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Princeton UP Ideas Podcast
55 minutes | 2 days ago
Janis Tomlinson, "Goya: A Portrait of the Artist" (Princeton UP, 2020)
The life of Francisco Goya (1746–1828) coincided with an age of transformation in Spanish history that brought upheavals in the country’s politics and at the court which Goya served, changes in society, the devastation of the Iberian Peninsula in the war against Napoleon, and an ensuing period of political instability. In this revelatory biography, Janis Tomlinson draws on a wide range of documents—including letters, court papers, and a sketchbook used by Goya in the early years of his career—to provide a nuanced portrait of a complex and multifaceted painter and printmaker, whose art is synonymous with compelling images of the people, events, and social revolution that defined his life and era.Tomlinson challenges the popular image of the artist as an isolated figure obsessed with darkness and death, showing how Goya’s likeability and ambition contributed to his success at court, and offering new perspectives on his youth, rich family life, extensive travels, and lifelong friendships. She explores the full breadth of his imagery—from scenes inspired by life in Madrid to visions of worlds without reason, from royal portraits to the atrocities of war. She sheds light on the artist’s personal trials, including the deaths of six children and the onset of deafness in middle age, but also reconsiders the conventional interpretation of Goya’s late years as a period of disillusion, viewing them instead as years of liberated artistic invention, most famously in the murals on the walls of his country house, popularly known as the “black” paintings.A monumental achievement, Goya: A Portrait of the Artist (Princeton UP, 2020) is the definitive biography of an artist whose faith in his art and his genius inspired paintings, drawings, prints, and frescoes that continue to captivate, challenge, and surprise us two centuries later.Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
75 minutes | 12 days ago
Marina Rustow, "The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue" (Princeton UP, 2020)
What does it mean that our single greatest source of medieval Islamic government documents comes from the attic of a Jewish synagogue in Cairo?This is the seeming paradox that Marina Rustow, director of the renowned Geniza Lab at Princeton University, has been trying to make sense of for years. In 1896, twin sisters and Scottish philologists Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson transported fragments from the geniza (or worn text repository) of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo to their dear friend Solomon Schecter, a Talmud scholar at Cambridge University. The Hebrew-language fragments of the Cairo Geniza would go on to revolutionize the study of medieval Jewry: in 1970, German-Jewish Arabist Shelomo Dov Goitein dubbed the Cairo Geniza “the Living Sea Scrolls” for its remarkable insight into the social world of medieval Jews.But flip the documents over, and the world of the Geniza is hardly just a Jewish one. In her new book, The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue (Princeton University Press, 2020), Rustow examines the previously neglected lines of Arabic found on some of the Geniza’s Hebrew-language documents: Fatimid-era petitions and decrees that defy the adage that the dynasties of the Islamic Middle East produced few documents and preserved even fewer.No Fatimid state archive exists in the Middle East today. But the Cairo Geniza’s fragments—which passed through the hands of tax collector and chancery secretary, paper pusher and vizier alike—force us to reconsider the longstanding but mistaken consensus that the pre-Ottoman Middle East was defined by weak or informal institutions. Rustow argues that the problem of archives in the medieval Middle East lies not with the region’s administrative culture, but with our failure to fully understand it.Listen in to learn more—and stick around to the end to hear Marina’s favorite fact about daily life in medieval Cairo!Notably mentioned in this episode: Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (Schocken Books, 2011) Marina Rustow, Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate (Cornell University Press, 2008) Nathan Hofer, The Popularisation of Sufism in Ayyubid and Mamluk Egypt, 1173-1325 (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) Shelomo Dov Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza, Volumes I-VI (republished with University of California Press, 2000) S. M. Stern, Fāṭimid Decrees: Original Documents from the Fāṭimid Chancery (Faber & Faber, 1964) Geoffrey Khan, Arabic Legal and Administrative Documents from the Cambridge Genizah Collections (Cambridge University Press, 1993) Marina Rustow is the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East at Princeton University, and the director of the Princeton Geniza Lab.Nancy Ko is a PhD student in History at Columbia University, where she works at the intersection of Jewish and Middle East Studies.
40 minutes | 13 days ago
Can we Bring Extinct Species Back?: A Conversation with Beth Shapiro
Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? The science says yes. In How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction (Princeton UP, 2020), Beth Shapiro, evolutionary biologist and pioneer in “ancient DNA” research, walks readers through the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used—today—to resurrect the past. Journeying to far-flung Siberian locales in search of ice age bones and delving into her own research—as well as those of fellow experts such as Svante Paabo, George Church, and Craig Venter—Shapiro considers de-extinction’s practical benefits and ethical challenges. Would de-extinction change the way we live? Is this really cloning? What are the costs and risks? And what is the ultimate goal?Using DNA collected from remains as a genetic blueprint, scientists aim to engineer extinct traits — traits that evolved by natural selection over thousands of years—into living organisms. But rather than viewing de-extinction as a way to restore one particular species, Shapiro argues that the overarching goal should be the revitalization and stabilization of contemporary ecosystems. For example, elephants with genes modified to express mammoth traits could expand into the Arctic, re-establishing lost productivity to the tundra ecosystem.Looking at the very real and compelling science behind an idea once seen as science fiction, How to Clone a Mammoth demonstrates how de-extinction will redefine conservation’s future.Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at email@example.com.
67 minutes | a month ago
Paul Goldin, "The Art of Chinese Philosophy: Eight Classical Texts and How to Read Them" (Princeton UP, 2020)
Paul Goldin's book The Art of Chinese Philosophy: Eight Classical Texts and How to Read Them (Princeton UP, 2020) provides an unmatched introduction to eight of the most important works of classical Chinese philosophy--the Analects of Confucius, Mozi, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, Sunzi, Xunzi, and Han Feizi. Combining accessibility with the latest scholarship, Paul Goldin, one of the world's leading authorities on the history of Chinese philosophy, places these works in rich context as he explains the origin and meaning of their compelling ideas.Because none of these classics was written in its current form by the author to whom it is attributed, the book begins by asking, What are we reading? and showing that understanding the textual history of the works enriches our appreciation of them. A chapter is devoted to each of the eight works, and the chapters are organized into three sections: Philosophy of Heaven, which looks at how the Analects, Mozi, and Mencius discuss, often skeptically, Heaven (tian) as a source of philosophical values; Philosophy of the Way, which addresses how Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Sunzi introduce the new concept of the Way (dao) to transcend the older paradigms; and Two Titans at the End of an Age, which examines how Xunzi and Han Feizi adapt the best ideas of the earlier thinkers for a coming imperial age.In addition, the book presents clear and insightful explanations of the protean and frequently misunderstood concept of qi--and of a crucial characteristic of Chinese philosophy, nondeductive reasoning. The result is an invaluable account of an endlessly fascinating and influential philosophical tradition.
56 minutes | a month ago
Nick Haddad, "The Last Butterflies: A Scientist's Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature" (Princeton UP, 2019)
Butterflies have long captivated the imagination of humans, from naturalists to children to poets. Indeed it would be hard to imagine a world without butterflies. And yet their populations are declining at an alarming rate, to the extent that even the seemingly ubiquitous Monarch could conceivably go the way of the Passenger Pigeon. Many other, more obscure, butterfly species are already perilously close to extinction. For the last 20 years, Nick Haddad has worked to identify and save some of the rarest butterflies on earth, a quest that has taken him to both surprisingly ordinary and extraordinarily inhospitable areas, including a swampy, active artillery range on a military installation in North Carolina. It has also led him to some surprising conclusions about the best ways to protect these increasingly endangered butterflies.In The Last Butterflies: A Scientist’s Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature (Princeton UP, 2019), Haddad profiles five such species – the ones he has determined to be the rarest of all – and takes us into each one’s unique habitat, life cycle, and existential challenges. From the Crystal Skipper, bouncing over sand dunes adjacent to vacation homes on barrier islands, to the Schaus’ Swallowtail, confined to increasingly remote areas of the Florida Keys, Haddad shows how human activities have affected rare butterfly populations. His unexpected conclusion is that leaving them in peace is not a viable option; disturbances, both natural and human-caused, are necessary for the ecosystems that support butterfly populations to thrive. One of the hardest lessons for him to absorb was that to save populations, some individuals have to be killed in the process.Haddad’s intrepid field work – he describes one of his strengths as “an unusual capacity to tolerate harsh environments - informs the story of each butterfly species. His lab’s effort to collect, quantify, propagate, and ultimately perpetuate, the rarest butterflies has led to increasing awareness of how much more biologists have to learn about their natural histories, and how critical such knowledge is to saving them. In perhaps the most dramatic example of unintended consequences, Haddad’s team discovered that the St. Francis Satyr, a small brown butterfly, was protected by regular artillery fire on the Fort Bragg army installation in southern North Carolina. The resulting fires were one disturbance the St. Francis Satyr needed to sustain viable conditions (dams built by beavers was another). In another twist, it turned out that Haddad’s initial efforts to help the species were having the opposite effect. Yet over time, these discoveries led to lessons that ultimately have helped the St. Francis Satyr and can be applied to other conservation efforts.The Last Butterflies could be read as a warning, but Haddad’s tone is never dire. The book is infused with enthusiasm for conservation efforts, both now and in the future, and with an admiration for the beauty, fragility, and resilience of butterflies. It is an important book for anyone concerned with biodiversity and conservation issues. It’s also an eye-opening and engaging read for anyone with an interest in butterflies.Rachel Pagones is chair of the doctoral program in acupuncture and Chinese medicine at Pacific College of Health and Science in San Diego. She is a longtime butterfly enthusiast and is working, slowly, on a fictional book for middle-grade readers about butterfly conservation.
68 minutes | a month ago
Sexuality, Gender, and Race in the Middle Ages: A Discussion with Roland Betancourt
In Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, and Race in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 2020), Roland Betancourt reveals the fascinating, little-examined conversations in medieval thought and visual culture around matters of sexual and reproductive consent, bullying and slut-shaming, homosocial and homoerotic relationships, trans and nonbinary gender identities, and the depiction of racialized minorities. Betancourt explores these issues in the context of the Byzantine Empire, using sources from late antiquity and early Christianity up to the early modern period. Highlighting nuanced and strikingly modern approaches by medieval writers, philosophers, theologians, and doctors, the book offers a new history of gender, sexuality, and race.Weaving together art, literature, and an impressive array of texts, Betancourt investigates depictions of sexual consent in images of the Virgin Mary, tactics of sexual shaming in the story of Empress Theodora, narratives of transgender monks, portrayals of same-gender desire in images of the Doubting Thomas, and stereotypes of gender and ethnicity in representations of the Ethiopian Eunuch. He also gathers evidence from medical manuals detailing everything from surgical practices for late terminations of pregnancy to a host of procedures used to affirm a person’s gender. Showing how understandings of gender, sexuality, and race have long been enmeshed, Byzantine Intersectionality offers a groundbreaking look at the culture of the medieval world. Allison Leigh is Assistant Professor of Art History and the SLEMCO/LEQSF Regents Endowed Professor in Art & Architecture at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her research explores European and Russian art of the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries.
54 minutes | a month ago
Anthony A. Barrett, "Rome Is Burning: Nero and the Fire That Ended a Dynasty" (Princeton UP, 2020)
According to legend, the Roman emperor Nero set fire to his majestic imperial capital on the night of July 19, AD 64 and fiddled while the city burned. It's a story that has been told for more than two millennia--and it's likely that almost none of it is true. In Rome Is Burning: Nero and the Fire That Ended a Dynasty (Princeton UP, 2020), distinguished Roman historian Anthony Barrett sets the record straight, providing a comprehensive and authoritative account of the Great Fire of Rome, its immediate aftermath, and its damaging longterm consequences for the Roman world. Drawing on remarkable new archaeological discoveries and sifting through all the literary evidence, he tells what is known about what actually happened--and argues that the disaster was a turning point in Roman history, one that ultimately led to the fall of Nero and the end of the dynasty that began with Julius Caesar.Rome Is Burning tells how the fire destroyed much of the city and threw the population into panic. It describes how it also destroyed Nero's golden image and provoked a financial crisis and currency devaluation that made a permanent impact on the Roman economy. Most importantly, the book surveys, and includes many photographs of, recent archaeological evidence that shows visible traces of the fire's destruction. Finally, the book describes the fire's continuing afterlife in literature, opera, ballet, and film.A richly detailed and scrupulously factual narrative of an event that has always been shrouded in myth, Rome Is Burning promises to become the standard account of the Great Fire of Rome for our time.
53 minutes | 2 months ago
Cynthia Miller-Idriss, "Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right" (Princeton UP, 2020)
Hate crimes. Misinformation and conspiracy theories. Foiled white-supremacist plots. The signs of growing far-right extremism are all around us, and communities across America and around the globe are struggling to understand how so many people are being radicalized and why they are increasingly attracted to violent movements. Hate in the Homeland shows how tomorrow’s far-right nationalists are being recruited in surprising places, from college campuses and mixed martial arts gyms to clothing stores, online gaming chat rooms, and YouTube cooking channels.Instead of focusing on the how and why of far-right radicalization, Cynthia Miller-Idriss seeks answers in the physical and virtual spaces where hate is cultivated. Where does the far right do its recruiting? When do young people encounter extremist messaging in their everyday lives? Miller-Idriss shows how far-right groups are swelling their ranks and developing their cultural, intellectual, and financial capacities in a variety of mainstream settings. She demonstrates how young people on the margins of our communities are targeted in these settings, and how the path to radicalization is a nuanced process of moving in and out of far-right scenes throughout adolescence and adulthood.Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right (Princeton UP, 2020) is essential for understanding the tactics and underlying ideas of modern far-right extremism. This eye-opening book takes readers into the mainstream places and spaces where today’s far right is engaging and ensnaring young people, and reveals innovative strategies we can use to combat extremist radicalization.Beth Windisch is a national security practitioner. You can tweet her @bethwindisch.
53 minutes | 2 months ago
College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom: A Conversation with Eddie R. Cole
Some of America's most pressing civil rights issues--desegregation, equal educational and employment opportunities, housing discrimination, and free speech--have been closely intertwined with higher education institutions. Although it is commonly known that college students and other activists, as well as politicians, actively participated in the fight for and against civil rights in the middle decades of the twentieth century, historical accounts have not adequately focused on the roles that the nation's college presidents played in the debates concerning racism. Based on archival research conducted at a range of colleges and universities across the United States, The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom (Princeton UP, 2020) sheds light on the important place of college presidents in the struggle for racial parity.Focusing on the period between 1948 and 1968, Eddie Cole shows how college presidents, during a time of violence and unrest, strategically, yet often silently, initiated and shaped racial policies and practices inside and outside of the educational sphere. With courage and hope, as well as malice and cruelty, college presidents positioned themselves--sometimes precariously--amid conflicting interests and demands. Black college presidents challenged racist policies as their students demonstrated in the streets against segregation, while presidents of major universities lobbied for urban renewal programs that displaced Black communities near campus. Some presidents amended campus speech practices to accommodate white supremacist speakers, even as other academic leaders developed the nation's first affirmative action programs in higher education.The Campus Color Line illuminates how the legacy of academic leaders' actions continues to influence the unfinished struggle for Black freedom and racial equity in education and beyond.Marshall Poe is the founder and editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
41 minutes | 2 months ago
Conspiracy Theories are More Dangerous Than Ever: A Discussion with Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum
Conspiracy theories are as old as politics. But conspiracists today have introduced something new—conspiracy without theory. And the new conspiracism has moved from the fringes to the heart of government with the election of Donald Trump. In A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2019), Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum show how the new conspiracism differs from classic conspiracy theory, why so few officials speak truth to conspiracy, and what needs to be done to resist it.Classic conspiracy theory insists that things are not what they seem and gathers evidence—especially facts ominously withheld by official sources—to tease out secret machinations. The new conspiracism is different. There is no demand for evidence, no dots revealed to form a pattern, no close examination of shadowy plotters. Dispensing with the burden of explanation, the new conspiracism imposes its own reality through repetition (exemplified by the Trump catchphrase “a lot of people are saying”) and bare assertion (“rigged!”).The new conspiracism targets democratic foundations—political parties and knowledge-producing institutions. It makes it more difficult to argue, persuade, negotiate, compromise, and even to disagree. Ultimately, it delegitimates democracy.Filled with vivid examples, A Lot of People Are Saying diagnoses a defining and disorienting feature of today’s politics and offers a guide to responding to the threat.Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at email@example.com.
44 minutes | 2 months ago
Jimena Canales, "Bedeviled: A Shadow History of Demons in Science" (Princeton UP, 2020)
Science may be known for banishing the demons of superstition from the modern world. Yet just as the demon-haunted world was being exorcized by the enlightening power of reason, a new kind of demon mischievously materialized in the scientific imagination itself. Scientists began to employ hypothetical beings to perform certain roles in thought experiments—experiments that can only be done in the imagination—and these impish assistants helped scientists achieve major breakthroughs that pushed forward the frontiers of science and technology.Spanning four centuries of discovery—from René Descartes, whose demon could hijack sensorial reality, to James Clerk Maxwell, whose molecular-sized demon deftly broke the second law of thermodynamics, to Darwin, Einstein, Feynman, and beyond—Jimena Canales tells a shadow history of science and the demons that bedevil it. In Bedeviled: A Shadow History of Demons in Science (Princeton UP, 2020), she reveals how the greatest scientific thinkers used demons to explore problems, test the limits of what is possible, and better understand nature. Their imaginary familiars helped unlock the secrets of entropy, heredity, relativity, quantum mechanics, and other scientific wonders—and continue to inspire breakthroughs in the realms of computer science, artificial intelligence, and economics today.The world may no longer be haunted as it once was, but the demons of the scientific imagination are alive and well, continuing to play a vital role in scientists’ efforts to explore the unknown and make the impossible real.
57 minutes | 2 months ago
Ronald Grigor Suny, "Stalin: Passage to Revolution" (Princeton UP, 2020)
Ronald Suny’s recent biography of the young Stalin, Stalin: Passage to Revolution (Princeton UP, 2020) covers “Soso” Jughashvili’s life up to the 1917 Revolution. Suny provides a wealth of detail as to the young Stalin’s life, and he embeds that life story in the broader story of Bolshevism. The Stalin that emerges from Suny’s portrait was skilled at navigating Party in-fighting an effective at speaking both to workers and to intellectuals. This biography does much make sense of the later Stalin, the perpetrator of the Purges. Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.
58 minutes | 3 months ago
Conservatism is Always Evolving: A Discussion with Edmund Fawcett
For two hundred years, conservatism has defied its reputation as a backward-looking creed by confronting and adapting to liberal modernity. By doing so, the Right has won long periods of power and effectively become the dominant tradition in politics. Yet, despite their success, conservatives have continued to fight with each other about how far to compromise with liberalism and democracy—or which values to defend and how. In Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition (Princeton University Press, 2020), Edmund Fawcett provides a gripping account of this conflicted history, clarifies key ideas, and illuminates quarrels within the Right today.Focusing on the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, Fawcett’s vivid narrative covers thinkers and politicians. They include the forerunners James Madison, Edmund Burke, and Joseph de Maistre; early friends and foes of capitalism; defenders of religion; and builders of modern parties, such as William McKinley and Lord Salisbury. The book chronicles the cultural critics and radical disruptors of the 1920s and 1930s, recounts how advocates of laissez-faire economics broke the post 1945 consensus, and describes how Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and their European counterparts are pushing conservatism toward a nation-first, hard Right.An absorbing, original history of the Right, Conservatism portrays a tradition as much at war with itself as with its opponents.Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
52 minutes | 3 months ago
Why are Blacks Democrats?: An Interview with Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird
Black Americans are by far the most unified racial group in American electoral politics, with 80 to 90 percent identifying as Democrats—a surprising figure given that nearly a third now also identify as ideologically conservative, up from less than 10 percent in the 1970s. Why has ideological change failed to push more black Americans into the Republican Party? Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior (Princeton University Press, 2020) answers this question with a pathbreaking new theory that foregrounds the specificity of the black American experience and illuminates social pressure as the key element of black Americans’ unwavering support for the Democratic Party.Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird argue that the roots of black political unity were established through the adversities of slavery and segregation, when black Americans forged uniquely strong social bonds for survival and resistance. White and Laird explain how these tight communities have continued to produce and enforce political norms—including Democratic Party identification in the post–Civil Rights era. The social experience of race for black Americans is thus fundamental to their political choices. Black voters are uniquely influenced by the social expectations of other black Americans to prioritize the group’s ongoing struggle for freedom and equality. When navigating the choice of supporting a political party, this social expectation translates into affiliation with the Democratic Party. Through fresh analysis of survey data and original experiments, White and Laird explore where and how black political norms are enforced, what this means for the future of black politics, and how this framework can be used to understand the electoral behavior of other communities.An innovative explanation for why black Americans continue in political lockstep, Steadfast Democrats sheds light on the motivations consolidating an influential portion of the American electoral population.Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at email@example.com.
89 minutes | 3 months ago
W. Germano and K. Nicholls, "Syllabus: The Remarkable, Unremarkable Document that Changes Everything" (Princeton UP, 2020)
Do you teach, or do you care about education? Then you have to read this book. At turns radical in the interventions it proposes in educational practice, at turns perspicacious in the views it opens on the act of teaching, at turns inspirational in the words it drops in the teacher's ear, Syllabus: The Remarkable, Unremarkable Document that Changes Everything (Princeton UP, 2020) belongs in every teacher's hand, as well as in the hands of many an administrator and policymaker.William Germano's and Kit Nicholls's idea to tag an entire pedagogy to one single document is brilliant, and it's brilliant because the document deserves the attention. As any college instructor and also many high school teachers will know, the syllabus kicks off the academic season, fills in as the rulebook and the referee, and presents that scoreboard of disciplinary knowledge called the reading list. William Germano and Kit Nicholls have much to say about all these functions of one remarkable and unremarkable document, much that is new and much that was already there but has now been put in new light; and more importantly, William Germano and Kit Nicholls say much, much more. In fact, every line of the syllabus becomes for them an opportunity to consider and discuss just what teachers want and (more to the point) just what their students want. Aligning these two in the interests of learners is one of the books many achievements.The book is not a how-to guide because, like all good books about such essentially human activities as parenting or writing or (as here) teaching and learning, Syllabus takes the wide view and Syllabus covers all the details: collaboration and community, schedules and heightened moments of learning, the citizen of the classroom, the optimal assignment, and the studied improvisation required to the teacher who would learn together with a classroom of students. These are just a few of William Germano's and Kit Nicholls's concerns in their book Syllabus, a book about what teaching looks like when teaching turns into learning.Daniel Shea heads Scholarly Communication, a Special Series on the New Books Network. Daniel is Director of the Writing Program at Heidelberg University, Germany. Just write firstname.lastname@example.org
59 minutes | 4 months ago
Alan L. Mittleman, "Does Judaism Condone Violence?: Holiness and Ethics in the Jewish Tradition" (Princeton UP, 2018)
What exactly does the word “holy” mean in various religious traditions? What is the opposite of it in translations from the Hebrew? Is the antonym of “holy” in the Old Testament not, as many of us assume, “profane” but “unclean?” And, if so, what are the theological implications and in human affairs of that difference?How did Biblical figures such as Moses and Joshua justify brutal levels of violence against their enemies? What motivated that violence in the first place—and is there, in fact, any evidence that any took place at that level in those times?What did leading philosophers from Maimonides to William James to Abraham Joshua Heschel have to say about the concept of the “holy” and is there a difference in meaning between the words “sacred” and “holy?”Is it even rational to believe that something is “holy” or are such beliefs relics that have only been used to justify religious violence? Is there a place for the concept of the holy in our time and in our actions and world views?These are some of the questions that Alan L. Mittleman addresses in his 2018 book, Does Judaism Condone Violence?: Holiness and Ethics in the Jewish Tradition (Princeton UP, 2018).Given that in recent years we have seen the desecration of religious sites and murders and assaults by and on religious people of all faiths across the globe, Mittleman’s book is timely for not only Jewish readers but anyone who wishes to know more about the history of violence and the often seemingly contradictory ways God and otherwise humane people employ it or condone it.The book is a learned study of our sometimes blood-stained, but also noble, past.Give a listen.Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher.
55 minutes | 4 months ago
Despina Stratigakos, "Hitler’s Northern Utopia: Building the New Order in Occupied Norway" (Princeton UP, 2020)
In her new book Hitler’s Northern Utopia: Building the New Order in Occupied Norway (Princeton University Press, 2020), Despina Stratigakos investigates the Nazi occupation of Norway. Between 1940 and 1945, German occupiers transformed Norway into a vast construction zone. This remarkable building campaign, largely unknown today, was designed to extend the Greater German Reich beyond the Arctic Circle and turn the Scandinavian country into a racial utopia. From ideal new cities to a scenic superhighway stretching from Berlin to northern Norway, plans to remake the country into a model “Aryan” society fired the imaginations of Hitler, his architect Albert Speer, and other Nazi leaders. In Hitler’s Northern Utopia, Despina Stratigakos provides the first major history of Nazi efforts to build a Nordic empire—one that they believed would improve their genetic stock and confirm their destiny as a new order of Vikings.Drawing on extraordinary unpublished diaries, photographs, and maps, as well as newspapers from the period, Hitler’s Northern Utopia tells the story of a broad range of completed and unrealized architectural and infrastructure projects far beyond the well-known German military defenses built on Norway’s Atlantic coast. These ventures included maternity centers, cultural and recreational facilities for German soldiers, and a plan to create quintessential National Socialist communities out of twenty-three towns damaged in the German invasion, an overhaul Norwegian architects were expected to lead. The most ambitious scheme—a German cultural capital and naval base—remained a closely guarded secret for fear of provoking Norwegian resistance.A gripping account of the rise of a Nazi landscape in occupied Norway, Hitler’s Northern Utopia reveals a haunting vision of what might have been—a world colonized under the swastika.Despina Stratigakos is vice provost and professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.Craig Sorvillo is a PhD candidate in modern European history at the University of Florida. He specializes in Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. He can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @craig_sorvillo.
55 minutes | 4 months ago
Angèle Christin, “Metrics at Work: Journalism and the Contested Meaning of Algorithms” (Princeton UP, 2020)
How are algorithms changing journalism? In Metrics at Work: Journalism and the Contested Meaning of Algorithms (Princeton University Press), Angèle Christin, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, explores the impact of metrics and analytics on the newsrooms of New York and Paris. Using an ethnography of...
58 minutes | 4 months ago
Sean Roberts, “The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority” (Princeton UP, 2020)
In today’s new episode, we speak with Sean Roberts about his brand new book The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority (Princeton University Press, 2020). Roberts is the Director of the International Development Studies program at George Washington University. He received his PhD in Cultural Anthropology...
73 minutes | 4 months ago
Sören Urbansky, “Beyond the Steppe Frontier: A History of the Sino-Russian Border” (Princeton UP, 2020)
The fact that the vast border between China and Russia is often overlooked goes hand-in-hand with a lack of understanding of the ordinary citizens in these much-discussed places, who often lose out to larger-than-life figures like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. A book that combines a look at the history...
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