History

Chip Colwell on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

March 27, 2017
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Chip Colwell on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

Chip Colwell, author of Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture, recently penned an op-ed for the Denver Post on the stakes surrounding NAGPRA legislation; an excerpt follows below. *** When Congress passed NAGPRA, Colorado museums, like many across the country, struggled to grapple with the law’s implications. How much money would it cost to comply with the law’s mandates to inventory collections and send notices to, and consult with, tribes? Would Native Americans claim everything as sacred? What criteria should be used to evaluate claims? Would museums become empty shells? The 1990s was a learning period for both museum and tribal officials. But soon all parties were benefiting. As David Bailey, a curator at the Museum of Western Colorado, once explained after returning a vest and dress to the Northern Ute tribe, important pieces left the museum but the process built new relationships. He explained that instead of fighting the claim he “would rather have a dialogue and exchange with living Indians to gain their respect and insight into our collections.” By 2012, of $31 million allocated in federal NAGPRA grants, Colorado museums had secured more than 16 percent of it. Museums ranging from those on the . . .

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Lincoln’s Constitution: An Excerpt

March 22, 2017
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Lincoln’s Constitution: An Excerpt

Our free e-book for March is Daniel Farber’s Lincoln’s Constitution. If the title alone doesn’t grab you (and it should: download your copy here), then here’s an excerpt from an interview with the author, which evidences why Lincoln’s relationship to the Constitution—during a time of previously unprecedented national turmoil—matters more now than ever. *** Question: The Civil War raised a multitude of constitutional issues, and we only have space to touch on a few of them here. Nor is there space, unfortunately, for the detailed discussions that so richly inform the book. With those caveats in mind, how about starting with the state versus federal power issue? Secession may be a dead issue constitutionally, but state sovereignty is a live disagreement, resurfacing recently in the Supreme Court when it narrowly stuck down an Arkansas law mandating term limits for its federal representatives. What was Lincoln’s view of state sovereignty? Why is the issue still with us? Why wasn’t the state sovereignty issue settled by the Civil War conflict? Daniel Farber: The Gettysburg Address is very revealing. Lincoln dated the birth of the nation to “four score and seven years ago.” If you do the arithmetic, that’s not the framing of the Constitution; . . .

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A Very Queer Family Indeed at the Atlantic

March 8, 2017
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A Very Queer Family Indeed at the Atlantic

From a review of Simon Goldhill’s A Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion, and the Bensons in Victorian Britain at the Atlantic: Even by the formidable standards of eminent Victorian families, the Bensons were an intimidating lot. Edward Benson, the family’s patriarch, had vaulted up the clerical hierarchy, awing superiors with his ferocious work habits and cowing subordinates with his reforming zeal. Queen Victoria appointed him the archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church, in 1883. Edward’s wife, Minnie, was to all appearances a perfect match. Tender where he was severe, she was a warmhearted hostess renowned for her conversation. Most important, she was Edward’s equal in religious devotion. As a friend daringly pronounced, Minnie was “as good as God and as clever as the Devil.” All five of Edward and Minnie Benson’s adult offspring distinguished themselves in public life. Arthur Benson served as the master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University, wrote the lyrics to Edward Elgar’s hymn “Land of Hope and Glory,” and was entrusted with the delicate task of co-editing Queen Victoria’s letters for publication. His brother Fred was a best-selling writer, well known today for the series of satirical Lucia novels (televised for the second . . .

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Alexandra Chasin on the history of the drug war

March 3, 2017
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Alexandra Chasin on the history of the drug war

Below follows an excerpt from “Our Aggressive ‘War on Drugs’ Is Not Actually about Drugs,” by Alexandra Chasin, author of Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger’s War on Drugs, at Alternet. *** Trump inherits a very old war on drugs in the United States, one with prisons almost as overpopulated as Duterte’s detention centers, where the “insanity” of the “purely repressive approach,” “counterproductive and cruel,” is the law and practice of the land. This war on drugs goes back before Nixon’s famous declaration and the Rockefeller Drug Laws of the 1970s.  Our national commitment to drug prohibition goes back almost as far as our commitment to alcohol prohibition, a thirteen-year disaster that dramatized all the perils of a strategy of suppression but somehow did not persuade us not to use the same one with narcotics.  With the installation of Harry J. Anslinger as Commissioner of the newly established Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, the federal government began a campaign of drug prohibition which, during his three decades in office, in making into federal law. So why, if it only took us thirteen years to prove that alcohol prohibition was both costly and ineffective, have we failed to . . .

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Free e-book for March: Lincoln’s Constitution

March 1, 2017
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Free e-book for March: Lincoln’s Constitution

Our free e-book for March is Lincoln’s Constitution by Daniel Farber. Download your copy here. In Lincoln’s Constitution, Daniel Farber leads the reader to understand exactly how Abraham Lincoln faced the inevitable constitutional issues brought on by the Civil War. Examining what arguments Lincoln made in defense of his actions and how his words and deeds fit into the context of the times, Farber illuminates Lincoln’s actions by placing them squarely within their historical moment. The answers here are crucial not only for a better understanding of the Civil War but also for shedding light on issues-state sovereignty, presidential power, and limitations on civil liberties in the name of national security-that continue to test the limits of constitutional law even today. To read more about Lincoln’s Constitution, click here. To download your free e-book edition, click here. . . .

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Yuliya Komska: Can civilians make borders better?

February 22, 2017
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Yuliya Komska: Can civilians make borders better?

“Can civilians make borders better?” by Yuliya Komska, author of The Icon Curtain: The Cold War’s Quiet Border (2015) *** Received wisdom contends that borders and walls are the work of states and supra-national bodies eager to regulate security, the movement of populations, and the flow of commodities. Not surprisingly, the construction and enforcement of these zones rely on weaponized technologies, substantial armed presence, and the use of surplus materials. Whether skimming the European Union’s southeastern edge, snaking between Israel and the West Bank, or cementing the line between the United States and Mexico, borders coalesce as militarized spaces, ostensibly antithetical to those inhabited by civilians in peacetime. The concomitant impression is that civilians can humanize borders by channeling creative energies to subversive effect. Think of the colorful graffiti on the western side of the Berlin Wall, or the works of the elusive artist Banksy, who brought the divided German city’s visual motifs (such as the iconic trompe-l’oeil barrier breech or the make-belief scenic vista) to Gaza in 2005. Consider also the shrines and crosses at the Mexican border, which commemorate the thousands who died in US Border Patrol operations, or the more choreographed incentives that reimagine this emergent border wall, several . . .

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Our free e-book for February: The Fear of Barbarians

February 1, 2017
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Our free e-book for February: The Fear of Barbarians

Our free e-book for February is Tzvetan Todorov’s The Fear of Barbarians—download your copy, here. *** The relationship between Western democracies and Islam, rarely entirely comfortable, has in recent years become increasingly tense. A growing immigrant population and worries about cultural and political assimilation—exacerbated by terrorist attacks in the United States, Europe, and around the world—have provoked reams of commentary from all parts of the political spectrum, a frustrating majority of it hyperbolic or even hysterical. In The Fear of Barbarians, the celebrated intellectual Tzvetan Todorov offers a corrective: a reasoned and often highly personal analysis of the problem, rooted in Enlightenment values yet open to the claims of cultural difference. Drawing on history, anthropology, and politics, and bringing to bear examples ranging from the murder of Theo van Gogh to the French ban on headscarves, Todorov argues that the West must overcome its fear of Islam if it is to avoid betraying the values it claims to protect. True freedom, Todorov explains, requires us to strike a delicate balance between protecting and imposing cultural values, acknowledging the primacy of the law, and yet strenuously protecting minority views that do not interfere with its aims. Adding force to Todorov’s arguments is his . . .

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Free e-book for January: Dori Katz’s Looking for Strangers

January 3, 2017
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Free e-book for January: Dori Katz’s Looking for Strangers

It’s a new year, and our free e-book for January is Dori Katz’s Looking for Strangers: The True Story of My Hidden Wartime Childhood.  Download your copy here. *** Dori Katz is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who thought that her lost memories of her childhood years in Belgium were irrecoverable. But after a chance viewing of a documentary about hidden children in German-occupied Belgium, she realized that she might, in fact, be able to unearth those years. Looking for Strangers is the deeply honest record of her attempt to do so, a detective story that unfolds through one of the most horrifying periods in history in an attempt to understand one’s place within it. In alternating chapters, Katz journeys into multiple pasts, setting details from her mother’s stories that have captivated her throughout her life alongside an account of her own return to Belgium forty years later—against her mother’s urgings—in search of greater clarity. She reconnects her sharp but fragmented memories: being sent by her mother in 1943, at the age of three, to live with a Catholic family under a Christian identity; then being given up, inexplicably, to an orphanage in the years immediately following the war. Only after . . .

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The Birth of Theory at New Books in History

December 16, 2016
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The Birth of Theory at New Books in History

  Andrew Cole’s The Birth of Theory posits Hegel as the world’s ur-critical theorist, accounting for the origins of his dialectic as a theory, and situating the thinker’s unconventional (for modern philosophy) turn toward the medieval and premodern realms, which ultimately embedded Hegel in its long tradition, and suggested “that it is precisely Hegel’s engagement with medieval modes of thought that make his work a productive source for Marx and the later thinkers who develop dialectical thinking into theory as we know it today.” Cole’s work was previously reviewed by the likes of Qui Parle (“The Birth of Theory is filled with illuminating and often counterintuitive readings. . . . Cole’s argument touches on an array of important avenues of inquiry, offering counterproposals that should unsettle the doctrinally comfortable and reinvigorate theoretical discussions in a variety of connected fields: Hegel scholarship and the history of Continental philosophy; Marxist and post-Marxist analysis of culture, ideology, and commodity fetishism; literary criticism, whether historicist or not; and contemporary discussions of new vitalisms, materialisms, and speculative ontologies. . . . The Birth of Theory offers a set of tantalizing and highly original arguments.”) and the Review of Metaphysics (“The Birth of Theory is an ambitious, original, lucidly-written, scrupulously-researched, . . .

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Chicago Reader on Dirty Waters

December 12, 2016
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Chicago Reader on Dirty Waters

From a recent Chicago Reader review of R. J. Nelson’s Dirty Waters: Confessions of Chicago’s Last Harbor Boss, the story of one city employee’s rise and fall as Chicago’s director of Harbors and Marine Services: Dirty Waters, a fine chronicle of Nelson’s tenure as a city employee, begins with his first day on the job and concludes not long after he was ignominiously terminated by Forrest Claypool, then the Park District’s general superintendent. What Nelson encounters during that time will be familiar to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of local government: parks department supervisors who demand permits for their personal boats, inept public-sector employees who receive high salaries due to political connections, and obfuscatory paperwork designed to deaden the enthusiasm and limit the geographic and civic access of ordinary boaters. t a play-by-play account of Nelson’s time as harbor boss, Dirty Waters might get bogged down by inside-baseball accounts of bygone local politics. But there’s a certain Chicagoness to Nelson’s storytelling that’s highly entertaining—the book reads like a series of anecdotes being told by a lifelong resident of the city. Nelson can veer off on tangents, sometimes excessively so, but more often than not the asides keep the narrative interesting, provide valuable context, . . .

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