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New Books in History

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Interviews with Historians about their New Books
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Emma Kuby’s new book, Political Survivors: The Resistance, the Cold War, and the Fight against Concentration Camps After 1945 (Cornell UP, 2019) traces the fascinating history of the International Commission Against the Concentration Camp Regime (CICRC) established in 1949 by the French intellectual and Nazi camp survivor David Rousset. In the wake of the Second World War, Rousset called upon fellow deportees who had been detained for their political activities to serve as expert witnesses to Nazism’s “concentrationary universe” and to oppose any repetition of its crimes in the postwar world.Following the work of the CICRC through the 1950s and up to the end of the Algerian War, Political Survivors examines the vicissitudes of an organization whose makeup and activities embodied the complexities of the post-1945 political field. Negotiating the traumatic experience and memory of the war, the CICRC’s members and activism were caught up in the politics of the Cold War. This included receiving funding support from the CIA. Attending to sites of political repression and incarceration around the globe, from the Soviet Union’s gulag system to Franco’s Spain, Greece, Tunisia, China, and French Algeria, the international group’s preoccupations also expressed the specificities of French national and imperial politics. The CICRC’s investigations and dramatic mock trials exposed and denounced some injustices, but short-circuited in the face of others. The organization’s insistence on the repeatability of the Nazi camp system was both a source of its power to judge and a weakness. When confronted with situations in which past and present could not be compared so easily, the group’s mission fell short. Plagued by a number of tensions, including a membership policy that refused “racial” victims and did not engage the issue of genocide, the organization ultimately foundered over the case of the Algerian War. Analyzing this complex history, Political Survivors is a book that feels all-too-urgent in 2019. Readers interested in learning more about political violence and resistances past and present will find its insights challenging, and deeply thought-provoking.To read Emma’s thoughts on the contemporary relevance of the history she treats in Political Survivors, particularly with respect to the detention of migrants in the United States today, see her July 2, 2019 piece in Dissent here.Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on the representation of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest, please send an email to: panchasi@sfu.ca.*The music that opens and closes the podcast is an instrumental version of “Creatures,” a song written and performed by Vancouver artist/musician Casey Wei (“hazy”). To hear more, please visit https://agonyklub.com/. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
With China’s northwestern and southern edges justifiably being sources of global attention at present, Martin Fromm’s Borderland Memories: Searching for Historical Identity in Post-Mao China (Cambridge University Press, 2019) has much light to shed on how the country’s ruling Communist Party refashioned its relationship with its frontiers at an earlier point in history. Examining a trove of documents produced mostly in the 1980s in the country’s far northeastern Heilongjiang province, Fromm reveals the processes, policies and personal stories undergirding the new understandings of China which emerged after the death of Mao Zedong.As the nation emerged from the catastrophic policy failures and ideological excesses of the Mao years, the Party deftly encouraged ordinary people to narrate their experiences of the tumultuous recent history of the region in new ways and according to new historical frames. Their stories, collected in documents known as wenshi ziliao, reappraised the Russian and Japanese roles in the northeast’s past, its indigenous residents and the history of Han migration in ways which, in Fromm’s telling, are highly revealing of the narratives by which the Party sought to maintain its role as a governing power. If Hong Kong and Xinjiang today show that the Reform era, whose dawn this book expertly documents, is now transitioning to something else, then the understanding we gain from this book of how the Chinese Communist Party acted an earlier time of crisis could not be more pertinent.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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In 1972, the Bureau of Indian Affairs terminated its twenty-year-old Voluntary Relocation Program, which encouraged the mass migration of roughly 100,000 Native American people from rural to urban areas. At the time the program ended, many groups--from government leaders to Red Power activists--had already classified it as a failure, and scholars have subsequently positioned the program as evidence of America’s enduring settler-colonial project. But Douglas K. Miller, Assistant Professor of History at Oklahoma State University, argues in Indians on the Move: Native American Mobility and Urbanization in the Twentieth Century(The University of North Carolina Press, 2019), that a richer story should be told--one that recognizes Indigenous mobility in terms of its benefits and not merely its costs. In their collective refusal to accept marginality and destitution on reservations, Native Americans used the urban relocation program to take greater control of their socioeconomic circumstances. Indigenous migrants also used the financial, educational, and cultural resources they found in cities to feed new expressions of Indigenous sovereignty both off and on the reservation. The dynamic histories of everyday people at the heart of this book shed new light on the adaptability of mobile Native American communities. In the end, this is a story of shared experience across tribal lines, through which Indigenous people incorporated urban life into their ideas for Indigenous futures.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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Matthew James talks about the 1905 Galapagos Expedition organized by the California Academy of Sciences. James is a professor of geology at Sonoma State University. He is the author of Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin (Oxford University Press, 2017).In 1905, eight men from the California Academy of Sciences set sail from San Francisco for a scientific collection expedition in the Galapagos Islands, and by the time they were finished in 1906, they had completed one of the most important expeditions in the history of both evolutionary and conservation science. These scientists collected over 78,000 specimens during their time on the islands, validating the work of Charles Darwin and laying the groundwork for foundational evolution texts like Darwin's Finches. Despite its significance, almost nothing has been written on this voyage, lost amongst discussion of Darwin's trip on the Beagle and the writing of David Lack.Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He's the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He's also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Using a mixture of genres, Kent Gramm captures the voices of those past and present in his book, Gettysburg: The Living and the Dead(Southern Illinois University Press, 2019) Alongside stunning photographs by Chris Heisey, Gramm shares the experiences of the people at Gettysburg—both those historical figures who took part in the battle in some meaningful way and those of us today who return to the battlefield to try and make sense of such a tragic and mournful part of our history. Gramm’s writing style is eloquent and thought-provoking. By listening to the people who were at Gettysburg, he brings them back to life in a way that reveals the truth of the human experience and elicits empathy from his readers. Gettysburg: The Living and the Dead is emotionally stirring and absolutely essential toward helping us understand and heal from this tragic, watershed event in American history.Kent Gramm is an adjunct professor of English and Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A Wisconsin native, Gramm has also taught at colleges in Germany, Illinois, and Indiana. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing and American Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and studied theology at Princeton Theological Seminary at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. He has written books, plays, novels, and poetry about Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, and the American Civil War. His book, November: Lincoln's Elegy at Gettysburg, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and the graduate writing program at LSU awards an annual Kent Gramm Prize in Creative Nonfiction. Finally, he is a lifelong student of the Civil War.Colin Mustful is the author of four historical novels about Minnesota’s settlement and Native history. He holds an MA in history and a MFA in creative writing. He is the founder and editor of a small independent press called History Through Fiction. You can learn more about Colin and his work at colinmustful.com.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Selby Wynn Schwartz writes about gender, performance, and the politics of embodiment. Her articles have been published in Women & Performance, PAJ, Dance Research Journal, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, Critical Correspondence, Ballet-Dance Magazine, In Dance, The Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies, and the forthcoming anthology (Re)Claiming Ballet. She holds a PhD from UC Berkeley in Comparative Literature and currently teaches writing at Stanford University.The Bodies of Others: Drag Dances and Their Afterlives (University of Michigan Press, 2019) covers four decades of drag dances, exploring the politics of gender in motion. From drag ballerinas to faux queens, and from butoh divas to the club mothers of modern dance, the book delves into four decades of drag dances. It takes us beyond glittery one-liners and into the spaces between gender norms. In these backstage histories, dancers give their bodies over to other selves, opening up the category of realness. The book maps out a drag politics of embodiment, connecting drag dances to queer hope, memory, and mourning. Drawing on queer theory, dance history, and the embodied practices of dancers themselves, The Bodies of Others examines the ways in which drag dances undertake the work of a shared queer and trans politics.Isabel Machado is a Brazilian historian, living and teaching in Mexico while finishing a book about Carnival in Mobile, Alabama. Her new project is an investigation of different generations of artists and performers who challenge gender normativity in Monterrey, Nuevo León. She also works as an Assistant Producer for the Sexing History podcast.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Though women’s roles in the black freedom struggle remain under-acknowledged, scholars continue to make their importance clear. In her new book, Jim Crow Capital: Women and Black Freedom Struggles in Washington, DC, 1920-1945 (University of North Carolina Press, 2018), Mary-Elizabeth Murphy (Associate Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University) examines black women’s activism in Washington D.C. during the interwar period. The nation’s capital has long been an important location for influencing national politics. Black women recognized this fact and shaped their activism accordingly. Consequently, the city is a particularly rich site in which to study women’s political efforts and to see how these activists tackled discrimination on both the local and national levels. Murphy's book shows the interwar years were an important time for fighting discrimination in politics, government, employment, and by law enforcement.In this episode of the podcast, Murphy discusses this rich history. She discusses the importance of Washington D.C. as a site for black women’s activism, explains successes and failures of the period, and the precedents it set. The conversation highlights the book's themes of class, gender, and police violence. She also discusses some of the lessons this history provides for today’s politics. Finally, Murphy explains her source base and the challenges and rewards of her time in the archives.Christine Lamberson is an Associate Professor of History at Angelo State University. Her research and teaching focuses on 20th century U.S. political and cultural history. She’s currently working on a book manuscript about the role of violence in shaping U.S. political culture in the 1960s and 1970s. She can be reached at clamberson@angelo.edu.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
May ’68 marked a watershed moment in French society, culture, and political life. The feminist movement was no exception. Women took to the streets and meeting halls around the country, challenging outdated sexual standards, fighting for reproductive freedom, and articulating women’s oppression in radically new ways. In Daughters of 1968: Redefining French Feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Dr. Lisa Greenwald offers a refreshingly new perspective on the history of French feminism, beginning with the liberation of France in 1944--when women were granted the right to vote--to 1981 and the election of a Socialist president who promised to transform women’s status in French society. Greenwald examines the endless challenges of collective organizing, along with the fractious ideological divisions and strategic differences among the various feminist groups that emerged after the events of May. In this interview, she discusses influential figures in the movement such as Gisèle Halimi and Simone Veil and the fight to legalize abortion, Simone de Beauvoir and the influence of The Second Sex on feminists after May ’68, and Antoinette Fouque and the tensions surrounding the Psych-et-Po group. She concludes the interview with an insightful analysis of current debates surrounding the #MeToo movement in France.Lisa Greenwald, Ph.D. spent almost a decade working in and researching the women’s movement in France, supported by an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship and grants from the French government. She has worked as a consultant and in-house historian for a variety of nonprofits and foundations in France, Chicago, and New York. She teaches history at Stuyvesant High School in New York City.Beth Mauldin is an Associate Professor of French at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Her research interests include French cultural studies, film, and the social and cultural history of Paris.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In this episode of New Books in Buddhist Studies, I am joined by Daniel Veidlinger to discuss his exciting new book From Indra’s Net to Internet: Communication, Technology, and the Evolution of Buddhist Ideas (University of Hawaii Press, 2018), which offers a theoretically compelling exploration of the types communicative “ecosystems” in which Buddhist ideas have flourished throughout history. Drawing inspiration from evolutionary biology and media theory, Veidlinger’s book begins by isolating some particular traits that were unique to (or at least most well-developed in) early Buddhism, and then tracing how these traits were particular well-suited for transmission in two specific historical, cultural, and communicative contexts: namely, communities in early India and along the Silk Road in the first centuries of the Common Era. His book concludes with a lengthy exploration of the ways that the Internet Age represents a third such epoch, and propounds the provocative theory that the technological, discursive and affective aspects of internet use can make frequent users more receptive to Buddhist ideas. Given this contemporary focus, we conclude our interview by considering the way(s) that Veidlinger’s theory can accommodate, and even respond to, the fact that the internet has also been used to foment hatred and divisiveness in the last three years of American history.Christopher Jensen teaches Buddhism and Chinese Religions at Carleton University. He can be reached at: christopher.jensen@carleton.caLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Did the Allied bombing plan for the liberation of France follow a carefully orchestrated plan, or was it executed on an ad-hoc basis with little concern or regard for collateral damage? How did the bombing of French cities and railheads follow – or disregard – existing air power doctrine, and where did the decision making occur, within the Army Air Forces and Bomber Command, or among the ground unit leaders? What was the cost to human life and material artistic and historic centers, and was it worth it? These are only a few of the questions Stephen Alan Bourque addresses in his well-conceived and well-researched book, Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France (Naval Institute Press, 2018). At almost every turn, Stephen challenges the existing triumphalist narratives of the liberation of France to present a heart-wrenching account of disproportionate violence targeting not the German military, but the French people during this stage of the war. A book rife with lessons for our generation, Beyond the Beach is one of the most important texts to appear about the war in France in years.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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