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Since the mid-1700s, poets and scholars have been deeply entangled in the project of reinventing prophecy. Moving between literary and biblical studies, Yosefa Raz's book The Poetics of Prophecy: Modern Afterlives of a Biblical Tradition (Cambridge UP, 2023) reveals how Romantic poetry is linked to modern biblical scholarship's development. On the …
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Stefanie Coché's Psychiatric Institutions and Society: the Practice of Psychiatric Commital in the “Third Reich,” the Democratic Republic of Germany, and the Federal Republic of Germany, 1941-1963 (London: Routledge, 2024; translated by Alex Skinner) probes how the serious and sometimes fatal decision was made to admit individuals to asylums during…
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Contemporary thought typically places a strong emphasis on the exclusive and competitive nature of Abrahamic monotheisms. This instinct is certainly borne out by the histories of religious wars, theological polemic, and social exclusion involving Jews, Christians, and Muslims. But there is also another side to the Abrahamic coin. Even in the midst …
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In the early twentieth century, anarchists like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman championed a radical vision of a world without states, laws, or private property. Militant and sometimes violent, anarchists were heroes to many working-class immigrants. But to many others, anarchism was a terrifyingly foreign ideology. Determined to crush it, gover…
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"A woman in trouble" In her monograph Inland Empire (Fireflies Press, 2021), film critic Melissa Anderson explores meaning (or the impossibility thereof) in the David Lynch film of the same title. We talk everything from Laura Dern (a LOT of Laura Dern), to the Hollywood nightmare of trying to "make it in the movies," to the contradictions of film …
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Grounded in new archival research documenting a significant presence of foreign and racially-marked individuals in Medici Florence, Voice, Slavery, and Race in Seventeenth-Century Florence (Oxford University Press, 2024) by Dr. Emily Wilbourne argues for the relevance of such individuals to the history of Western music and for the importance of sou…
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America’s waterways were once the superhighways of travel and communication. Coursing through a central line across the landscape, with tributaries connecting the South to the Great Plains and the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River meant wealth, knowledge, and power for those who could master it. In Masters of the Middle Waters: Indian Nations and …
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San Francisco began its American life as a city largely made up of transient men, arriving from afar to participate in the gold rush and various attendant enterprises. This large population of men on the move made the new and booming city a hub of what "respectable" easterners considered vice: drinking, gambling, and sex work, among other activitie…
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Imagine that you volunteer for the clinical trial of an experimental drug. The only direct benefit of participating is that you will receive up to $5,175. You must spend twenty nights literally locked in a research facility. You will be told what to eat, when to eat, and when to sleep. You will share a bedroom with several strangers. Who are you, a…
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Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel talks with Paula Bialski, an Associate Professor for Digital Sociology at the University of St. Gallen in St. Gallen, Switzerland, about her recent book, Middle Tech: Software Work and the Culture of Good Enough (Princeton UP, 2024). The pair talk about the art of ethnographic study of software work, and how, maybe,…
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All too often, the history of early modern Africa is told from the perspective of outsiders. In his book A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2019), Toby Green draws upon a range of underutilized sources to describe the evolution of West Africa over a period of four…
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The 2024 Solomon Islands elections were surprisingly peaceful. The deepening economic inequalities, widespread corruption, rogue demagogues manipulating the mob, and other aspects such as the heated debate about the increasing presence and influence of China, did not result in the kind of riots that hit this Pacific Island country twice in the prev…
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Last week, I had the privilege to talk with Dr. Kristen R. Ghodsee about her most recent book Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women's Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War (Duke University Press, 2019) and the behind-the-scene details of its making. Ghodsee is a professor in Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pe…
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In Tip of the Spear: Land, Labor, and US Settler Militarism in Guåhan, 1944–1962 (Cornell University Press, 2023), Dr. Alfred Peredo Flores argues that the US occupation of the island of Guåhan (Guam), one of the most heavily militarised islands in the western Pacific Ocean, was enabled by a process of settler militarism. During World War II and th…
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Numerous Iron-Age nomadic alliances flourished along the 5000-mile Eurasian steppe route. From Crimea to the Mongolian grassland, nomadic image-making was rooted in metonymically conveyed zoomorphic designs, creating an alternative ecological reality. The nomadic elite nucleus embraced this elaborate image system to construct collective memory in r…
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This interview with Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz about Grabbing Tea: Queer Conversations on Identity and Libraries and Grabbing Tea: Queer Conversations on Archives and Practice (available in 2024 from the Litwin Books Series on Gender and Sexuality in Library and Information Studies) explores how queerness is centered within library and archival theory an…
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Alliances among ideological enemies confronting a common foe, or "frenemy" alliances, are unlike coalitions among ideologically-similar states facing comparable threats. Members of frenemy alliances are perpetually torn by two powerful opposing forces. Frenemies: When Ideological Enemies Ally (Cornell University Press, 2022) shows that shared mater…
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Recent proposals to revive the ancient Silk Road for the contemporary era and ongoing Western interest in China’s growth and development have led to increased attention to the concept of pan-Asianism. Most of that discussion, however, lacks any historical grounding in the thought of influential twentieth-century pan-Asianists. In Pan-Asianism and t…
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Jim Hicks is the Executive Editor of the Massachusetts Review, a Senior Lecturer in Comparative Literature at UMass Amherst, and a translator of literature from Italian, French, Spanish, and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian. His latest book is Lessons from Sarajevo: A War Stories Primer. Shailja Patel is the Public Affairs Editor of the Massachusetts Revie…
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Locusts of Power: Borders, Empire, and Environment in the Modern Middle East (Cambridge UP, 2023) focuses on the intersections of three entities otherwise deemed marginal in historical scholarship: the Jazira region, the borderlands of today’s Iraq, Syria, and Turkey; the mobile peoples within this region, from nomadic pastoralists to deportees and…
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A history of food in the Crescent City that explores race, power, social status, and labor. In Insatiable City: Food and Race in New Orleans (U Chicago Press, 2024), Theresa McCulla probes the overt and covert ways that the production of food and the discourse about it both created and reinforced many strains of inequality in New Orleans, a city si…
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Saving the Dead: Tibetan Funerary Rituals in the Tradition of the Sarvardurgatipariśodhana Tantra (WSTB, 2024) explores Tibetan funerary manuals based on the Sarvadurgatipariśodhana Tantra (SDP), focusing on the writings of the Sa skya author Rje btsun Grags pa rgyal mtshan (1147–1216) and the diverse forms of agency—human, nonhuman, and material—a…
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During the night of 25 July 1941, assassins planted a time bomb in the bed of the former French Interior Minister, Marx Dormoy. The explosion on the following morning launched a two-year investigation that traced Dormoy's murder to the highest echelons of the Vichy regime. Dormoy, who had led a 1937 investigation into the "Cagoule," a violent right…
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