Bombay Instagram account at @wildcatofbombay(recommended by Debashree!)Debashree Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of film and media in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. Debashree edits the peer-reviewed journal BioScope and has published in journals such as Film History and Feminist Media Histories. In a previous life Debashree worked in Mumbai’s film and TV industries as an assistant director, writer, and cameraperson. More information can be found onDebashree’s website, and she can be followed on Twitter at@Debashree2017.You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays atThe Asian Review of Books, including its review ofBombay Hustle. Follow onFacebookor on Twitter at@BookReviewsAsia.Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at@nickrigordon.

Feb 25, 2021

Lucy Alford, "Forms of Poetic Attention" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In this episode, I interview Lucy Alford, professor of English Literature at Wake Forest University, about her bookForms of Poetic Attention, recently published by Columbia University Press.Alford argues that, though poetry is ‘made’ of language, its main medium is attention, that poems act fundamentally as instruments for tuning and refining readerly and writerly attention. Following this assertion, Alford, through a wide variety of poetic readings (from al-Khansāʾ to Charles Bukowski, Sappho to Paul Celan—and many in between and around), breaks down the different modalities of attention that emerge in different poems.The overarching dichotomy that Alford identifies differentiates between poetic attention that has an object—transitive—and another, more nebulous form without an object—intransitive. In each of these types, Alford further delineates dynamic coordinates, which are formal-semantic aspects of a poem that lead into various modes of poetic attention: contemplation, desire, recollection, and imagination for transitive; and vigilance, resignation, idleness, and boredom for intransitive. In crafting this lexicon, Alford not only provides a new theory for poetic analysis, but alo expands the theoretical boundaries beyond the confines of the poetic. Instead, she argues, by paying attention to poetry as a subject and object of attention, poetry, through its requirement and production of attention, can train, hone, and refine our capacities for perception and judgment off the page, enabling us to become more attentive beings in a world that increasingly treats attention as a precious commodity.Britt Edelen is a Ph.D. student in English at Duke University. He focuses on modernism and the relationship(s) between language, philosophy, and literature. You can find him onTwitteror send him anemail.

Feb 22, 2021

Nicholas Jepson, "In China's Wake: How the Commodity Boom Transformed Development Strategies in the Global South" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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From 2002 to 2013, China’s rapid economic growth caused a boom in the prices of commodities—particularly of metals, fuel, and soybeans. According to political economist Dr.Nick Jepson, the commodity boom offered resource exporters in the Global South the financial resources and thus the opportunity to break away from international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and set their own policy agendas. But not all resource-exporting countries that benefited from the commodity boom took this path away from neoliberalism.In his new bookIn China’s Wake: How the Commodity Boom Transformed Development Strategies in the Global South(Columbia University Press 2020), Jepson uses fieldwork, interviews, and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to identify and describe five typologies of resource exporters during the boom and the factors that contributed to differing development strategies and trajectories. China’s rise has had profound consequences on the processes of global capitalism, and this can be observed most clearly in the fortunes of commodity-exporting countries of the Global South.In China’s Wakeexplores fascinating case studies of countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa to demonstrate the wide-ranging impact of China’s growth.Laurie Dickmeyeris an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University, where she teaches courses in Asian and US history. Her research concerns nineteenth-century US-China relations. She can be reached at and on Twitter@LDickmeyer.

Feb 17, 2021

Michael Christo Low, "Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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With the advent of the steamship, repeated outbreaks of cholera marked oceanic pilgrimages to Mecca as a dangerous form of travel and a vehicle for the globalization of epidemic diseases. European, especially British Indian, officials also feared that lengthy sojourns in Arabia might expose their Muslim subjects to radicalizing influences from anticolonial dissidents and pan-Islamic activists. European colonial empires’ newfound ability to set the terms of hajj travel not only affected the lives of millions of pilgrims but also dramatically challenged the Ottoman Empire, the world’s only remaining Muslim imperial power.Michael Christopher Low analyzes the late Ottoman hajj and Hijaz region as transimperial spaces, reshaped by the competing forces of Istanbul’s project of frontier modernization and the extraterritorial reach of British India’s steamship empire in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj(Columbia UP, 2020)recasts Ottoman Arabia as a distant, unstable semiautonomous frontier that Istanbul struggled to modernize and defend against the onslaught of colonial steamship mobility. As it turned out, steamships carried not just pilgrims, passports, and microbes, but the specter of legal imperialism and colonial intervention. Over the course of roughly a half-century from the 1850s through World War I, British India’s fear of the hajj as a vector of anticolonial subversion gradually gave way to an increasingly sophisticated administrative, legal, and medical protectorate over the steamship hajj, threatening to eclipse the Ottoman state and Caliphate’s prized legitimizing claim as protector of Islam’s most holy places. Drawing on a wide range of Ottoman and British archival sources, this book sheds new light on the transimperial and global histories traversed along the pilgrimage to Mecca within the Indian Ocean World.Dr.Michael Christopher Low’s primary research interests include the late Ottoman Empire, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Ocean World, and Environmental History. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2015 and is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Iowa State University.Low also serves as the Coordinator for Iowa State University’s Indian Ocean World partnership and PhD fellowship withMcGill University’s Indian Ocean World Centre.Low is a co-editor (with Lâle Can, Kent Schull, and Robert Zens) ofThe Subjects of Ottoman International Law(Indiana University Press, 2020).Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmiis a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the Western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.

Jan 28, 2021

Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918–1927" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927(Columbia University 2020) byJeffrey B. Perry, independent scholar and archivist, is an extensive intellectual history of the life and work of Black radical and autodidact Hubert Harrison. Perry is also editor ofA Hubert Harrison Reader(Wesleyan, 2001) and author ofHubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918(Columbia, 2008). He is the chief biographer of Hubert Harrison andHubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equalityis a follow up to his aforementioned text on Harrison. (these two volumes can be ordered from Columbia University Press at 20% discount by using Code CUP20). Perry’s volume on Harrison’s life from 1883 to 1918 is considered to be the first volume of an Afro-Caribbean “and only the fourth of an African American after those of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes” (1). This current text is a continuation of the argument advanced in Perry’s initial text on Harrison. Harrison is often left out of major surveys of the Harlem Renaissance and New Negro Era, as Perry notes, and this is likely because the Renaissance is often viewed as a movement of Black intellectual elites with formal higher education. That said, Harrison was a working-class self-taught man who wrote reviews, essays, orations and was recognized by intellectual elites of his day and a member of the Socialist Party of America.Harrison was born in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands in 1883 but relocated to the Harlem section of New York City in 1900, at age seventeen, where he eventually became a recognized writer, cultural critic, orator, editor and political activist including working with Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Perry defines Harrison as “the voice” of Harlem radicalism and also a “radical internationalist.” This is a challenge to standard views of the New Negro Era that tend to place intellectuals such as Alain Locke and W.E.B. Du Bois at the helm of Black thought and culture during the Harlem Renaissance moment in African American history. That said, Harrison was also involved with Garvey’s UNIA as editor of theNegro Worldand in labor activism. Harrison formed the Liberty League in 1917 andThe Voicethat helped to lay the foundation of the Garvey Movement and the Rise of the UNIA. He was involved in the major debates of his day including discussions about class consciousness, Black nationalism, internationalism, freethought and trade unionism. This second volume by Perry is very necessary given Harrison’s extensive engagement with the ideas and the production of knowledge as a self-taught organic intellectual with deep concerns about human liberation across class and race.Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Black Equalityis organized into four major sections divided by twenty chapters including an “Epilogue.” It is a far-reaching text of more than 700 pages. Part I focuses on Harrison’s work withThe Voiceand his political activities in places such as Washington, D.C. and Virginia, In Part II, Harrison’s role as editor of theNegro Worldis assessed with a discussion of his debates and writings. Part III concerns Harrison’s work as a “freelance educator” and his work as a writer and speaker, while the final part of the text Part IV covers his role as a Black radical internationalist. This is a critically important text. Scholars of the Harlem Renaissance will find it difficult to dismiss Hubert Harrison as a major voice of the New Negro Era with the publication of this text. Perry’s painstaking coverage of Harrison gives him his rightful place in history as “the voice of Harlem radicalism.”Hettie V. WilliamsPh.D., is an Assistant Professor of African American history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University where she teaches courses in African American history and U.S. history.

Jan 18, 2021

Bruce Haynes, "Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family(Columbia UP, 2019) tells the story of one Harlem family across three generations, connecting its journey to the historical and social forces that transformed Harlem over the past century. Bruce D. Haynes and Syma Solovitch capture the tides of change that pushed blacks forward through the twentieth century--the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, the early civil rights victories, the Black Power and Black Arts movements--as well as the many forces that ravaged black communities, including Haynes's own. As an authority on race and urban communities, Haynes brings unique sociological insights to the American mobility saga and the tenuous nature of status and success among the black middle class.In many ways, Haynes's family defied the odds. All four great-grandparents on his father's side owned land in the South as early as 1880. His grandfather, George Edmund Haynes, was the founder of the National Urban League and a protégé of eminent black sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois; his grandmother, Elizabeth Ross Haynes, was a noted children's author of the Harlem Renaissance and a prominent social scientist. Yet these early advances and gains provided little anchor to the succeeding generations. This story is told against the backdrop of a crumbling three-story brownstone in Sugar Hill that once hosted Harlem Renaissance elites and later became an embodiment of the family's rise and demise.Down the Up Staircaseis a stirring portrait of this family, each generation walking a tightrope, one misstep from free fall.

Jan 15, 2021

Guojun Wang, "Staging Personhood: Costuming in Early Qing Drama" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Much is known about the Qing sartorial regulations and how the Qing conquerors forced Han Chinese males to adopt Manchu hairstyle and clothing. But what happened on the stage? What did Qing performers wear, not only when they performed as characters in the Han past, but also when they appeared as subjects in the Manchu present? Reading dramatic works against Qing sartorial regulations,Staging Personhood: Costuming in Early Qing Drama(Columbia University Press, 2020) explores a two-sided question: how did the Ming-Qing transition influence costuming as theatrical practices and how, in turn, did costuming enable the production of different types of personhood in early Qing China?With readings of several early Qing theatrical works, from the canonicalPeach Blossom Fan(Taohua shan) to the lesser-knownA Ten-Thousand-Li Reunion(Wanli yuan), combined with visual and performance records and historical documents,Staging Personhoodprovides a new and interdisciplinary perspective on the cultural dynamics of early Qing China. Not only does this book turn an interdisciplinary lens to the entanglements between Chinese drama and nascent Manchu rule, it contains a plethora of fascinating moments from early Qing plays—from double-cross-dressers to fake queues—touching on issues of class, gender, ethnicity, and conceptions of time. Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike.

Jan 14, 2021

K. Mistry and H. Gurman, "Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of State Secrecy" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In the past decade, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden became household names. They were celebrated by many as truth-tellers who blew the whistle on governmental abuses. Yet, in the eyes of the state, Manning and Snowden had made so-called “unauthorized disclosures” that jeopardized the nation’s security. Described as such, they could not be labelled “whistleblowers.”This is an example of what the editors of a new, rousing edited volume––not words typically strung together––call the “paradox of national security whistleblowing”: whistleblowing is widely acknowledged to be an essential feature of democracy, but the US government denies its existence. InWhistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of Secrecy, editorsHannah Gurman––a Clinical Associate Professor at New York University’s Gallatin School––andKaeten Mistry––a senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of East Anglia––and their star-studded cast of contributors help makes sense of the odd place of whistleblowing in American politics.Their book shows how the history of whistleblowing raises questions about democracy, citizenship, and truth itself. And, as the US war against whistleblowers has continued unabated since the Vietnam War, it’s a much-needed volume. The book should interest scholars of national security, information, and civil liberties, along with concerned citizens.And, to listeners of this podcast, Mistry and Gurman are offering a discount code—CUP30—which, if entered onthe Columbia University Press website, knocks 30% off the book’s price.

Jan 13, 2021

T. Maschi and K. Morgen, "Aging Behind Prison Walls: Studies in Trauma and Resilience" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Today, more than 200,000 men and women over age fifty are languishing in prisons around the United States. It is projected that by 2030, one-third of all incarcerated individuals will be older adults. An already overcrowded and underserved prison system is straining to manage the needs of incarcerated older adults with growing frailty and health concerns. Separated from their families and communities despite a low risk of recidivism, incarcerated older adults represent a major social-justice issue that reveals the intersectional factors at play in their imprisonment. How do the people aging in prison understand their life experiences?InAging Behind Prison Walls, Tina Maschi and Keith Morgen offer a data-driven and compassionate analysis of the lives of incarcerated older people. They explore the transferable resiliencies and coping strategies used by incarcerated aging adults to make meaning of their lives before, during, and after imprisonment. The book draws on extensive quantitative and qualitative research as well as national datasets. It features rich narrative case studies that present stories of trauma, coping, and well-being. Based on the data, Maschi and Morgen present a solution-focused caring-justice framework in order to understand and transform the individual- and community-level structural factors that have led to and perpetuate the aging-in-prison crisis. They offer concrete proposals--at the community and national policy levels--to address the pressing issues of incarcerated elders.

Jan 12, 2021

Thomas Doherty, "Little Lindy Is Kidnapped: How the Media Covered the Crime of the Century" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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InLittle Lindy Is Kidnapped: How the Media Covered the Crime of the Century(Columbia University Press, 2020),Thomas Doherty offers a lively and comprehensive cultural history of the media coverage of the abduction and its aftermath. Beginning with Lindbergh’s ascent to fame and proceeding through the trial and execution of the accused kidnapper, Doherty traces how newspapers, radio, and newsreels reported on what was dubbed the “crime of the century.” He casts the affair as a transformative moment for American journalism, analyzing how the case presented new challenges and opportunities for each branch of the media in the days before the rise of television. Coverage of the Lindbergh story, Doherty reveals, set the template for the way the media would treat breaking news ever after. An engrossing account of an endlessly fascinating case,Little Lindy Is Kidnappedsheds new light on an enduring quality of journalism ever since: the media’s eye on a crucial part of the story—itself.Thomas Doherty is professor of American studies at Brandeis University. His previous Columbia University Press books includeHollywood and Hitler, 1933–1939(2013) andShow Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist(2018).

Jan 11, 2021

William C. Hedberg, "The Japanese Discovery of Chinese Fiction: The Water Margin and the Making of a National Canon" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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The classic Chinese novelThe Water Margin(Shuihu zhuan) tells the story of a band of outlaws in twelfth-century China and their insurrection against the corrupt imperial court. Imported into Japan in the early seventeenth century, it became a ubiquitous source of inspiration for translations, adaptations, parodies, and illustrated woodblock prints. There is no work of Chinese fiction more important to both the development of early modern Japanese literature and the Japanese imagination of China thanThe Water Margin.InThe Japanese Discovery of Chinese Fiction: The Water Margin and the Making of a National Canon(Columbia UP, 2019), William C. Hedberg investigates the reception ofThe Water Marginin a variety of early modern and modern Japanese contexts, from eighteenth-century Confucian scholarship and literary exegesis to early twentieth-century colonial ethnography. He examines the ways Japanese interest in Chinese texts contributed to new ideas about literary canons and national character. By constructing an account of Japanese literature through the lens ofThe Water Margin’s literary afterlives, Hedberg offers an alternative history of East Asian textual culture: one that focuses on the transregional dimensions of Japanese literary history and helps us rethink the definition and boundaries of Japanese literature itself.Jingyi Liis a PhD Candidate in Japanese Cultural and Literary History, University of Arizona

Jan 07, 2021

Arie Perliger, "American Zealots: Inside Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In an unsettling time in American history, the outbreak of right-wing violence is among the most disturbing developments. In recent years, attacks originating from the far right of American politics have targeted religious and ethnic minorities, with a series of antigovernment militants, religious extremists, and lone-wolf mass shooters inspired by right-wing ideologies. The need to understand the nature and danger of far-right violence is greater than ever.InAmerican Zealots: Inside Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism by Arie Perliger(Columbia University Press, 2020), Arie Perliger provides a wide-ranging and rigorously researched overview of right-wing domestic terrorism. He analyzes its historical roots, characteristics, tactics, rhetoric, and organization, assessing the current and future trajectory of the use of violence by the far right. Perliger draws on a comprehensive dataset of more than 5,000 attacks and their perpetrators from 1990 through 2017 in order to explore key trends in American right-wing terrorism. He describes the entire ideological spectrum of the American far right, including today’s white supremacists, antigovernment groups, and antiabortion fundamentalists, as well as the histories of the KKK, skinheads, and neo-Nazis. Based on these findings, Perliger suggests counterterrorism policies that can respond effectively to the far-right threat. A groundbreaking examination of violence spawned from right-wing ideologies,American Zealotsis essential reading for everyone seeking to understand the transformation of domestic terrorism.

Jan 06, 2021

Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter, "Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade" (Columbia UP, 2013)

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In the 1970s surfing and smoking pot went hand in hand. As surfers traveled the world in search of perfect waves in places like Bali, Indonesia, some of them encountered high quality Afghan hashish and a potent but cheap strain of marijuana from the Isaan region of Thailand and Laos. Tied to a stick and notable for their sticky and potent buds, these “Thai Sticks” became the most sought-after strain of marijuana in the United States of America. Eager to fund their counter-culture lifestyle, these surfers, known as “scammers”, turned to various schemes to traffic this coveted Southeast Asian export.Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter’sThai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade(Columbia University Press, 2014) focuses on this sub-culture of surfers who started moving drugs in hollowed out surfboards and suitcases with false bottoms but soon used large cargo ships to move tons of marijuana worth millions of dollars. As the scammers linked up with American veterans of the war in Vietnam and with the Thai, Chinese, and Japanese criminal underworld, the operations became large international conspiracies, making fortunes for some and ruining the lives of others. The story takes some surprising twists and turns, with scruffy surfers and hippies making their way from the Hippy Trail in Afghanistan and the beaches of Bali to massive mansions in Montecito and Tahiti, but also with some of its subjects winding up in a Thai, Vietnamese, and American jails. In the most tragic chapter, Maguire and Ritter’s research reveals how a surfer from Seal Beach, California, was tortured in the Khmer Rouge’s infamous S-21 prison before Comrade Duch ordered his brutally murder, just weeks ahead of the Vietnamese invasion which ended the genocidal regime. Using oral history techniques and Mike Ritter’s numerous connections from his previous career as a “scammer”,Thai Stickis an engaging tale of tropical adventure, easy riches, and devastating loss, but also an insightful economic history that links Southeast Asia to the United States.Peter Maguire earned his doctorate in American History at Columbia University. His dissertation focused on the Nuremberg trials and American legal history in the context of the Cold War, becoming his first book,Law and War: An American Story(Columbia University Press, 2001). In the 1990s he went to Cambodia where he reported on the tail end of the civil war and the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, even helping to track down and interview some of the guards from the Tuol Sleng or S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. In 2005 he publishedFacing Death in Cambodia, also with Columbia University Press. He has published widely on a range of subjects. His work has appeared in periodicals ranging fromThe New York Review of BooksandThe DiplomattoThe Surfers Journal. He has taught at a variety of institutions including Columbia, Bard, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington on topics ranging from human rights law and the war on drugs to the history of surfing. Mike Ritter spent years in the smuggling world, only to face federal charges long after his retirement as a scammer.Michael G. Vannis a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author ofThe Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam(Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

Dec 23, 2020

Geoffrey C. Goble, "Chinese Esoteric Buddhism: Amoghavajra, the Ruling Elite, and the Emergence of a Tradition" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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In his recent book,Chinese Esoteric Buddhism: Amoghavajra, the Ruling Elite, and the Emergence of a Tradition(Columbia University Press, 2019), Geoffrey Goble examines the emergence and early history of esoteric Buddhism in China.In contrast to earlier scholarship, Goble contends that it was really Amoghavajra (rather than the two patriarchs preceding him in the lineage) who systematized esoteric Buddhism into a somewhat internally coherent collection of texts and practices. Goble looks at why the Tang-period elite found Amoghavajra’s system so attractive (which was in part due to esoteric Buddhism’s military applications). He also explores the way in which esoteric Buddhism managed to neatly fit into a larger system that Goble calls imperial religion, and examines the reasons why there was some confusion after Amoghavajra’s death as to whether or not his teachings constituted a distinct tradition. This book delves into political, military, and intellectual history to give us an account of the period that will be fascinating for anyone interested in Tang-period Buddhism, and for anyone interested more broadly in the relationships between religious traditions and elite patronage systems. I hope that you enjoy the interview.

Dec 15, 2020

Nicole CuUnjieng Aboitiz, "Asian Place, Filipino Nation: A Global Intellectual History of the Philippine Revolution, 1887-1912" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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The Philippine Revolution of 1896-1905, which began against Spain and continued against the United States, took place in the context of imperial subjugation and local resistance across Southeast Asia. Yet scholarship on the revolution and the turn of the twentieth century in Asia more broadly has largely approached this pivotal moment in terms of relations with the West, at the expense of understanding the East-East and Global South connections that knit together the region's experience.Asian Place, Filipino Nation: A Global Intellectual History of the Philippine Revolution, 1887-1912(Columbia UP, 2020) reconnects the Philippine Revolution to the histories of Southeast and East Asia through an innovative consideration of its transnational political setting and regional intellectual foundations.Nicole CuUnjieng Aboitiz charts turn-of-the-twentieth-century Filipino thinkers' and revolutionaries' Asianist political organizing and proto-national thought, scrutinizing how their constructions of the place of Asia connected them to their regional neighbors. She details their material and affective engagement with Pan-Asianism, tracing how colonized peoples in the "periphery" of this imagined Asia--focusing on Filipinos, but with comparison to the Vietnamese--reformulated a political and intellectual project that envisioned anticolonial Asian solidarity with the Asian "center" of Japan. CuUnjieng Aboitiz argues that the revolutionary First Philippine Republic's harnessing of transnational networks of support, activism, and association represents the crucial first instance of Pan-Asianists lending material aid toward anticolonial revolution against a Western power. Uncovering the Pan-Asianism of the periphery and its critical role in shaping modern Asia,Asian Place, Filipino Nationoffers a vital new perspective on the Philippine Revolution's global context and content.Michael G. Vannis a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author ofThe Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam(Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

Dec 09, 2020

Michael C. Davis, "Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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“Imagine you live in a freewheeling city like New York or London – one of the world’s leading financial, educational, and cultural centres. Then imagine that one of the world’s most infamous authoritarian regimes makes direct control over your city, introducing secret police, warrant less surveillance and searches, massive repression and the arrest of protestors, and aggressive prosecution… This is what just happened in Hong Kong”--Michael C. DavisIt is difficult to understand the pace or extent of the changes in Hong Kong since the protests began in June 2019, however in his latest book,Michael C. Davisbreaks down for both the uninitiated and expert alike, the political, legal and informal events that have shaped Hong Kong under China’s ever expanding controls. In recent years, Beijing’s increasing interference with Hong Kong’s autonomy has begun to erode the promised “one country, two systems” model. The tension between one country and two systems came to a head in 2019; the world watched Hong Kong’s widespread protests demanding the maintenance of Hong Kong’s autonomy, rule of law and basic freedoms. In an attempt to quell the resistance movement, in 2020 Beijing introduced a National Security Law which has had a chilling effect on society. InMaking Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law(Columbia UP, 2020), Professor Davis contextualizes these events in Hong Kong’s political history, giving the reader unique understandings about the events of 2019 and 2020.Professor Michael C. Davis has taught human rights and constitutional law in Hong Kong for over three decades. Through that time, he has witnessed first-hand the changes from the period before the handover in 1997 under British Colonial Rule, including the events after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. He was instrumental in the organisation of the massive 2003 and 2004 protests, and witnessed first-hand the protests of the 2014 Occupy Central movement. He brings his unique insights to this book. Davis is the author of a number of books and his scholarship engages a wide range of issues relating to human rights, the rule of law and constitutionalism in emerging states. He is widely published in both academic circles and also popular news media. In 2014 he was awarded the 2014 Human Rights Press Award for his commentary by the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club.Jane Richards is a doctoral candidate in Human Rights Law at the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include disability, equality, criminal law and civil disobedience. You can find her on twitter @JaneRichardsHK where she avidly follows the Hong Kong’s protests and its politics.

Nov 19, 2020

Eithne Quinn, "A Piece of the Action: Race and Labor in Post–Civil Rights Hollywood" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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What is the history of equal rights in Hollywood? InA Piece of the Action: Race and Labor in Post–Civil Rights Hollywood(Columbia UP, 2019),Eithne Quinn, a senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of Manchester, explores the transitional years following the civil rights movement of the 1960s, in order to chart the struggle by Black film makers for rights, recognition and representation. The book combines analysis of on-screen representations, with research on both the production and political economy of Hollywood films. Attentive to questions of gender and race, alongside a critical perspective on Hollywood’s myths of equality and diversity, the book will be essential reading across arts, humanities, and social sciences, as well as for anyone interested in understanding why inequality persists in Hollywood today.

Nov 16, 2020

Matthew Hart, "Extraterritorial: A Political Geography of Contemporary Fiction" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Extraterritorial: A Political Geography of Contemporary Fiction(Columbia University Press, 2020) explores how texts—literary and visual—help us engage with the space that goes beyond the limits of visible geographical borders and legal regulations. By drawing attention to the loci that produce borderline experiences (detention camps, consulates, international waters), Matthew Hart guides his readers through experiences that ask to reconsider the ways in which geographical places and the implications they produce are perceived. The repercussions of the extraterritorial experiences may include transitional modes for constructing and re-discovering one’s identity. This opens up a broader dimension with whichExtraterritorial: A Political Geography of Contemporary Fictionengages. With his book, Hart offers an acute intervention into how a text functions in a globalized community, which entails the reconsideration of how literature and art respond to the twenty-first-century transcultural shifts that are often marked with political anxieties.

Nov 10, 2020

Joan Scott, "On the Judgment of History" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Joan Scott’s groundbreaking work in gender and French history is essential reading for any aspiring historian. Indeed, she last joined us on New Books in French Studies to talk about her 2017 book Sex and Secularism. But her latest work, On the Judgment of History (Columbia UP, 2020), is a markedly different endeavor.Drawing on three starkly different case studies from modern history, Scott critically examines the widely held belief that history, as the final arbiter of truth, will eventually redeem us. In doing so, she tears apart assumptions that underlie our understanding of history. Scott challenges us to question the persistence of structures of power and the very idea of the nation-state, while encouraging us to rethink whether there truly is such a thing as the judgment of history.

Oct 15, 2020

Jill Richards, "The Fury Archives: Female Citizenship, Human Rights, and the International Avant-Gardes" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In The Fury Archives: Female Citizenship, Human Rights, and the International Avant-Gardes (Columbia UP 2020), Jill Richards radically rewrites our understanding of first-wave feminism by demonstrating its proximity to international avant-garde movements including surrealism, Dada, and futurism. Using case studies including the movement for a proletarian birth strike, the anti-Nazi pranks of Claude Cahun, and the theatre of Ina Cesaire, Richards shows that our understanding of early 20th-century women activists as stodgy and conservative is woefully inadequate. While some among the turn of the century feminist movement saw suffrage as the primary goal, others dreamed of revolution, decolonization, and a world where art was life and life was art. Richards also shows how these forgotten feminisms sharply depart from the liberal understandings of human rights taking shape alongside them.Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA program at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts. His plays have been produced, developed, or presented at IRT, Pipeline Theatre Company, The Gingold Group, Dixon Place, Roundabout Theatre, Epic Theatre Company, Out Loud Theatre, Naked Theatre Company, Contemporary Theatre of Rhode Island, and The Trunk Space. He is currently working on a series of 50 plays about the 50 U.S. states. His website is, and he can be reached at

Oct 08, 2020

John Whysner, "The Alchemy of Disease" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Since the dawn of the industrial age, we have unleashed a bewildering number of potentially harmful chemicals. But out of this vast array, how do we identify the actual threats? What does it take to prove that a certain chemical causes cancer? How do we translate academic knowledge of the toxic effects of particular substances into understanding real-world health consequences? The science that answers these questions is toxicology.In The Alchemy of Disease: How Chemicals and Toxins Cause Cancer and Other Illnesses (Columbia University Press), John Whysner offers an accessible and compelling history of toxicology and its key findings. He details the experiments and discoveries that revealed the causal connections between chemical exposures and diseases. Balancing clear accounts of groundbreaking science with human drama and public-policy relevance, Whysner describes key moments in the development of toxicology and their thorny social and political implications.The book features discussions of toxicological problems past and present, including DDT, cigarettes and other carcinogens, lead poisoning, fossil fuels, chemical warfare, pharmaceuticals—including opioids—and the efficacy of animal testing. Offering valuable insight into the science and politics of crucial public-health concerns, The Alchemy of Disease shows that toxicology’s task—pinpointing the chemical cause of an illness—is as compelling as any detective story.John Whysner was formerly an associate clinical professor of environmental health sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. A board-certified toxicologist, he has consulted for the International Agency for Research on Cancer and federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was director of biomedical research for the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, Executive Office of the President.Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine.

Oct 08, 2020

Thom van Dooren, "The Wake of Crows: Living and Dying in Shared Worlds" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Crows can be found almost everywhere that people are, from tropical islands to deserts and arctic forests, from densely populated cities to suburbs and farms. Across these diverse landscapes, many species of crow are doing well: their intelligent and adaptive ways of life have allowed them to thrive amid human-driven transformations. Indeed, crows are frequently disliked for their success, seen as pests, threats, and scavengers on the detritus of human life. But among the vast variety of crows, there are also critically endangered species that are barely hanging on to existence, some of them the subjects of passionate conservation efforts.The Wake of Crows: Living and Dying in Shared Worlds(Columbia UP, 2019) is an exploration of the entangled lives of humans and crows. Focusing on five key sites, Thom van Dooren asks how we might live well with crows in a changing world. He explores contemporary possibilities for shared life emerging in the context of ongoing processes of globalization, colonization, urbanization, and climate change. Moving among these diverse contexts, this book tells stories of extermination and extinction alongside fragile efforts to better understand and make room for other species. Grounded in the careful work of paying attention to particular crows and their people,The Wake of Crowsis an effort to imagine and put into practice a multispecies ethics. In so doing, van Dooren explores some of the possibilities that still exist for living and dying well on this damaged planet.Thom van Dooren is associate professor at the University of Sydney. He is the author ofFlight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction(Columbia, 2014) and coeditor of Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations(Columbia, 2017).Mark Molloy is the reviews editor at MAKE: A Literary Magazine.

Sep 30, 2020

Brian R. Dott, "The Chile Pepper in China: A Cultural Biography" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In China, chiles are everywhere. From dried peppers hanging from eaves to Mao’s boast that revolution would be impossible without chiles, Chinese culture and the chile pepper have been intertwined for centuries. Yet, this was not always the case.In The Chile Pepper in China: A Cultural Biography (Columbia University Press, 2020), Brian Dott explores the evolution of the chile pepper from an obscure foreign import to a ubiquitous plant regarded by most Chinese as native to the land. He details the myriad uses of chile peppers in late imperial China, not just as a central ingredient in Sichuanese cuisine, but also as a miraculous cure for (get this…) hemorrhoids. By the turn of the 20th century, the chile pepper had transformed itself into a powerful symbol of prosperity, virility, and passion.Brian joins us to discuss, among other things, the challenges of translating classical Chinese, the difficulty of locating primary sources and what the chile pepper meant to Mao Ze Dong.Brian R. Dott is associate professor of history at Whitman College. He is the author of Identity Reflections: Pilgrimages to Mount Tai in Late Imperial China (2004).Joshua Tham is an undergraduate reading History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His interests include economic history, sociolinguistics, and the "linguistic turn" in historiography.

Sep 23, 2020

Victor McFarland, "Oil Powers: A History of the US-Saudi Alliance" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is a critical feature of the modern international system. It binds the global hegemon to a region on the other side of the planet. And it has facilitated capitalist-led globalization. However, as both the US and and Saudi governments have tried to hide the relationship from their respective citizens, it also has been poorly understood.Victor McFarland, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri, has sorted through the secrecy and head-spinning complexities of the US-Saudi relationship, examining everything from petrodollars to military contracting. His new book, Oil Powers: A History of the US-Saudi Alliance (Columbia University Press) is a testament to that hard work.In Oil Powers, McFarland, traces the history of the US-Saudi alliance across the twentieth century. He shows how the alliance contributed to financialization; how it helped entrench a world order based on oil; and how it tugged both countries rightward in the 1970s, both in economic and foreign policy. As can be surmised from this sample of the book’s arguments, McFarland makes our contemporary moment a lot more comprehensible.Dexter Fergieis a PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email atdexter.fergie@u.northwestern.eduor on Twitter@DexterFergie.

Sep 17, 2020

Victor McFarland, "Oil Powers: A History of the US-Saudi Alliance" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is a critical feature of the modern international system. It binds the global hegemon to a region on the other side of the planet. And it has facilitated capitalist-led globalization. However, as both the US and and Saudi governments have tried to hide the relationship from their respective citizens, it also has been poorly understood.Victor McFarland, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri, has sorted through the secrecy and head-spinning complexities of the US-Saudi relationship, examining everything from petrodollars to military contracting. His new book, Oil Powers: A History of the US-Saudi Alliance (Columbia University Press) is a testament to that hard work.In Oil Powers, McFarland, traces the history of the US-Saudi alliance across the twentieth century. He shows how the alliance contributed to financialization; how it helped entrench a world order based on oil; and how it tugged both countries rightward in the 1970s, both in economic and foreign policy. As can be surmised from this sample of the book’s arguments, McFarland makes our contemporary moment a lot more comprehensible.Dexter Fergieis a PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email atdexter.fergie@u.northwestern.eduor on Twitter@DexterFergie.

Sep 17, 2020

Albena Azmanova, "Capitalism on Edge: How Fighting Precarity Can Achieve Radical Change Without Utopia or Crisis" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Capitalism seems to many to be in a sort of constant crisis, leaving many struggling to make ends meet. This desperation was intensified in 2008, and for many never went away in spite of claims of a general economic ‘recovery.’ More recently, the tensions and shortcomings of our current socioeconomic system have been exacerbated by the COVID-crisis, with poorly compensated frontline workers struggling to stay safe in workplaces that have failed to take adequate care of their health and safety.The feeling that we’ve stuck riding along the precipice of disaster for years now is an animating idea for my guest today, Albena Azmanova, here to discuss her recent book Capitalism on Edge: How Fighting Precarity Can Achieve Radical Change Without Utopia or Crisis (Columbia University Press).The book argues that the animating element of contemporary life under capitalism is precarity, and the driving force behind this precarity is the insatiable drive for profits which leaves workers desperately trying to keep up with capital. Synthesizing history, philosophy, economics and policy analysis, the book takes a sharp look at the elements that make up our current situation, and what our possibilities are for change.Albena Azmanova is an associate professor of political and social theory at Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies. She is also the author of The Scandal of Reason: A Critical Theory of Political Judgement.Stephen Dozeman is a freelance writer.

Sep 10, 2020

Steven Heine, "Readings of Dōgen's 'Treasury of the True Dharma Eye'"(Columbia UP, 2020)

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TheTreasury of the True Dharma Eye(Shōbōgenzō) is the masterwork of Dōgen (1200–1253), founder of the Sōtō Zen Buddhist sect in Kamakura-era Japan. It is one of the most important Zen Buddhist collections, composed during a period of remarkable religious diversity and experimentation. The text is complex and compelling, famed for its eloquent yet perplexing manner of expressing the core precepts of Zen teachings and practice.Readings of Dōgen's "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" (Columbia University Press) is a comprehensive introduction to this essential Zen text, offering a textual, historical, literary, and philosophical examination of Dōgen’s treatise. Steven Heine explores the religious and cultural context in which the Treasurywas composed and provides a detailed study of the various versions of the medieval text that have been compiled over the centuries.He includes nuanced readings of Dōgen’s use of inventive rhetorical flourishes and the range of East Asian Buddhist textual and cultural influences that shaped the work. Heine explicates the philosophical implications of Dōgen’s views on contemplative experience and attaining and sustaining enlightenment, showing the depth of his distinctive understanding of spiritual awakening.Readings of Dōgen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eyewill give students and other readers a full understanding of this fundamental work of world religious literature.Steven Heine is professor of religious studies and history and director of Asian studies at Florida International University.Dr.YakirEnglanderis the National Director of Leadership programs at the Israeli-American Council. He also teaches at the AJR. He is a Fulbright scholar and was a visiting professor of Religion at Northwestern University, the Shalom Hartman Institute and Harvard Divinity School. His books are Sexuality and the Body in New Religious Zionist Discourse (English/Hebrew and The Male Body in Jewish Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodoxy (Hebrew). He can be reached

Sep 09, 2020

Philip Thai, "China's War on Smuggling: Law, Illicit Markets, and State Power on the China Coast" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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In this episode, Siobhan talks with Philip Thai about his book, China'sWar on Smuggling: Law, Illicit Markets, and State Power on the China Coast (Columbia University Press, 2018). Thai is Assistant Professor of History at Northeastern University. He is a historian of Modern China with research and teaching interests that include legal history, economic history, and diplomatic history.Smuggling along the Chinese coast has been a thorn in the side of many regimes. From opium and weapons concealed aboard foreign steamships in the Qing dynasty to nylon stockings and wristwatches trafficked in the People’s Republic, contests between state and smuggler have exerted a surprising but crucial influence on the political economy of modern China. Seeking to consolidate domestic authority and confront foreign challenges, states introduced tighter regulations, higher taxes, and harsher enforcement. These interventions sparked widespread defiance, triggering further coercive measures. Smuggling simultaneously threatened the state’s power while inviting repression that strengthened its authority.Philip Thai chronicles the vicissitudes of smuggling in modern China—its practice, suppression, and significance—to demonstrate the intimate link between illicit coastal trade and the amplification of state power. China’s War on Smuggling shows that the fight against smuggling was not a simple law enforcement problem but rather an impetus to centralize authority and expand economic controls. The smuggling epidemic gave Chinese states pretext to define legal and illegal behavior, and the resulting constraints on consumption and movement remade everyday life for individuals, merchants, and communities. Drawing from varied sources such as legal cases, customs records, and popular press reports and including diverse perspectives from political leaders, frontline enforcers, organized traffickers, and petty runners, Thai uncovers how different regimes policed maritime trade and the unintended consequences their campaigns unleashed. China’s War on Smuggling traces how defiance and repression redefined state power, offering new insights into modern Chinese social, legal, and economic history.Siobhan M. M. Barco, J.D. explores legal history at Princeton University

Aug 24, 2020

Thomas Borstelmann, "Just Like Us: The American Struggle to Understand Foreigners" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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The American attitude towards outsiders has always been ambivalent. The United States, it is commonly said, is a nation of immigrants; today, it’s the most demographically diverse great power. But on the other side of that spectrum have been anxiety about and hatred for the foreign. And there’s no shortage of this: from the English-only movements of the 1980s and 90s to the continued power of America First.Thomas Borstelmann, E.N. and Katherine Thompson Professor of Modern World History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has tried to sort out that ambivalence in his thoughtful and thought-provoking new book Just Like Us: The American Struggle to Understand Foreigners (Columbia University Press, 2020).The book entertains its readers with examples pulled from the unlikeliest of places (Chef Boyardee and Captain America make appearances). But it also provokes us to think about the US’ relationship with the foreign in a much more complicated way.Dexter Fergieis a PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email atdexter.fergie@u.northwestern.eduor on Twitter@DexterFergie.

Aug 07, 2020

Alex Sayf Cummings, "Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Idea of the Idea Economy" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Beginning in the 1950s, a group of academics, businesspeople, and politicians set out on an ambitious project to remake North Carolina’s low-wage economy. They pitched the universities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill as the kernel of a tech hub, Research Triangle Park, which would lure a new class of highly educated workers. In the process, they created a blueprint for what would become known as the knowledge economy: a future built on intellectual labor and the production of intellectual property.In Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Idea of the Idea Economy (Columbia UP, 2020),Alex Sayf Cummings reveals the significance of Research Triangle Park to the emergence of the high-tech economy in a postindustrial United States. She analyzes the use of ideas of culture and creativity to fuel economic development, how workers experienced life in the Triangle, and the role of the federal government in bringing the modern technology industry into being. As Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill were transformed by high-tech development, the old South gave way to a distinctly new one, which welded the intellectual power of universities to a vision of the suburban good life. Cummings pinpoints how the story of the Research Triangle sheds new light on the origins of today’s urban landscape, in which innovation, as exemplified by the tech industry, is lauded as the engine of economic growth against a backdrop of gentrification and inequality. Placing the knowledge economy in a broader cultural and intellectual context,Brain Magnetoffers vital insight intDr. Alex Sayf Cummings is a historian of law, technology, and American political culture at Georgia State University. She earned a BA in History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her PhD in History from Columbia University.Chris Babits is an Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. He researches the intersecting histories of medicine, religion, and gender and sexuality and is currently working on his book about the history of conversion therapy in the United States.

Aug 05, 2020

Gaurav Desai, "Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination" (Columbia UP, 2013)

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Gaurav Desai’s Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination (Columbia University Press, 2013), offers an alternative history of East Africa in the Indian Ocean world. Reading the life narratives and literary texts of South Asians writing in and about East Africa, Gaurav Desai highlights many complexities in the history of Africa's experience with slavery, migration, colonialism, nationalism, and globalization. Consulting Afrasian texts that are literary and nonfictional, political and private, he broadens the scope of African and South Asian scholarship and inspires a more nuanced understanding of the Indian Ocean's fertile routes of exchange.Desai shows how the Indian Ocean engendered a number of syncretic identities and shaped the medieval trade routes of the Islamicate empire, the early independence movements galvanized in part by Gandhi's southern African experiences, the invention of new ethnic nationalisms, and the rise of plural, multiethnic African nations. Calling attention to lives and literatures long neglected by traditional scholars, Desai introduces rich, interdisciplinary ways of thinking not only about this specific region but also about the very nature of ethnic history and identity. Traveling from the twelfth century to today, he concludes with a look at contemporary Asian populations in East Africa and their struggle to decide how best to participate in the development and modernization of their postcolonial nations without sacrificing their political autonomy.Gaurav Desai is Professor of English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Micheal Rumore is a PhD candidate at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His work focuses on the Indian Ocean as an African diasporic site. He can be reached at Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.

Aug 03, 2020

Eugenia Lean, "Vernacular Industrialism in China"(Columbia UP, 2020)

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In early twentieth-century China, Chen Diexian (1879–1940) was a maverick entrepreneur—at once a prolific man of letters and captain of industry, a magazine editor and cosmetics magnate. He tinkered with chemistry in his private studio, used local cuttlefish to source magnesium carbonate, and published manufacturing tips in how-to columns.In a rapidly changing society, Chen copied foreign technologies and translated manufacturing processes from abroad to produce adaptations of global commodities that bested foreign brands. Engaging in the worlds of journalism, industry, and commerce, he drew on literati practices associated with late-imperial elites but deployed them in novel ways within a culture of educated tinkering that generated industrial innovation.Through the lens of Chen’s career, Eugenia Lean explores how unlikely individuals devised unconventional, homegrown approaches to industry and science in early twentieth-century China. She contends that Chen’s activities exemplify “vernacular industrialism,” the pursuit of industry and science outside of conventional venues, often involving ad hoc forms of knowledge and material work.Lean shows how vernacular industrialists accessed worldwide circuits of law and science and experimented with local and global processes of manufacturing to navigate, innovate, and compete in global capitalism. In doing so, they presaged the approach that has helped fuel China’s economic ascent in the twenty-first century.Rather than conventional narratives that depict China as belatedly borrowing from Western technology, Vernacular Industrialism in China: Local Innovation and Translated Technologies in the Making of a Cosmetics Empire, 1900-1940 (Columbia University Press) offers a new understanding of industrialization, going beyond material factors to show the central role of culture and knowledge production in technological and industrial change.Eugenia Lean is professor of history and East Asian languages and cultures and current director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University.This interview was conducted by Lukas Rieppel, a historian of science and capitalism at Brown University. You can learn more about his research here, or find him on twitter here.

Jul 17, 2020

Johannes Bronkhorst, "A Śabda Reader: Language in Classical Indian Thought" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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In A Śabda Reader: Language in Classical Indian Thought (Columbia University Press, 2019), Johannes Bronkhorst, emeritus professor at the University of Lausanne, makes the case through an extensive introduction and select translations of important Indian texts that language has a crucial role in Indian thought.Not only does it form the subject of inquiry for grammarians, philosophers, and aestheticians, but it forms the background for the religious and cultural world which informs these investigations. Writing in, and deeply invested in, the Sanskrit language, brahminical thinkers considered the status of phonemes, words, sentences, and larger textual units, as well as the relationship between language and reality.Their interlocutors, Jains and Buddhists, wrote in Pāli as well as Sanskrit, addressing many of the same topics. A Śabda Reader includes excerpts of texts from all three groups, in new translations, which shows the interplay among these thinkers.Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yale-NUS College. His research focuses on Sanskrit philosophy of language and epistemology. He is the author of Language, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy (Bloomsbury Press, 2019) and host of the podcast Sutras (and stuff).

Jul 17, 2020

Yuhang Li, "Becoming Guanyin: Artistic Devotion of Buddhist Women in Late Imperial China" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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How did Buddhist women access religious experience and transcendence in a Confucian patriarchal system in imperial China? How were Buddhist practices carried out in the intimate settings of a boudoir?In Dr. Yuhang Li’s recent monograph, Becoming Guanyin: Artistic Devotion of Buddhist Women in Late Imperial China (Columbia University Press), the answers to these questions can be found in creative usages of “women’s things” and the female body.Dr. Li shows in this book that through expressive depictions of Guanyin, or the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara in various media such as painting and embroidery, and through embodiments of the deity via jewelry and dance, Buddhist women in Ming-Qing China were able to forge personal connections with the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Dr. Li argues that this connection was made possible through “mimetic devotion,” which allowed the faithful devotees to use their own bodies and material things to “become” the feminized form of the popular Buddhist deity.Yuhang Li is an assistant professor of Chinese art in the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation researches on transnational and transregional networks of Buddhism connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and Imperial Japan.

Jul 14, 2020

Jamieson Webster, "Conversion Disorder: Listening to the Body in Psychoanalysis" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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What do psychoanalysts do with bodies, and what do they do with them now?Jamieson Webster has been thinking and writing on these questions as they impact her in her practice and her life. In this interview, we explore her latest book, Conversion Disorder: Listening to the Body in Psychoanalysis, alongside her recent article in the New York Review of Books on her volunteer work in a hospital with the families of loved ones sick or dying from COVID-19.Webster speaks about issues of time and waiting, her skepticism of the call to 'carry on', and the life-threatening and curative conversions that, she suggests, are the beating heart of psychoanalytic practice.This interview is part of a series on Psychoanalysis and Time, produced in collaboration with Waiting Times, a multi-stranded research project on the temporalities of healthcare. Waiting Times is supported by The Wellcome Trust [205400/A/16/Z], and takes places across Birkbeck (University of London) and the University of Exeter. Learn more about the project by visiting, or follow us on twitter @WhatisWaiting.

Jun 19, 2020

Minou Arjomand, "Staged: Show Trials, Political Theater, and the Aesthetics of Judgment" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In Staged: Show Trials, Political Theater, and the Aesthetics of Judgment (Columbia University Press, 2020), Minou Arjomand provides a startling account of the many intersections between theatre and trials in Germany and the United States from the 1930s to the 1960s.Through case studies of Hannah Arendt, Bertolt Brecht, and Edwin Piscator, Arjomand explores the use of trials as a theatrical form, as well as what theatre theory might tell us about political justice.In doing so, Arjomand demonstrates that calling a trail theatrical is not a criticism but merely a starting point. In considering what type of justice is possible in a trial, we must ask what theatrical conventions are being used, and to what ends. Arjomand’s book both allows us to see pivotal theatrical artists in a new light and poses profound questions about the nature of theatre itself.Andy Boyd  is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA program at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts. His plays have been produced, developed, or presented at IRT, Pipeline Theatre Company, The Gingold Group, Dixon Place, Roundabout Theatre, Epic Theatre Company, Out Loud Theatre, Naked Theatre Company, Contemporary Theatre of Rhode Island, and The Trunk Space. He is currently working on a series of 50 plays about the 50 U.S. states. His website is, and he can be reached at

Jun 18, 2020

E. Lonergan and M. Blyth, "Angrynomics" (Agenda/Columbia UP, 2020)

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How are we going to address inequality and put the economy on a sounder footing?Today I talked to Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth about their new book Angrynomics (Agenda Publishing/Columbia University Press, 2020).Lonergan is an economist and macro fund manager in London whose writings often appear inThe Financial Times. Blyth is a political economist at Brown University who received his PhD in political science from Columbia University.Topics covered in this episode include:--An exploration of how the emotions of anger, fear and disgust animate both the long-term economic stresses in society and those brought on by the Covid-19 crisis.--What the differences are between moral outrage versus tribal outrage.--Descriptions of three, potentially viable and game-changing solutions, including among them a “data dividend” and the creation of national wealth funds like those in Norway and beyond.Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of eight books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. ( check out his “Faces of the Week” blog, visit

Jun 18, 2020

Paige Glotzer, "How the Suburbs Were Segregated: Developers and the Business of Exclusionary Housing, 1890-1960" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Paige Glotzer is the author of How the Suburbs Were Segregated: Developers and the Business of Exclusionary Housing, 1890-1960, published by Columbia University Press in 2020. How the Suburbs Were Segregated examines the history surrounding how modern housing segregation was purposefully planned out beginning at the turn of the 20th Century. Looking at the intersection of transnational finance, suburban developers, and local, regional, and federal policymaking, Glotzer illustrates the myriad of people and institutions involved in simultaneously creating the idea of the modern suburb and racializing housing.Paige Glotzer is an Assistant Professor of history and John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Chair in the History of American Politics, Institutions, and Political Economy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Derek Litvakis a Ph.D. student in the department of history at the University of Maryland.

Jun 15, 2020

Mona L. Siegel, "Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women’s Rights After the First World" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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We are all familiar with the story of how in early 1919 heads of state and diplomats from around the world came to Paris to negotiate a peace settlement with a defeated Germany and its allies. Many of us are aware of how nationalists such as Nguyễn Ái Quốc, the future Hồ Chí Minh, tried to gain access to the official meetings. But far fewer of us know of the roles played of activist women such as the French Marguerite de Witt Schlumberger, the African American Ida Gibbs Hunt, and the Chinese Soumay Tcheng.In her new bookPeace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women’s Rights After the First World (Columbia University Press, 2020),Professor Mona L. Siegel explores the previously neglected history of a diverse group of women from around the world who fought for women’s rights as male politicians forged a new world order. Written like a true global history, Peace on Our Terms links the meeting rooms of Paris to street demonstrations in Cairo to the revolutionary underworld of Shanghai. Not only does Siegel gender the history of 1919, but she also offers a serious critique of traditional narratives of the American women’s movement by bringing in issues of race and class. Based on her research in archives in several countries on both sides of the Atlantic, Siegel explores troves of previously untouched documents. This is a scholarly work written in a style accessible for a general audience.Mona L. Siegel of Sacramento State University earned her PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 2004, she published The Moral Disarmament of France: Education, Pacifism, and Patriotism, 1914-1940 with Cambridge University Press. In addition to awards from the Peace History Society and the History of Education Society, Siegel received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities for research on feminist activism and peace negotiations after World War One.Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford, 2018). When he’s not quietly reading or happily talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

Jun 15, 2020

M’hamed Oualdi, "A Slave between Empires: A Transimperial History of North Africa" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In light of the profound physical and mental traumas of colonization endured by North Africans, historians of recent decades have primarily concentrated their studies of North Africa on colonial violence, domination, and shock. The choice is an understandable one. But in his new monograph, A Slave between Empires: A Transimperial History of North Africa (Columbia University Press, 2020), M’hamed Oualdi asks how a history of the modern Maghreb might look if we did not perceive it solely through the prism of European colonization, and argues that widening our gaze might force us to redefine our understanding of colonialism — and its limits.As a sequel of sorts to his first book, Oualdi explores the life and afterlife of one figure, the manumitted slave and Tunisian dignitary Husayn Ibn ‘Abdallah, as an aperture through which to understand the financial, intellectual, and kinship networks that mingled with processes of colonialism and Ottoman governance in unexpected ways to produce the modern Maghreb.A master class in how historians might untangle the relationship between the personal and the political, A Slave between Empires centers Husayn — and North Africa — at the crossroads of competing ambitions, imperial and intimate. Engaging with sources in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, and European languages, and corralling French, Tunisian, and Anglophone historiographies into one conversation, Oualdi’s newest book is not to be missed.M'hamed Oualdi is full professor at Sciences Po in Paris.Nancy Ko is a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow and a PhD student in History at Columbia University, where she examines the relationship between Jewish difference and (concepts of) philanthropy and property in the late- and post-Ottoman and Qajar Middle East. She can be reached at [].

May 25, 2020

Noëlle McAfee, "Fear of Breakdown: Psychoanalysis and Politics" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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In his classic essay on the fear of breakdown, Donald Winnicott famously conveys to a patient that the disaster powerfully feared has, in fact, already happened.Taking her cue from Winnicott, Noëlle McAfee’s Fear of Breakdown: Psychoanalysis and Politics (Columbia University Press, 2019), explores the implications of breakdown fears for the practice of democracy.Democracy, as you may dimly recall, demands the capacity to bear difference, tolerate loss, and to speak into the unknown.Meanwhile we have come to live in a world where, if my clinical practice and personal life are any indication, people often prefer writing to speaking.Patients who want to make a schedule change--never a neutral event in psychoanalysis—write me.I say, addressing the resistance, “This is a talking cure. Get your money’s worth.Speak!”Among intimates, bad news is something I too often read about.I surmise that in speaking desire or conveying pain, a fantasized recipient is sought, an ideal listener, who, like a blow up doll lover can be invoked, controlled and then deflated at will.Circling back to difference and loss, ideas that do not mirror our already existing thoughts find themselves batted out of the park to an elsewhere not worth enunciating.Cultivating a protective bubble—such a heartbreak right?It seems there is something about democracy thatfrightens the shit out of us.Deploying the work of Winnicott, Klein, Green and Kristeva, Mcafee reminds us of our original loss—what she calls “plenum”.That loss, to the degree it is recognized, initiates our undoing.Mother’s other—be it her lover, her piano lessons, a visit to the dentist for a cavity—tears a hole in our emotional shield.In her wake, we cling to seemingly strong leaders, a father, or failing that potent ideologies reeking of misogyny, all the while hoping for compensation for an unfathomable loss.Embedded within democracy lies the demand that we see other than ourselves.This demand challenges the thin-skinned among us.And all of us are thin-skinned from time to time. How to manage?Mcafee adds her voice to the popular chorus of those practicing applied psychoanalysis and suggests we embrace mourning.It is an inarguable position yet also nice work if you can get it!Of course, with the original disaster elided, like sleepwalkers in our night fog, we will helplessly seek it out; worse, we will make it manifest, with a vengeance.What is not remembered gets repeated.Trapped in America, as I am, one wonders about democracy.What might lure us to revisit the sight of the disaster, “the thing itself’,” to quote Adrienne Rich, “and not the myth?”

May 22, 2020

Dominik Finkelde, "Excessive Subjectivity: Kant, Hegel, Lacan and the Foundations of Ethics" (Columbia UP, 2017)

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How are we to conceive of acts that suddenly expose the injustice of the current order? This is a question that has puzzled philosophers for centuries, and it’s the question that animates Dominik Finkelde’s book ​Excessive Subjectivity: Kant, Hegel, Lacan, and the Foundation of Ethics (Columbia University Press, 2017). The book looks at these three major thinkers, and the ways they saw subjects as being immersed in a particular set of ethical orientations, but also always with a subtle but profound potential to do something beyond what they might’ve thought possible. Dominik Finkelde is a professor of contemporary political philosophy and epistemology at the Munich School of Philosophy, and is also the author of ​Zizek Between Lacan and Hegel and Benjamin Reads Proust.​

May 06, 2020

V. Hudson, D. Bowen, P. Nielsen, "The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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Global history records an astonishing variety of forms of social organization. Yet almost universally, males subordinate females. How does the relationship between men and women shape the wider political order? Valerie M. Hudson, Donna Lee Bowen, and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen's new book The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide (Columbia University Press, 2020) is a groundbreaking demonstration that the persistent and systematic subordination of women underlies all other institutions, with wide-ranging implications for global security and development.Incorporating research findings spanning a variety of social science disciplines and comprehensive empirical data detailing the status of women around the globe, the book shows that female subordination functions almost as a curse upon nations. A society’s choice to subjugate women has significant negative consequences: worse governance, worse conflict, worse stability, worse economic performance, worse food security, worse health, worse demographic problems, worse environmental protection, and worse social progress. Yet despite the pervasive power of social and political structures that subordinate women, history—and the data—reveal possibilities for progress.The First Political Order shows that when steps are taken to reduce the hold of inequitable laws, customs, and practices, outcomes for all improve. It offers a new paradigm for understanding insecurity, instability, autocracy, and violence, explaining what the international community can do now to promote more equitable relations between men and women and, thereby, security and peace. With comprehensive empirical evidence of the wide-ranging harm of subjugating women, it is an important book for security scholars, social scientists, policy makers, historians, and advocates for women worldwide.Beth Windisch is a national security practitioner. You can tweet her @bethwindisch.

Apr 01, 2020

Todd McGowan, "Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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An Interview with Todd McGowan about his recent Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution (Columbia University Press, 2019). The book advocates for the relevance of Hegel’s dialectical method to questions of contemporary theory and politics. It seeks to disabuse readers of common misapprehensions concerning Hegel’s philosophy, such as the familiar thesis-antithesis-synthesis schema to which the dialectic has so often been reduced, and to show that the concept of contradiction understood in Hegelian fashion is intrinsically subversive of authority. By championing contradiction over ‘difference’ it defies the rhetoric of much leftist theory as it has been formulated in the wake of so-called ‘post-structuralism’. Emancipation After Hegel also combines sophisticated discussion of matters like the limits of formal logic and the history of German Idealism with playful allusions to Star Trek characters and classic films like Casablanca and Bridge on the River Kwai.Bill Schaffer is a semi-retired academic and writer. He received his PhD from the University of Sydney and held positions teaching Film Studies, Philosophy, and Literature at campuses in Australia and the UK. He has published widely in Film and Animation Studies. He is currently a scholar of No Fixed Institution.

Mar 23, 2020

Ruth Palmer, "Becoming the News: How Ordinary People Respond to the Media Spotlight" (Columbia UP, 2017)

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In her book, Becoming the News: How Ordinary People Respond to the Media Spotlight (Columbia University Press, 2017), Ruth Palmer argues that understanding the motivations and experiences of those who have been featured in news stories – voluntarily or not – sheds new light on the practice of journalism and the importance many continue to place on the role of the mainstream media.Palmer charts the arc of the experience of “making” the news, from the events that brought an ordinary person to journalists’ attention through the decision to cooperate with reporters, interactions with journalists, and reactions to the news coverage and its aftermath. She explores what motivates someone to talk to the press; whether they consider the potential risks; the power dynamics between a journalist and their subject; their expectations about the motivations of journalists; and the influence of social media on their decisions and reception.Pointing to the ways traditional news organizations both continue to hold on to and are losing their authority, Becoming the News has important implications for how we think about the production and consumption of news at a time when Americans distrust the news media more than ever.Marci Mazzarotto is an Assistant Professor of Digital Communication at Georgian Court University in New Jersey. Her research interests center on the interdisciplinary intersection of academic theory and artistic practice with a focus on film and television studies.

Mar 18, 2020

Tania Jenkins, "Doctors’ Orders: The Making of Status Hierarchies in an Elite Profession" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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In her new book, Doctors’ Orders: The Making of Status Hierarchies in an Elite Profession (Columbia University Press, 2020), Dr. Tania Jenkins engages readers in readers in a ethnography where she spent years observing and interviewing American, international, and osteopathic medical residents in two hospitals to reveal the unspoken mechanisms that are taken for granted and that lead to hierarchies among supposed equals. She found that the United States does not need formal policies to prioritize American-trained MDs. By relying on a system of informal beliefs and practices that equate status with merit and eclipse structural disadvantages, the profession convinces international and osteopathic graduates to participate in a system that subordinates them to American-trained MDs. Offering a rare ethnographic look at the inner workings of an elite profession, Doctors’ Orders sheds new light on the formation of informal status hierarchies and their significance for both doctors and patients. This social separation can be observed by looking at the social class of residents and practitioners; sponsorship; status beliefs, bias, and stigma; structural inequality among training programs; and differences in merit that result from these inequalities.The United States does not have enough doctors. Each year there are residency positions available for internationally trained and osteopathic medical graduates to fill as a result of there being too few American-trained MDs. These international and osteopathic medical graduates also outperform their American MD counterparts to have the same likelihood of getting a residency position. They, however, often end up in lower-prestige training programs while the American-trained MDs tend to occupy elite training positions. Some of the most prestigious programs are even fully segregated and accept exclusively U.S. medical graduates or non-U.S. medical graduates.Tania Jenkins, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the Department of Sociology.Michael O. Johnston, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. He earned his doctoral degree in Public Policy and Public Administration from Walden University. He researches place and the process of place making as it presents in everyday social interactions. You can find more about him on hiswebsite, follow him on Twitter @ProfessorJohnst or email him

Mar 16, 2020

Diana Lemberg, "Barriers Down: How American Power and Free-Flow Policies Shaped Global Media" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Since the 1940s, America’s relations with the rest of the world have been guided by the idea of promoting the free flow of information. It’s an idea that seems benign, perhaps even difficult to argue against—who could possibly oppose the freedom of information? But, as Diana Lemberg shows in her exciting new book, Barriers Down: How American Power and Free-Flow Policies Shaped Global Media (Columbia University Press, 2019), the idea wasn’t always benign and many fought against its implementation.In the book, Lemberg, an associate professor at Lingnan University, examines how American businessmen, statesmen, and social scientists sought to tear down barriers to transnational flows of information in the post-WWII era, and, in the process, maximize the spread of American content abroad. Barriers Down is an innovative study that shows just how central information politics were to the US’ vision of the global order. The book deserves a wide audience.Dexter Fergieis a PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email atdexter.fergie@u.northwestern.eduor on Twitter@DexterFergie.

Feb 28, 2020

L. Benjamin Rolsky, "The Rise and Fall of the Religious Left" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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As someone who grew up watching All in the Family and Sanford and Son, I’ve long been familiar with Norman Lear and his work. What I didn’t know, as a young child sitting cross-legged in front of the TV set in the 1970s, was how prominent a political figure Lear was at the time. In his new book, The Rise and Fall of the Religious Left: Politics, Television, and Popular Culture in the 1970s and Beyond (Columbia University Press, 2019), Professor L. Benjamin Rolsky makes the case for understanding Lear as a key protagonist in the culture wars of the late 20th century. As a religious liberal, Lear was committed to engaging politics on explicitly moral grounds in defense of what he saw as the public interest. Other players in the culture wars—including television networks, Hollywood, the FCC, televangelists, and Ronald Reagan himself—had their own interpretations of what constituted the public interest. As a result, Rolsky’s interdisciplinary analysis concludes, prime-time television itself became a contested political space and the site of some of the definitive cultural clashes of our fractious times.Carrie Laneis a Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and author ofA Company of One: Insecurity, Independence, and the New World of White-Collar Unemployment. Her research concerns the changing nature of work in the contemporary U.S. She is currently writing a book on the professional organizing industry. To contact her or to suggest a recent title,

Feb 21, 2020

Adrian Johnston, "A New German Idealism: Hegel, Žižek and Dialectical Materialism" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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In 2012, the world-renowned philosopher, psychoanalyst and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek released his 1000-page tome ​Less Than Nothing​, following it up afterwards with its shorter reformulation ​Absolute Recoil​ in 2014. The works contained his usual use of movie-references, historical and political events and jokes to engage in some substantial philosophical formulations, particularly in dialogue with Hegel and Lacan. In these books, Žižek forged a new developed a number of innovative approaches to various philosophical questions, from quantum mechanics to contemporary political movements. Adrian Johnston’s most recent book on Žižek, A New German Idealism: Hegel, Žižek and Dialectical Materialism​ (Columbia University Press, 2018) traces a number of these various developments in detail, salvaging the key philosophical themes while also offering several criticisms and developments of his own.Adrian Johnston is Distinguished Professor in and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of New Mexico and is a faculty member at the Emory Psychoanalytic Institute in Atlanta. His many books include ​Žižek’s Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity​ (2008) and ​Badiou, ​Žižek and Political Transformations: The Cadence of Change (2009)​. With Slavoj ​Žižek and Todd McGowan, he is a co-editor of the book series ​Diaeresis​, all from Northwestern University Press.Stephen Dozeman is a freelance writer.

Jan 29, 2020

Anna M. Gade, “Muslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations” (Columbia UP, 2019)

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The relationship between Islam and the environment has a long and rich history across various Muslim societies.Anna M. Gade, Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, outlines several strains where these domains intersect in her bookMuslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations(Columbia University Press, 2019). Gade takes the reader through a number of literary and scriptural sources that Muslims have deployed over history but also steeps her analysis in decades of on the ground ethnographic fieldwork, especially in Southeast Asia. Specific examples reveal the interplay between local, regional, and global contexts as interpretive positions shift and realign across each theme. This combination creates a productive template for rethinking Muslim environmentalism within the larger framework of the Environmental Humanities. In our conversation we discussed Qur’anic theological resources and themes, environmentalism and development work, legal and ethical contexts, ideals of environmental justice, Muslim humanistic traditions, eco-sufism, devotional rituals and popular piety, ethnographic video materials for course use, and green Islam in Indonesia.Kristian Petersenis an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author ofInterpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab(Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitledThe Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumesMuslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology(ILEX Foundation) andNew Approaches to Islam in Film(Routledge). You can find out more about his work on hiswebsite, follow him on Twitter@BabaKristian, or email him

Jan 24, 2020

Leor Halevi, "Modern Things on Trial: Islam’s Global and Material Reformation in the Age of Rida, 1865-1935" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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How did Muslims respond to foreign goods in an age characterized by global exchange and European imperial expansion? What sort of legal reasoning did scholars apply in order to appropriate – or reject – items like the synthetic toothbrush, toilet paper, gramophones, photographs, railway lines, banknotes, hats, and other commodities? What role did laypeople play in shaping the contours of the scholarly debates around these items and projects? How did the entanglements of imperial power plays affect the decisions made by these scholars and laypersons?In Modern Things on Trial: Islam’s Global and Material Reformation in the Age of Rida, 1865-1935 (Columbia University Press, 2019), Leor Halevi tackles these questions by exploring how Muslim reformers employed sophisticated legal reasoning rooted in textual sources as well as social context to account for the introduction of these new commodities, technologies, and laws in their rapidly changing societies. By focusing on the works of Rashid Rida – the Syrian-Egyptian publisher of Al-Manar – Halevi demonstrates how modern technological advancements also transformed the very processes of Islamic law, as lay inquirers became central actors in shaping the contours of the discussion. Thus, through his analysis, Halevi creates a space for reading the development of Islamic law in this period as an “Islamic law from below.” The portrait emerges of an enchanting global journey across time and space in the Muslim-majority world as we witness an Islamic tradition that was actively – and critically – engaged in modernity’s premises through the trials of modern things.Asad Dandia is a graduate student of Islamic Studies at Columbia University.

Jan 07, 2020

Evan Friss, "On Bicycles: A 200-Year History of Cycling in New York City" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Evan Friss, an associate professor of history at James Madison University, historicizes the bicycle’s place in New York City’s social, economic, infrastructural and cultural politics.On Bicycles: A 200-Year History of Cycling in New York City (Columbia UP, 2019) curates a history of the key moments and individuals who worked to integrate the bicycle and the bicyclist into the urban fabric. Friss explores the long-standing debate over what a bicycle is—cars and walkers, he contends, had specific places on city streets. The bicycle was a different story. New Yorkers strove to define and redefine the relationship among New York City, its people, and their bicycles. Beginning with the fad of velocipedes and the arrival of the first modern bicycles on city streets in the second half of the nineteenth century, On Bicycles highlights key moments in cycling history. With each era, a diverse cohort of cyclists and municipal officials tasked with integrating—or banning—bicycles from city streets. Cyclists turned to bikes as a form of exercise as recreation, as a liberating technology, and as transportation. In Friss’s capable telling, cycling is a window into the nature of transportation, streets, and urban life.Kara Murphy Schlichting is an assistant professor of history at Queens College, CUNY and author of New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore.

Dec 26, 2019

Sandra Fahy, "Dying for Rights: Putting North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses on the Record" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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“The things that are happening to North Korea are happening to all of us…they are part of the human community. To say that this is just a problem for North Korea is to say that North Koreans are not part of the human community.” In her new book, Dying for Rights: Putting North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses on the Record (Columbia University Press, 2019), Sandra Fahy gives a thorough and compelling analysis of testimonies and reports on North Korea. Fahy explores the United Nation’s report as well as North Korea’s response to the report. The book also tackles issues of famine and hunger, information control, movement within the country and outside it, in addition to other pertinent issues. The book is full of detailed reporting on the issues but is still written in an accessible way in order to help readers understand more about North Korea and its people.Sarah E. Patterson is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Dec 23, 2019

Hunter Vaughan, "Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret: The Hidden Environmental Costs of the Movies" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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In his new book, Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret: The Hidden Environmental Costs of the Movies (Columbia University Press, 2019), Hunter Vaughan offers a new history of the movies from an environmental perspective, noting that both filmmaking and film viewing has an often-hidden impact on the environment. He reviews four blockbusters, "Gone with the Wind," "Singin’ in the Rain," "Twister," and "Avatar" to provide useful examples of the ecological toll of movies. Hunter is the Environmental Media Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Dec 11, 2019

Philip M. Napoli, "Social Media and the Public Interest: Media Regulation in the Disinformation Age" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Philip M. Napoli has been thinking about algorithmic news and social media feed curation for quite some time, as he acknowledges in his new book, Social Media and the Public Interest: Media Regulation in the Disinformation Age (Columbia University Press, 2019). Initially this topic was not as pressing as it now seems to be, but Napoli has been exploring this issue and and trying to figure out how it might work in terms of regulation – self, governmental, or otherwise – for a while. Social Media and the Public Interestapproaches this complex and multi-layered issue from a host of perspectives, leading the reader into the broader discussion through a history of social media, but that history itself is positioned within a brief but important history of the internet and the world wide web. At the same time, the book covers a lot of important ground in thinking about the First Amendment, how journalism operates in the age of social media and an otherwise fluid and changing environment for traditional media. Napoli gets at questions that often lurk at the back of our considerations of social media, not only about what we experience in our use of these platforms, but also how we may, unconsciously, consume the information and news that is presented to us through these “not quite journalistic” entities. This is a fascinating book that opens up a lot of penetrating questions about our social media environment, how we think about journalism, what the role of regulation might be in terms of both technology and media, and how all these threads intersect within politics. This book will be of interest to a wide array of readers from a host of backgrounds, and, of course, to anyone who has an interest in understanding the media environment in which we all live.Lilly J. Goren is professor of Political Science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She co-edited the award-winningWomen and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).

Dec 09, 2019

James Gordon Finlayson, "The Habermas-Rawls Debate" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls are perhaps the two most renowned and influential figures in social and political philosophy of the second half of the twentieth century. In the 1990s, they had a famous exchange in the Journal of Philosophy. Quarreling over the merits of each other’s accounts of the shape and meaning of democracy and legitimacy in a contemporary society, they also revealed how great thinkers working in different traditions read—and misread—one another’s work.James Gordon Finlayson, reader in philosophy and director of the Centre for Social and Political Thought at the University of Sussex, examines and contextualizes The Habermas-Rawls Debate (Columbia University Press, 2019). He traces their dispute from its inception in their earliest works to the 1995 exchange and its aftermath, as well as its legacy in contemporary debates. Finlayson discusses Rawls’s Political Liberalism and Habermas’s Between Facts and Norms, considering them as the essential background to the dispute and using them to lay out their different conceptions of justice, politics, democratic legitimacy, individual rights, and the normative authority of law. He gives a detailed analysis and assessment of their contributions, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their different approaches to political theory, conceptions of democracy, and accounts of religion and public reason, and he reflects on the ongoing significance of the debate. The Habermas-Rawls Debate is an authoritative account of the crucial intersection of two major political theorists and an explication of why their dispute continues to matter.Ryan Tripp is part-time and full-time adjunct history faculty for Los Medanos Community College as well as the College of Online and Continuing Education at Southern New Hampshire University.

Nov 22, 2019

Dana Fisher, "American Resistance: From the Women's March to the Blue Wave" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Dana Fisher has written a big new book on the movement to oppose Donald Trump, titled American Resistance: From the Women's March to the Blue Wave (Columbia University Press, 2019).American Resistance follows activists from the streets back to their congressional districts around the country. Fisher analyzes how Resistance groups turned anger into activism and electoral action. Beginning with the first Women’s March in 2017 and following the movement through the 2018 midterm Congressional elections, Fisher shows how the work the Resistance paid off in a wave of Democratic victories. She reveals the lessons for turning grassroots passion into electoral gains, and what comes next.Fisher is professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Nov 14, 2019

Benjamin Fong, "Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism" (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Benjamin Fong’s Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism (Columbia UP, 2016) revitalizes two oft’ maligned psychoanalytic concepts, the death drive and the drive to mastery, and makes lively and thoroughgoing use of both to revisit arguments about the power of the culture industry and how we might resist its narcotizing allure. For instance, we know Facebook is the devil, offering us relief from real strife via impotent political engagement; like prisoners in solitary we write on its wall.We know Netflix is a platform for product placement that we pay for, meanwhile losing track of our myriad subscriptions.We know we ought to think twice before inhaling the contents of either yet we simply cannot seem to stop ourselves.What gives?This--our compliant involvement with what promises to decrease our power and increase our alienation—is an old Frankfurt School obsession and query.Fong attempts to explain our complicity by using Freud altogether differently than his forebears. (Fong has been a member of the Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry which, having turned ghosts into ancestors, strikes me as the closest thing we have to a contemporary version of the Institut fur Sozialforschung going today, although I believe most of its members are American born.) He reminds us that the Frankfurt School ignored the death drive.In fact, the Freud engaged by the Frankfurt School appears to have stopped writing around 1919.(It is very odd to think that they did not absorb and make use of Beyond The Pleasure Principle, forget Civilization and Its Discontents.) I admit I found myself wondering if Freud’s conclusions about man as wolf to man, the impossibility of loving our neighbor as ourselves, and our desire to go out as we came in, were simply too bleak even for Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse?Of course, the death drive is tough for politics: how to organize people to fight for what is just if, at the end of the day, they simply seek the cessation of tension, and furthermore, are compulsively drawn to repeat their worst experiences? Freud’s thinking after 1920 can be read as offering a devastating critique of neoliberal “just do it” life with its appeals to progress and perfectibility. And Fong puts this Freud to great use. Attempting to construct a way out of being subsumed by the culture industry, with its promise of ruin, Fong champions a reappraisal of the super-ego as a friendly presence.He borrows from Hans Loewald, who argued for the super-ego as being future oriented, and harboring a hopeful fantasy, like a kind parent, about the fate of the ego over time.Fong also engages the thinking of Jacques Lacan, and with his help, tries to answer a question derived from a debate between Freud and Wilhelm Reich, about “where does the misery come from?” (Thanks to Jacqueline Rose for bringing this question to all of our attention).He develops a new theory (!) about aggressivity that locates it as arising neither solely from within nor from without.Interestingly, he does not rely on Laplanche to make his argument.That said, mastery as a concept scares me.Can “the master’s tools,” to paraphrase Audre Lorde,“dismantle the master’s house?” Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development did come to mind as I read, and I was left at times feeling a bit like one of Carol Gilligan’s adolescent girls, putting my feet, talk about returning to the primordial ooze, into the shoes of another.Then there is Freud’s idea that women lack sufficient super-egos.Following this logic, it is not too strange to ask if women can exercise mastery?And finally, what about Kerry James Marshall’s evocative and resonant use of the word, albeit spelled differently (Mastry), to refer to both slavery, the slave master, and the lives of those who survived it and his aftermath? Mastery is not a neutral word.Tracy D. Morgan is a psychoanalyst and the founding editor of NBiP.Write to her at

Oct 31, 2019

Wendy Brown, "In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Neoliberalism is one of those fuzzy words that can mean something different to everyone. Wendy Brown is one of the world’s leading scholars on neoliberalism and argue that a generation of neoliberal worldview among political, business, and intellectual leaders led to the populism we’re seeing throughout the world today. But is it mutually exclusive to democracy? Not necessarily. Wendy joins us this week to help make sense of what neoliberalism is, and where things stand today. We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of her book, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West (Columbia UP, 2019), which will be released in July. It’s a follow up to her 2015 book, Undoing the Demos, and you’ll hear her talk about how her thinking has changed since then.Wendy is the Class of 1936 First Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches political theory. You might also recognize her from Astra Taylor’s documentary, What Is Democracy?Democracy Works is created by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State and recorded at WPSU Penn State, central Pennsylvania’s NPR station.

Oct 14, 2019

Perin Gürel, "The Limits of Westernization: A Cultural History of America in Turkey" (Columbia UP, 2017)

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In today’s podcast, host Robert Elliott speaks with Dr. Perin Gürel about her new book The Limits of Westernization: A Cultural History of America in Turkey(Columbia University Press, 2017), which examines how Turkish perceptions of the United States intersected with debates around "westernization" in the twentieth century.In a 2001 poll, Turks ranked the United States highest when asked: "Which country is Turkey's best friend in international relations?" When the pollsters reversed the question―"Which country is Turkey's number one enemy in international relations?"―the United States came in second. How did Turkey's citizens come to hold such opposing views simultaneously? In The Limits of Westernization, Gürel explains this unique split and its echoes in contemporary U.S.-Turkey relations.Using Turkish and English sources, Gürel maps the reaction of Turks to the rise of the United States as a world-ordering power in the twentieth century. As Turkey transitioned from an empire to a nation-state, the country's ruling elite projected "westernization" as a necessary and desirable force but also feared its cultural damage. Turkish stock figures and figures of speech represented America both as a good model for selective westernization and as a dangerous source of degeneration. At the same time, U.S. policy makers imagined Turkey from within their own civilization templates, first as the main figure of Oriental barbarism (i.e., "the terrible Turk"), then, during the Cold War, as good pupils of modernization theory. As the Cold War transitioned to the War on Terror, Turks rebelled against the new U.S.-made trope of the "moderate Muslim." Local artifacts of westernization―folk culture crossed with American cultural exports―and alternate projections of modernity became tinder for both Turkish anti-Americanism and resistance to state-led modernization projects.Robert Elliott is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History, Duke University.

Oct 06, 2019

Geoffrey Barstow, "Food of Sinful Demons: Meat, Vegetarianism, and the Limits of Buddhism in Tibet" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Tibetan Buddhism teaches compassion toward all beings, a category that explicitly includes animals. Slaughtering animals is morally problematic at best and, at worst, completely incompatible with a religious lifestyle. Yet historically most Tibetans—both monastic and lay—have made meat a regular part of their diet. In Food of Sinful Demons: Meat, Vegetarianism, and the Limits of Buddhism in Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2018) of the place of vegetarianism within Tibetan religiosity, Geoffrey Barstow explores the tension between Buddhist ethics and Tibetan cultural norms to offer a novel perspective on the spiritual and social dimensions of meat eating.Sangseraima Ujeed, ACLS Robert H.N. Ho Postdoctoral Fellow in Buddhist Studies at UCSB. She read for her graduate degree at the University of Oxford. Her main research focus is the trans-national aspect of Buddhism, lineage and identity in Tibet and Mongolia in the Early Modern period, with a particular emphasis on the contributions made by ethnically Mongolian monk scholars.

Oct 01, 2019

Andrew Sidman, "Pork Barrel Politics: How Government Spending Determines Elections in a Polarized Era" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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n Andrew Sidman, Pork Barrel Politics: How Government Spending Determines Elections in a Polarized Era (Columbia University Press, 2019), offers a systematic explanation for how political polarization relates to the electoral influence of federal spending. He argues that the voters see the pork barrel as part of the larger issue of government spending, determined by partisanship and ideology. It is only when the political world becomes more divided over everything else that they pay attention to pork, linking it to their general preferences over government spending. Using data on pork barrel spending from 1986 through 2012 and public works spending since 1876 along with analyses of district-level election outcomes, Sidman demonstrates the rising power of polarization in United States elections. During periods of low polarization, pork barrel spending has little impact, but when polarization is high, it affects primary competition, campaign spending, and vote share in general elections.Sidman is associate professor of political science at the City University of New York, John Jay College.

Sep 30, 2019

Elizabeth Herbin-Triant, "Race, Class, and Campaigns to Legislate Jim Crow Neighborhoods" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Elizabeth Herbin-Triant is the author of Threatening Property: Race, Class, and Campaigns to Legislate Jim Crow Neighborhoods, published by Columbia University Press in 2019. Threatening Property examines the campaigns for residential segregation in early-20th century North Carolina. Looking at the intersections of both race and class, Herbin-Triant explores how white supremacy was divided along class, pitting elite whites against their poorer counterparts, as Jim Crow America increasingly held back Black Americans.Elizabeth Herbin-Triant is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. She studies U.S. history, with a particular interest in African-American history, urban history, and histories of racial capitalism, slavery, and segregation.Derek Litvak is a Ph.D. student in the department of history at the University of Maryland.

Sep 24, 2019

Zahra Ayubi, "Gendered Morality: Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family, and Society" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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How are notions of justice and equality constructed in Islamic virtue ethics (akhlaq)? How are Islamic virtue ethics gendered, despite their venture into perennial concerns of how best to live a good and ethical life? These are the questions that Zahra Ayubi, an assistant professor of religion at Dartmouth college, examines in her new book Gendered Morality: Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family, and Society (Columbia University Press, 2019). Using akhlaq literature by al-Ghazali, Davani and Tusi, Ayubi closely studies the ways in which these male Muslim scholars constructed ideas of the self (nafs), particularly in relation to the family and the society. Despite the ethicists’ differing sectarian and theological orientations in Islam, they still concluded that the status of a perfect ethical human was only achievable by a male elite. Meaning that the capacity to utilize rational faculty, which is central to self-refinement, was deemed not accessible to females, slaves, and non-elite males. In unpacking these gendered and hierarchical dynamics around ethics and comportment, Aybui masterfully applies feminist and gender analysis to deconstruct ethical texts. In light of her findings, she calls for a “philosophical turn” that must employ critical gender analysis when reading these texts not only in the context of Islamic philosophy, but broadly in the study of Islam. The book is a must read for scholars and students interested in Islamic philosophy and gender and Islamic studies.M. Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Queen’s University. Her research areas are on contemporary Sufism in North America and South Asia. She is the author of Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks in American Sufism(Bloombsury Press, 2018) and a co-author of Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2017). More details about her research and scholarship may be found on here and here. She may be reached at

Sep 20, 2019

Elizabeth S. Kassab, "Enlightenment on the Eve of Revolution: The Egyptian and Syrian Debates" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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The "Arab Spring" shook the world in 2011, revealing profound dissatisfaction throughout the Middle East and North Africa, as people throughout the region took to the streets demanding dramatic political change. The uprisings have been analyzed by scholars, journalists, and other observers of the region from many angles, but the ideas of the revolution have received comparatively less attention. In her pathbreaking book, Enlightenment on the Eve of Revolution: The Egyptian and Syrian Debates (Columbia University Press, 2019), Elizabeth S. Kassab shows her readers that the demands for human dignity, freedom, and political participation had been robustly discussed by intellectuals in Syria and Egypt during the 1990s and 2000s. She examines how debates about tanwir, or “enlightenment” in English, unfolded under the thumb of powerful, omnipresent states. By exploring the rich intellectual and cultural contexts of these tanwir debates, Kassab firmly and persuasively rebuts the notion that calls for democratic reforms in the Arab world can be reduced to western mimicry. Instead, she argues that tanwiris were in tune with a public that had grown increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo. Sadly, the same crucible that spurred calls for a renewal of civil society and political participation in Egypt and Syria has made achieving those goals extremely difficult. Enlightenment on the Eve of Revolution is a timely account of an ongoing struggle for freedom and justice in the Middle East and an invaluable contribution to a growing literature on Arab intellectual history.Dr. Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar, where she also heads the philosophy program. In addition to her teaching, Dr. Kassab has written extensively about Arab Intellectual History, including her previous book,Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective.Joshua Donovan is a PhD candidate at Columbia University's Department of History. His dissertation examines national and sectarian identity formation within the Greek Orthodox Christian community in Syria, Lebanon, and the diaspora.

Sep 04, 2019

Max Oidtmann, "Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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In 1995, the People’s Republic of China resurrected the technology of the “Golden Urn,” a Qing-era tool which involves the identification of the reincarnations of prominent Tibetan Buddhist monks by drawing lots from a golden vessel. Why would the Chinese Communist Party revive this former ritual? What powers lie in the symbolism of the “Golden Urn”? Why was this tradition invented? Using both archival sources in the Manchu language and chronicles of Tibetan elites, Max Oidtmann answers these burning questions and reveals in Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet(Columbia University Press, 2018) the origins of the Golden Urn tradition, as well as its implication in modern and contemporary geopolitics of Asia. In the book, Oidtmann highlights the original polyglot conversations that existed in the Qing era and suggests to see the Qing as colonial: that there was a deliberative process that lay behind the invention of the Golden Urn in 1792 by the Qing empire to possess a monopoly over diverse forms of divination and prognostication practiced at the crossroads between China, Tibet, and Mongolia.Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. She mainly researches on Buddhism in twentieth-century Inner Mongolia and Manchuria. Her research interests also include the role Buddhism plays in modernity, colonialism, and transnational/transregional networks.

Aug 19, 2019

Donna Dickenson, "Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good" (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Personalized healthcare―or what the award-winning author Donna Dickenson calls "Me Medicine"―is radically transforming our longstanding "one-size-fits-all" model. Technologies such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing, pharmacogenetically developed therapies in cancer care, private umbilical cord blood banking, and neurocognitive enhancement claim to cater to an individual's specific biological character, and, in some cases, these technologies have shown powerful potential. Yet in others they have produced negligible or even negative results. Whatever is behind the rise of Me Medicine, it isn't just science. So why is Me Medicine rapidly edging out We Medicine, and how has our commitment to our collective health suffered as a result?In her cogent, provocative book Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good(Columbia University Press, 2016), Dickenson examines the economic and political factors fueling the Me Medicine phenomenon and explores how, over time, this paradigm shift in how we approach our health might damage our individual and collective well-being. Historically, the measures of "We Medicine," such as vaccination and investment in public-health infrastructure, have radically extended our life spans, and Dickenson argues we've lost sight of that truth in our enthusiasm for "Me Medicine."Dickenson explores how personalized medicine illustrates capitalism's protean capacity for creating new products and markets where none existed before―and how this, rather than scientific plausibility, goes a long way toward explaining private umbilical cord blood banks and retail genetics. Drawing on the latest findings from leading scientists, social scientists, and political analysts, she critically examines four possible hypotheses driving our Me Medicine moment: a growing sense of threat; a wave of patient narcissism; corporate interests driving new niche markets; and the dominance of personal choice as a cultural value. She concludes with insights from political theory that emphasize a conception of the commons and the steps we can take to restore its value to modern biotechnology.

Jul 26, 2019

Shennette Garrett-Scott, "Banking on Freedom: Black Women in U.S. Finance Before the New Deal" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Think running an insurance company or a bank is hard?Try doing it as an African-American woman in the Jim Crow South.Shennette Garrett-Scott's new book, Banking on Freedom: Black Women in U.S. Finance Before the New Deal (Columbia University Press, 2019) tells the fascinating story of just such an endeavor, first the Independent Order of St. Luke, and then the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, founded in Richmond in 1903.Along the way, she tells the tale of force-of-nature strong women, particularly Maggie Lena Walker, who wouldn't take no for an answer as she built up a culture of business and entrepreneurship against incredibly long odds and never-ending efforts by regulators and competitors to thwart her efforts. It makes for gripping reading.Daniel Peris is Senior Vice President at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh. Trained as a historian of modern Russia, he is the author most recently of Getting Back to Business: Why Modern Portfolio Theory Fails Investors. You can follow him on Twitter @Back2BizBook or at

Jun 19, 2019

Patton E. Burchett, "A Genealogy of Devotion:Bhakti, Tantra, Yoga, and Sufism in North India" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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How distinct is Indian devotionalism from other strands of Indian religiosity? Is devotionalism necessarily at odds with asceticism in the Hindu world? What about the common contrasting of Hindu devotionalism as ‘religion’ with tantra as ‘black magic’? Patton E. Burchett's new book A Genealogy of Devotion: Bhakti, Tantra, Yoga, and Sufism in North India (Columbia University Press, 2019) re-examines what we assume about the rise of devotionalism in North India, tracing its flowering since India’s early medieval “Tantric Age” to present day.It illumines the complex historical factors at play in Sultanate and Mughal India implicating the influence of three pervasive strands in the tapestry of North Indian religiosity: tantra, yoga and Sufism. Burchett shows the extent to which Persian culture and popular Sufism contribute to a (now prevalent) Hindu devotionalism that is critical of tantric and yogic religiosity.Prior to this, argues Burchett, Hindu devotionalism locally flowered in fruitful cross pollination with yogic and tantric forms of Indian religiosity.For information about your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see

Jun 14, 2019

Tsering Döndrup, "The Handsome Monk and Other Stories" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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A series of stories ranging from two-page narrative excerpts to 90+ page novellas, The Handsome Monk and Other Stories (Columbia University Press, 2019), translated by Columbia PhD student Christopher Peacock, with a contribution from Lauran Hartley, masterfully introduces the work of contemporary Tibetan author Tsering Döndrup. One of the most popular and critically acclaimed figures of Modern Tibetan literature of the post-Mao period, Tsering Döndrup is known for his earthy humor and his unflinchingly satirical portrayals of Tibetan life. Resisting the urge to romanticize Tibetan life, Tsering Döndrup’s stories relentlessly satirize both those in power—including clerics and government officials—and those without. Stories describe emergent social problems like gambling and long-standing folk institutions of violent feuds alike. The narratives compiled in The Handsome Monk could only be written by someone intimately familiar with Tibetan life over the last fifty years, and by placing many of his stories together, this volume evocatively portrays resilience and the problems of Tibetan culture.Timothy Thurston is Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds. His research examines language at the nexus of tradition and modernity in China’s Tibet.

Jun 12, 2019

Kerim Yasar, "Electrified Voices: How the Telephone, Phonograph, and Radio Shaped Modern Japan, 1868-1945" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Electrified Voices: How the Telephone, Phonograph, and Radio Shaped Modern Japan, 1868-1945 (Columbia UP, 2018) explores the soundscapes of modernity in Japan. In this book, Kerim Yasar argues that modern technologies of sound reproduction and transmission have had profound—and often underappreciated—social, economic, and political effects. Observing that the “materialities of media transform people, institutions, and societies,” Yasar traces the early histories of sound reproduction in modern Japan and their consequences. Electrified Voices examines the development of media technologies—including the telegraph and telephone, phonograph, broadcast radio, and film—and their attendant oralities, auralities, and effects on language, nation, the performing arts, and even intellectual property law. As Yasar shows, sound reproduction changed language and attitudes about language, collapsed time and space, and shaped both individual and collective identities and practices. The impact of these technologies is indispensable to a clear understanding of modernity, and Yasar’s book is a welcome contribution to the scholarly literature on not just Japan, but histories of media and modernity as well.

May 28, 2019

Matthew W. King, "Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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After the fall of the Qing empire, amid nationalist and socialist upheaval, Buddhist monks in the Mongolian frontiers of the Soviet Union and Republican China faced a chaotic and increasingly uncertain world. In this book, Matthew W. King tells the story of Zawa Damdin, one Mongolian monk’s efforts to defend Buddhist monasticism in revolutionary times, revealing an unexplored landscape of countermodern Buddhisms beyond old imperial formations and the newly invented national subject.Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire (Columbia University Press, 2019) takes up the perspective of the Mongolian polymath Zawa Damdin (1867–1937): a historian, mystic, logician, and pilgrim whose life and works straddled the Qing and its socialist aftermath, between the monastery and the party scientific academy. Through a rich reading of his works, King reveals that modernity in Asia was not always shaped by epochal contact with Europe and that new models of Buddhist life, neither imperial nor national, unfolded in the post-Qing ruins. The first book to explore counter-modern Buddhist monastic thought and practice along the Inner Asian frontiers during these tumultuous years, Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood illuminates previously unknown religious and intellectual legacies of the Qing and offers an unparalleled view of Buddhist life in the revolutionary period.

May 16, 2019

Christina Yi, "Colonizing Language: Cultural Production and Language Politics in Modern Japan and Korea" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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The fact that Korea’s experience of Japanese imperialism plays a role in present-day Japan-Korea relations is no secret to anyone. Questions of guilt, responsibility and atonement continue to bubble below, and occasionally break through, the surface of ties between two countries which otherwise have much in common culturally and in terms of interests. Addressing many of these complexities, Christina Yi’s Colonizing Language: Cultural Production and Language Politics in Modern Japan and Korea (Columbia University Press, 2018) adds greatly to our understanding of imperial experience and its personal, linguistic and political legacies.In this ‘discursive history of modern Japanese-language literature from Korea and Japan’ (xvi), Yi forges a narrative which is itself expressive of colonialism's tangled and irresolvable traces. Led nimbly back and forth between the Japanese metropole and the colonies and postcolonies, we enter deep into the worlds of writers considered both 'Korean' and 'Japanese' based in both past and present incarnations of 'Korea' and 'Japan.' If it is difficult to pin any single identity - other than shared use of Japanese language - on these figures and their works, then this very fact is an invitation to broaden our understanding of Japanophone literature beyond today's troublesome nation states. As Yi makes poignantly clear, issues of identity and voice are still shaped by imperial experience even long after the formal end of empire in 1945.Ed Pulford is a postdoctoral researcher at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.

May 02, 2019

Wendy Pearlman and Boaz Atzili, "Triadic Coercion: Israel’s Targeting of States That Host Nonstate Actors" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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In the post–Cold War era, states increasingly find themselves in conflicts with nonstate actors. Finding it difficult to fight these opponents directly, many governments instead target states that harbor or aid nonstate actors, using threats and punishment to coerce host states into stopping those groups.In their book Triadic Coercion: Israel’s Targeting of States That Host Nonstate Actors (Columbia UP, 2018), Wendy Pearlman and Boaz Atzili investigate this strategy, which they term triadic coercion. They explain why states pursue triadic coercion, evaluate the conditions under which it succeeds, and demonstrate their arguments across seventy years of Israeli history. This rich analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict, supplemented with insights from India and Turkey, yields surprising findings. Traditional discussions of interstate conflict assume that the greater a state’s power compared to its opponent, the more successful its coercion. Turning that logic on its head, Pearlman and Atzili show that this strategy can be more effective against a strong host state than a weak one because host regimes need internal cohesion and institutional capacity to move against nonstate actors. If triadic coercion is thus likely to fail against weak regimes, why do states nevertheless employ it against them? Pearlman and Atzili’s investigation of Israeli decision-making points to the role of strategic culture. A state’s system of beliefs, values, and institutionalized practices can encourage coercion as a necessary response, even when that policy is prone to backfire.A significant contribution to scholarship on deterrence, asymmetric conflict, and strategic culture, Triadic Coercion illuminates an evolving feature of the international security landscape and interrogates assumptions that distort strategic thinking.Beth Windisch is a national security practitioner. You can tweet her @bethwindisch.

Apr 29, 2019

Jill Stauffer, "Ethical Loneliness: The Injustice of Not Being Heard" (Columbia UP, 2015)

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In Ethical Loneliness: The Injustice of Not Being Heard (Columbia University Press 2015, paperback 2018), Jill Stauffer argues that survivors of unjust treatment and dehumanization can experience further harm when individuals and institutions will not or cannot hear the survivors’ claims about what they suffered and what they are owed for having suffered. She calls this further harm “ethical loneliness.” With Stauffer’s analysis, the harm of ethical loneliness can lead us to rethink how we understand responsibility for harm, the work of repair, the role of retribution in repair, and how we are constituted as subjects such that we are capable of striving to undo unjust deeds, even mass atrocities. Focused on hearing and what practices of hearing justice demands, Stauffer looks to survivors’ stories to analyze how the harm of ethical loneliness can be inflicted, even by people with intentions to help and survivors. She then shows how revisionary and reparative work can be done to hear those stories with an ear to how the world may need to change in light of survivors’ claims.

Apr 19, 2019

I. Gould Ellen and J. Steil, "The Dream Revisited: Contemporary Debates about Housing, Segregation, and Opportunity" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Why do people live where they do? What explains the persistence of residential segregation? Why is it complicated to address residential segregation? Please join me as I meet with Dr. Ingrid Gould Ellen and Dr. Justin Peter Steil to discuss The Dream Revisited: Contemporary Debates about Housing, Segregation, and Opportunity (Columbia University Press, 2019). This interview takes a heartfelt approach to discussing the ever-changing presence of urban inequality and possible solutions that would foster a more integrated America. We begin the interview with a discussion of what brought the authors to develop this anthology and the strategies they used to select a wide range of expert viewpoints on the causes and consequences of segregation and unequal living patterns in the United States of America. The leading scholars and practitioners who contributed to this anthology include civil rights advocates, affordable housing developers, elected officials, and fair housing lawyers. Together they discuss the nature and policy responses to residential segregation; scrutinize how barriers to mobility and complex neighborhood preferences allow segregation to persist; as well as identify the consequence that residential segregation has on health, home finance, local policing, and local politics. They editors of this book conclude with the debate in how government can intervene in housing markets to foster integration and at what level it should occur at (i.e., individual residence, neighborhood, or community).In addition to The Dream Revisited, listeners can access additional contemporary debates about housing, segregation, and opportunity from the NYU Furman Center The Dream Revisited blog (the blog that served as a platform for the launch of this anthology).Michael O. Johnston is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. He is currently conducting research on the placemaking associated with the development of farmers’ market.

Mar 25, 2019

Jamieson Webster, "Conversion Disorder: Listening to the Body in Psychoanalysis" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Entering into psychoanalysis takes courage, for patients and analysts alike. When it does what it’s supposed to do, it changes one’s relationship to the bigger questions in life—transforming a search for answers into an embrace of the unknown. But such transformation requires a change in how one thinks about knowledge and a growing tolerance for non-knowledge—and it all starts with the psychoanalyst’s willingness to undergo such a conversion. Jamieson Webster ponders these matters, and what they mean for the place of psychoanalysis in modern society, in her latest book, Conversion Disorder: Listening to the Body in Psychoanalysis (Columbia University Press, 2019). And in our interview, she talks about her personal struggles to find her grounding as a psychoanalyst and how she understands the journey on which she takes her patients. Our conversation, much like her book, is full of intimate and raw revelations about doing psychoanalysis as well as thought-provoking ideas about what it means to do it.Dr. Jamieson Webster is a psychoanalyst in New York. She has written for Artforum, Cabinet, the Guardian, the New York Times, and Playboy. Her books include The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis (2011) and Stay, Illusion! (with Simon Critchley, 2013). In her private practice, she works with children, adolescents, and adults.Eugenio Duarte, Ph.D. is a psychologist and psychoanalyst practicing in Miami. He treats individuals and couples, with specialties in gender and sexuality, eating and body image problems, and relationship issues. He is also a university psychologist at Florida International University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center, where he heads the eating disorders service. He is a graduate of the psychoanalytic training program at William Alanson White Institute and former chair of their LGBTQ Study Group. He is also a contributing author to the book Introduction to Contemporary Psychoanalysis: Defining Terms and Building Bridges (Routledge, 2018).

Mar 22, 2019

Margaret Hennefeld, "Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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In the early days of film, female comedians appeared in films that included both strange activities and slapstick. In her new book Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes (Columbia University Press, 2018), Margaret Hennefeld, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, reviews the role of these women, as well as how their appearances had a cultural and political effect, particularly in the feminist movement leading to universal suffrage. She illustrates how these films still have important meanings to modern day.

Mar 05, 2019

Alexandre Kojève, "Atheism," trans by Jeff Love (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Columbia University press has just released a new translation of a work by philosopher Alexandre Kojève, simply titled Atheism, translated by Professor Jeff Love. Considered to be one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant and unconventional thinkers, Kojève was a Russian émigré to France whose lectures on Hegel in the 1930s galvanized a generation of French intellectuals. Although Kojève wrote a great deal, he published very little in his lifetime, and so the ongoing rediscovery of his work continues to present new challenges to philosophy and political theory. Written in 1931 but left unfinished, Atheism is an erudite and open-ended exploration of profound questions of estrangement, death, suicide, and the infinite that demonstrates the range and the provocative power of Kojève’s thought.Ranging across Heidegger, Buddhism, Christianity, German idealism, Russian literature, and mathematics, Kojève advances a novel argument about freedom and authority. He investigates the possibility that there is not any vantage point or source of authority—including philosophy, science, or God—that is outside or beyond politics and the world as we experience it. The question becomes whether atheism—or theism—is even a meaningful position since both affirmation and denial of God’s existence imply a knowledge that seems clearly outside our capacities. Masterfully translated by Jeff Love, this book offers a striking new perspective on Kojève’s work and its implications for theism, atheism, politics, and freedom.Jeff Love is Research Professor of German and Russian at Clemson University in South Carolina. His publications include books on Tolstoy, Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky, as well as a translation of Friedrich Schelling’s Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom.Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.

Feb 25, 2019

Thomas Patton, "The Buddha’s Wizards: Magic, Protection, and Healing in Burmese Buddhism" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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In his recent monograph, The Buddha’s Wizards: Magic, Protection, and Healing in Burmese Buddhism(Columbia University Press, 2018), Thomas Patton examines the weizzā, a figure in Burmese Buddhism who is possessed with extraordinary supernatural powers, usually gained through some sort of esoteric practice. Like the tantric adept in certain other Buddhist traditions, the weizzā can use his skills both to manipulate human affairs in the present world and to help people progress towards Buddhist soteriological goals. The weizzā is thus a morally ambiguous figure, for while this Buddhist wizard might heal a sick relative or help one’s karmic circumstances, he might just as well cast an evil spell. Indeed, it is precisely because of the weizzā’s perceived power that these wizards and their devotees have been persecuted by both the government and Buddhist monastic leaders, and why this tradition has largely existed at the margins of state-sanctioned orthodoxy and orthopraxy.Patton shows that while prototypes for this Buddhist wizard can be found in Burmese Buddhism in premodern times, the weizzā as we know him really emerges during the twilight of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Like many other Buddhists of this time, the weizzā were dismayed by the presence of the British in Burma, which they saw as a direct threat to Buddhism, and they used their supernatural powers to fight the British in whatever ways they could. Later, after the British left and once it was seen that Buddhism was not in decline, weizzā shifted their focus from protection to propagation of Buddhism; to this end they built pagodas not only throughout Burma, but also in far-away lands such as the United States. These pagodas were supposed to transmit the power of the weizzā with whom they were associated, and many weizzā devotees liken them to nodes in an electricity grid or even to wifi hotspots.

Feb 11, 2019

Perrin Selcer, "The Postwar Origins of the Global Environment" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Having been born into a world in which people knew about anthropogenic global warming, I grew up in the “global environment.” Although the category “global environment” seems normal, if not natural, Perrin Selcer shows just how recent its origins actually are. In his innovative new book, The Postwar Origins of the Global Environment: How the United Nations Built Spaceship Earth(Columbia University Press, 2018), Selcer investigates how cosmopolitan scientists in the post-WWII era attempted and failed to build a social-democratic world community, but, in the process, constructed the category of the “global environment.” Also in that process, they cobbled together a transnational community of experts and a global knowledge infrastructure in specialized UN bodies, such as Unesco and the Food and Agriculture Organization, that helped make the global environment knowable. The book will interest a broad range of scholars, including historians of global institutions, environmental studies scholars, historians of science, and anyone that wants to historicize the categories that are closest to us.Dexter Fergie is a first-year PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th-century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @DexterFergie.

Dec 24, 2018

Howard Chiang, "After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Howard Chiang’s new book is a masterful study of the relationship between sexual knowledge and Chinese modernity. After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China (Columbia University Press, 2018) guides readers through the history of eunuchs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the techniques of visualization that helped establish the conditions that produced sex as an object of empirical knowledge, the rise of sexology in the 1920s, the discourse of “sex change” in the press from the 1920s to the 1940s, and a famous case of the “first” Chinese transsexual in 1950s Taiwan. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of sexuality in China, and will be of special interest for readers who are interested in bringing Foucault-inspired analyses to the craft of history.Carla Nappi is the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh. You can learn more about her and her work here.

Dec 17, 2018

Arlene M. Sánchez Walsh, “Pentecostals in America” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Arlene M. Sánchez Walsh‘sPentecostals in America (Columbia University Press, 2018) offers a critical look at the history, key figures, and ideas that make Pentecostalism unique and challenges the narrative gloss offered by its adherents and church historians. She surveys the often contentious history of the movement, including its innovators at odds with founding figures, practices of speaking in tongues, faith healing and prophesy, and attitudes toward race, sex, and gender. The significant participation of African Americans and the adoption of their religious expression did not heal racial divisions. Walsh explores the innovative theologies and ministries of founders such as Aimee Semple McPherson and John Alexander Dowie. Seeing itself as the last great move of God, Pentecostals rejected mainstream culture yet found ways to accommodate modern media and produced stars such as Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer. In process of continual reinvention, Pentecostals built churches, institutions, and missionary efforts marked by its unique religiosity and continued to struggle with race, gender and sexuality. Pentecostalism can be best understood as a multifarious religious movement that has spread among diverse ethnic groups, made inroads into other Christian denominations, traveled to the far reaches of the globe, and its stories of divine interventions fire the religious imagination of many. While other religious groups are in decline, it continues to grow at home and abroad.Arlene M. Sánchez Walsh is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Azusa Pacific UniversityLilian Calles Bargeris a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her book is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology, Oxford University Press, 2018.

Nov 08, 2018

Sandra Fahy, “Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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Amidst an atmosphere of hope on the Korean Peninsula over the past year, questions over the wellbeing of North Korea’s population have again come to global attention. But this is far from the first time that such a subject has been in the news, for ever since the catastrophic famine...

Nov 06, 2018

Adam Reich and Peter Bearman, “Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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When we hear about the “future of work” today we tend to think about different forms of automation and artificial intelligence—technological innovations that will make some jobs easier and others obsolete while (hopefully) creating new ones we cannot yet foresee, and never could have. But perhaps this future isn’t so incomprehensible. Perhaps it’s here already, right in front of our faces, at the largest employer in the world. In their new book, Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart (Columbia University Press, 2018) sociologists Adam Reich and Peter Bearman analyze what it means to work at the world’s largest retailer—and the largest provider of low-wage jobs. Through stories from Walmart employees and observations from stores around the country, they provide much insight into their working conditions and the relationship they have with their surrounding communities. But a truly novel approach and broad set of additional methods make the book shine. Inspired by the Freedom Summer of 1964, in 2014 (the 50th anniversary of that pivotal event) Reich and Bearman launched the “Summer of Respect,” for which they hired a team of college students to work on membership registration for OUR Walmart, a voluntary association of current and former Walmart associates. The students fanned out in teams to communities around the United States, and in addition to organizing and gathering data on Walmart workers, Reich and Bearman also examined them upon their return to determine the influence that social justice engagement has on people. Working for Respect, then, goes far beyond the typical “bad jobs” treatment to provide an impressive look at the important role of community in social change.Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017), about the transformation of low-status occupations into cool, cultural taste-making jobs (cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale men’s barbers, and whole animal butchers), and of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City (Princeton University Press, 2014), about growth policies, nightlife, and conflict in gentrified neighborhoods. His work has appeared in such journals as City & Community, Poetics, Ethnography, and the European Journal of Cultural Studies. He is also the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork (Routledge, 2012), a co-Book Editor at City & Community, and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Metropolitics, Work and Occupations, and the Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography.

Oct 29, 2018

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, “What Slaveholders Think: How Contemporary Perpetrators Rationalize what They Do” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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According to the Walk Free Foundation, there are currently 46 million slaves in the world. Despite being against international law, slavery is not yet culturally condemned everywhere. Despite being human rights violators, many perpetrators are respected members of their communities. In his new book, What Slaveholders Think: How Contemporary Perpetrators Rationalize what They Do (Columbia University Press, 2017), Professor Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, from the University of San Diego and the University of Nottingham, explores how slaveholders rationalize what they do and how they deal with the social changes that confront the status quo from which they benefit.Looking from the lenses of social movement theories, Professor Choi-Fitzpatrick, interviews slaveholders on how they feel about being targets of contention and how they react to it. In this way, he provides an original contribution both to social movement and antislavery studies. From a social movement perspective, he emphasizes the behavior of social movement targets and how they interact with challengers. Additionally, he proposes innovative ways to understand and confront slavery.Felipe G. Santosis a PhD candidate at the Central European University and Visiting Research Fellow at the University of California, Irvine. His research is focused on how activists care for each other and how care practices within social movements mobilize and radicalize heavily aggrieved collectives.

Oct 17, 2018

Jeffrey D. Sachs, "A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism" (Columbia UP, 2018)

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If you are tired of reading the same, Washington-based, consensus, 'realist' and or 'neo-conservative', critiques of American foreign policy, here is something to salivate on:Jeffrey D. Sachs',A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism(Columbia University Press, 2018). By turns, noted author Jeffrey Sachs' book is unorthodox, iconoclastic, novel and indeed at times eccentric. A New Foreign Policyprovides a road map for a U.S. foreign policy that embraces globalism, cooperation, international law, and aspirations for worldwide prosperity---not nationalism and illusory dreams of empty and past glory. You may not agree with him, indeed you may believe that he is completely wrong and his facts do not add up. Regardless, Sachs' book is the one that foreign policy experts will be discussing this Fall.Charles Coutinho holds a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail

Oct 10, 2018

Larry Shapiro, “The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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There are many who believe Moses parted the Red Sea and Jesus came back from the dead. Others are certain that exorcisms occur, ghosts haunt attics, and the blessed can cure the terminally ill. Though miracles are immensely improbable, people have embraced them for millennia, seeing in them proof of a supernatural world that resists scientific explanation.In The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified(Columbia University Press, 2016), Professor Larry Shapiro helps us to think more critically about our belief in the improbable, casting a skeptical eye on attempts to justify belief in the supernatural and laying bare the fallacies that such attempts commit. Through arguments and accessible analysis, Larry Shapiro sharpens our critical faculties so we become less susceptible to tales of myths and miracles and learn how, ultimately, to evaluate claims regarding vastly improbable events on our own. Shapiro acknowledges that belief in miracles could be harmless, but cautions against allowing such beliefs to guide how we live our lives. His investigation reminds us of the importance of evidence and rational thinking as we explore the unknown.Larry Shapiro is professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Besides his occasional inquiry into the status of miracles, he primarily researches philosophy of psychology and philosophy of mind, currently focusing on issues concerning multiple realization and embodied cognition. He is the author of a number of books and the editor of The Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition (2014).Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.

Sep 26, 2018

Philip Thai, “China’s War on Smuggling: Law, Economic Life, and the Making of the Modern State, 1842-1965” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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From petty runs to organized trafficking, the illicit activity of smuggling on the China coast was inherently dramatic, but now historian Philip Thai has also identified China’s history of smuggling as a significant narrative about the expansion of state power. China’s War on Smuggling: Law, Economic Life, and the Making...

Aug 21, 2018

Lily Wong, “Transpacific Attachments: Sex Work, Media Networks, and Affective Histories of Chineseness” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Lily Wong‘s Transpacific Attachments: Sex Work, Media Networks, and Affective Histories of Chineseness (Columbia University Press, 2018)traces the genealogy of the Chinese sex worker as a figure who manifests throughout the 20thcentury in moments of anti-Asian racism as well as moments of sexism and nationalism within Chinese communities. Yet for Wong, the tensions and visibility of this figure also allows alternative and alternating forms of solidarity rooted in stepping back from ideologies of nation, race and gender. The sex worker thus allows us to see Chineseness and other forms of collectivity as an affective product, an attachment that mobilizes our emotions and frames how we see others as well as ourselves. By charting representations of the Chinese sex worker through histories of Pacific Crossing, Cold War era ideologies, and contemporary globalization, Wong’s book shows the multiple ways that sex work and prostitution have unsettled forms of collectivity, while providing new spaces for dwelling.Christopher B. Pattersonteaches at the University of British Columbia, Social Justice Institute. He is the author ofTransitive Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the TranspacificandStamped: an anti-travel novel.

Aug 20, 2018

Paul Offit, “Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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You should never trust celebrities, politicians, or activists for health information. Why? Because they are not scientists! Scientists often cannot compete with celebrities when it comes to charm or evoking emotion. Science is complex and often cannot provide the easy “soundbite” worthy answers that celebrities and politicians truly comprehend. Americans are flooded with misleading or incorrect claims about health risks. In his book Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information (Columbia University Press, 2018), Dr. Paul Offit sets the record straight.In this book, Dr. Offit shares his advice from his years of experience battling misinformation in science and public health. He has often found himself in the crosshairs of the anti-vaccine movement and other pseudoscience groups. He has received a significant amount of hate mail and even death threats for speaking out in the name of good science and the health of mankind. Bad science isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous. Luckily. Dr Offit offers his guide for taking on the quacks. This book is especially important due to the increased amounts of politicized attacks on science in the United States.Jeremy Corr is the co-host of the hitFixing Healthcarepodcast along with industry thought leader Dr. Robert Pearl.AUniversityof Iowa history alumnus, Jeremy is curious and passionate about all things healthcare,which means he’salwaysup for a gooddiscussion! Reach him at

Aug 17, 2018

Stephen Tankel, “With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror (Columbia University Press, 2018)offers readers a fresh, insightful and new perspective on US counterterrorism cooperation with complex countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen and Mali. These US partners work with the United States to defeat militant groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Yet, they often are both firefighters and arsonists because they frequently simultaneously support groups that engage in political violence and/or pursue policies likely to produce a new generation of militants. US partners, moreover, at times adhere to worldviews that potentially create breeding grounds for extremism. Drawing on his extensive scholarship as well as his experience as a senior advisor to the US Department of Defense during the Obama administration, assistant professor Stephen Tankel takes the reader on a well-written, highly readable tour of the complexities and pitfalls of cooperation on counterterrorism in a post-Cold War world. Tankel unravels a minefield populated by unrealistic US expectations, an over-reliance on military tools, and lack of understanding of threat perceptions among America’s partners as well as the differing priorities that US partners have. In doing so, Tankel contributes to both the study of political violence and the far broader contexts that nourish it and the continuous debate among policymakers and pundits on how to counter it.James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Aug 10, 2018

Michelle Pannor Silver, “Retirements and its Discontents: Why We Don’t Stop Working, Even If We Can” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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How do different professionals experience retirement? Michelle Pannor Silver’s new book Retirements and its Discontents: Why We Won’t Stop Working, Even If We Can (Columbia University Press, 2018), explores this question and more through interview with doctors, CEOs, elite athletes, professors, and homemakers. These retirees experience a sense of loss or felt like strangers in their own lives, but they also experience a sense of purpose in their new pursuits and find new ways to become themselves. Doctors are required to commit their whole lives to their job and retirement introduces a new life with free time and flexibility that was not there before. CEOs also had a diverse set of experiences including some who were forced into retirement, an experience shared across the other professionals as well. Elite athletes are an interesting group because sometimes they are retiring at, what would be considered for retirement, very young ages. Professors also experience a diverse range of retirement experiences and here Silver talks more about the idea of working in place, similar to the idea of aging in place. Silver also explores the retirement experiences of homemakers, a group typically ignored in the retirement literature. Overall, she leaves the reader with some key takeaways.This book will be of interest to a wide audience, from retirees themselves to Sociologists and Gerontologists. A strength of this book is its accessible organization and style of writing; the presentation of case studies makes the materials relatable and interesting. Sections of this book or the whole book could be easily digested by an undergraduate audience, and this text would be an important addition to a graduate course in aging or work.Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can tweet her at @spattersearch

Aug 06, 2018

Keith M. Woodhouse, “The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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Environmentalists often talk like revolutionaries but agitate like reformers. But however moderate its tactics, environmentalism has led Americans to questions rarely asked: Is economic growth necessary? Must individual freedom and democracy be paramount? Can human reason save us? And, especially, are nature and humanity of equal worth? These questions haunted mainstream groups aiming to gain popular support. They have also animated fringe groups, especially in the American West, which are frequently criticized, lampooned, or dismissed. But these are questions that need our attention, says historian Keith M. Woodhouse, author of the important new intellectual and political history of environmentalism’s most radical lines of thought and the people who have fought hardest for them: The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism (Columbia University Press, 2018). Woodhouse mines the writings of EarthFirst! and other groups and finds that their insistence on a moral equivalence between humans and nature has, as critics charged, led them to dismiss social and economic inequality and sometimes permitted racist and fascist musings. Yet they also had a demonstrable influence on the Sierra Club and other mainstream groups. And, even more importantly, they persistently foregrounded the importance of humility, doubt, and even pessimism, which he argues environmentalism abandons at its peril.Brian Hamilton is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he is researching African American environmental history in the nineteenth-century Cotton South. He is also an editor of the digital environmental magazine and podcast Edge Effects.

Jul 06, 2018

Sarah Snyder, “From Selma to Moscow: How Human Rights Activists Transformed Foreign Policy”

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Human rights as a concern in U.S. foreign policy and international politics has been well-documented, particularly in studies of the Carter Administration. However, how human rights emerged as an issue in U.S. domestic politics has received less attention, which is what Sarah Snyder’s From Selma to Moscow: How Human Rights Activists Transformed Foreign Policy(Columbia University Press,2018) studies and illuminates. Snyder’s research draws on both traditional diplomatic source material from the State Department, but also materials from NGOs and the papers of a number of congressmen who were involved in these issues. Using the framework of the “long 1960s,” Snyder lays bare some of the issues that sparked and sustained growing interest in human rights as a global issue, and the role that Americans ought to play in protecting human rights around the globe.Snyder points to a variety of factors that cultivated U.S. attention to human rights, particularly transnational connections between foreign and domestic actors, as well as the broader context of the 1960s in the United States, particularly the war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement. She draws on five case studies to lay bare these connections: the Soviet Union, Rhodesia, South Korea, Greece, and Chile. Some of the activism in these case studies was sustained by citizen groups and NGOs such as churches, while in other instances academics, officers within the State Department, or members of Congress directed much of the attention. Snyder then concludes by showing how Congress evolved in this period too, as hearings on human rights led to a number of important institutional changes in government.Snyder concludes by noting that while interest in human rights surged by 1976, attention has in many respects waned since the 1980s. Attention to these issues is not inevitable and it cannot be sustained without continuing participation from different sectors of civil society. Paying close attention to the ways that these interests were cultivated in the 1970s is one way that the activists of the 21stcentury might try cultivating awareness of the problems confronting the world today.

Jul 03, 2018

Lauren-Brooke Eisen, “Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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Who benefits from mass incarceration in the U.S.? In her new bookInside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration(Columbia University Press, 2017),Lauren-Brooke Eisen explain how, when and why the for-profit prison system emerged, the ways in which it functions throughout the criminal justice system today, and what we might do to improve it.Stephen Pimpareis Senior Lecturer in the Politics and Society Program and Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author ofThe New Victorians (New Press, 2004),A People’s History of Poverty in America (New Press, 2008), winner of the Michael Harrington Award, andGhettos, Tramps and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Jun 25, 2018

Natalie Robins, “The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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In her new book, The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling (Columbia University Press, 2017), Natalie Robins examines the life of writer and socialite Diana Trilling (1905-1996). Trilling wrote for The Nation, Harpers, and Partisan Review as well as popular magazines McCalls and Vogue. In addition, she wrote Mrs. Harris: The Death of the Scarsdale Diet Doctor and four other books. The wife of professor and literary critic Lionel Trilling, Diana also edited his work, serving as his most trusted confidant. Robins shares the inner struggles Diana endured through her relationship with Lionel as well as her competing public and private work. In this thorough biography, Robins’ extensive and well-researched history of Trilling sheds insight into Diana’s life. She examines Trilling’s position in anticommunist liberal politics, family feminism, and the university literary circles. Spotlighting an influential member of New York City culture, Robins’ work on Diana Trilling is an important addition to literary and popular history of the 1960s.Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative in peoples lives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on herwebsite, follow her on Twitter@rj_buchananor email her

Jun 22, 2018

Holly Gayley, “Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Often when people think of Tibetan Buddhism they have a limited vision of that social reality, perhaps one that imagines monks sitting in meditation or focused on the Dalai Lama. Rarely is the historical role of female Buddhist masters central to one’s understanding of contemporary Tibetan life. In Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2016), Holly Gayley, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, centers women’s leadership through an introduction to the important Tantric master, Khandro Tāre Lhamo (1938–2002). Through an examination of hagiographic literature, the personal letters between Tāre Lhamo and her husband Namtrul Rinpoche (1944–2011), and field research, Gayley offers an in depth study of the role of Buddhism in the revitalization of Tibetan culture and identity in the post-Maoist period. Central to her analysis is understanding how hagiography aids in healing cultural trauma brought on by the minority policies of the Chinese Communist Party and the brutal years of the Cultural Revolution. The reframing of historical events fosters cultural revival in Tibet envisioned through a Buddhist lens. In contrast to the lofty images presented in biographies, the fifty-six letters exchanged between Tāre Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche offer a personal self-narration of their relationship, which is steeped in Tantric imagery, Tibet folk genres, and Buddhist cosmology. In our conversation we discussed the Nyingma Buddhist tradition, the effects of the Maoist period on Tibetans, forms of agency, ethnographic accounts of ritual ceremonies, female religious authority, revelatory texts and treasure teachings during degenerate times, contemporary preservation of their teachings through multimedia sources, the couple’s activities within the community, and Tāre Lhamo’s legacy today.Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

May 10, 2018

Ji-Young Lee, “China’s Hegemony: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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Ji-Young Lee’s book investigates the changing nature of tribute relations during the Ming and High Qing between a dominant China and its less powerful neighbors, Korea and Japan. China’s Hegemony: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination (Columbia University Press, 2017) reexamines the theory and literature of the tribute system,...

May 03, 2018

Walter N. Hakala, “Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi, and the Definition of Modern South Asia” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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For many people language is a central characteristic of their social identity. In modern South Asia, the production of Urdu and Hindi as national languages was intricately tied to the hardening of religious identities. South Asian lexicographers, those folks who were most intimately working with language, were at the center of this political realignment. In Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi, and the Definition of Modern South Asia (Columbia University Press, 2016), Walter N. Hakala, Associate Professor of South Asian languages and literature at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, traces the long history of the construction of Urdu as a language of cultural and national identity. Dictionaries are the key source for understanding the changing social and political landscape of South Asia. Beginning in the seventeenth century, Negotiating Languages offers an episodic genealogy of the ideological underpinnings and political consequences of dictionary production. In our conversation we discuss South Asia’s multilingual premodern literature, linguistic authority, “Urdu’s oldest dictionary,” the influence of colonial knowledge production, the changing social and material challenges in 20th century lexicographical production, British lexicographers and their relationship with local linguists, Islamicized Urdu literary culture, and questions of whether non-Muslims could sufficiently produce Urdu dictionaries.Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

May 02, 2018

Michal Kravel-Tovi, “When the State Winks: The Performance of Jewish Conversion in Israel” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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In When the State Winks: The Performance of Jewish Conversion in Israel(Columbia University Press, 2017), Michal Kravel Tovi, associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University, offers an intimate, insightful ethnography of the current field of Jewish conversion in Israel. It highlights the complex and often conflicted nature of an intimate, individual religious performance that is at once and the same time also one of the most pressing political issues in contemporary Israeli sociopolitics.Yaacov Yadgaris the Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies at the University of Oxford. His most recent book isSovereign Jews: Israel, Zionism and Judaism (SUNY Press, 2017). You can read more of Yadgar’s workhere.

Apr 25, 2018

Natasha Zaretsky, “Radiation Nation: Three Mile Island and the Political Transformation of the 1970s” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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What if modern conservatism is less a reaction to environmentalism than a mutation of it? Historian Natasha Zaretsky’s latest book, Radiation Nation: Three Mile Island and the Political Transformation of the 1970s (Columbia University Press, 2018), is a fine-grained examination of the local reaction to the most serious accident in the history of U.S. nuclear energy. It is also a sweeping study of the construction of arguments for and against nuclear energy and atomic weapons from the end of the World War II to the present. Zaretsky follows that debate through a transformative six-year debate in central Pennsylvania, where conservative activists launched protests that drew heavily from the examples of environmentalism, the antiwar movement, second-wave feminism, the black freedom struggle, and black and women’s health activism. Yet rather than pushing them to the left, their fight with pronuclear forces in industry and government made them more conservative. They articulated an ethnonationalist argument about a threatened nation betrayed by its leaders and illustrated it with ecological images of the damaged bodies of mothers, babies, and the unborn. This “biotic nationalism” helped conservatives paint a convincing picture of the America of the 1970s and 1980s and remains potent today, as visible in the “Crippled America” described by Donald Trump.Natasha Zaretsky is associate professor of history at Southern Illinois University. She is the author of No Direction Home: The American Family and the Fear of American Decline, 1968-1980 (UNC Press, 2007) and co-editor of Major Problems in U.S. History Since 1945 (4th ed., Cengage, 2013). Her articles have appeared in Diplomatic History, The Journal of Social History, The Journal of Women’s History, The New Republic, and elsewhere.Brian Hamilton is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin—Madison where he is researching African American environmental history in the nineteenth-century Cotton South. He is also an editor of the digital environmental magazine and podcast Edge Effects.

Apr 09, 2018

Mark S. Hamm and Ramon Spaaij, “The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism (Columbia University Press, 2017), by Mark S. Hamm and Ramon Spaaij, identifies patterns among individuals that commit acts of terror outside of a group or network. Hamm and Spaaij follow these individuals, commonly called lone wolf terrorists, through multiple data points to inform a model of radicalization. The trends and changes in lone wolf terrorists, targets of violence, and radicalization pathways over time provides valuable insights for counterterrorism efforts. Finally, Hamm and Spaaij examine FBI sting operations that aim to prevent terrorist attacks.Beth Windisch is a national security practitioner. You can tweet her @bethwindisch.

Jan 19, 2018

Reza Zia-Ebrahimi, “The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism: Race and the Politics of Dislocation” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Over the past century, virtually every Iranian—whether living in Iran or in the diaspora—has been exposed, to one degree or another, to certain commonly held nationalistic beliefs about what it means to be Iranian. These beliefs include the idea that Iranians are an “Aryan” race; that pre-Islamic Iran was a sort of golden age, marked by a glorious Persian Empire; and that this pure Iranian “soul” was subsequently “polluted” by the arrival of Arab culture, language and even religion in the seventh century.As Reza Zia-Ebrahimi shows in his deftly argued new book, The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism: Race and the Politics of Dislocation (Columbia University Press, 2016), these nationalistic myths are largely a modern invention—a phenomenon he describes as “dislocative nationalism.” Following a “traumatic encounter with Europe” in the nineteenth century, Zia-Ebrahimi argues, Iranians were left searching for explanations for their perceived backwardness vis-a-vis western civilization. And the answer increasingly offered by modernist intellectuals was that the genius of Persian civilization had been degraded by the invasion of an alien other—in the form of Arabs and Islam. These ideas, which borrowed heavily from contemporary European racial thinking of the time, were adapted and hybridized by Iranian intellectuals keen to cast Persians as a master race, superior to the Semitic Arabs. And in the twentieth century, they were enthusiastically taken up by the Pahlavi state as part of its drive towards secularization and western-style modernity. Zia-Ebrahimi calls these ideas “dislocative” because they suggest—implicitly and sometimes explicitly—that Iran’s physical location, in the middle of a region dominated by Arabs and Islam, is a mere accident of geography, and that Iranians are actually Europeans manques. The persistence of such dislocative ideas about Iranian nationhood, which continue to animate much of the chauvinistic discourse indulged in by Iranians both sympathetic and antagonistic to the Islamic Republic, makes them ripe for critical enquiry, and Zia-Ebrahimi offers a long-overdue assessment of the phenomenon.

Dec 20, 2017

Jennifer Randles, “Proposing Prosperity? Marriage Education Policy and Inequality in America” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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“Marriage is the foundation of a successful society,” proclaimed the Clinton-era welfare reform bill. Since then, national and state governments have spent nearly a billion dollars on programs designed to encourage poor and low-income Americans to get married and to remain married. But do any of these initiatives achieve their stated goals? To find out, listen to our interview with Jennifer Randles, author of Proposing Prosperity?: Marriage Education Policy and Inequality in America (Columbia University Press, 2016), who knows first-hand what happens in such programs, bringing important new insight into evaluating claims that there is a “success sequence” that will bring people out of poverty.Stephen Pimpare is Senior Lecturer in the Politics & Society Program and Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author of The New Victorians (New Press, 2004), A People’s History of Poverty in America (New Press, 2008), winner of the Michael Harrington Award, and Ghettos, Tramps and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Nov 14, 2017

Daniel Kane, “Do You Have a Band?”: Poetry and Punk Rock in New York City” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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Often, poetry and punk rock are seen as distinct activities that occur in different locations with separate audiences. Many would also ascribe to them varying levels of cultural and political capital.Daniel Kane, the author of Do You Have a Band?: Poetry and Punk Rock in New York City (Columbia University Press, 2017) challenges these notions and explores the interaction between the New York Schools of Poetry and early punk music. In this podcast, we discuss how poets, such as Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, and Anne Waldman, affected the writing and careers of Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and Richard Hell. We also explore how punk rock, in turn, shaped the work of Elaine Myles and Dennis Cooper. Kane’s work helps re-map the relationships between poetry and punk rock.Daniel Kane is Professor in English and American literature at the University of Sussex in Brighton. His books include We Saw the Light: Conversations Between the New American Cinema and Poetry (2009) and All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s (2003).The host for this episode is Richard Schur, Professor of English at Drury University. He is the author of Parodies of Ownership: Hip Hop Aesthetics and Intellectual Property Law and the co-editor of African American Culture and Legal Discourse.

Nov 02, 2017

Joshua Clark Davis, “From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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In From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs (Columbia University Press, 2017), historian Joshua Clark Davis offers an unconventional history of the 1960s and 1970s by uncovering the work of activist entrepreneurs. These activists offered alternatives to conventional profit-driven corporate business models by opening up their own small businesses. It’s a fascinating account that challenges the mistaken idea that activism and political dissent are inherently antithetical to participation in the marketplace.

Nov 02, 2017

George Hawley, “Making Sense of the Alt-Right” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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George Hawley has written Making Sense of the Alt-Right (Columbia University Press, 2017). Hawley is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama. He is the author of three previous books. From the start of this book, Hawley makes clear the racism at the heart of the alt-right–or alternative right–movement, but what he is seeking, as the title suggests, is to draw subtle but important distinctions between this manifestation of racist political organizing and others. As such, Making Sense of the Alt-Right explores how the alt-right differs from traditional white nationalism, white supremacism, libertarianism, and other extremist movements. Hawley argues that the alt-right’s use of offensive humor and its adeptness at social media trolling can make it difficult to determine its objectives. He is able to synthesize a movement that not only disagrees with liberalism but also fundamentally rejects most of the principles of conservatism in the US and has been energized by President Donald Trump.

Oct 02, 2017

Claire D. Clark, “The Recovery Revolution” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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Before the 1960s, doctors were generally in control of the treatment of drug addicts. And that made a certain sense, because drug addicts had something that looked a lot like a disease or mental illness. The trouble was that doctors had no effective way to treat drug addiction. Their best idea–Federal “narcotics farms,” one in Kentucky and one in Texas–kept junkies clean, but only by keeping them away from the drugs those junkies craved. In that sense, they were no more effective than prisons, though in fairness drug farms offered various treatment regimens that enabled some addicts to get and stay clean. Other than locking them up, the medical establishment had no good answer to the question “How do you cure someone of narcotics addiction?” Essentially, then, junkies (who could not spontaneously “kick,” and a lot do) usually ended up in one of three places: on the street, behind bars, or dead.Enter Charles Dederich. In 1958, Dederich, a veteran of AA and ex-drug addict, decided that addicts should take their treatment into their own hands, much like Bill Wilson and Bob Smith had done with AA in the late 1930s. He took what he learned in AA, adapted it, and created a long-term residential “therapeutic community” expressly for addicts and run by addicts. He called it Synanon, and with it he started what Claire D. Clark calls “the recovery revolution.”In her terrific book, The Recovery Revolution: The Battle Over Addiction Treatment in the United States (Columbia University Press, 2017), Clark tells the story of Dederich and those who followed him (literally and chronologically) in trying to find a way to treat narcotics addiction. It’s a tale of ebbs and flows, successes and failures, enthusiasm and exhaustion lasting sixty years. Clark makes clear that the “recovery revolution” is not over by any means–we are still groping toward a good answer to the question “How do you cure someone of narcotics addiction?”

Jul 28, 2017

Simone Muller, “Wiring the World: The Social and Cultural Creation of Global Telegraph Networks” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Simone Muller’s Wiring the World: The Social and Cultural Creation of Global Telegraph Networks (Columbia University Press, 2016) is a superb account of the laying of submarine telegraph cables in the nineteenth century and the battles over them in the subsequent decades. Her book shows how expanding telegraph networks were instrumental in processes of capitalism, nation-building, and globalization. To track these grand developments, however, Muller reconstructs the network of people who built, managed, and fought over telegraph networks. She calls this eclectic collection of financiers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and politicians “actors of globalization.”Muller’s book is an historical kaleidoscope that shows the multi-faceted meaning of telegraphy. Her actors imbued telegraphy with hopes of world peace, of Weltcommunication (a predecessor of the global village idea), of a global electric union, and of bolstering the civilizing mission. Even if submarine telegraphy never achieved these aspirations, her book demonstrates just how culturally and socially significant this technology and these networks were to the pre-WWI world.Her book should be of interest to historians of capitalism, technology, international relations, Europe and the United States, along with anyone curious about the longer duree of globalization. Simone Muller is a principal investigator at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.Dexter Fergie will be pursuing his PhD in US and Global history at Northwestern University in September 2017.

Jul 10, 2017

Blake Atwood, “Reform Cinema in Iran: Film and Political Change in the Islamic Republic” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Iranian cinema has close connections to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini , explicitly pointed to the uses of cinema for religious and revolutionary political purposes. But Iranian films and the means of film production gradually changed in the post-Khomeini period. In Reform Cinema in Iran: Film and Political Change in the Islamic Republic (Columbia University Press, 2016), Blake Atwood, Assistant Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, explores the trajectories of Iranian cinema within the transforming cultural and political landscapes of the 1990s. Many of these changes were fostered by the leader of the Reformist Movement and then Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami. Atwood explores documentary and narrative films, political speeches, and institutional policies to determine how reform cinema shaped public opinion, social practices, and political sensibilities. During this period, there are observable changes in industrial and aesthetic cinematic practices that solidify into many of the characteristic features of Iranian film. In our conversation we discuss reform politics, spectatorship, new political opportunities for filmmakers, famous directors such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarostami, campaign films, technological changes and video, documentaries, popular Filmfārsi, Iran’s Cinema Museum, and the legacy of reform cinema today.Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

Jun 26, 2017

Bruce D. Haynes and Syma Solovitch, “Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family” (Columbia UP, 2017)

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Public scholarship takes many forms, from op-eds to activism to blog posts. In their new book, Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family (Columbia University Press, 2017), Associate Professor Bruce Haynes and freelance writer, developmental editor, and educator Syma Solovitch (both co-authors and a married couple) use a “sociological memoir” to show a variety of social science concepts in the fields of urban studies, social class, and race.The subject is Haynes’s family, whose members were at the heart of several key events, periods, and organizations in African American life in the twentieth century. His grandfather was a leading scholar of the Great Migration and founded the National Urban League, while his grandmother was a noted children’s book author of the Harlem Renaissance. The couple became members of the new black Harlem. His parents, who made great sacrifices, such as the gradual deterioration of their house, to send their three sons to private school, resembled the tenuous position African Americans held in the middle class. And Haynes and his brothers came of age in an equally exciting and dangerous period in New York City’s history: the turbulence of the 60s, decline of the 70s, and devastation of the 80s. Interweaving a variety of sociological concepts and historical examinations with intimate portraits of this singular family, Down the Up Staircase takes readers on an entertaining and provocative tour of twentieth-century urban America.Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017), about the transformation of low-status occupations into cool, cultural taste-making jobs (cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale mens barbers, and whole animal butchers), and of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City (Princeton University Press, 2014), about growth policies, nightlife, and conflict in gentrified neighborhoods. His work has appeared in such journals as City & Community, Poetics, Ethnography, and the European Journal of Cultural Studies. He is also the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork (Routledge; 2012) and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Metropolitics, Work and Occupations, and the Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography.

Jun 02, 2017

Audrey Truschke, “Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Contemporary scholarship on the Mughal empire has generally ignored the role Sanskrit played in imperial political and literary projects. However, in Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court (Columbia University Press, 2016), Audrey Truschke, Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University–Newark, demonstrates that Sanskrit was central to the process of royal self-definition. She documents how Brahman and Jain intellectuals were working closely with Persian-speaking Islamic elite around the cultural framework of the central royal court. These projects often revolved around cross-cultural textual production and translation, putting Sanskrit and Persian works in conversation. The production of Mughal-backed texts, and the literary reflection or silence about Brahman and Jain participation reveals unexplored horizons for understanding South Asia imperial history. In our conversation we discussed the dynamics of the Mughal court, the influential leaders Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan, Persian translation of Sanskrit epics, the integration of Sanskrit materials into imperial knowledge, the end of Sanskrit at the Mughal court, and the tricky reception of contested histories in contemporary India.Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

Apr 03, 2017

Carrie J. Preston, “Learning to Kneel: Noh, Modernism, and Journeys in Teaching” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Carrie J. Preston‘s new book tells the story of the global circulation of noh-inspired performances, paying careful attention to the ways these performances inspired twentieth-century drama, poetry, modern dance, film, and popular entertainment. Inspired by noh’s practice of retelling stories in different styles and tenses, Learning to Kneel: Noh, Modernism,...

Mar 29, 2017

Sarah Hammerschlag, “Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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In Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion (Columbia University Press, 2016), Sarah Hammerschlag, Associate Professor of Religion and Literature at the University of Chicago Divinity School, explores the admiring and at times oppositional philosophical kinship between Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, two of the France’s greatest 20th century philosophers. One fundamental aspect of the Levinas-Derrida relationship is each man’s relationship to his Jewish identity and to Jewish text and tradition. Professor Hammerschlag delves into the resonances and far-reaching effects this relationship has for religion writ large, as well as for philosophy, literature, ethics, and political theology.David Gottlieb is a PhD Candidate in the History of Judaism at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His research interests center on the influence of rabbinic midrash on the formation of Jewish cultural memory. He can be reached at

Mar 20, 2017

Todd McGowan, “Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Todd McGowan‘s Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets (Columbia University Press, 2016) elegantly employs psychoanalytic thinking to unpack the lure of capitalism. He argues that we are drawn to capitalism because, under an overt promise to bring us what we want, it gives us what we need: lack.Every commodity disappoints. And that’s the point.Satisfaction, that moment when all is well and good, flutters rapidly, blessedly away. What is so great, so crucial, about lack? Though we pine for relief, nothing kills desire like abundance. (Spoiler alert: should there be an equitable redistribution of wealth, we would still suffer a hunger for the lost object which, according to McGowan, not employing Kleinian thinking, was never attainable in the first place.) If we did not experience ourselves as missing something we might never get out of bed–and, as clinicians know, why it can be purely ruinous to gratify a depressive patient.You buy those boots, the ones you had to have, and within moments of wearing them, your heart sinks. That car you finally got your hands on? Driving it out of the lot you wonder, “should I have just leased it?” Desire is an engine best run on less than half a tank.The paradox of capitalism, the way it lets us down, gets a full treatment here. Capitalism reclines on McGowan’s couch and he offers it a few interpretations that shake loose its obsessional and hysterical tendencies. He works with capitalism effectively, not arousing its defenses, because he understands it as caught in a trap of its own making. Embracing Beyond The Pleasure Principle and Lacanian thinking, he asks capitalism how come the ends are more important than the means, and doesn’t it miss the sublime? He also treats the reader, reminding us that we need to not have what we want in order to get what we need.The interview sails along, if I say so myself, and, given the political surround, offers a good conversation to get into. The author would love to hear from us and has asked that I post his email right here,

Mar 19, 2017

Li Zhi, “A Book To Burn And A Book To Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Rivi Handler-Spitz, Pauline C. Lee, and Haun Saussy have created a wonderful resource for readers, researchers, students, and teachers alike. A Book To Burn And A Book To Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings (Columbia University Press, 2016) collects and translates a range of works by Li Zhi, a fascinating and significant...

Mar 09, 2017

Ronojoy Sen, “Nation at Play: A History of Sport in India” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Covering sporting activities from ancient times right up to the modern day, Ronojoy Sen’s Nation at Play: A History of Sport in India (Columbia University Press, 2016) is at once broad in its scope, yet detailed in its analysis of key events. From football, to the Olympics, to cricket the book explores how sporting life changes in relation to wider societal transformations. I found it both highly readable, and packed full of the type of stories that appeal to sports aficionados.

Mar 06, 2017

Brian T. Edwards, “After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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American culture is ubiquitous across the globe. It travels to different social contexts and is consumed by international populations. But the relationship between American culture and the meanings attached to the United States change over time. During the 20th century, the American Century, American culture generally aided in the positive global perception of U.S. policies and governance.In After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East (Columbia University Press, 2016), Brian T. Edwards, Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and Professor of English at Northwestern University, demonstrates how this relationship altered in recent decades. Technological innovation and the emergence of the digital age have drastically changed the nature of cultural circulation and production. Edwards explores the innovative play between global culture and local subjects in Egypt, Iran, and Morocco. He explores the exchange and interpretations between multiple publics that engage culture situated within various assumptions and social expectations. What he shows is that local cultural production often creates the ends of circulation, which are not always visible to an American audience. In our conversation we discussed the relationship between culture and politics, Egyptian fiction and graphic novels, Iranian directors Asghar Farhadi and Abbas Kiarostami, Shrek, digital piracy, Moroccan film controversies, the logics of film production, interpreting audiences, American Orientalism in television, literature, and Ben Affleck’s Argo.Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

Mar 06, 2017

Richard Jean So, “Transpacific Community: America, China, and the Rise and Fall of a Cultural Network” (Columbia University Press, 2016)

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Richard Jean So’s new book studies a group of American and Chinese writers in the three decades after WWI to propose a conceptual framework for understanding intellectual and cultural relations between China and America in the twentieth century and beyond. The period that So focuses on was crucial for a...

Jan 23, 2017

Erik W. Davis, “Deathpower: Buddhism’s Ritual Imagination in Cambodia” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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In his recent monograph, Deathpower: Buddhism’s Ritual Imagination in Cambodia (Columbia University Press, 2015), Erik W. Davis explores funerary ritual in contemporary Cambodian Buddhism and the way in which Buddhist monks manage death such that its negative power is harnessed and used for the reproduction of morality and of a particular social reality. The book is organized around two themes, which serve as the warp over and under which Davis skillfully weaves the ethnographic detail resulting from his many years of fieldwork in Southeast Asia.The first of these two themes is binding. In the funeral itself binding is both symbolic, as when the funerary ritualists contain the potentially malevolent spirits exiting the corpse, and physical, as when the corpse is bound with consecrated string. Davis sees this image of binding extending far beyond the funeral rite, however, and discusses the way in which Khmer culture itself is founded in part upon the binding or controlling of water–necessary in rice agriculture as practiced in Cambodia–and the binding of people, which is actualized as the enslavement of highland non-agricultural peoples by lowland-dwelling Cambodians.The second theme that runs throughout the book is the dichotomy between civilization and its other. Thus, we find in the Khmer imagination a distinction made between the civilized, moral, agricultural, deforested lowlands and the wild, amoral, forested highlands. In its firm association with civilization, agriculture, and social hierarchy, Cambodian Buddhism legitimates this imagined dichotomy and renders the social world of the lowlands moral.Because Davis explains the nitty-gritty of the many rituals he discusses in larger theoretical terms, the book will be of great interest to both specialists and those with no knowledge of Cambodian Buddhism. On the more detailed side, he discusses not only funerals, but also the sīmā ceremony, the domestication of ghosts by Buddhist monks, the feeding of ghosts and ancestors, witchcraft, the ordination of novice monks, slavery in Cambodia, Khmer origin legends, fertility rituals associated with rice cultivation, nāgas, apotropaic tattoos, Khmer views of leftovers (of food, that is), and a fascinating amulet that is supposedly created by ripping a fetus out of a living woman. But all of this is explained with reference to broader perennial themes, including Buddhism’s management and power over death, reciprocity within the family and (more broadly) human society, the relationship between kingship and Buddhism, human sacrifice, the ambiguity that so often characterizes attitudes towards the deceased, the relationship between agriculture and social hierarchy, and the way in which Buddhism defines itself in opposition to an imagined, amoral other. Specialists will learn something new about the particulars of Cambodian Buddhist ritual, Cambodian society, and funerary practice, while scholars of Buddhism and other religions will surely recognize familiar patterns even as they appreciate the idiosyncratic nature of Cambodian Buddhism.Furthermore, in addition to his rich, first-hand accounts of various rituals and his examination of these rituals through a number of theoretical lenses, Davis includes at the end of each of the book’s nine chapters a vignette relating either a legend or an episode from his own time in the field that illustrates a particular point he is trying to make. This, along with the inclusion of sixteen black and whitephotographs from the author’s fieldwork and a Khmer glossary, make this a very accessible book despite its complexity and depth.

Jan 20, 2017

Jan Kiely and J. Brooks Jessup, eds., “Recovering Buddhism in Modern China” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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The essays in Jan Kiely and J. Brooks Jessup’s new edited volume, Recovering Buddhism in Modern China (Columbia University Press, 2016), collectively make a compelling argument that Buddhism and Buddhists played important roles in the modern transformations of China from the twentieth century through today. Though history scholarship has, relatively...

Dec 23, 2016

Banu Bargu, “Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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What is the relationship between state power and self-destructive violence as a mode of political resistance? In her book Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia University Press, 2016), Banu Bargu (Politics, The New School) analyzes the Turkish death fast movement and explores self-inflicted death as a political practice. Amid a global intensification of the “weaponization of life,” Bargu argues for conceptualizing this self-destructive use of the body as a complex political and existential act. In doing so, she theorizes a reconfiguration of sovereignty into biosovereignty and of resistance into necroresistance. To accomplish this, the book innovatively weaves together political and critical theory with ethnography in a way that enables the self-understanding and self-narration of those in and around the death fast movement to speak to canonical thinkers and concepts.John McMahon is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Beloit College. He is a former Fellow at the Center for Global Ethics and Politics at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY, which sponsors the podcast. In addition to NB Global Ethics and Politics, he also co-hosts the Always Already critical theory podcast.

Dec 10, 2016

Rupa Viswanath, “The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion, and the Social in Modern India” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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The so called “Pariah Problem” emerged in public consciousness in the 1890s in India as state officials, missionaries and “upper”caste landlords, among others, struggled to understood the situation of Dalits (those subordinated populations once called untouchables). In The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion, and the Social in Modern India (Columbia University Press, 2014) Rupa Viswanath unpacks the creation and application of this so called “problem.”The interview explores the ways in which land, labour and ritual combined in producing the Pariah and the affect Protestant missionaries had in reshaping Pariah-ness, as well as the role of the colonial state and changes in house site ownership among other issues. Amazingly rich in detail and theoretically dynamic throughout, the book is relevant to numerous discussions in present day India and beyond.

Nov 02, 2016

Lucas Graves, “Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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In a fragmented media world where anyone can speak, professional journalists are no longer the “gatekeepers” who decide what the public will see and hear. Instead, citizens are barraged with claims, assertions and innuendo that have not been subjected to the journalistic discipline of verification. Fact-checking, pioneered by bloggers and developed by professional news organizations, attempts to get at the elusive truth by subjecting political figures’ words to careful scrutiny. In Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism (Columbia University Press, 2016) Lucas Graves examines the fact-checkers’ work and plumbs its potential, its limits and its hazards. He concludes that fact-checking, while imperfect, is a genuine reform movement that is reshaping American journalism and the long-cherished ideal of objectivity.James Kates is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He has worked as an editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other publications.

Oct 14, 2016

Charles Strozier, “Your Friend Forever, A. Lincoln: The Enduring Friendship of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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When Abraham Lincoln wrote that the better part of one’s life consists of his friendships, it is likely that he had in mind his friendship with Joshua Speed. Starting as roommates in Springfield, the two formed an extraordinarily close attachment, one that provided both men with considerable support at an important point in their respective lives. In his book Your Friend Forever, A. Lincoln: The Enduring Friendship of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed (Columbia University Press, 2016), historian and psychoanalyst Charles Strozier applies the tools of both of his disciplines to exploring the bond between the two of them. In many ways the two were a study in contrasts, with Speed the more outgoing and polished of the two. Yet the younger Speed idolized the gangling lawyer and politician, and his friendship provided Lincoln with succor through depression and emotional turmoil. It was a favor Lincoln returned as well, and though the two became less close with Speed’s return to Kentucky in 1842, their enduring friendship led Speed to play a key role in Lincoln’s effort to preserve the union during the Civil War.

Sep 02, 2016

Jon Hale, “The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Dr. Jon Hale, Assistant Professor of Educational History, Department of Teacher Education, College of Charleston, joins the New Books Network to discuss his new book, entitled The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (Columbia University Press, 2016). Through primary interviews and in-depth historical analysis, the author provides a bottom-up view of the Mississippi Freedom Schools, part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, an important legacy to the US Civil Rights Movement.For any questions, comments, or recommendations for the New Books in Education podcast, you can connect with the host, Ryan Allen, at @PoliticsAndEd.

Jul 28, 2016

Jonathon S. Kahn and Vincent W. Lloyd, editors, “Race And Secularism in America” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Jonathon S. Kahn is an associate professor of religion at Vassar College. He is co-editor with Vincent W. Lloyd of a collection of essays entitled Race and Secularism in America (Columbia University Press, 2016). Eleven scholars forward the argument that secularism in America has been a project that manages, or excludes, difference by control over both religion and race. The introduction demonstrates how Martin Luther King Jr., both a religious and black leader, was stripped of both his race and his religion to represent a homogenous white secularism. Secularism is dependent on managing not just the intertwined racial and religious discourse but the practices and bodies of ordinary people. Secularism thus becomes white and springs from a managed Protestantism. The abolitionist movement in the nineteenth century and the Civil Rights movement in the twentieth are historical examples of resistance to a secularist white consensus. The volume explores the many ways religion and race are circumscribed, how they are entwined, and the ways their management has been refused. In the process, the authors recover the transformative potential of racial and religious discourse in imagining worlds of possibilities and justice.Lilian Calles Barger is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation.

May 28, 2016

Ho-fung Hung, “The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Ho-fung Hung‘s new book has two main goals: to to outline the historical origins of Chinas capitalist boom and the social and political formations in the 1980s that gave rise to this boom, and to explore the global effects of Chinas capitalist boom and the limit of that boom. In...

May 18, 2016

Irene L. Gendzier, “Dying to Forget: Oil, Power, Palestine, and the Foundations of U.S. Policy in the Middle East” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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In Dying to Forget: Oil, Power, Palestine, and the Foundations of U.S. Policy in the Middle East (Columbia University Press, 2015), Irene L. Gendzier, Professor Emerita in the Department of Political Science at Boston University, examines new evidence of the role of oil politics in the founding of U.S. policy towards Israel. Gendzier discusses and contextualizes the response of U.S, policy makers to the Holocaust and the plight of European Jewish refugees, and also provides a nuanced account of the role of the American Zionist movement. This book brings a new perspective on the origins of issues that are still very much with us today.

May 18, 2016

Roger Horowitz, “Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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In Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food (Columbia University Press, 2016), Roger Horowitz, director of the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society at the Hagley Museum and Library, looks at points of intersection between Jewish law and modern industrial foodways during the 20th century. In revealing the hidden kosher histories of products such as Coke, Jell-O and kosher meat, Horowitz highlights controversies over rabbinic authority and consumption in American Jewish history.

Apr 21, 2016

Sarah Phillips Casteel, “Calypso Jews: Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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In Calypso Jews: Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination (Columbia University Press, 2016), Sarah Phillips Casteel, associate professor of English at Carleton University, explores the representation of Jewishness in Caribbean literature. She investigates the meaning of two episodes of trauma in Jewish history, the 1492 expulsion and the Holocaust, for Caribbean and diaspora writers. Her focus on this under-explored Caribbean story serves as an alternative to the traditional U.S.-based critical narratives of Black-Jewish relations.

Apr 18, 2016

Eric Dietrich, “Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World” (Columbia UP, )

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Although there are many deep criticisms of a scientific view of humanity and the world, a persistent theme is that the scientific worldview eliminates mystery, and in particular, the wonders and mysteries of the world’s religions. In Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World (Columbia University Press), Eric Dietrich argues that the human thirst for mystery would still be slated even if we explain away the mysteries of religion in scientific, specifically evolutionary, terms. Among the strange “excellent beauties”, he claims, are consciousness and infinity. Dietrich, professor of philosophy at Binghamton University, describes the structure of spiritual journeys, the social-bonding role of religious belief and our ineliminably “Janus-faced” nature as creatures who dislike open-ended mysteries but love magical thinking.

Apr 15, 2016

Erik Hammerstrom, “The Science of Chinese Buddhism: Early Twentieth-Century Engagements” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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Erik J. Hammerstrom‘s new book looks carefully at “what Chinese Buddhists thought about science in the first part of the twentieth century” by exploring what they wrote in articles and monographs devoted to the topic in the 1920s and early 1930s.The Science of Chinese Buddhism: Early Twentieth-Century Engagements (Columbia University...

Mar 30, 2016

Tahneer Oksman, “How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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In“How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?”: Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs (Columbia University Press, 2016),Tahneer Oksmanexplores the graphic memoirs of seven female cartoonists, whose works grapple with issues of Jewish identity – from confronting stereotypes of Jewish women’s bodies and behaviors, to ambivalence over what it means to be a progressive Jew on a Birthright trip to Israel. Through visual and textual analysis, Oksman illustrates how her authors’ connections to Jewishness remain complicated, fluid, and intimately tied to perceptions of self and how others view them.

Mar 24, 2016

Amy Allen, “The End of Progress: Decolonizing the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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How can we de-colonize critical theory from within, and reimagine the way it grounds its normative claims as well as the way it relates to post- and de-colonial theory? Amy Allen (Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Penn State University) takes up this project in her book The End of Progress: Decolonizing the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory(Columbia Univ. Press, 2016). The work challenges the way that the Frankfurt School of critical theory constructs and deploys concepts of normativity, history, and progress, in the process offering rich interpretations of Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, and Rainer Forst. Allen then turns to the work of Theodor Adorno and Michel Foucault in order to articulate a different perspective on these issues, one that enables a radical self-critique and de-colonization of critical theory. She concludes by exploring alternative means for critical theory to justify its normative claims as a way for it to more deeply engage with post- and de-colonial theory.

Mar 07, 2016

James Davis, “Eric Walrond: A Life in the Harlem Renaissance and the Transatlantic Caribbean” (Columbia University Press, 2015)

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This terrific book follows the itinerary of Eric Walrond’s peripatetic life. Born in Guyana in 1898, Walrond lived in Barbados, Panama, New York, Paris, London. As a writer and sharp observer of those around him, he produced trenchant critiques of racial dynamics, imperialism, and labor relations in short stories, journalism,...

Feb 24, 2016

Janet Gyatso, Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2015)

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Janet Gyatso‘s new book is a masterfully researched, compellingly written, and gorgeously illustrated history of medicine in early modern Tibet that looks carefully at the relationships between medicine and religion in this context. Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (Columbia University...

Dec 18, 2015

Eli Zaretsky, “Political Freud: A History” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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Back in the early 70s, Eli Zaretsky wrote for a socialist newspaper and was engaged to review a recently released book, Psychoanalysis and Feminism by Juliet Mitchell. First, he decided, he’d better read some Freud. This started a life-long engagement with psychoanalysis and leftist politics, and his new book Political Freud: A History (Columbia University Press, 2015) conveys the richness of his decades of reading Freud. Following his 2004 Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis, Zaretsky’s latest book, some would call it a companion, is comprised of five essays analyzing the complexity of the mutual influencing of capitalism, social/political history, and psychoanalysis, with particular attention to how and whether people conceive of their own interiority as political. (Particularly timely is chapter two: “Beyond the Blues: the Racial Unconscious and Collective Memory” which explores African American intellectual engagement with psychoanalysis as a tool for understanding oppression.) “Whereas introspection did once define an epoch of social and cultural history– the Freudian epoch– there were historical reasons for this, and it was bound to pass” says Zaretsky. But Political Freud is also a compelling argument for how badly we still need a conception of the self–or ego– with a critical and non-normalizing edge.Eli Zaretsky is a professor of history at The New School, writes and teaches about twentieth-century cultural history, the theory and history of capitalism (especially its social and cultural dimensions), and the history of the family. He is also the author of Why America Needs a Left, Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis andCapitalism, the Family and Personal Life.

Dec 02, 2015

Hilary Neroni, “The Subject of Torture: Psychoanalysis and Biopolitics in Television and Film” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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Did you notice that after 9/11, the depiction of torture on prime-time television went up nearly seven hundred percent? Hilary Neroni did. She had just finished a book on the changing relationship between female characters and violence in narrative cinema, and was attuned to function of violence in film and television. This was around the time the Abu Ghraib torture photos were leaked to the public. Over the next 10 years, torture porn appeared in the Saw and Hostel films, and it seemed that torture quickly became a routine element of thriller plots in movies and TV, such as the series 24. In The Subject of Torture: Psychoanalysis and Biopolitics in Television and Film (Columbia University Press, 2015), Neroni makes a compelling case that, prior to 9/11, the stage had already been set for the dehumanizing fantasy of torture to appear in mass culture – via biopolitics. With this book, Neroni takes on the task of defining and understanding torture through a psychoanalytic lens, using films and television as case studies. The book is both compelling and readable, and argues that the fantasy and depiction of torture play a role as an ideology in national politics and policy, and that it’s all more complicated than it seems–once you stop averting your eyes.Hilary Neroni teaches in the Film and Television Studies Program at the University of Vermont and is also the author of The Violent Woman: Femininity, Narrative, and Violence in Contemporary American Cinema. Her areas of interest include representations of gender and race in contemporary American film, violence in film, women directors, documentary film/video, feminist theory, psychoanalysis, and Marxism. She has published essays on women directors (in particular Jane Campion and Claire Denis) and on issues surrounding gender and violence in the cinema.

Oct 27, 2015

Sarah H. Jacoby, “Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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Sarah H. Jacoby‘s recent monograph, Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro (Columbia University Press, 2014), focuses on the extraordinary life and times of the Tibetan laywoman Sera Khandro and uses her story to examine a number of important issues in the study of Tibetan Buddhism.Sera Khandro was born in 1892 to well-off parents in cosmopolitan Lhasa, but ran-away to eastern Tibet at the age of fifteen, hoping to fulfill her religious aspirations.After enduring various hardships, she eventually became the consort of a monk at the age of twenty.After a tumultuous nine years during which she was subjected to the ill-will of many residents of the monastery where she resided and during which time she bore two children, she moved in with the lama under whom she had originally studied, a man whom she considered her original teacher, whose consort she became (attaining spiritual liberation in the process), and whose biography she would eventually write after his death.After three years, her spiritual partner died, and Sera Khandro spent the last sixteen years of her life teaching widely throughout eastern Tibet and engaged in writing.She died in 1940.Jacoby’s study is based in large part on two previously unexamined sources: a biography that Sera Khandro wrote of her male teacher, and Sera Khandro’s own autobiography.There are very few pre-1950s’ Tibetan primary sources authored by women, and these two documents allow Jacoby a unique view of a period usually seen through male eyes.In her discussion of Sera Khandro’s writings, Jacoby locates the aforementioned autobiography in the context of Tibetan literature, on the one hand, and explains autobiography’s role in the construction of religious identity in Tibet, on the other.Related to this issue is what Jacoby calls “autobiographical ventriloquy”: claims that one makes about ones own spiritual attainments by putting words in the mouth of another character.In the case at hand, Sera Khandro records conversations that she has with dakinis in which these celestial beings, in response to Sera Khandro’s expressions of doubt about her own progress along the Buddhist path, assert that she has in fact attained a high level of spiritual attainment.In addition to her interactions with dakinis, Sera Khandro established relationships with the semi-legendary Yeshe Tsogyel and with autochthonous deities in eastern Tibet.Drawing on the theory of “relational selfhood,” by which an autobiographical subject’s identity is constructed through that subject’s depiction of his or her relationships with other social actors, Jacoby shows that Sera Khandro’s own identity as a treasure revealer depended on the relationships she had with both those in her immediate environment (e.g., the local deities) and those in the mythic past (e.g., Yeshe Tsogyel).In this way, religious legitimacy–at least in the case of Sera Khandro–depended on both local and pan-Tibetan associations.In the final two chapters of the book Jacoby discusses Sera Khandro’s role as a consort.She looks at the various ways in which Sera Khandro herself understood such practices and in which she used men as consorts for practices aimed at furthering her own spiritual progress.This close analysis provides the reader with a much more nuanced view of Tibetan Buddhist attitudes towards sexual practices. And in the final chapter Jacoby shows that while we usually think of such practices as thoroughly impersonal and soteriological in character, in the case at hand Sera Khandro’s own feelings of affection for her partner Drime Ozer cannot be easily disentangled fr...

Sep 26, 2015

Sophal Ear, “Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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Although recent decades have brought with them many critiques of international development projects worldwide, Sophal Ear is especially well positioned to have written a book addressing the successes and failures of foreign donor assistance to countries emerging from long periods of violent conflict. A Cambodian trained in political science in the United States who also spent time working at the World Bank, Ear brings a no-nonsense approach to Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2013). Yet, this book is also informed by his personal experiences and reflects his aspirations for himself and his family, as well as for his country of birth.Beginning in the early 1990s with the United Nations’ transitional authority and concentrating on the 2000s onwards, Ear asks: has foreign aid made Cambodia’s government worse? How can evidence of rapid economic growth be reconciled with the country’s patently inefficient and corrupt public institutions? And how might things be done differently? Drawing on a range of data from primary and secondary sources, his answers invite the reader to be more sensitive both to the particulars of Cambodia and to the larger questions with which he is engaged. The book’s case studies of how the garment sector succeeds in overcoming state capture where others fail, top-down responses to avian flu, and efforts of donors to subsidize courageous yet constantly threatened civil society groups in the face of persistent authoritarian rule both illuminate and inform.Described as “an important book on the perverse effects of development aid on governance” (James Robinson, Harvard University), and one that is “both passionate and level-headed” (Michael Doyle, Columbia University), Aid Dependence in Cambodia is a “refreshing and badly needed effort at teasing out the relationship between governance and aid” (Sophie Richardson, author of China, Cambodia, and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence), in Cambodia, and in general.

Aug 18, 2015

Mrinalini Chakravorty, “In Stereotype: South Asia in the Global Literary Imaginary” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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In Stereotype: South Asia in the Global Literary Imaginary (Columbia University Press, 2014) is a masterful account of the importance of the stereotype in English language South Asian literature. Mrinalini Chakravorty explores such tropes as the crowd in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children; slums in Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger; and death in Michael Ondaatje’s book Anil’s Ghost, amongst others. The focus on the stereotype’s enticing explanatory power casts fresh light on some of the most important contemporary works of South Asian literature and the book is a pleasurable yet challenging read.

Aug 02, 2015

Gil Anidjar, “Blood: A Critique of Christianity” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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Blood. It is more than a thing and more than a metaphor. It is an effective concept, an element, with which, and through which, Christianity becomes what it is. Western Christianity – if there is such a thing as “Christianity” singular – embodies a deep hemophilia (a love of blood) and even a hematology (a theology of blood) that divides Christianity from itself: theology from medicine, finance from politics, religion from race, among many other permutations. This is the claim of Gil Anidjar, Professor in the Departments of Religion and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. His recent book, Blood: A Critique of Christianity (Columbia University Press, 2014)is a wide-ranging, challenging monograph that is both searing and poetic, taking the reader on a journey through biblical texts, medieval controversies, and contemporary critical theory. It asks what Anidjar calls “the Christian Question” in order to destabilize taken for granted assumptions about the naturalness of certain categories related to blood and contextualize them instead within the particular history of post-Medieval Christianity.

Jun 28, 2015

Greg Barnhisel, “Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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Greg Barnhisel‘s new book, Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy (Columbia UP, 2015) examines how modernism was defanged, re-packaged, and resold during the Cold War. Barnhisel, an Associate Professor at Duquesne University, reveals that–from its incendiary beginnings–modernism was made safe for the bourgeois West thanks to the intervention of unlikely contributors like the CIA, the Department of State, and even major corporations. Barnhisel’s extensive archival research unearths the thinking that went into the repurposing of modernism to support American cold-war ideology.

Jun 02, 2015

Marion Holmes Katz, “Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice” Columbia University Press, 2014

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Recently, there have been various debates within the Muslim community over women’s mosque attendance. While contemporary questions of modern society structure current conversations, this question, ‘may a Muslim woman go to the mosque,’ is not a new one. In Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice (Columbia University Press, 2014), Marion Holmes Katz, Professor of Islamic Studies at New York University, traces the juristic debates around women’s mosque attendance. Katz outlines the various arguments, caveats, and positions of legal scholars in the major schools of law and demonstrates that despite some differing opinions there was generally a downward progression towards gendered exclusion in mosques.were engaged in at the mosque, the time of day, the permission of their husbands or guardians, attire, and the multitude of conditions that needed to be met. Later interpreters feared women’s presence in the mosque because they argued it stirred sexual temptation. Katz pairs these legal discourses with evidence of women’s social practice in the Middle East and North Africa from the earliest historical accounts through the Ottoman period. In our conversation we discuss types of mosque actdivities, Mamluk Cairo, women’s educational participation, the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the transmission of knowledge, European travelers accounts of Muslim women, night prayers, mosque construction, debates about the mosque in Mecca, and modern developments in legal discussions during the 20th century.

Jun 02, 2015

Nicholas B. Dirks, “Autobiography of an Archive : A Scholar’s Passage to India” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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Nicholas B. Dirks‘ Autobiography of an Archive: A Scholar’s Passage to India (Columbia University Press, 2015) is a wonderful collection of essays, loosely arranged along the line’s of the author’s scholarly life. The chapters touch upon themes such as empire and the politics of knowledge, as well as the experience of archival research. Illuminating, lucid and always challenging, Autobiography of an Archive is a stimulating and pleasurable read.

May 18, 2015

Asaad al-Saleh, “Voices of the Arab Spring: Personal Stories from the Arab Revolutions” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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Asaad al-Saleh is assistant professor of Arabic, comparative literature, and cultural studies in the Department of Languages and Literature and the Middle East Center at the University of Utah. His research focuses on issues related to autobiography and displacement in Arabic literature and political culture in the Arab world.His Book Voices of the Arab Spring: Personal Stories from the Arab Revolutions (Columbia University Press, 2015) is narrated by dozens of activists and everyday individuals, documenting the unprecedented events that led to the collapse of dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.

May 16, 2015

Thom van Dooren, “Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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Thom van Dooren‘s new book is an absolute must-read. (I was going to qualify that with a “…for anyone who…” and realized that it really needs no qualification.) Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (Columbia University Press, 2014) is a beautifully written and evocative meditation on extinction. The book offers (and implicates us in) stories about five groups of birds – albatrosses, vultures, Little Penguins, whooping cranes, and Hawaiian crows – that build upon one another and collectively enable us to explore and re-imagine what, where, and how extinction is, and why that matters. Van Dooren emphasizes the importance of storytelling to understanding and inhabiting the world, and the book’s five “extinction stories” each bring to life the entanglements of avian, human, and other beings to ask readers to consider a series of questions that can best be explored, understood, and engaged through attentiveness to these entanglements. “What is lost,” van Dooren asks, “when a species, an evolutionary lineage, a way of life, passes from the world?” How does this loss mean, and what does it mean, within the particular multispecies community formed and shaped by that way of life? And how might storytelling, conceived as an act of witnessing, help draw us into new relationships and accountabilities within our multispecies communities? Flight Ways is deeply concerned with the ethical questions that emerge – and that must be sustained – in the course of thinking through these crucial questions, and it is committed to moving us away from a position of human exceptionalism as we work with and inside of that ethical troubling. Deeply interdisciplinary, van Dooren’s book brings together approaches in animal studies and the environmental humanities, but it speaks to and from many more fields.

Apr 17, 2015

Kurtis R. Schaeffer, et al. “The Tibetan History Reader/Sources of Tibetan Tradition” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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Two new books have recently been published that will change the way we can study and teach Tibetan studies, and Gray Tuttle and Kurtis Schaeffer were kind enough to talk with me recently about them. The Tibetan History Reader (Columbia University Press, 2013), edited by Tuttle and Schaeffer, is a...

Apr 11, 2015

Jie Li, “Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life” (Columbia UP, 2015)

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What’s not to love about Jie Li‘s new book? Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life (Columbia University Press, 2015) explores the history and culture of Shanghai alleyway homes by focusing on two physical spaces, both built in the early twentieth century by Japanese and British companies, and both located in...

Mar 30, 2015

Wilt Idema, “The Resurrected Skeleton: From Zhuangzi to Lu Xun” (Columbia University Press, 2014)

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Wilt Idema‘s new book traces a story and its transformations through hundreds of years of Chinese literature. The Resurrected Skeleton: From Zhuangzi to Lu Xun (Columbia University Press, 2014) collects and translates variations of the tale of Master Zhuang in his encounter with a skeleton who comes back to life...

Mar 04, 2015

Evan Thompson, “Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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The quest for an explanation of consciousness is currently dominated by scientific efforts to find the neural correlates of conscious states, on the assumption that these states are dependent on the brain. A very different way of exploring consciousness is undertaken within various Indian religious traditions, in which subtle states of consciousness and transitions between such states can be revealed through meditation. In Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 2014), Evan Thompson draws on neuroscience and these meditative traditions to illuminate consciousness and the nature of the self while avoiding both neuro-reductionist and spiritualist agendas. Thompson, who is a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia, develops a view of our sense of self as an emergent process of “I-making” that is constructed in relation to our environment and the body on which it depends.

Feb 15, 2015

R. Keller Kimbrough, “Wondrous Brutal Fictions: Eight Buddhist Tales from the Early Japanese Puppet Theater” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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In his recent book, Wondrous Brutal Fictions: Eight Buddhist Tales from the Early Japanese Puppet Theater (Columbia University Press, 2013), R. Keller Kimbrough provides us with eight beautifully translated sekkyō and ko-jōruri.

Jan 23, 2015

Daniel Cloud, “The Domestication of Language” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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One of the most puzzling things about humans is their ability to manipulate symbols and create artifacts. Our nearest relatives in the animal kingdom–apes–have only the rudiments of these abilities: chimps don’t have language and, if they have culture, it’s extraordinarily primitive in comparison to the human form. What we have between apes and humans is not really a continuum; it’s a break. So how did this break occur? The answer, of course, is evolutionarily. It stands to Darwinian reason that our distant ancestors must have been selected for symbolic use and cultural production, and it was in this natural selective way that they became human.That’s fine as far as it goes, but it presents us with another puzzle: why is human language and culture so astoundingly complex? In order to prosper in the so-called “era of evolutionary adaptation,” neither needed to have been complex at all.A Hominin with a smallish fraction of the symbolic and cultural abilities of Homo sapiens would easily have emerged (and maybe did emerge) as a completely dominant alpha predator. Imagine, if you will, a chimp that could talk a bit and produce reasonably effective missile weapons. How much selection pressure would such a talking, armed chimp face? Not much, at least from other animals. Such an Hominin would not, ceteris paribus, need to evolve new and more complex linguistic and cultural abilities and forms.But complex linguistic and cultural abilities and forms did evolve. So, we have to ask, where do Shakespeare and Large Hadron Colliders come from? Daniel Cloud has an answer: domestication. In his fascinating and thought-provoking new bookThe Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal(Columbia University Press, 2014), Cloud argues that over the millennia proto-humans and humans have been selecting mates who were good with symbols and selecting symbols themselves. This process–a kind of runaway sexual selection and domestication–rapidly (in evolutionary time-scales) produced both a huge expensive brain and an ornate culture to match. Listen in.

Dec 16, 2014

Eric Hayot, “The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities” (Columbia University Press, 2014)

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“This is a book that wants you to surpass and destroy it.”Eric Hayot‘s new book has the potential to transform how we teach and practice academic writing, and it invites the kind of reading and engagement that makes such a transformation possible. The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities (Columbia University Press, 2014) is a style guide geared specifically toward academic writers in the humanities, paying special attention to the field of literary and cultural theory but applying equally well across humanistic disciplines. At turns funny, moving, and brilliant – not always qualities we associate with writing style guides – Hayot’s book treats writing as a process that encompasses “behavioral, emotional, & institutional parameters.” The first section of the book treats writing as a form of life, addressing the contexts and habits of the writer and the institutional contexts in which we teach and write. It also offers some strategies for getting writing done in the course of the typically crazy, packed life of the academic writer, and includes some great advice for thinking about the relationship between a dissertation and a book. The second section addresses strategies of academic writing, introducing the scalable “Uneven-U” model for conceptualizing the structure of paragraphs, essays, and beyond. It also includes some helpful ways to understand and craft openings and closings, and reminds us how important it is to keep the experience of our readers in mind as we write. The third section offers great advice on some of the elemental tactics of writing practice, including citation, sentence rhythm, and much more. The final section suggests a way to think about the writing in terms of “becoming”: a writer, a written work, a form of life.The Elements of Academic Style is a book well worth reading and rereading. I’ve already been using it in my teaching and writing, and it’s a fitting work to inaugurate the New Books Network Seminar!

Nov 13, 2014

Amrita Pande, “Wombs in Labor: Transnational Commercial Surrogacy in India” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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Amrita Pande‘s Wombs in Labor: Transnational Commercial Surrogacy in India (Columbia University Press 2014) is a beautiful and rich ethnography of a surrogacy clinic. The book details the surrogacy process from start to finish, exploring the intersection of production and reproduction, complicating and deepening our understanding of this particular form of labour.

Nov 04, 2014

Paul Copp, “The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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Paul Copp‘s new book, The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (Columbia University Press, 2014), focuses on Chinese interpretations and uses of two written dharani during the last few centuries of the first millennium. Based on extensive research on the material forms that these dharani took, Copp departs from a tradition of scholarship that focuses on the sonic quality and spoken uses of these spells, drawing our attention instead to how written and inscribed dharani were used to adorn and anoint the body. A central theme is Copp’s assertion that the diffuse dharani practices that appeared centuries prior to the flowering of a high Esoteric Buddhism in the eighth century were not simply a crude precursor to the later development of a fully systematized Esoteric Buddhism, but rather were a set of loosely related practices and ideas that continued to develop alongside Esoteric Buddhism. Through rich descriptions of dharani use and interpretation, and liberal use of Dunhuang materials, he shows that dharani were ubiquitous in all sectors of Chinese Buddhism: before, during, and after the eighth century. In this way Copp challenges the teleological view of early dharani-based practices as being but one stage leading to the eventual triumph of a comprehensive Chinese Esoteric Buddhism. In addition, Copp demonstrates how material dharani practices were a product of both Chinese and Indic input.Drawing on archeological evidence, he notes that the way in which dharani were actually worn reflects Indian precedents, while on the other hand Chinese textual records describe and prescribe the wearing of dharani in terms borrowed from Chinese practices of wearing amulets, seals, medicines, and talismans. The book contains thirty-two illustrations of amulets, written dharani, dharani stamps, dharani pillars, and funerary jars that help the reader to better visualize and understand the material practices at the center of Copp’s work. This book will be of particular interest to those researching or wishing to learn more about the history of scholarship on dharani, Chinese practices of wearing enchanted objects, Chinese interpretations and uses of dharani (particularly outside of a systematized, ritual-philosophical Esoteric Buddhism), theories about the role of writing and inscription in religious practice, and Chinese Buddhist material culture.

Oct 27, 2014

Joel Migdal, “Shifting Sands: The United States and the Middle East” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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Any person who turns on CNN or Fox News today will see that the United States faces a number of critical problems in the Middle East. This reality should surprise few. Stunned by the Al-Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, the George W. Bush administration sent U.S. troops to Afghanistan as part of a larger “war on terror” and invaded Iraq in 2003 to “disarm” Saddam Hussein. At this very moment, the United States still has troops in Afghanistan and continues to employ drones to kill “terrorists” in places like Yemen. It has put together a coalition of states, including some Arab governments, to begin the process of taking back the huge swaths of territory that the extremist jihadi group ISIS has taken in Iraq and Syria. The Middle East has also not just “stood still” for U.S. policymakers to find their bearings. The “Arab Spring” and “Green movement” in Iran have raised profound questions about the future of government and authority in the region.In his work Shifting Sands: The United States and the Middle East (Columbia University Press, 2014), Joel Migdal addresses the question of why U.S. policymakers have had so many problems accomplishing their goals in the region since the end of World War II. Employing clear prose without the polemics and scholarly jargon that so many books on this subject contain, he explains how the U.S. government has far too often ignored the complexities and history of the Middle East when acting in the region. While Migdal’s periodization of events in the Middle East and the place of Israel in U.S. foreign policy may strike some as too revisionist, he offers a number of valuable suggestions about how U.S. policymakers can best navigate the shoals of the region in the coming yearsEven if readers do not find all of these arguments persuasive, they will benefit from grappling with his critiques and insights. Shifting Sands stands out a useful reminder of what can go wrong when policymakers ignore historical trends and assume the universal applicability of the American experience.

Oct 10, 2014

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, "Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse" (Columbia UP, 2014)

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Where can the the boundaries of science, philosophy, and religion be drawn? Questioning the nature of the universe is an excellent place to rethink how these categories have been deployed across time.Mary-Jane Rubenstein, professor Religious Studies at Wesleyan University, offers a genealogy of multiple-world cosmologies that demonstrates these terms pliability and the debated relationship between 'Science' and 'Religion.' InWorlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse(Columbia University Press, 2014), Rubenstein wonders why there is a proliferation of multiverse theoretical cosmologies by contemporary scientists. While the cosmos are generally considered to be singular and finite many well-respected physicists explain the universe's complexities as evidence of a multiverse. These explanations argue that our world is just one of the infinite number of universes existing simultaneously.Worlds Without Endshows that multiple-world cosmologies have had currency among many thinkers for over 2500 years. What draws philosophers, religious practitioners, and scientists together on these questions is there appeal to metaphysical postulates, which serve as pseudo-theologies for the contemporary age. In our conversation we discuss the Greek philosophical tradition of Plato, Aristotle, the Atomists, and the Stoics, medieval Christian interpreters such as Thomas Aquinas, Nicolas of Cusa, Giordano Bruno, the Telescopic discoveries of Galileo, Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, Immanuel Kant, the Big Bang debate, cosmic shredding, the fine-tuning problem, dark energy, Inflationary Cosmology, String Theory, Quantum Mechanics, and Intelligent Design.

Sep 29, 2014

Mari Ruti, “The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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Exploring everything from the impact of her own psychoanalysis on her mode and mien to the effect of consumer culture on the psyche, the delightful Mari Ruti keeps the ball rolling.We pondered with her so many things that the interview feels like xmas morning! Traversing the advent of self-help books, Lacan, the Frankfurt School, the super ego, the repetition compulsion, hegemony, trauma, love and more, there is seemingly no topic germane to psychoanalysis and daily life that Ruti shies away from.In The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living (Columbia University Press, 2013)–a book akin in spirit to McDougall’s Plea for a Measure of Abnormality albeit without the case studies–Ruti argues that a bit of madness is an agreeable thing. Loving one’s symptom lessens its impact for sure. As such, Ruti embraces Lacan rather fully as she argues for the ways in which desire can produce forms of human subjectivity that don’t reproduce the normative. By helping us to identify what lures us away from listening more carefully to the “call” of our own “characters”, Ruti plots a course to live a life worth living.

Sep 21, 2014

Nabil Matar, “Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall and Progress of Mahometanism” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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In Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall and Progress of Mahometanism (Columbia University Press, 2014), Nabil Matar masterfully edits an important piece of scholarship from seventeenth-century England by scholar and physician, Henry Stubbe (1632-76). Matar also gives a substantial introduction to his annotated edition of Stubbe’s text by situating the author in his historical context. Unlike other early modern writers on Islam, Stubbe’s ostensible goals were not to cast Islam in a negative light. On the contrary, he sought to challenge popular conceptions that understood Islam in negative terms, and although there is no evidence that Stubbe entertained conversion, he admits many admirable characteristics of Islam, ranging from Muhammad’s character to the unity of God. The English polymath was well versed in theological debates of his time and therefore equipped all the more to write the Originall, given the benefit of his comparative framework, which in part explains why the first portion of his text devotes itself to the history of early Christianity. Strikingly, however, it seems that Stubbe never learned Arabic, even though he studied religion with a leading Arabist of his time, Edward Pococke. Indeed, one novelty of Stubbe’s work was precisely his re-evaluation of Latin translations (of primary texts) that were already in circulation. Stubbe’s contributions to scholarship also speak to the history of Orientalism–a word that did not yet exist at Stubbe’s time–or how scholars in the “West” more broadly have approached Islam. Stubbe’s Originall offers insights into present-day Western discourses that still struggle–at times with egregious incompetence–to make sense of Islam and Muslims. In this regard, Matar’s detailed scholarly account of Henry Stubbe and his carefully edited version of the Originall remains as timely as ever. Undoubtedly, this meticulously researched book will interest an array of scholars, including those from disciplines of English literature, History, and Religious Studies.

Sep 18, 2014

Lynne Huffer, “Are the Lips a Grave? A Queer Feminist on the Ethics of Sex” (Columbia University Press, 2013)

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In her fourth book, Lynne Huffer argues for a restored queer feminism to find new ways of thinking about sex and about ethics. Are the Lips a Grave? A Queer Feminist on the Ethics of Sex (Columbia University Press, 2013) brings forth a breadth of sources — known and less well-known, French and American, primary and secondary — ranging from Colette, Violette Leduc, and Marcel Proust to the book of Genesis, from Supreme Court cases to Virginie Despentes’ rape-revenge film Baise-moi, from Irigaray to Foucault, through which Huffer reads and writes toward a queer feminist future. Beautifully written and stimulating for the theorist and non-theorist alike, Huffer’s new book combines the personal and the scholarly in experimental ways, such as her analysis of the Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham story. Carefully navigating the couloirs of queer and feminist theory, this is a book about sexuality, ethics, alterity, betrayal, and love.

Apr 23, 2014

Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter, “Thai Stick” (Columbia Press, 2013)

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Reading Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter‘s book Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade (Columbia Press, 2013)is the most fun I have had doing this podcast. Maguire makes a point during the interview that police officers preferred to arrest marijuana smugglers because they were so laid back and safe to handle. You get the same feeling reading his account of the members of the roaming hippy/surfer community who fund their lifestyle through ‘scams’, that is, smuggling marijuana into Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada. Maguire is a former pro-surfer and he communicates the culture of the surfer and their dedication to their past-time. Drug smuggling has a very utilitarian role. While the surfers smoke drugs and have the connections to buy them; a good smuggling run can fund many years on the international surfing trail. Thus they are not drug smugglers who surf but surfers who take advantage of the profit margin of smuggling.Reading the book made me think that they were almost outside the scope of the podcast; this is not organised crime but the occasional foray into crime. It is also the story of invincible young men taking on the impossible in an often amateurish manner and succeeding. However, as Maguire explains, the lure of money can change people and some of the people in the story reverse this equation. This is a story of a time that has passed. There was an innocence in the story during the 1960s and 70s that has been overtaken by the hard edge of the international drug trade. This is an important and overlooked story in the history of crime. The book provides an insight into how people can turn to crime in a manner that contradicts the strongly held theories of the life-course criminologists. I hope the book inspires others to study these marginal areas of crime. As you will hear in the interview, I have volunteered to do so myself.

Mar 29, 2014

Andrea Bachner, “Beyond Sinology: Chinese Writing and the Scripts of Culture” (Columbia UP, 2014)

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Andrea Bachner‘s wonderfully interdisciplinary new book explores the many worlds and media through which the Chinese script has been imagined, represented, and transformed. Spanning literature, film, visual and performance art, design, and architecture,Beyond Sinology: Chinese Writing and the Scripts of Culture(Columbia University Press, 2014)uses the sinograph as a frame to...

Mar 23, 2014

Lawrence J. Friedman, “The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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Erich Fromm, one of the most widely known psychoanalysts of the previous century, was involved in the exploration of spirituality throughout his life. His landmark book The Art of Loving, which sold more than six million copies worldwide, is seen as a popular handbook on how to relate to others and how to overcome the narcissism ingrained in every human being. In his book The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet (Columbia University Press, 2013), Harvard professor Lawrence J. Friedman explores the life of this towering figure of psychoanalytic thought, and his position in the humanistic movement, which he belonged to. He gives an overview of the religious thought Fromm was inspired by, from Judaism to the Old Testament to Buddhist philosophy. Fromm’s credo was that true spirituality is expressed in how we relate to others, and how to bring joy and peace to the global community. His plea that love will be the vehicle to realize one’s true purpose was the central message of his view on spirituality.

Jan 02, 2014

Philip Kretsedemas, “The Immigration Crucible: Transforming Race, Nation, and the Limits of the Law” (Columbia UP, 2012)

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Philip Kretsedemas is the author of The Immigration Crucible: Transforming Race, Nation, and the Limits of the Law (Columbia UP 2012). He is associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The book begins with a discussion of the conventional explanations, justifications, and advocacy for and against immigration. That background frames the current debate now occurring at the federal level on immigration reform. The book addresses that larger context but focuses a lot on the increasingly important role played by local lawmakers and local enforcement. Arizona 1070 is one example of this. Kretsedemas analyzes this shift to local enforcement and what its implications are for immigrants living in a patchwork of immigration laws and enforcement practices. Toward the end of the book, Kretsedemas tries to reconcile what the country can do to move forward. He suggests whiteness and race has been closely intermingled with national identity.

Sep 16, 2013

Michael Marder, “Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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“If animals have suffered marginalization throughout the history of Western thought, then non-human, non-animal living beings, such as plants, have populated the margin of the margin”, a “zone of absolute obscurity” in which their mode of existence from a philosophical perspective is not even question-worthy. So writes Michael Marder, Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country in the Basque autonomous region of Spain, in his new book, Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life (Columbia University Press, 2013). The metaphor of “ground-breaking” has never been so apt. Contrasting his view with the Aristotelean perspective in which plants are basically defective animals, Marder initiates inquiry into the nature of vegetal life on its own terms, and into how human life currently encounters, and how it should encounter, this radically foreign mode of existence. Marder’s goal is nothing less than a sort of Nietzschean “revaluation of values” when it comes to vegetal life.

Sep 14, 2013

Guido Steinberg, “German Jihad: On the Internationalisation of Islamist Terrorism” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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I have read quite a few books on terrorism but always from an English language perspective. This has meant that I was missing the alternative stories from other nations. Guido Steinberg has done me a favour by publishing his German study in English. German Jihad: On the Internationalisation of Islamist Terrorism (Columbia UP, 2013)provides an excellent, detailed analysis of the recent history of the growth of Jihad inspired terrorism by German residents of both European and Asian heritage. He begins the book with one of the best explanations of the near enemy (apostate Islamic governments) and the far enemy (Western nations who are seen as supporting the near enemy), that I have read. He then explains the importance of the demographics of migration to Germany and its role in the Jihadist movement. Germany has a largely Turkish migrant population. As such they did not have the same influences or inspirations as Jihadists from an Arabic background. Importantly, they also did not have the same network of connections which allowed them to easily join international organisations such as Al Qaeda. These circumstances led to a particular series of connections and a lack of awareness by local law enforcement of the growing threat of terrorist activity. Guido gives us a professional and thorough analysis of this history and has sufficient detail to keep a research student engrossed for weeks. I highly recommend the book.

Sep 10, 2013

Michael F. Armstrong, “They Wished they were Honest: The Knapp Commission and New York City Police Corruption” (Columbia Press, 2012)

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Anyone who studies police corruption will be aware of the Knapp Commission that examined allegations of police corruption in New York City in the 1970s. Not only was this famous because of the movie Serpico, but also most of the terminology used in corruption studies of police came from the report of the commission. Michael F. Armstrong was the chief counsel to the commission and this book is a history of the formation and operation of the inquiry. Holding a major commission of inquiry is not something that is done routinely. In his own words, Armstrong says they “fumbled” along working out how one discovers, let alone investigates corrupt police.They Wished they were Honest: The Knapp Commission and New York City Police Corruption (Columbia Press, 2012)reads like an extended episode of The Wire, combining political elements with investigative planning and transcripts of surveillance recordings of bribe negotiations. It is very revealing of the nature of corruption that existed at the time. The book follows some key from Xavier Hollander, the Happy Hooker, through small time corrupt officers (grass eaters) through to hardcore predatory corrupt police (meat eaters). Not only does Armstrong provide an entertaining history of the inquiry but he reveals the full gamut of social forces that make such inquiries difficult to implement successfully. Police corruption is an essential factor in any form of large scale illicit activity, be it prostitution, gambling or drugs. Police have a service to sell, namely protection, and there are many illegal operators who are willing to pay for it to ensure their business runs without interruption. While the Knapp Commission happened 40 years ago, the corruption still exists at varying levels in all communities. Armstrong’s book helps us understand how and why it happens and, especially, how difficult it can be to stop.

Jun 19, 2013

Fabio Lanza, “Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing” (Columbia UP, 2010)

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The history of modern China is bound up with that of student politics. In Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing (Columbia University Press, 2010), Fabio Lanza offers a masterfully researched, elegantly written, and thoughtful consideration of the emergence of “students” as a category in twentieth-century China. Urging us to...

May 30, 2013

Inderjeet Parmar, “Foundations of the American Century” (Columbia UP, 2012)

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Inderjeet Parmar‘s Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power (Columbia University Press, 2012) navigates the history of US foreign policymaking in the twentiethcentury. Parmar is President of the British International Studies Association and Professor in the Department of International Politics School of Social Sciences, City University London. His new book examines foreign policy making from the perspective of philanthropic foundations and the ways foundations sought to influence policy through the creation of foreign policy ideas and institutions. Parmar dissects the role foundations played in US foreign policy toward Indonesia, Chile, and elsewhere through institutions such as the Council of Foreign Relations and various University-based international relations programs. The book ends with an examination of the development of the “democratic peace” doctrine and post 9/11 foreign policy making.Foundations have increasingly moved to the center of political science research (see recent podcast with Sarah Reckhow). Dr. Parmar’s wide-ranging book follows in this approach and is a major contribution to scholarship on philanthropy and public policy making.

May 27, 2013

Kara Newman, “The Secret Financial Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets” (Columbia UP, 2013)

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Chocolate fans out there may know all about the latest chocolate happenings, from Hershey’s “Air Delight,” a bar of aerated milk chocolate, to Cadbury’s new melt-resistant chocolate, which apparently remains solid even after three hours at 104 degrees. But unless you happen to be a chocoholic who follows the financial news, you may not have heard of “ChocFinger,” a British hedge fund manager named Anthony Ward. In 2010, Ward purchased 240,000 tons of chocolate–seven percent of the global production–and stashed it inside refrigerated warehouses throughout Europe. Ward has been accused by other investors of driving up the price of a commodity that had already seen two year’s worth of price increases. Their worries might be valid. ChocFinger is in a position to influence the market for some time to come: he can continue to store or sell all that chocolate, enough to make over five billion candy bars, until 2030.This is just one of the “secrets” Kara Newman reveals in The Secret Financial Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets (Columbia University Press, 2013), in which she examines how commodities markets influence what we eat and how much we pay for food. Newman brings a range of talents to her story. She’s a former vice president of strategic research at Thomson Reuters who’s versed in the world of finance. She’s also the Spirits Editor for Wine Enthusiast, writes the weekly “Spirited Traveler” column for Reuters, and has authored two books of cocktail recipes. She’s the sort of writer who can make the history of trading pork bellies or the volatility of global coffee production into a rich and lively read. Join us as Newman takes us into American’s culinary and financial history and gives us a glimpse into our global future.

Jan 29, 2013

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After” (Columbia UP, 2005)

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On July 10, 1941, Poles in the town of Jedwabne together with some number of German functionaries herded nearly 500 Jews into a barn and burnt them alive. In 2000, the sociologist Jan Gross published a book about the subject that, very shortly thereafter, started a huge controversy about Polish participation in the Holocaust. In the furor that followed, many simply took it for granted that Gross’s interpretation of what happened–that radically anti-Semitic Poles murdered the Jews with little prompting from the Germans–was simply correct. But was it? This is the questionMarek Jan Chodakiewicz tries to answer in The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After (Columbia University Press; East European Monographs, 2005). After an exhaustive and meticulous investigation of the sources (which are imperfect at best), Chodakiewicz concludes that we don’t and will never know exactly what happened on that horrible July day in Jedwabne, but it was certainly more complicated and mysterious than Gross imagines. Chodakiewicz puts the massacre in its wider context or, perhaps more accurately, contexts. These include: Jedwabne itself, Polish life there, Jewish life there, the interaction between the two communities in the town, the Soviet occupation, the coming of the Germans, German policies toward Poles and Jews, the Polish resistance, Polish anti-Semitism, Polish anti-Communism, and the intersection of the two (“Zydokomuna“). No punches are pulled: Chodakiewicz places much of the blame for the atrocity squarely on the Poles (or, rather, some faction of them) in Jedwabne. But he puts their actions–insofar as we can know them–into a much wider frame and therefore helps us understand why they did what they did.

Nov 08, 2012

Blake Mobley, “Terrorism and Counter-Intelligence: How Terrorist Groups Elude Detection” (Columbia University Press, 2012)

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Today we talked to Blake Mobley about his new book Terrorism and Counter-Intelligence: How Terrorist Groups Elude Detection (Columbia University Press, 2012). There have been many books examining the intelligence operations of counter-terrorist agencies. Also there are books about how terrorist groups operate. This is a book about how terrorist groups conduct intelligence, specifically counter-intelligence designed to protect themselves from the gaze of the government based counter-terrorist agencies. Blake presents us with a varying set of levels of counter-intelligence sophistication that these groups practice as well as the social, geographic and structural elements that affect the success of these practices. He demonstrates that both these tactics and elements are two edged swords; success in one aspect can create a weakness in another. Blake points out that this is good news for counter-terrorist agencies and recommends that they focus on these weaknesses of the terror groups as a means of disrupting their operations.

Oct 23, 2012

Justin Thomas McDaniel, “The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand” (Columbia University Press, 2011)

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When most people think of Buddhism they begin to imagine a lone monk in the forest or a serene rock garden. The world of ghosts, amulets, and magic are usually from their mind. They may even feel some aversion to the notion that the meditative calm of monks from the East could have anything to do with these superstitious ideas and practices. Justin Thomas McDaniel, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, challenges many of theses preconceived ideas about what constitutes the substance of modern Buddhism in Thailand. In his new book, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand (Columbia University Press, 2011), McDaniel begins his journey of contemporary Buddhism at one of the regular funerals for our lovelorn ghost (Mae Nak). Despite the compelling nature of this scene, as a skilled linguist and practicing scholar-monk for many years, McDaniel never imagined that he would be examining the supernatural world of ghost stories. However, after living in Thailand for several years as an academic and practitioner he realized that the specter of modern Thai Buddhist practices and believes would not leave him alone. McDaniel has catalogued much of hat he has found about Thai Buddhism on his wonderful project in digital humanities, the Thai Digital Monastery. Instead of looking for Buddhism, he let Buddhists tell, show, describe and recount what they do, chant, hold, and value.McDaniel uses the story of the lovelorn ghost and the magical monk, who we find out, is the infamous Somdet To, as an opening to explore the various aspects of contemporary religious Buddhist practices and how they shape Thai society. The six degrees of separation (from Somdet To) takes us through an erudite analysis of biographies, hagiographies, film, statues, amulets, murals, texts, magic, chants, and photographs, in the coproduction of religious knowledge. While McDaniel’s book is a key contribution to Thai, Theravada, and modern Buddhism, it is also valuable in the study of religion more generally. His approach provides a template for the “pragmatic sociological study of cultural repertoires,” which examines what a particular person carries, recites, and respects, how they do something, how they say they do something, and the material and social contexts they do it in. This allows us as researchers to unshackle our study from the expectations of certain terminology. He also problematizes a number of other categories, such as, magic, cult, localization, folk, popular, local, syncretism, synergy, domestication, hybridity, and vernacularization, by demonstrating their limited usefulness when attempting to describe a Thai monastery, shrine, liturgy, or ritual. These innovative moves in methodology should be motivational to others in the field more generally. Overall, McDaniel produced a highly readable and enjoyable portrait of Buddhism in contemporary Thailand.

Dec 07, 2011

Abdulkader Tayob, “Religion in Modern Islamic Discourse” (Columbia University Press, 2010)

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Many people believe that the current Islamic resurgence is not necessarily a “return of religion,” but rather a continuation of tradition. According to this line of thought, therefore, Islam is essentially resistant to modernity and incompatible with contemporary secular societies. But is this really the case? Abdulkader Tayob, professor of Religion at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, examines this question in his new book Religion in Modern Islamic Discourse (Columbia University Press, 2010).In the book, Tayob offers a fresh look at Muslim intellectuals from the end of the nineteenth century to the present. Treatments of modern Islam often portray it as uniformly antithetical to modernity, but this book presents divergent Muslim voices on this score. Tayob employs religion not as an essential category of examination, but rather as a guiding mode through which he explores Muslim debates on identity, science, politics, law, and gender. The characters involved in these dialogues span the globe from South Asia, the Middle East, and North America, and give voice to both male and female perspectives. We are left with a nuanced examination of modern Islamic thought, which has been carefully contextualized in a critical, disruptive, and engaging way. Overall, Tayob presents a wonderful thematic resource for understanding the adaptation and resistance to modernity as Muslims began to reconcile Islam with the forces of modernization and secularization. It should be useful for readers and listeners interested in modern Islam and the study of religion more generally.

Oct 05, 2011

Carool Kersten, “Cosmopolitans and Heretics: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam” (Columbia University Press, 2011)

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Often when we read about new Muslim intellectuals we are offered a presentation of their politicized Islamic teachings and radical interpretations of theology, or Western readings that nominally reflect the Islamic tradition. We are rarely introduced to critical Muslim thinkers who neither abandon their Islamic civilizational heritage nor adopt, wholesale, a Western intellectual perspective.In Carool Kersten‘s Cosmopolitans and Heretics: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam (Columbia University Press, 2011), we learn about a few modern Muslim thinkers who engage their Islamic intellectual heritage with the philosophical apparatus of contemporary Western thought. Kersten, a professor of Religious and Islamic Studies at King’s College London, has tracked Muslim thinkers for years (follow his blog Critical Muslims), and book reflects a deep understanding of the wider dialogues occurring in contemporary Islamic thought. His analysis also traverses geographical limitations of much of the scholarship on contemporary Islam by discussing figures from both the eastern and western regions of Islam. We are introduced to the thought of Nurcholish Madjid (Indonesia), Hasan Hanafi (Egypt), and Mohammad Arkoun (Algeria). Through these thinkers Kersten explores how phenomenology, hermeneutics, secularization, and postcolonial vocabulary can assist us in approaching religion generally. He frames his work through Russell McCutcheon’s model of theological, phenomenological, and critical-anthropological strategies for engaging religion in order to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches in the study of Islam. Altogether, we have the first book length analysis of these important modern Muslim thinkers and their critique of both western scholarship and Muslim intellectualism.

Sep 14, 2011

Houston A. Baker, “Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era” (Columbia UP, 2008)

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In his new book Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era (Columbia University Press, 2008), Houston A. Baker makes the argument that many contemporary black public intellectuals, otherwise known as African American “academostars,” are self-serving individuals who distort the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and belie the overall aims of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. He calls out five main figures: Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and even Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson.Betrayal has been described both as a “brave and funny vernacular broadside” and “an important and absorbing meditation” on contemporary discussions of American politics. This book is immensely important not only for the way it clarifies the often misconstrued and misapplied rhetoric of Dr. King, but also the way in which it takes pains to historicize the plight of African Americans. I am personally persuaded by this book, and I highly recommend it.While Betrayal was published in the same year as the election of America’s first president of African descent, it offers us a framework for understanding our “now”: the upcoming 2012 election season, much of the Tea Party rhetoric, and even the political challenges that Barack Obama faces in relation to contemporary racial conflict.Baker is a distinguished university professor of English at Vanderbilt University, and he is a well-known literary and cultural critic, focusing on African American arts and politics. He is also a creative writer, with a recently published volume of poetry entitled Passing Over. I hope to have him on the show again to discuss that book. Till then, I’m certain you’ll be thoroughly engaged in this lively interchange.

Aug 04, 2011

Hans Kundnani, “Utopia or Auschwitz: Germany’s 1968 Generation and the Holocaust” (Columbia UP, 2010)

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It’s pretty common in American political discourse to call someone a “fascist.” Everyone knows, however, that this is just name-calling: supposed fascists are never really fascists–they are just people you don’t like very much. Not so in post-War West Germany. There, too, it was common to call people “fascists. But in the Federal Republic they may well have been fascists, that is, Nazis. Despite the efforts of the most thorough-going de-Nazifiers, post-war West German government, business and society was shot through with ex-Nazis. Young people, and especially university students in the BRD, were keenly aware of this fact, and they wondered how it could be that the so-called “Auschwitz generation” could have changed their tune so quickly. Under the influence of some rather clever left-leaning philosophers (those of the Frankfurt School), some of them came to the conclusion that they hadn’t and that, therefore, Germany was still a fascist state. This conclusion (erroneous as it was) gave them striking moral clarity: there was only one thing to do when faced with fascism–resist it by any means necessary. And that is what they did.In his enlightening Utopia or Auschwitz: Germany’s 1968 Generation and the Holocaust (Columbia UP, 2010), veteran journalist and policy analyst Hans Kundnani tells their story. It’s somewhere between a farce and a tragedy, at least in my reading. On the one hand, to think that West Germany was a fascist state, to classify Zionism as a kind of Nazism, and to believe that the leftist students were persecuted “new Jews” is of course absurd. At least some of the West German radicals were so out of touch with reality that it defies understanding. On the other hand, they were in fact surrounded by ex-fascists, keenly aware that Israel was (to put it delicately) “asserting itself” in the middle east, and constantly on the run from Federal authorities. In such a situation I might lose touch with reality too. For the terrorists, who never regained their senses, it all ended badly. But for those whose heads cleared (Joschka Fisher, for example), it ended in power, though a different power than they had imagined in 1968.Please become a fan of “New Books in History” on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Mar 13, 2011

James Fleming, “Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control” (Columbia UP, 2010)

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In the summer of 2008 the Chinese were worried about rain. They were set to host the Summer Olympics that year, and they wanted clear skies. Surely clear skies, they must have thought, would show the world that China had arrived. So they outfitted a small army (50,000 men) with artillery pieces and rocket launchers (over 10,000 of them) and proceeded to make war on the heavens. The idea was to “seed” clouds with silver iodide before they got to Beijing and rained on the Chinese parade. Or maybe the idea was to frighten the rain gods. Who knows? In any case, none of it worked: the massive, loud, and surely expensive operation had, according to most experts, no measurable effect on the weather around the Chinese capital.You might say you can’t blame them for trying. But according to James Rodger Fleming, you can. In his incisive new book Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control (Columbia UP, 2010), Fleming shows that although people have always dreamed of controlling the weather, and many have tried to do so, no one has ever succeeded. The reason is simple: the atmosphere of the Earth is not like your refrigerator or oven. It’s just too big and complex to be man-handled by any known or even realistically imagined technology. But, as Fleming demonstrates, there are always desperate people who refuse to accept this intuitive fact. So we are presented with a gallery of rain-making mountebanks, charlatans, and swindlers ever-ready to part rain-seeking fools and their rain-seeking money. In Fleming’s excellent telling, the story is entertaining though a bit sad. It’s sadder still that the weather-controlling con is still being run by seemingly well-intentioned people who claim they can “fix” global warming by means of some out-sized, outrageous, and out-of-this-world engineering scheme. Fleming, who both knows the science and has looked at the history, is more than dubious. The only way we can “fix” the sky is to leave it alone and hope for the best. It turns out, however, that leaving the sky alone is hard. It’s actually easier to attack it, proclaim victory, and continue as before. Just ask the Chinese.Please become a fan of “New Books in History” on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Oct 20, 2010

Kip Kosek, “Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy” (Columbia UP, 2010)

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There’s a quip that goes “Christianity is probably a great religion. Someone should really try it.” The implication, of course, is that most people who call themselves Christians aren’t very Christian at all. And, in truth, it’s hard to be a good Christian, what with all that loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, and helping the poor. It’s particularly hard to pull off in the modern world. But some have tried, at least in part. Foremost among them are the Christian pacifists. They are the subject of Kip Kosek’s wonderful book Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2009). Kip shows that the pacifists–more specifically members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR)–were an oddly influential group. They utterly failed in their primary mission, that is, to create a world without war. They themselves didn’t fight, but that didn’t stop everyone else from going at it hammer and tong. Yet in pursuing that quixotic end the pacifists managed to either launch or aid several progressive causes that stand at the center of modern political life. These include: civil liberties (the ACLU), racial equality (the Civil Rights Movement), the Anti-Vietnam war campaign (the SNCC), and the nuclear disarmament movement (the Nuclear Freeze Campaign) among others. The members of FoR were on the right side of all these issues before it was clear what the right side was. And they suffered for it, though they were vindicated in the end. Kip does an excellent job of explaining how their Christian faith gave them the courage of their convictions and thereby allowed them–a tiny group of believers–to help create modern liberal democracy.It’s very common today for seemingly sensible people to claim that religion is the cause of much that is the wrong in the world. But, as Kip demonstrates, it’s also the cause of much that is right.Please become a fan of “New Books in History” on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Sep 10, 2010

Patrick Manning, “The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture” (Columbia UP, 2010)

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Africans were the first migrants because they were the first people. Some 60,000 years ago they left their homeland and in a relatively short period of time (by geological and evolutionary standards) moved to nearly every habitable place on the globe. We are their descendants. The Africans never stopped migrating, but they began to do so with particular vigor beginning about 1400 AD. Patrick Manning tells the story of their movements in his remarkable new book The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture (Columbia UP, 2010). The tale Pat tells might well be divided into three phases: before slavery, during slavery, and after slavery. The middle period usually gets the most attention, but happily Pat well covers the “before” and “after” phases as well. This is an excellent corrective to the standard story because it shows us that for most of modern history African migrants were not really victims, but agents. Prior to the emergence of the international slave trade, they travelled and migrated to North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Near East in large numbers. Slavery of course violently brought millions of them to the Americas. But once it was officially ended (slavery continues to exist today…), the Africans in the diaspora set about considering their rightful place in the world. Should they build lives for themselves “abroad”? Or should they return to their African homeland? Should they integrate? Or should they remain apart? These questions–which are asked by every large diaspora community–were hotly debated in the cultural and political efflorescence of the 20th century. To some extent the debate still goes on; and to an even greater extent the African diaspora continues to grow both in numbers and in power. This is an important and neglected topic, and we should all thank professor Manning for shedding light on it.Please become a fan of “New Books in History” on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Apr 09, 2010
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