Psychology

The soft weapons of autobiography

July 31, 2008
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The soft weapons of autobiography

The July 31 edition of the London Review of Books has published several interesting articles focusing on two recent books, both of which offer some intriguing insights into the West’s engagement with Middle Eastern Muslim cultures in the twentieth century. As the LRB‘s Roxanne Varzi notes, Gillian Whitlock’s Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit is a fascinating exploration of modern Middle Eastern autobiography, that demonstrates how the genre has been used in Western society as a window into an often inaccessible culture, but perhaps more often is appropriated and commodified by Western culture to serve its own interests. In her article Varzi focuses on the latter phenomenon writing: “You shouldn’t overlook the what Gillian Whitlock in Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit, calls the paratext: the liminal features that surround the text, not just the book’s jacket and typeface but interviews with the author, reviews and commentaries. It is in transit, as commodities, that these narratives, which Whitlock calls ‘veiled memoirs,’ are shaped by and for the public. Whitlock reproduces an Audi ad that shows , outfitted in a cream suit, floating among shelves of books in a library (a library that contains no contemporary . . .

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Press Release: Carroll, Operation Homecoming

May 27, 2008
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Press Release: Carroll, Operation Homecoming

Operation Homecoming is the result of a major initiative launched by the National Endowment for the Arts to bring distinguished writers to military bases to inspire U.S. soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and their families to record their wartime experiences. Encouraged by such authors as Tom Clancy, Tobias Wolff, and Marilyn Nelson, American military personnel and their loved ones wrote candidly about what they saw, heard, and felt while in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as on the home front. These unflinching eyewitness accounts, private journals, short stories, and letters offer an intensely revealing look into extraordinary lives and are an unforgettable contribution to wartime literature. Read the press release. . . .

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The wartime experience in their own words

May 14, 2008
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The wartime experience in their own words

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A Runyonesque tale of schemers and suckers

March 25, 2008
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A Runyonesque tale of schemers and suckers

An interesting piece on David Grazian’s new book On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife is running as the cover story in the current edition of the independent Philadelphia weekly City Paper. A.D. Amorosi’s article begins by comparing Grazian’s sociological study of Philly’s nightlife to Damon Grunyon’s scabrous tales of prohibition era New York: When David Grazian started working on his most recent book, he wanted to find the skin and bones of Philly’s latest nightlife renaissance. Now that it’s finished, On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife paints the scene like something out of a Damon Runyon novel, full of schemers and suckers born every minute. Flirty waitresses, winking hostesses and grinning bouncers make appearances in On the Make. So do PR consultants, drinking wing men, snobby DJs, event planners and paid partiers—the mod equivalent of Runyon’s bookies and mooches. (No one in On the Make is named “Nathan Detroit” or “Sky Masterson,” but a name like “Nicole Cashman” does the trick.) You can’t help but expect a chorus of “Luck Be a Lady” to come swinging through the text. Both entertaining and illuminating On the Make offers a riveting look at the various gambles, hustles, and . . .

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David Grazian on the BBC

February 6, 2008
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David Grazian on the BBC

Last Wednesday David Grazian, author of On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed with host Laurie Taylor. In the show Taylor and Grazian engage in a fascinating discussion about the various schemes and scams that the nightlife industry employs in order to separate customers from their money, as well as the scams perpetuated by the clientele themselves in their relentless search for sex, self-esteem, and status. Listen to archived audio from the show on the BBC Radio 4 website. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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The fraud of nightlife

January 23, 2008
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The fraud of nightlife

David Grazian’s entertaining exploration of the bars of Philadelphia in On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife, continues to attract attention. Two new articles have recently been published featuring Grazian’s new book—the first appeared in the January 18 Chronicle Review and includes some great praise for the book’s revealing look at inner city nightlife: Grazian’s new book is, among other things, a long catalog of confidence games. Nightclub managers strain to persuade the world that their typical patrons are younger, less suburban, and more female than they actually are. For a secret payment of $500 per week, one Philadelphia publicist… will bring four attractive, well-connected friends to a club… There are also the more-familiar kinds of interpersonal fraud: In bars like Tangerine, people sometimes lie about their ages, their names, their jobs, and their marital statuses. Women give out fake phone numbers to shake off obnoxious suitors. People feign a sexual interest in others in order to score free drinks, to make their lovers jealous, or simply to make the evening less boring. “What’s skillful about the book is that these are settings that people are familiar with, but often don’t think very hard about,” says Joshua Gamson, a . . .

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Monkey Politics

January 22, 2008
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Monkey Politics

Today’s New York Times is running an article titled “Political Animals,” comparing the current presidential candidates election politics to the complex social dynamics found in other species like elephants, whales, and rhesus macaques—the latter of which are the subject of Dario Maestripieri’s new book Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World. In the article, the NYT‘s Natalie Angier cites Maestripieri’s book as she compares the political behavior of these prolific primates to our own: As the candidates have shown us in the succulent telenovela that is the 2008 presidential race, there are many ways to parry for political power.… just as there are myriad strategies open to the human political animal with White House ambitions, so there are a number of nonhuman animals that behave like textbook politicians.… As Dr. Maestripieri sees it, rhesus monkeys embody the concept “Machiavellian” (and he accordingly named his recent popular book about the macaques Macachiavellian Intelligence). “Individuals don’t fight for food, space or resources,” Dr. Maestripieri explained. “They fight for power.” With power and status, he added, “they’ll have control over everything else.…” “Rhesus males are quintessential opportunists,” Dr. Maestripieri said. “They pretend they’re helping others, but they only . . .

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The fake thrills of urban nightlife

January 14, 2008
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The fake thrills of urban nightlife

Sunday’s Toronto Star ran an interesting article on sociologist David Grazian’s revealing portrait of Philadelphia’s thriving club scene in On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife. Summarizing the book the Star‘s Ryan Bigge writes: Although Grazian discusses the sophisticated public relations matrix that helps bring in customers, he’s more interested in exploring the paradox that club goers allow themselves to be willingly hustled. Making a comparison to movies filled with computer-generated effects, Grazian suggests, “People are willing to suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy a thrilling lie.” Which means the tens of thousands of club goers—the actual number is the subject of considerable contention, but even the lowest two-night estimate is 40,000—that cram Toronto’s entertainment district on Friday and Saturday nights, spending millions of dollars per year on drinks, are marks of their own making. Of course, just because the game is rigged, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself, as the eternal popularity of Las Vegas demonstrates. Read the rest of the article on the Toronto Star website or read this excerpt from the first chapter of the book. The press’s website also features an interview with Grazian about his previous book on a similar topic, Blue Chicago: . . .

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Do psychic phenomena exist?

January 8, 2008
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Do psychic phenomena exist?

The Chronicle of Higher Education is currently running a great article on Stephen E. Braude and his new book, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations—a fascinating not to mention entertaining exploration of the paranormal from an academic’s point of view. Scott Carlson writes for the Chronicle: A professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Braude is a past president of the Parapsychological Association, an organization that gathers academics and others interested in phenomena like ESP and psychokinesis, and he has published a series of books with well-known academic presses on such topics. His latest, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations, is sort of a summing up of his career, filled with stories of people who claimed to have otherworldly abilities. The writing is so fluid that the book at times seems made for a screen adaptation. (In fact, Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, contributes a blurb to the back of the book. Braude advised Carter on a screenplay he is writing.) But Braude also includes some dense philosophical arguments—especially in a chapter about synchronicity, in which he ponders whether humans can orchestrate unlikely coincidences through psychokinesis, the ability to move or influence objects . . .

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Harold J. Leavitt, 1922-2007

December 21, 2007
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Harold J. Leavitt, 1922-2007

Tell someone unfamiliar with the business of book publishing (and this of course describes almost everyone you meet) that you work at a university press, and you almost inevitably hear: “Oh, you publish textbooks then?” Well, no, we don’t—our scholarly publishing mandate is to publish new research, which rarely describes the contents of a textbook. Except sometimes. One of those times was in 1958 when we published a textbook called Managerial Psychology by a youngish professor at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. The book brought the field of organizational behavior into the business school curriculum, a revolutionary idea at the time. New enough at any rate, that the book was turned down by the typical publishers of business school textbooks. But business and industry was changing rapidly in 1958 and Managerial Psychology quickly found a market. The author of that book was Harold J. Leavitt, who died on December 8 in Pasadena, California. He was the Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior, Emeritus, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business at the time of his death. His work changed what business schools taught and how business and industry motivate and evaluate their personnel. We published the fifth and . . .

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