A series of interview with authors of new books from Princeton University Press
Shana Kushner Gadarian et al., "Pandemic Politics: The Deadly Toll of Partisanship in the Age of COVID" (Princeton UP, 2022)
None of us really want to relive our first encounters with COVID-19 and the disruptions to our lives, to say nothing of the anxiety and concern about the life-threatening nature of this virus as it spread around the globe. At the same time, Shana Kushner Gadarian, Sara Wallace Goodman, and Thomas B. Pepinsky ask us to reflect on our experiences and the responses to COVID-19 in the United States in their new book, Pandemic Politics: The Deadly Toll of Partisanship in the Age of COVID (Princeton UP, 2022). Kushner Gadarian, Wallace Goodman, and Pepinsky were able to put sizeable surveys into the field starting as early as March 2020, as the pandemic was taking hold in the United States and as our daily lives started to “shut down.” The three authors continued to send out the same survey to the same individuals over the course of the next two years, eventually pulling together data from six waves of surveys of some 3000 Americans. The center of the research design was to try to examine individual attitudes towards COVID-19 itself, and how people responded to the pandemic threat and the mitigation efforts. Because of the capacity to survey the same individuals over time, the authors were able to see the way that people changed their thinking as COVID itself mutated and re-situated itself in different parts of the country. The conclusion from all of this data and information is that, in the United States, partisanship swamped everything else in terms of how individuals thought about, reacted to, and responded to COVID-19.
Pandemic Politics explores the way that citizens were picking up on different signals from partisan leadership because there were differing approaches to how to handle and respond to COVID-19. This was unique in the United States in comparison to other countries. Because of competing messages coming from different authoritative individuals (like the president of the United States, governors, state and local level health authorities, CDC and NIH experts, etc.) and, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a significant knowledge gap as to what to do and how to keep ourselves safe, many Americans found themselves confused and concerned. As a result, the data indicates that Republicans and Democrats were hearing and seeing different information, different advice, and this continued and became more entrenched as the pandemic continued. The authors also note that the structural foundation for these partisan differences were already present before the pandemic—there were pre-existing conditions within the body politic that subsequently led to the sclerotic partisan reactions to the pandemic itself and to the efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Lilly J. Goren is a professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of the new book, The Politics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (University Press of Kansas, 2022). Email her comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @gorenlj.
Joseph Silk, "Back to the Moon: The Next Giant Leap for Humankind" (Princeton UP, 2022)
Just over half a century since Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the lunar surface, a new space race to the Moon is well underway and rapidly gaining momentum. Laying out a vision for the next fifty years, Back to the Moon: The Next Giant Leap for Humankind (Princeton UP, 2022) is astrophysicist Joseph Silk's persuasive and impassioned case for putting scientific discovery at the forefront of lunar exploration.
The Moon offers opportunities beyond our wildest imaginings, and plans to return are rapidly gaining momentum around the world. NASA aims to build a habitable orbiting space station to coordinate lunar development and exploration, while European and Chinese space agencies are planning lunar villages and the mining of precious resources dwindling here on Earth. Powerful international and commercial interests are driving the race to revisit the Moon, but lunar infrastructures could also open breathtaking vistas onto the cosmos. Silk describes how the colonization of the Moon could usher in a thrilling new age of scientific exploration, and lays out what the next fifty years of lunar science might look like. With lunar telescopes of unprecedented size situated in permanently dark polar craters and on the far side of the Moon, we could finally be poised to answer some of the most profound questions confronting humankind, including whether we are alone in the Universe and what our cosmic origins are.
Addressing both the daunting challenges and the immense promise of lunar exploration and exploitation, Back to the Moon reveals how prioritizing science, and in particular lunar astronomy, will enable us to address the deepest cosmic mysteries.
Mary Dunn, "Where Paralytics Walk and the Blind See: Stories of Sickness and Disability at the Juncture of Worlds" (Princeton UP, 2022)
In our age of biomedicine, society often treats sickness and disability as problems in need of solution. Phenomena of embodied difference, however, have not always been seen in terms of lack and loss. Where Paralytics Walk and the Blind See: Stories of Sickness and Disability at the Juncture of Worlds (Princeton UP, 2022) explores the case of early modern Catholic Canada under French rule and shows it to be a period rich with alternative understandings of infirmity, disease, and death. Counternarratives to our contemporary assumptions, these early modern stories invite us to creatively imagine ways of living meaningfully with embodied difference today.
At the heart of Dunn's account are a range of historical sources: Jesuit stories of illness in New France, an account of Canada's first hospital, the hagiographic vita of Catherine de Saint-Augustin, and tales of miraculous healings wrought by a dead Franciscan friar. In an early modern world that subscribed to a Christian view of salvation, both sickness and disability held significance for more than the body, opening opportunities for virtue, charity, and even redemption. Dunn demonstrates that when these reflections collide with modern thinking, the effect is a certain kind of freedom to reimagine what sickness and disability might mean to us.
Reminding us that the meanings we make of embodied difference are historically conditioned, Where Paralytics Walk and the Blind See makes a forceful case for the role of history in broadening our imagination.
Brenna Moore teaches in the Department of Theology at Fordham University and works in the areas of Catholic Intellectual History, particularly in modern Europe.
Eric Tagliocozzo, "In Asian Waters: Oceanic Worlds from Yemen to Yokohama" (Princeton UP, 2022)
In the nineteenth century, one group of American merchants reported an odd request from the Vietnamese emperor. An envoy asked if the traders could help procure a commodity brought by a previous delegation: a precious good that turned out to be a bottle of Best Durham bottled mustard.
That’s one small anecdote in Eric Tagliocozzo’s latest book, In Asian Waters: Oceanic Worlds from Yemen to Yokohama (Princeton University Press: 2022), which charts hundreds of years of history across Asia’s waters, from the South China Sea through the Persian Gulf. Eric weaves together historical research and on-the-ground fieldwork to show how Asia’s oceans can be a better way to understand the region than its land borders.
In this interview, Eric and I talk about these Asian waters, stretching from the Middle East to East Asia, and the history and fieldwork that went into Eric’s book.
Eric Tagliacozzo is the John Stambaugh Professor of History at Cornell University. His many books include Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865–1915 (Yale University Press: 2009) and The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca (Oxford University Press: 2013).
You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of In Asian Waters. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
Nile Green, "The Love of Strangers: What Six Muslim Students Learned in Jane Austen's London" (Princeton UP, 2015)
In July 1815, six Iranian students arrived in London under the escort of their chaperone, Captain Joseph D'Arcy. Their mission was to master the modern sciences behind the rapid rise of Europe. Over the next four years, they lived both the low life and high life of Regency London, from being down and out after their abandonment by D’Arcy to charming their way into society and landing on the gossip pages. The Love of Strangers: What Six Muslim Students Learned in Jane Austen's London (Princeton UP, 2015) tells the story of their search for love and learning in Jane Austen’s England.
Drawing on the Persian diary of the student Mirza Salih and the letters of his companions, Nile Green vividly describes how these adaptable Muslim migrants learned to enjoy the opera and take the waters at Bath. But there was more than frivolity to their student years in London. Burdened with acquiring the technology to defend Iran against Russia, they talked their way into the observatories, hospitals, and steam-powered factories that placed England at the forefront of the scientific revolution. All the while, Salih dreamed of becoming the first Muslim to study at Oxford.
The Love of Strangers chronicles the frustration and fellowship of six young men abroad to open a unique window onto the transformative encounter between an Evangelical England and an Islamic Iran at the dawn of the modern age. This is that rarest of books about the Middle East and the West: a story of friendships.
Nile Green is professor of history at UCLA. His many books include Sufism: A Global History. He lives in Los Angeles.
Morteza Hajizadeh is a Ph.D. graduate in English from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests are Cultural Studies; Critical Theory; Environmental History; Medieval (Intellectual) History; Gothic Studies; 18th and 19th Century British Literature. YouTube Channel. Twitter.
Karen Bakker, "The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology Is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants" (Princeton UP, 2022)
The natural world teems with remarkable conversations, many beyond human hearing range. Scientists are using groundbreaking digital technologies to uncover these astonishing sounds, revealing vibrant communication among our fellow creatures across the Tree of Life.
At once meditative and scientific, The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology Is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants (Princeton UP, 2022)shares fascinating and surprising stories of nonhuman sound, interweaving insights from technological innovation and traditional knowledge. We meet scientists using sound to protect and regenerate endangered species from the Great Barrier Reef to the Arctic and the Amazon. We discover the shocking impacts of noise pollution on both animals and plants. We learn how artificial intelligence can decode nonhuman sounds, and meet the researchers building dictionaries in East African Elephant and Sperm Whalish. At the frontiers of innovation, we explore digitally mediated dialogues with bats and honeybees. Technology often distracts us from nature, but what if it could reconnect us instead?
The Sounds of Life offers hope for environmental conservation and affirms humanity's relationship with nature in the digital age. After learning about the unsuspected wonders of nature's sounds, we will never see walks outdoors in the same way again.