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Interviews with Biographers about their New Books

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Interviews with Biographers about their New Books

    M’hamed Oualdi, "A Slave between Empires: A Transimperial History of North Africa" (Columbia UP, 2020)

    M’hamed Oualdi, "A Slave between Empires: A Transimperial History of North Africa" (Columbia UP, 2020)

    In light of the profound physical and mental traumas of colonization endured by North Africans, historians of recent decades have primarily concentrated their studies of North Africa on colonial violence, domination, and shock. The choice is an understandable one. But in his new monograph, A Slave between Empires: A Transimperial History of North Africa (Columbia University Press, 2020), M’hamed Oualdi asks how a history of the modern Maghreb might look if we did not perceive it solely through the prism of European colonization, and argues that widening our gaze might force us to redefine our understanding of colonialism — and its limits.
    As a sequel of sorts to his first book, Oualdi explores the life and afterlife of one figure, the manumitted slave and Tunisian dignitary Husayn Ibn ‘Abdallah, as an aperture through which to understand the financial, intellectual, and kinship networks that mingled with processes of colonialism and Ottoman governance in unexpected ways to produce the modern Maghreb.
    A master class in how historians might untangle the relationship between the personal and the political, A Slave between Empires centers Husayn — and North Africa — at the crossroads of competing ambitions, imperial and intimate. Engaging with sources in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, and European languages, and corralling French, Tunisian, and Anglophone historiographies into one conversation, Oualdi’s newest book is not to be missed.
    M'hamed Oualdi is full professor at Sciences Po in Paris.
    Nancy Ko is a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow and a PhD student in History at Columbia University, where she examines the relationship between Jewish difference and (concepts of) philanthropy and property in the late- and post-Ottoman and Qajar Middle East. She can be reached at [nancy.ko@columbia.edu].
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    • 41 min
    Mitchell Nathanson, "Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original" (U Nebraska Press, 2020)

    Mitchell Nathanson, "Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original" (U Nebraska Press, 2020)

    Today we are joined by Dr. Mitchell Nathanson, author of the book Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original (University of Nebraska Press, 2020). Nathanson, a professor of law at the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports at Villanova University, examines the life of Jim Bouton, a journeyman pitcher whose 1970 book, “Ball Four,” was a lightning rod for controversy and became one of the best sports books of all time. Nathanson examines the dynamics behind the crafting and publishing of “Ball Four,” Bouton’s diary of the 1969 major league baseball season. He examines the contributions of Leonard Shecter, the former New York Post sportswriter who helped shape Bouton’s narrative. More importantly, Nathanson presents a more well-rounded portrait of Bouton, a free-thinking man who marched to his own beat and was not afraid to buck the establishment. Bouton’s youth, his early successes with the New York Yankees and fall from grace are chronicled. Well-researched with interviews from key figures in his lifetime, “Bouton” provides context and reveals the man behind a work that was vilified fifty years ago as a “kiss-and-tell” book but is now lauded as a sports classic. Nathanson brings fresh perspective and delivers an unvarnished, critical view of Bouton.
    Bob D’Angelo earned his master’s degree in history from Southern New Hampshire University in May 2018. He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida and spent more than three decades as a sportswriter and sports copy editor, including 28 years on the sports copy desk at The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. He is currently a digital news producer for Cox Media Group. Bob can be reached at bdangelo57@gmail.com. For more information, visit Bob D’Angelo’s Books and Blogs.
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    • 1 hr 17 min
    Brandon K. Winford, "John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights" (UP Kentucky, 2019)

    Brandon K. Winford, "John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights" (UP Kentucky, 2019)

    John Hervey Wheeler (1908–1978) was one of the civil rights movement's most influential leaders. In articulating a bold vision of regional prosperity grounded in full citizenship and economic power for African Americans, this banker, lawyer, and visionary would play a key role in the fight for racial and economic equality throughout North Carolina.
    Utilizing previously unexamined sources from the John Hervey Wheeler Collection at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, Brandon K. Winford's John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights (University Press of Kentucky, 2019) explores the black freedom struggle through the life of North Carolina's most influential black power broker. After graduating from Morehouse College, Wheeler returned to Durham and began a decades-long career at Mechanics and Farmers (M&F) Bank. He started as a teller and rose to become bank president in 1952. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Wheeler to the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, a position in which he championed equal rights for African Americans and worked with Vice President Johnson to draft civil rights legislation. One of the first blacks to attain a high position in the state's Democratic Party, Wheeler became the state party's treasurer in 1968, and then its financial director.
    Wheeler urged North Carolina's white financial advisors to steer the region toward the end of Jim Crow segregation for economic reasons. Straddling the line between confrontation and negotiation, Wheeler pushed for increased economic opportunity for African Americans while reminding the white South that its future was linked to the plight of black southerners.
    Today I talked to Brandon K. Winford
    Dr. Brandon K. Winford is an assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee. He is a historian of the late-nineteenth and twentieth-century United States and African American history with areas of specialization in civil rights and black business history.
    Adam McNeil is a PhD Student in colonial and revolutionary-era Black women’s history.
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    • 1 hr 19 min
    Derek Penslar, "Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader" (Yale UP, 2020)

    Derek Penslar, "Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader" (Yale UP, 2020)

    The life of Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) was as puzzling as it was brief. How did this cosmopolitan and assimilated European Jew become the leader of the Zionist movement? How could he be both an artist and a statesman, a rationalist and an aesthete, a stern moralist yet possessed of deep, and at times dark, passions? And why did scores of thousands of Jews, many of them from traditional, observant backgrounds, embrace Herzl as their leader?
    In his new book Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader (Yale UP, 2020), historian Derek Penslar shows that Herzl’s path to Zionism had as much to do with personal crises as it did with antisemitism. Once Herzl devoted himself to Zionism, Penslar shows, he distinguished himself as a consummate leader—possessed of indefatigable energy, organizational ability, and electrifying charisma. Herzl became a screen onto which Jews of his era could project their deepest needs and longings.
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    • 52 min
    Chris Fleming, "On Drugs" (Giramondo Publishing, 2019)

    Chris Fleming, "On Drugs" (Giramondo Publishing, 2019)

    "After I’d finished my rapid-fire history of self-justification he paused and then said, deadpan and rural-Australian-slow: 'Right. Ok. So how is that all working out for you?'"
    On Drugs (Giramondo Publishing, 2019) explores Australian philosopher Chris Fleming’s experience of addiction, which begins when he is a student at the University of Sydney and escalates into a life-threatening compulsion.
    In a memoir by turns insightful and outlandish, Fleming combines meticulous observation with a keen sense of the absurdity of his actions. He describes the intricacies of drug use and acquisition, the impact of drugs on the intellect and emotions, and the chaos that emerges as his tightly managed existence unravels into hospitalisations, arrests and family breakdown. His account is accompanied by searching reflections on his childhood, during which he developed acute obsessive compulsive disorder and became fixated on the rituals of martial arts, music-making and bodybuilding.
    In confronting the pathos and comedy of his drug use in Sydney, On Drugs also opens out into meditations on the self and its deceptions, religion, masculinity, mental illness, and the tortuous path to recovery.
    On Drugs is a uniquely Australian experience of a universal quest for oblivion.
    Dr Matthew Thompson is a literary journalism specialist recently with the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia but now based in the USA. Dr Thompson has a special focus on the conflict areas of the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao in the southern Philippines. He is the author of MAYHEM, Running With The Blood God, and My Colombian Death. For more information visit https://matthewthompsonwriting.com/
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    • 1 hr 16 min
    Nancy Mattina, "Uncommon Anthropologist: Gladys Reichard and Western Native American Culture" (U Oklahoma Press, 2019)

    Nancy Mattina, "Uncommon Anthropologist: Gladys Reichard and Western Native American Culture" (U Oklahoma Press, 2019)

    Protégé of Elsie Clews Parsons and Franz Boas, founder and head of Barnard College's anthropology department, and a trailblazer in Native American linguistics and anthropology, Gladys Reichard (1893–1955) is one of America’s least appreciated anthropologists. Her accomplishments were obscured in her lifetime by differences in intellectual approach and envy, as well as academic politics and the gender realities of her age. Reichard's approach to Native languages put her at odds with Edward Sapir, leader of the structuralist movement in American linguistics. Similarly, Reichard’s focus on Native psychology as revealed to her by Native artists and storytellers produced a dramatically different style of ethnography from that of Margaret Mead, who relied on western psychological archetypes to “crack” alien cultural codes, often at a distance.
    Nancy Mattina's Uncommon Anthropologist: Gladys Reichard and Western Native American Culture (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019) is the first full biography of Reichard, and examines her pathbreaking work in the ethnography of ritual and mythology; Wiyot, Coeur d’Alene, and Navajo linguistics; folk art, gender, and language; and her exceptional career of teaching, editing, publishing, and mentoring.
    In this episode of the podcast Nancy talk to host Alex Golub about Reichard's life, her remarkable ethnography Spider Woman, her career as a teacher (including as an instructor of Zora Neale Hurston), how academic politics can erase people from disciplinary memory, and why Reichard's 'humanitarian' values are needed now more than ever.
    Nancy Mattina holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics and is retired faculty and founder of the Writing & Learning Commons at Prescott College, Arizona. She is a contributor to Studies in Salish Linguistics in Honor of M. Dale Kinkade.
    Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is the author of the article "Welcoming the New Amateurs: A future (and past) for non-academic anthropologists" as well as other books and articles.
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    • 1 hr 5 min

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