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New Books in Intellectual History

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Interviews with Scholars of Intellectual History about their New Books

752 Episodes
Today Jana Byars talks to Lucy Delap, Reader in Modern British and Gender History at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge University, about her new book Feminisms: A Global History (University of Chicago Press, 2020). This outstanding work, available later this year, takes a thematic approach to the topic of global feminist history to provide a unified vision that maintains appropriate nuance. Delap is a gender historian, writ large. Her first book, The Feminist Avant Garde (Cambridge 2007), examined the development of feminism in the Anglo-American context, tracing the ideas as developed in trans-Atlantic discourse. She then directed her gaze back to her homeland in subsequent publications, including Knowing their Place: Domestic Service in Twentieth Century Britain (Oxford 2011) and the 2013 Palgrave release, Men, Masculinities and Religious Change in Britain since 1890, Delap explore another expression of gender altogether. The breadth of her scholarship – women and men, intellectual elites and domestic servants, adults and children – prepared her to write this broad but fairly concise work of history. Enjoy our lively discussion! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
70 years ago, the philosopher Theodore Adorno and a team of scholars released a massive book titled The Authoritarian Personality (Verso, 2019), which attempted to map the psychological and emotional dynamics of those who might find themselves seduced by authoritarianism. The book synthesized both empirical psychology and sociology, relying on massive sets of data, with psychoanalytic models of personality so as to approach their subjects with a set of deep hermeneutic tools. The result is a book that is both both data-driven and speculative, and covers a vast swatch of theoretical territory. It was recently republished by Verso books, with a new introduction by Peter Gordon. Charles Clavey, a lecturer in social studies at Harvard University, whose research focuses on critical theory and the history of authoritarianism. His writing has appeared in a number of places including Modern Intellectual History, The LA Review of Books and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Stephen Dozeman is a freelance writer. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Keynes was not only an economist but the preeminent anti-authoritarian thinker of the 20th century, one who devoted his life to the belief that art and ideas could conquer war and deprivation. As a moral philosopher, political theorist, and statesman, Keynes led an extraordinary life that took him from intimate turn-of-the-century parties in London's Bloomsbury art scene to the fevered negotiations in Paris that shaped the Treaty of Versailles, from stock market crashes on two continents to diplomatic breakthroughs in the mountains of New Hampshire to wartime ballet openings at London's extravagant Covent Garden. Along the way, he reinvented Enlightenment liberalism to meet the harrowing crises of the 20th century and, in the United States, his ideas became both the foundation of a burgeoning economics profession and a flash point in the broader political struggle of the Cold War. Part biography and part intellectual history, Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes (Random House, 2020) from journalist Zachary Carter puts Keynes’s thinking on democracy and the good life into the centre of his thought with transformative implications for today's debates over inequality and the politics that shape the global order. Zachary D. Carter is a senior reporter at HuffPost, where he covers Congress, the White House, and economic policy. Tim Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Global Advisors (FT Group) in London. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The Hasidic leader R. Nachman of Braslav (1772–1810) has held a place in the Jewish popular imagination for more than two centuries. Some see him as the (self-proclaimed) Messiah, others as the forerunner of modern Jewish literature. Existing studies struggle between these dueling readings, largely ignoring questions of aesthetics and politics in his work. Permanent Beginning: R. Nachman of Braslav and Jewish Literary Modernity (SUNY Press, 2020) lays out a new paradigm for understanding R. Nachman’s thought and writing, and, with them, the beginnings of Jewish literary modernity. Yitzhak Lewis examines the connections between imperial modernization processes in Eastern Europe at the turn of the eighteenth century and the emergence of “modern literature” in the storytelling of R. Nachman. Reading his tales and teachings alongside the social, legal, and intellectual history of the time, the book’s guiding question is literary: How does R. Nachman represent this changing environment in his writing? Lewis paints a nuanced and fascinating portrait of a literary thinker and creative genius at the very moment his world was evolving unrecognizably. He argues compellingly that R. Nachman’s narrative response to his changing world was a major point of departure for Jewish literary modernity. Yitzhak Lewis is Assistant Professor of Humanities at Duke Kunshan University, China. Dr. Yakir Englander is 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 at:   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Oded Y. Steinberg (DPhil Oxford) is a fellow at the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Next year (2020-21), Steinberg will begin his joint tenure-track position at the Department of International Relations and the European Forum at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Steinberg’s research, as an intellectual historian of international relations, is primarily focused on the exchange of ideas across social and national borders in modern Britain and central Europe. Within this framework, his publications have explored various aspects of British and central European intellectual, cultural and diplomatic history. His book Race, Nation, History: Anglo-German Thought in the Victorian Era (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) focuses on two intertwined themes. First, he analyses the emergence of a particular notion of a “Teutonic” identity among a group of scholars in England and Germany, and how they utilized this notion in their identification of their own national communities. Second, he shows how the consideration of this “Teutonic” identity corresponded with these scholars’ idiosyncratic perception of historical periodization. In exploring these themes, the book develops a novel argument that highlights the intersections between modern ideas of periodization, on the one hand, and modern perceptions of “race,” on the other. Therefore, it sheds light on a unique yet overlooked aspect of the modern racial and national identity discourse as it was developed by various Anglo-German Victorian scholars.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In this episode, we talk with Michael Gubser about the pioneering art historian Alois Riegl, one of Eisler’s teachers in Vienna and a major influence on his thought. Then we look at Eisler’s first work on the history of religions, World Mantle and Heavenly Canopy, a massive two-volume study of ancient cosmology published in 1910. In the second half, we turn to Orpheus the Fisher: Comparative Studies in Orphic and Early Christian Cult Symbolism, larger questions about the figure of Orpheus and the idea of a widespread cult devoted to his worship in the ancient world, and even larger questions about what we can learn from “outdated” scholarship. Voice of Robert Eisler: Caleb Crawford Additional voices: Brian Evans Music: “Shibbolet Baseda,” recorded by Elyakum Shapirra and His Israeli Orchestra. Guests: Michael Gubser (James Madison University) Vladimir Marchenkov (Ohio University School of Interdisciplinary Arts) and Radcliffe G. Edmonds, III (Paul Shorey Professor of Greek and Chair of the Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College) Funding provided by the Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program. Special thanks to the Warburg Institute and the Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford. Bibliography and Further Reading --Edmonds, Radcliffe G. Redefining Ancient Orphism: A Study in Greek Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. --Eisler, Robert. Orpheus the Fisher: Comparative Studies in Orphic and Early Christian Cult Symbolism. London: J. M. Watkins, 1921. ———. Weltenmantel und Himmelszelt: Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur Urgeschichte des antiken Weltbildes. [World Cloak and Heavenly Canopy: Investigations into the Ancient Worldview through the History of Religions].Two Volumes. Munich: Oscar Beck, 1910.  --Gubser, Michael. Time’s Visible Surface: Alois Riegl and the Discourse on History and Temporality in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna. Detroit: Wayne State Press, 2006. --Marchenkov, Vladimir. The Orpheus Myth and the Powers of Music. Hillsdale, NY : Pendragon Press, 2009. Follow us on Twitter: @averysquarepeg Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at collinb1@ohio,edu. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt (Harvard University Press, 2019), Alec Ryrie, the award-winning author of Protestants offers a new vision of the birth of the secular age, looking to the feelings of ordinary men and women―so often left out of the history of atheism. Why have societies that were once overwhelmingly Christian become so secular? We think we know the answer, but in this lively and startlingly original reconsideration, Alec Ryrie argues that people embraced unbelief much as they have always chosen their worldviews: through their hearts more than their minds. Looking back to the crisis of the Reformation and beyond, Unbelievers shows how, long before philosophers started to make the case for atheism, powerful cultural currents were challenging traditional faith. These tugged in different ways not only on celebrated thinkers such as Machiavelli, Montaigne, Hobbes, and Pascal, but on men and women at every level of society whose voices we hear through their diaries, letters, and court records. Ryrie traces the roots of atheism born of anger, a sentiment familiar to anyone who has ever cursed a corrupt priest, and of doubt born of anxiety, as Christians discovered their faith was flimsier than they had believed. As the Reformation eroded time-honored certainties, Protestant radicals defended their faith by redefining it in terms of ethics. In the process they set in motion secularizing forces that soon became transformational. Unbelievers tells a powerful emotional history of doubt with potent lessons for our own angry and anxious age. Alec Ryrie is Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, specializing in the history of Protestant Christianity, England and Scotland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Dr. Yakir Englander is 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 at: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Macbeth in Harlem: Black Theater in America from the Beginning to Raisin in the Sun (Rutgers University Press, 2020) by Clifford Mason, celebrated actor, director, writer, and playwright, and author of thirty-four plays, is a sweeping history of Black theatre from the early nineteenth century through 1959. With an “Introduction” section, and six concise chapters, Macbeth in Harlem traverses such subjects as the Black hero, plot, narrative, and the African American intellectual in the history of African American theater including an entire chapter on Paul Robeson. From the Black Shakespearean troupe formed in 1821 Greenwich Village, that performed Richard III, Othello, and Macbeth in the 1820s, through the emergence of minstrelsy in the mid-nineteenth century, to the work of Robeson and Lorraine Hansberry at the rise of the Civil Rights Era, Mason tells the story of Black performers, and intellectuals, in the development of American theater. He details how integral Black artists have been in the history of American theater while “fighting against the odds” to demand freedom of expression and human dignity. In the first chapter, Mason discusses early Black theater and theater troupes in Greenwich Village which was a center of Black life within the Manhattan section of New York City in the early nineteenth century. The African Grove Theatre, as Mason notes, was a group of Black actors including James Hewlett and Ira Aldridge that performed Macbeth as a “the heart of their repertoire” (9). This group was self-sustaining and produced shows without the support of white benefactors. Both Hewlett and Aldridge rose to acclaim and were recognized for their craft by the larger entertainment world. The evolution of minstrelsy in the long nineteenth century is the focus of Chapter Two and the degradation of the Black image as illustrated with the proliferation of stereotypes that emerged at this time. Minstrel shows led to the rise of the Tom shows then the “coon” shows amid the collapse of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow in the late nineteenth century. African Americans and the rise of vaudeville and the musical through the New Negro Era is the focus of the next chapter. Mason assiduously notes the impact that Black actors and entertainers had on the development of musical theater in America in this Third Chapter of the book. The final three chapters focus on Black theater in the twentieth century including some discussion of milestones such as Lorraine Hansberry’s Raison in the Son and the rise and fall of Paul Robeson. Macbeth in Harlem is a noteworthy text that reveals some unknown history about the integral place of African Americans in the history of American theater. It is easily a text that might be used in courses on African American history, theater history, and American intellectual history. Hettie V. Williams Ph.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. She has published book chapters, essays, and edited/authored five books. Her latest publications include Bury My Heart in a Free Land: Black Women Intellectuals in Modern U.S. History (Praeger, 2017) and, with Dr. G. Reginald Daniel, professor of historical sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Race and the Obama Phenomenon: The Vision of a More Perfect Multiracial Union (University Press of Mississippi 2014). You can follow Dr. Williams on Twitter:  @DrHettie2017   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Analyzing a wide variety of late-nineteenth-century sources, Sex, Skulls, and Citizens: Gender and Racial Science in Argentina (1860-1910) (Vanderbilt University Press, 2020) argues that Argentine scientific projects of the era were not just racial encounters, but were also conditioned by sexual relationships in all their messy, physical reality. The writers studied here (an eclectic group of scientists, anthropologists, and novelists, including Estanislao Zeballos, Lucio and Eduarda Mansilla, Ramón Lista, and Florence Dixie reflect on Indigenous sexual practices, analyze the advisability and effects of interracial sex, and use the language of desire to narrate encounters with Indigenous peoples as they try to scientifically pinpoint Argentina's racial identity and future potential. Kerr's reach extends into history of science, literary studies, and history of anthropology, illuminating a scholarly time and place in which the lines betwixt were much blurrier, if they existed at all. Ashley Kerr is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Idaho. Candela Marini is an Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and Spanish at MSOE University. You can tweet her and suggest books at @MariniCandela Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In her new book Inhaling Spirit: Harmonialism, Orientalism, and the Western Roots of Modern Yoga (Oxford University Press, 2020), Anya Foxen traces several disparate yet entangled roots of modern yoga practice to show that much of what we call yoga in the West stems not only from pre-modern Indian yoga traditions, but also from Hellenistic theories of the subtle body, Western esotericism and magic, pre-modern European medicine, and late-nineteenth-century women's wellness programs. As such, this book richly contributes to the discussion of cultural appropriation as pertains to modern Western yoga. Anya Foxen is Assistant Professor, California Polytechnic State University. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Philip A. Craig’s new book on John Owen, the premier puritan theologian, demonstrates how carefully his subject tracked the influence of antinomianism in his writing. Craig’s book roots Owen’s ideas of conversion in Augustine and Calvin. The Bond of Grace and Duty in the Soteriology of John Owen (Founders Press, 2020) shows how the seventeenth-century divine argued for “preparation for grace” – the idea that those seeking conversion should “put themselves in the way of grace” by attending sermons and reading Scripture – while also arguing that Christians should make special efforts to “prepare for glory.” Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests focus on the history of puritanism and evangelicalism, and he is the author most recently of f John Owen and English Puritanism (Oxford University Press, 2016).      Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The idea of a single scientific method, shared across specialties and teachable to ten-year-olds, is just over a hundred years old. For centuries prior, science had meant a kind of knowledge, made from facts gathered through direct observation or deduced from first principles. But during the nineteenth century, science came to mean something else: a way of thinking.  The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey (Harvard University Press, 2020) tells the story of how this approach took hold in laboratories, the field, and eventually classrooms, where science was once taught as a natural process.  Henry M. Cowles reveals the intertwined histories of evolution and experiment, from Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection to John Dewey’s vision for science education. Darwin portrayed nature as akin to a man of science, experimenting through evolution, while his followers turned his theory onto the mind itself. Psychologists reimagined the scientific method as a problem-solving adaptation, a basic feature of cognition that had helped humans prosper. This was how Dewey and other educators taught science at the turn of the twentieth century—but their organic account was not to last. Soon, the scientific method was reimagined as a means of controlling nature, not a product of it. By shedding its roots in evolutionary theory, the scientific method came to seem far less natural, but far more powerful.  This book reveals the origin of a fundamental modern concept. Once seen as a natural adaptation, the method soon became a symbol of science’s power over nature, a power that, until recently, has rarely been called into question.  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.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Aaron Kamugisha reads CLR James and Sylvia Wynter to glean from them ways to navigate the “beyond” of coloniality. In his new book Beyond Coloniality: Citizenship and Freedom in the Caribbean Intellectual Tradition (Indiana University Press, 2019), reminds us of a Caribbean radical tradition that is fiercely critical of racism, middle-class complacencies and the incursions of neoliberalism. It is also full of hope, and brings our attention to James’ “newforms of existence that are a gift of the Caribbean to the world” as well as Wynter’s enormous contribution to our understanding of the black experience in the Americas. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In this episode (# 2), we discuss Eisler’s early years as a member of the Jewish bourgeoisie in turn-of-the-century Vienna with historian Steven Beller. We also hear from the closest living relative of Robert Eisler, his grand-nephew Richard Regen. Philosopher Tom Hurka provides some background for understanding the arguments Eisler is making in Studies in Value Theory, especially his critiques of hedonism and aesthetic philosophy. Finally, we look at the events surrounding Eisler’s dramatic arrest and trial for attempted art theft in Udine in 1907 and discuss its short- and long-term consequences. Voice of Robert Eisler: Caleb Crawford Additional voices: Brian Evans Editing and engineering: March Washelesky Music: “Shibbolet Baseda,” recorded by Elyakum Shapirra and his Israeli Orchestra. Guests: Steven Beller (independent scholar), Tom Hurka (Chancellor Henry N. R. Jackman Distinguished Professor of Philosophical Studies at the University of Toronto), Richard Regen (grand-nephew of Robert and Lili Eisler). Funding provided by the Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program. Special thanks to the Warburg Institute, the Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford, and to the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. Bibliography and further reading: -Beller, Steven, ed. Rethinking Vienna 1900. New York: Berghahn Books, 2012. -Beller, Steven. Vienna and the Jews, 1867–1938: A Cultural History. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1989. -Eisler, Robert. “The Empiric Basis of Moral Obligation.” Ethics, Vol. 59, No. 2, Part 1 (Jan., 1949), pp. 77-94. -Eisler, Robert. “Der Wille zum Schmerz, Ein psychologisches Paradox.” Jahresbericht der Philosophischen Gesellschaft an der Universitat zu Wien (1904), pp. 63-79. -Eisler, Robert. Studien zur Werttheorie. Leipzig: Verlag von Duncker & Humblot, 1902. -Fabian, Reinhard and Peter M. Simons. “The Second Austrian School of Value Theory.” In Austrian Economics: Historical and Philosophical Background, ed. by Wolfgang Grassl and Barry Smith, pp. 29-78. Washington Square, NY: New York University Press, 1986. -Frondzi, Risieri. What Is Value? An Introduction to Axiology. Second edition. La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, 1971. -Grassl, Wolfgang. “Toward a Unified Theory of Value: From Austrian Economics to Austrian Philosophy.” Paper presented at 19th-20th Century Austrian Thought and its Legacy, November 1-3, 2012, University of Texas at Arlington. Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Black Political Thought: From David Walker to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2020) is a nuanced and long-needed anthology interrogates the “never ending issue” of the unequal positioning of black Americans by combining primary documents that highlight black political ideas and ideals with incisive scholarly commentary. In words of the editor, this collection “focuses how and why blacks in the United States, as individuals and as a group, have historically conceptualized, analyzed, and responded to the ill will of ordinary whites those in power who through laws, policies and customs, and cultural practice have made blacks into inferior beings as a justification to deny them their rights of equality, in such a way that the interest of the dominant class are upheld and preserved and which today have not disappeared.” Highlighting the importance of resistance, the book begins with David Walker and – using thematic chapters – ends in the 21st century. The book aims to make sense of past, present, and future concerns that have and continue to inform and shape the political in black thinking. There is no better time to read this anthology. Each section opens with a scholarly essay that provides context as well as insightful interpretation that connects the primary documents. The book masterfully brings together accomplished scholars from multiple disciplines: Political Science; Multicultural and Gender Studies; History; English; and African, Africana, and African American Studies. Thoughtfully designed as a book for students as well as general readers, Black Political Thought, combines accessibility and clarity with challenging interpretation and further readings for each section. The podcast features Sherrow O. Pinder (editor and author of “Key Concepts, Ideas, and Issues that have Formed Black Political Thought” and “Feminism and Difference”), Charisse Burden-Stelly (author of “Race and Racism”), Babacar M’Baye (author of “Black Nationalism”), and Brenda E. Stevenson (author of “Slavery and Its Discontents”). The book includes essays by Nikki L. M. Brown (“Reconstruction”) and Erica Cooper (“Past, Present, and Future Issues”). We recorded our conversation the day of Mr. George Floyd’s funeral and the invited scholars connect these centuries of thought to the ideals and practices that remain contradictory in the USA – as well as a tradition of black intellectual resistance. Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013) and, most recently, “Retreat from the Rule of Law: Locke and the Perils of Stand Your Ground” in the Journal of Politics (August 2020). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum America (NYU Press, 2019) is an intellectual and cultural history of the educational activism of African American women and girls in the long nineteenth century. Kabria Baumgartner focuses her narrative on the actions of “African American women and girls living in the antebellum Northeast” in cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. These women including individuals such as Sarah Mapps Douglas and Sarah Parker Remond wrote essays about education, built schools, and became educators in their own right while living their lives with a “sense of purpose” defined as a “purposeful womanhood”. Activism is “broadly construed” by the author to note that Black women engaged in “concerted efforts to procure advancing schooling (beyond the primary level) and teaching opportunities for themselves and their community”. Baumgartner notes that not only did these women advocate for entrance into educational institutions for themselves, but that they also developed schools that welcomed students of all races. In this text, the author essentially traces the historical development of victories against segregation won at the state and local level, in the educational system, a century before the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education, Topeka Kansas in 1954 that helped to make the Civil Rights Movement a mass movement across the United States (U.S.). Baumgartner, in her text, importantly notes that these achievements gained in the nineteenth century were the result of both individual and collective efforts of Black women such as Sarah Harris, Mary E. Miles, Serena de Grasse, Rosetta Morrison, Sarah Parker Remond, Susan Paul, Sarah Mapps Douglass and Charlotte Forten. This text is concisely organized around two major sections and six chapters with an “Introduction” and a “Conclusion.” Baumgartner reads the activism of Black women in the nineteenth century as “continuous and dynamic, becoming more and more organized” by the mid-nineteenth century. For women such as Sarah Harris, profiled in Chapter One of the text, the schoolhouse was both “an extension of the home and a defining civic space” or place for these women to define a purposeful womanhood. Harris and other Black women who helped to integrate schools in Connecticut such as the Canterbury Female Boarding School did so with the larger goal of securing rights as citizens beyond the schoolhouse. Baumgartner weaves together a network of Black women activists in her narrative who forged a collective attack against school segregation and laid the foundations for the ideology of a beloved community moving beyond the schoolhouse that eventually became the intellectual basis for the Black freedom struggle in the twentieth century. She does this by reading an array of sources against the grain including census records, letters, pamphlets, school records, annual reports, almanacks, petitions, newspapers, abolitionist literature and published writings. Hettie V. Williams PhD 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. She has published book chapters, essays, and edited/authored five books. Her latest publications include Bury My Heart in a Free Land: Black Women Intellectuals in Modern U.S. History (Praeger, 2017) and, with Dr G. Reginald Daniel, professor of historical sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Race and the Obama Phenomenon: The Vision of a More Perfect Multiracial Union (University Press of Mississippi 2014). Website: Follow me on twitter: @DrHettie2017 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Do you have an active intellectual life? That is a question you may feel uncomfortable answering these days given that the very phrase “intellectual life” can strike some people as pretentious or self-indulgent, even irresponsible in a time of pandemic disease. But what better time could there be for an examination of the subject of the inner life? And what is “the intellectual life,” anyway? In her 2020 book, Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life (Princeton University Press, 2020), Zena Hitz explores the interior world and shows that intellectual endeavor is not simply a matter of reading by oneself but can encompass everything from a lifelong fascination with falcons to strategies for retaining one’s sanity and humanity in a gulag or producing ground-breaking political and sociological writings in a prison cell in Mussolini’s Italy. In the course of her book, Hitz deploys real-world examples from young Einstein in his day job in a Swiss patent office to Malcolm X’s encounter with the fellow prison inmate who first urged him to embark on a life-changing course of reading to Dorothy Day’s encounters with books throughout her life and their influence on her youthful secular radicalism to her conversion to Catholicism and continued activism. We also encounter St. Augustine and take a deep dive into Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels and travel with a Preston Sturges hero in a screwball comedy/social commentary film. Hitz’s reader-friendly examination of the intellectual life is ideal reading for the millions of us confined to our homes due to the coronavirus and who now have time to read and think seriously about matters of mortality and the meaning of life, which are suddenly front and center in our daily lives. And at a time of pandemic-related economic peril for liberal arts colleges and programs, Hitz’s take on what ailed them even before our current crisis and her prescription for a way forward for those that survive the next several years are must reading for not only academics but all citizens who care about how civilization itself carries on. Give a listen. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Lara Harb’s Arabic Poetics: Aesthetic Experience in Classical Arabic Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2020) is a delightful and formidable study on the details and development of poetics and aesthetics in medieval Arabic literature. The central theme of this splendid book centers on the emergence of the evocation of wonder as a key aesthetic experience and criterion connected to the beauty and eloquence of speech in medieval Muslim intellectual thought. With breathtaking clarity and painstaking elaboration, Harb charts the key literary tropes, categories, and strategies, as well as the broader intellectual and theological stakes, such as the question of the Qur’an’s inimitability, invested in how poetry was imagined, experienced, and evaluated in this context. The strength of this book lies in the meticulous care with which it walks readers through a complex yet deeply fascinating discursive arcade of thinkers, texts, and poetic registers. While focused on the thought of the preeminent eleventh century scholar ‘Abd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī, Arabic Poetics presents and explores a panoply of scholars and texts situated at the intersection of religion, and literature. Written with sparkling clarity, this book will also make an excellent text to teach in various undergraduate and graduate courses on the Muslim Humanities, Arabic, Religion and Literature, and Religious Studies more broadly. SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize. His other academic publications are available here. He can be reached at Listener feedback is most welcome. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Challenging incarceration and policing was central to the post-war Black Freedom Movement. In his new book Those Who Know Don't Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement, and the Carceral State (UNC Press, 2020), Garrett Felber centers the Nation in the Civil Rights Era and the making of the modern carceral state. In doing so, he reveals a multifaceted freedom struggle that focused as much on policing and prisons as on school desegregation and voting rights. The book examines efforts to build broad-based grassroots coalitions among liberals, radicals, and nationalist to oppose the carceral state and struggle for local Black self-determination. It captures the ambiguous place of the Nation of Islam specifically, and Black nationalist organizing more broadly, during an era which has come to redefined by non-violent resistance, desegregation campaigns, and racial liberalism. By provocatively documenting the interplay between law enforcement and Muslim communities, Felber decisively shows state repression and Muslim organizing laid the groundwork for the modern carceral state and the contemporary prison abolition movement which opposes it. Exhaustively researched, the book illuminates new sites and forms of political struggle as Muslims prayed under surveillance in prison yards and used courtroom political theatre to put the state on trial. This history captures familiar figures in new ways Malcolm X the courtroom lawyer and A. Philip Randolph the Harlem coalition builder while highlighting the forgotten organizing of rank and file activists in prisons such as Martin Sostre. This definitive account is an urgent reminder that Islamophobia, state surveillance, and police violence have deep roots in the state repression of Black communities during the mid-20th century. Adam McNeil is a 3rd year Early African American History PhD Student at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In his sixth thesis on the philosophy of history, Walter Benjamin wrote, “The only writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past, is the one who is convinced of this: that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious.” Edgar Garcia is one such historian…and if you’re not yet convinced of Benjamin’s dictum, you should listen to this interview. In Signs of the Americas: A Poetics of Pictography, Hieroglyphs and Khipu (University of Chicago Press, 2019) Garcia sets sparks flying by inviting us to explore the literature and theory created by 20th and 21st century writers who deploy sign systems that, according to the creation myth of European hegemony, alphabetized thought supposedly superseded and destroyed. Akin to Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic in ambition and originality, Signs of the Americas not only pries open a fascinating archive but also forces us to question the organizational principles that govern intellectual history and cultural criticism in this hemisphere. In this interview, we discuss work by Jaime de Angulo, Cecilia Vicuña, John Borrows, and Gloria Anzaldúa, as well as Garcia’s own Skins of Columbus: A Dream Ethnography (Fence Books, 2019), which serves as a kind of poetic companion to Signs. David Gutherz is a Teaching Fellow in Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His research deals with the history of the human sciences, with a special interest in how intellectuals have aided and undermined authoritarian movements. You can find out more about his work at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Dee M

Why wouldn't women want to join the proud boys based on an intellectual assessment of their manifesto? Why must they have internalised sexism? Daft. But thanks for introducing me to some great alt-right thinkers!

Sep 12th
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