Monthly Archives: October 2015

Beth Linker on War’s Waste in new documentary

October 30, 2015
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Beth Linker on War’s Waste in new documentary

On Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at 9PM EDT, Debt of Honor, a new documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Ric Burns will air on WHYY-TV. The film “takes an unflinching look at the reality of warfare and disability,” and features footage and interviews with prominent disabled veterans, including Representative Tammy Duckworth and former Georgia Senator Max Cleland. In addition, Debt of Honor also relies on the scholarship of some of our leading figures in disability studies, and to this end, includes an interview with Beth Linker, associate professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America.  Linker’s War’s Waste contextualizes decisions made by the US government before entering World War I to avoid paying pensions to injured soldiers, a fiscal burden it had endured since the Revolutionary War. Instead, the idea of “rehabilitation,” charged with the potential of recent developments in social welfare and medical science, which sought to “rebuild” disabled soldiers and return them to civilian life, was pushed forward. Though this culminated in the postwar establishment of the Veterans Administration, one of WWI’s most lasting legacies, the story of how and why we got there—from the professional development of orthopedic surgeons . . .

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Judy Wacjman on digital serfdom and the future of work

October 29, 2015
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Judy Wacjman on digital serfdom and the future of work

  In a piece for Pacific Standard, as part of their Future of Work series, in collaboration with the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, Judy Wacjman tackled themes from her recent book Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism, which accounted for our paradoxical desire to interpret our experience of digital technology as bound up with the hastening of everyday life: Such anxieties are based on a fundamental misreading of the relationship between humans and machines. I have been researching technological change for 30 years, and one thing I’ve learned is that technology never simply speeds things up. Rather, every major technological innovation comes hand in hand with new activities and experiences, creating new ways of working and socializing. Indeed, often as not, its effects are counter-intuitive and contradictory, surprising even the designers. So the very same devices that can make us feel overworked and harried also enable us to work more efficiently and take more control of our time. In other words, the notion that we are all cyber-serfs, technologically tethered workers, is far too one-dimensional. It attributes too much power and agency to technology itself. While it is true that we have all . . .

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Ellen Berrey on diversity for Salon

October 27, 2015
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Ellen Berrey on diversity for Salon

Ellen Berrey’s The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice problematizes “diversity” for the twenty-first century, employing years of fieldwork, case studies, and historical research to document just how ubiquitous and weakened the term has become, courtesy of its championing by a plethora of causes, each to often symbolic and distinctly competitive ends. In a recent op-ed for Salon, you can read a teaser for the arguments Berry further substantiates in her book, as she addresses the word’s specific usage by discomfited white people confronted by/with the topic of race: Here’s what I’ve learned: diversity is how we talk about race when we can’t talk about race. It has become a stand-in when open discussion of race is too controversial or — let’s be frank — when white people find the topic of race uncomfortable. Diversity seems polite, positive, hopeful. Who is willing to say they don’t value diversity? One national survey found that more than 90 percent of respondents said they valued diversity in their communities and friendships. The term diversity has become so watered down that it can be anything from code for black people to a profit imperative. Consider the cringe-worthy experience I had sitting in . . .

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Richard B. Primack on Thoreau

October 22, 2015
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Richard B. Primack on Thoreau

  In their October 19, 2015 issue, the New Yorker published a piece by staff writer Kathryn Schulz on Henry David Thoreau’s legacy. “Who was this cold-eyed man who saw in loss of life only aesthetic gain, who identified not with the drowned or the bereaved but with the storm?,” one of its takeaway lines, evidences Schulz’s polemical intent: “Pond Scum,” as the piece is titled, resituates Thoreau as a narcissistic control freak churning out our earliest instances of “cabin porn” and doling out misanthropic moral judgments as if they were fodder for page-a-day self-help calendars. One point she does concede, though: Thoreau was “an excellent naturalist and an eloquent and prescient voice for the preservation of wild places.” Richard B. Primack, author of Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods, responded in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, “Sorry, New Yorker, Thoreau is more relevant than ever,” which addressed Thoreau’s contributions to our understanding of species extinctions, the value of education, the dangers of consumer culture, and even, climate change. As Primack argues: Everyone knows that Thoreau was an unusually perceptive observer of nature who wrote eloquently and passionately about the need to preserve wild spaces. He also kept a voluminous journal — 2 . . .

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57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School

October 20, 2015
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57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School

Kevin D. Haggerty and Aaron Doyle’s 57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School generated quite a buzz. The book, written by two former graduate directors, covers the rookie mistakes made by new graduate students and delivers a how-to guide that sets would-be PhDs on the right track and off the path to failure—which these days includes a only 50 percent completion rate. The authors’ have a bang-up website, the aptly named gradscrewups.com, and the book has recently been profiled by Inside Higher Ed, Science, and CBS News’s Money Watch. To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from a recent piece at the THE, after the jump. *** “Step #7,” from an adaptation on “10 Steps to PhD Failure,” at the Times Higher Ed: 7. Cover everything Students eager to screw up should remember that their thesis is their defining personal and professional achievement. The thesis is everything. Therefore, it should contain everything. Approach your topic from every conceivable angle. Use a diverse set of methodologies. Explore the topic from every theoretical framework conceivable. Aim to produce an analysis that spans the full sweep of human history. This will ensure that in 30 years you will be asking whether you are eligible for pension benefits as . . .

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Juvenescence wins inaugural Bridge Award for Non-Fiction

October 19, 2015
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Juvenescence wins inaugural Bridge Award for Non-Fiction

Robert Pogue Harrison’s Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age was recently announced as the inaugural winner of The Bridge Book Award for Non-Fiction, facilitated by  the American Embassy in Rome, Casa delle Letterature of Rome, Nation-al Italian American Foundation (NIAF), American Initiative for Italian Culture (AIFIC), and Federazione Unitaria Italiana Scrittori (FUIS). From the award description: “The Bridge” is aimed to reinforce the mutual understanding between Italy and the USA by exposing the reading public to the best works of fiction and nonfiction recently released in the two countries. The Award is meant to be a “bridge” that connects two cultures. On the heels of the win, University of Chicago Press promotions director Levi Stahl traveled to Rome to accept the prize on Harrison’s behalf; images from the ceremony follow after the jump. *** To read more about Juvenescence, click here.   . . .

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The Union of Concerned Scientists on Randy Olson

October 16, 2015
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The Union of Concerned Scientists on Randy Olson

Randy Olson was once a marine biologist, with one foot in academia, a screenwriting dream, and the uncanny ability to communicate complicated science via narratives that used the foundations of story to draw readers in and keep them engaged. Now one of our most revered interlocutors of how science is understood and appreciated, Olson recently published Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story, which takes readers through his “And, But, Therefore” principle of writing. In addition to delivering a TED talk on the ABT method, Olson was recently the subject of a review/profile for the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a piece that details his book’s inspiration and operating themes. From the Equation blog at the Union for Concerned Scientists: Scientists who want to succeed with Olson’s methods will have to not only read and process what he has to say, but also commit to thinking about how to communicate their work more effectively over time. . . . This isn’t an add-on to doing good science, either, Olson argues. Scientists are born storytellers, trying to make sense of data. Olson writes that even the humble scientific abstract benefits from adhering to an ABT structure and he presents several convincing case studies to . . .

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2015 Frankfurt Book Fair

October 13, 2015
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2015 Frankfurt Book Fair

The 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair is, far and away, the world’s largest book fair. In fact, it’s the world’s largest _____ fair, period. Tallying in at just over “7,000 exhibitors from about 100 countries, more than 9,000 accredited journalists, and 4,000 events, the 67th Frankfurt Book Fair is ‘the largest trading place for content worldwide.'” With that scope in mind, here are a few candids snapped by the University of Chicago Press crew, distributed via social media, on the heels of today’s opening press conference: To read more about the goings-on in Frankfurt, click here.   . . .

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The In$ane Chicago Way

October 6, 2015
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The In$ane Chicago Way

John M. Hagedorn’s The In$ane Chicago Way mines the secret history of the attempt to form a Spanish Mafia by Chicago gangs in the 1990s—including why it failed—in order to examine and contextualize our current potential to intervene in and reduce gang-related violence. Hagedorn was recently interviewed by Milt Rosenberg (podcast in full here), and submitted his book to the scrutiny of the Page 99 Test, both of which you can access online, including an excerpt from Page 99 below. And, if you’re in Chicago, you can catch Hagedorn in person at the Great Cities Institute (412 S. Peoria, Suite 400) on Monday, October 19th, at 2:30PM. From the Page 99 Test blog: The In$ane Chicago Way tells a heretofore unknown story of how Chicago Latino gangs tried to create a Spanish mafia and why they failed. In$ane explains how a coalition of Latino gangs, Spanish Growth & Development (SGD), was created by gang leaders to control violence, organize crime, and corrupt police. Law enforcement and even most gang members were not aware of the 10-year existence of SGD which ruled the streets from the Illinois prison system. SGD was not destroyed from outside by arrests but by an internecine war of the families, or . . .

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Free e-book for October: Black Patriots and Loyalists

October 5, 2015
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Free e-book for October: Black Patriots and Loyalists

Our free e-book for October: Alan Gilbert’s Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting Emancipation in the War for Independence We commonly think of the American Revolution as simply the war for independence from British colonial rule. But, of course, that independence actually applied to only a portion of the American population—African Americans would still be bound in slavery for nearly another century. Alan Gilbert asks us to rethink what we know about the Revolutionary War, to realize that while white Americans were fighting for their freedom, many black Americans were joining the British imperial forces to gain theirs. Further, a movement led by sailors—both black and white—pushed strongly for emancipation on the American side. There were actually two wars being waged at once: a political revolution for independence from Britain and a social revolution for emancipation and equality. Gilbert presents persuasive evidence that slavery could have been abolished during the Revolution itself if either side had fully pursued the military advantage of freeing slaves and pressing them into combat, and his extensive research also reveals that free blacks on both sides played a crucial and underappreciated role in the actual fighting. Black Patriots and Loyalists contends that the struggle for emancipation was . . .

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