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Interviews with Historians about their New Books

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    • Society & Culture

Interviews with Historians about their New Books

    Robert Darnton, "Pirating and Publishing: The Book Trade in the Age of Enlightenment" (Oxford UP, 2021)

    Robert Darnton, "Pirating and Publishing: The Book Trade in the Age of Enlightenment" (Oxford UP, 2021)

    In the late-18th century, a group of publishers in what historian Robert Darnton calls the "Fertile Crescent" — countries located along the French border, stretching from Holland to Switzerland — pirated the works of prominent (and often banned) French writers and distributed them in France, where laws governing piracy were in flux and any notion of "copyright" very much in its infancy. Piracy was entirely legal and everyone acknowledged — tacitly or openly — that these pirated editions of works by Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot, among other luminaries, supplied a growing readership within France, one whose needs could not be met by the monopolistic and tightly controlled Paris Guild.
    Darnton's book Pirating and Publishing: The Book Trade in the Age of Enlightenment (Oxford UP, 2021) focuses principally on a publisher in Switzerland, one of the largest and whose archives are the most complete. Through the lens of this concern, he offers a sweeping view of the world of writing, publishing, and especially bookselling in pre-Revolutionary France--a vibrantly detailed inside look at a cut-throat industry that was struggling to keep up with the times and, if possible, make a profit off them. Featuring a fascinating cast of characters — lofty idealists and down-and-dirty opportunists — this new book expands upon on Darnton's celebrated work on book-publishing in France, most recently found in Literary Tour de France. Pirating and Publishing reveals how and why piracy brought the Enlightenment to every corner of France, feeding the ideas that would explode into revolution.
    Zach McCulley (@zamccull) is a historian of religion and literary cultures in early modern England and PhD candidate in History at Queen's University Belfast.
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    • 51 min
    Fabio Rambelli, "The Sea and the Sacred in Japan: Aspects of Maritime Religion" (Bloomsbury, 2018)

    Fabio Rambelli, "The Sea and the Sacred in Japan: Aspects of Maritime Religion" (Bloomsbury, 2018)

    In The Sea and the Sacred in Japan: Aspects of Maritime Religion (Bloomsbury 2018), Fabio Rambelli invites various fifteen scholars of Japanese religions to reflect on a well taken-for-granted fact: although the sea has always been a critical source of religious inspirations for Japan, the study of Japanese religions has chosen to turn its attention away from the sea and in the process, became essentially continental and landlocked. 
    In fifteen chapters, this edited volume re-centers the study of Japanese religions on the coastal peripheries and calls for a geo-philosophy of the sea, or, a thalassosophy. Rambelli reminds us that "there is no sustained study in the intellectual history of the sea in Japan," and in fact, "we know very little about Japanese conceptualizations of the sea, not only in religious thought, but also in cosmology and premodern scientific discourses." This edited volume is thus an attempt to fill this knowledge gap and is the first book of its kind to focus on the role of the sea in Japanese religions. 
    Daigengna Duoer is a Ph.D. student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. 
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    • 1 hr 13 min
    Fiona Greenland, "Ruling Culture: Art Police, Tomb Raiders, and the Rise of Cultural Power in Italy" (U of Chicago Press, 2021)

    Fiona Greenland, "Ruling Culture: Art Police, Tomb Raiders, and the Rise of Cultural Power in Italy" (U of Chicago Press, 2021)

    Today we are joined by Fiona Greenland, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, to talk about her new book, Ruling Culture: Art Police, Tomb Raiders, and the Rise of Cultural Power in Italy (University of Chicago Press, 2021).
    Through much of its history, Italy was Europe’s heart of the arts, an artistic playground for foreign elites and powers who bought, sold, and sometimes plundered countless artworks and antiquities. This loss of artifacts looted by other nations once put Italy at an economic and political disadvantage compared with northern European states. Now, more than any other country, Italy asserts control over its cultural heritage through a famously effective art-crime squad that has been the inspiration of novels, movies, and tv shows. In its efforts to bring their cultural artifacts home, Italy has entered into legal battles against some of the world’s major museums, including the Getty, New York’s Metropolitan Museum, and the Louvre. It has turned heritage into patrimony capital—a powerful and controversial convergence of art, money, and politics.

    In 2006, the then-president of Italy declared his country to be “the world’s greatest cultural power.” With Ruling Culture, Fiona Greenland traces how Italy came to wield such extensive legal authority, global power, and cultural influence—from the nineteenth century unification of Italy and the passage of novel heritage laws, to current battles with the international art market. Today, Italy’s belief in its cultural superiority is evident through interactions between citizens, material culture, and the state—crystallized in the Art Squad, the highly visible military-police art protection unit. Greenland reveals the contemporary actors in this tale, taking a close look at the Art Squad and state archaeologists on one side and unauthorized excavators, thieves, and smugglers on the other. Drawing on years in Italy interviewing key figures and following leads, Greenland presents a multifaceted story of art crime, cultural diplomacy, and struggles between international powers.
    Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.
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    • 58 min
    Candacy Taylor, "Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America" (Abrams Press, 2020)

    Candacy Taylor, "Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America" (Abrams Press, 2020)

    Today I talked to Candacy Taylor about her book Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America (Abrams Press, 2020).
    Taylor is an award-winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian. She’s been a fellow at Harvard University under the direction of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and her projects have been funded by organizations ranging from National Geographic to The National Endowment for the Humanities. Her work has received extensive media coverage in places like the PBS Newshour and The New Yorker.
    This episode covers the African-American travel guidebook made famous by the Academy-award-winning movie Green Book. Taylor’s book more accurately and completely covers the more than 10,000 former black- and white-owned businesses establishments that served black travelers during the era from 1936-1967, when editions of the guidebook helped black motorists find gas stations, restaurants and lodging that catered to them in segregated America. The episode also addresses the reasons why 75% of those sites are now gone, falling victim to everything from urban renewal and redlining to soaring incarceration rates that have devasted black communities across America.
    Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of eight books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. (https://www.sensorylogic.com). To check out his related “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” blog, visit https://emotionswizard.com.
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    • 37 min
    Debashree Mukherjee, "Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City" (Columbia UP, 2020)

    Debashree Mukherjee, "Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City" (Columbia UP, 2020)

    In 1935, the writer Baburao Patel writes the following about Bombay’s film industry:
    “In India, with financing conditions still precarious, the professional film distributor thrives. . . . He comes with a fortune made in share and cotton gambling, advances money to the producer at a killing rate of interest plus a big slice of royalty and recovers his investment by blackmailing the exhibitors into giving heavy and uneconomic minimum guarantees. His only aim in life is to multiply his rupee and in prosecuting this aim he does not worry about the future of the industry or about the existence of the producer or exhibitor.”
    It’s a hectic time for India’s film industry, as it is for films everywhere, as the silent era becomes the talking era. Debashree Mukherjee’s Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (Columbia University Press: 2020) examines this key period of India’s film industry, from finance and casting to screenwriting and production, and brings into view the experiences of the marginalised film workers and forgotten film studios that made up this early period of industry.
    In this interview, Debashree and I talk about the transition from silent to talking movies in Bombay, along with the historical context and working conditions for those in the city’s historical film industry.
    Those interested in learning more about the film industry in 1930s Bombay can visit the Wildcat of Bombay Instagram account at @wildcatofbombay (recommended by Debashree!)
    Debashree Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of film and media in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. Debashree edits the peer-reviewed journal BioScope and has published in journals such as Film History and Feminist Media Histories. In a previous life Debashree worked in Mumbai’s film and TV industries as an assistant director, writer, and cameraperson. More information can be found on Debashree’s website, and she can be followed on Twitter at @Debashree2017.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Bombay Hustle. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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    • 43 min
    John D. Wilsey, "God's Cold Warrior: The Life and Faith of John Foster Dulles" (Eardmans, 2021)

    John D. Wilsey, "God's Cold Warrior: The Life and Faith of John Foster Dulles" (Eardmans, 2021)

    When John Foster Dulles died in 1959, he was given the largest American state funeral since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s in 1945. President Eisenhower called Dulles—his longtime secretary of state—“one of the truly great men of our time,” and a few years later the new commercial airport outside Washington, DC, was christened the Dulles International Airport in his honor. His star has fallen significantly since that time, but his influence remains indelible—most especially regarding his role in bringing the worldview of American exceptionalism to the forefront of US foreign policy during the Cold War era, a worldview that has long outlived him. 
    God's Cold Warrior: The Life and Faith of John Foster Dulles (Eardmans, 2021) recounts how Dulles’s faith commitments from his Presbyterian upbringing found fertile soil in the anti-communist crusades of the mid-twentieth century. After attending the Oxford Ecumenical Church Conference in 1937, he wrote about his realization that “the spirit of Christianity, of which I learned as a boy, was really that of which the world now stood in very great need, not merely to save souls, but to solve the practical problems of international affairs.” Dulles believed that America was chosen by God to defend the freedom of all those vulnerable to the godless tyranny of communism, and he carried out this religious vision in every aspect of his diplomatic and political work. He was conspicuous among those US officials in the twentieth century that prominently combined their religious convictions and public service, making his life and faith key to understanding the interconnectedness of God and country in US foreign affairs from World War I to Vietnam.
    Zach McCulley (@zamccull) is a historian of religion and literary cultures in early modern England and PhD candidate in History at Queen's University Belfast.
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    • 1 hr 2 min

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