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Terrall, Catching Nature in the ActMary Terrall has just published Catching Nature in the Act. (The University of Chicago Press, 2014)

Natural history in the eighteenth century was many things to many people—diversion, obsession, medically or economically useful knowledge, spectacle, evidence for God’s providence and wisdom, or even the foundation of all natural knowledge. Because natural history was pursued by such a variety of people around the globe, with practitioners sharing neither methods nor training, it has been characterized as a science of straightforward description, devoted to amassing observations as the raw material for classification and thus fundamentally distinct from experimental physical science. In Catching Nature in the Act, Mary Terrall revises this picture, revealing how eighteenth-century natural historians incorporated various experimental techniques and strategies into their practice.

 


Hirano, Politics of Dialogic ImaginationKatsuya Hirano has just published The Politics of Dialogic Imagination. (The University of Chicago Press, 2014)

In The Politics of Dialogic Imagination, Katsuya Hirano seeks to understand why, with its seemingly unrivaled power, the Tokugawa shogunate of early modern Japan tried so hard to regulate the ostensibly unimportant popular culture of Edo (present-day Tokyo)—including fashion, leisure activities, prints, and theater. He does so by examining the works of writers and artists who depicted and celebrated the culture of play and pleasure associated with Edo’s street entertainers, vagrants, actors, and prostitutes, whom Tokugawa authorities condemned to be detrimental to public mores, social order, and political economy.

Hirano uncovers a logic of politics within Edo’s cultural works that was extremely potent in exposing contradictions between the formal structure of the Tokugawa world and its rapidly changing realities. He goes on to look at the effects of this logic, examining policies enacted during the next era—the Meiji period—that mark a drastic reconfiguration of power and a new politics toward ordinary people under modernizing Japan. Deftly navigating Japan’s history and culture, The Politics of Dialogic Imagination provides a sophisticated account of a country in the process of radical transformation—and of the intensely creative culture that came out of it.

 


M. Jacob, The First Knowledge EconomyMargaret Jacob has just published The First Knowledge Economy: Human Capital and the European Economy, 1750-1850. (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, debate has raged about the sources of the new, sustained Western prosperity.  Margaret Jacob here argues persuasively for the critical importance of knowledge in Europe's economic transformation during the period from 1750 to 1850, first in Britain and then in selected parts of Northern and Western Europe.  This is a new history of economic development in which minds, books, lectures, and education become central.  She shows how, armed with knowledge and know-how and inspired by the desire to get rich, entrepreneurs emerged within an industrial culture wedded to scientific knowledge and technology.  She charts how, across a series of industries and nations, innovative engineers and entrepreneurs sought to make sense and a profit out of the world around them.  Skilled hands matched minds steeped in the knowledge systems new to the eighteenth century to transform the economic destiny of Western Europe.

 


Alpers, The Indian Ocean in World HistoryEdward Alpers has just published The Indian Ocean in World History. (Oxford University Press, 2013)

The Indian Ocean remains the least studied of the world's geographic regions. Yet there have been major cultural exchanges across its waters and around its shores from the third millennium B.C.E. to the present day. Historian Edward A. Alpers explores the complex issues involved in cultural exchange in the Indian Ocean Rim region over the course of this long period of time by combining a historical approach with the insights of anthropology, art history, ethnomusicology, and geography.

The Indian Ocean witnessed several significant diasporas during the past two millennia, including migrations of traders, indentured laborers, civil servants, sailors, and slaves throughout the entire basin. Persians and Arabs from the Gulf came to eastern Africa and Madagascar as traders and settlers, while Hadramis dispersed from south Yemen as traders and Muslim teachers to the Comoro Islands, Zanzibar, South India, and Indonesia. Southeast Asians migrated to Madagascar, and Chinese dispersed from Southeast Asia to the Mascarene Islands to South Africa.

Alpers also explores the cultural exchanges that diasporas cause, telling stories of identity and cultural transformation through language, popular religion, music, dance, art and architecture, and social organization. For example, architectural and decorative styles in eastern Africa, the Red Sea, the Hadramaut, the Persian Gulf, and western India reflect cultural interchanges in multiple directions. Similarly, the popular musical form of taarab in Zanzibar and coastal East Africa incorporates elements of Arab, Indian, and African musical traditions, while the characteristic frame drum (ravanne) of séga, the widespread Afro-Creole dance of the Mascarene and Seychelles Islands, probably owes its ultimate origins to Arabia by way of Mozambique.

The Indian Ocean in World History also discusses issues of trade and production that show the long history of exchange throughout the Indian Ocean world; politics and empire-building by both regional and European powers; and the role of religion and religious conversion, focusing mainly on Islam, but also mentioning Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. Using a broad geographic perspective, the book includes references to connections between the Indian Ocean world and the Americas. Moving into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Alpers looks at issues including the new configuration of colonial territorial boundaries after World War I, and the search for oil reserves.


Appleby, Shores of KnowledgeJoyce Appleby has just published Shores of Knowledge. (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013)

An engrossing history of the voyages of exploration that ignited curiosity about nature and gave birth to modern science.

When Columbus first returned to Spain from the Caribbean, he dazzled King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella with exotic parrots, tropical flowers, and bits of gold. Inspired by the promise of riches, countless seafarers poured out of the Iberian Peninsula and wider Europe in search of spices, treasure, and land. Many returned with strange tales of the New World.

Curiosity began to percolate through Europe as the New World’s people, animals, and plants ruptured prior assumptions about the biblical description of creation. The Church, long fearful of challenges to its authority, could no longer suppress the mantra “Dare to know!”

Noblemen began collecting cabinets of curiosities; soon others went from collecting to examining natural objects with fresh eyes. Observation led to experiments; competing conclusions triggered debates. The foundations for the natural sciences were laid as questions became more multifaceted and answers became more complex. Carl Linneaus developed a classification system and sent students around the globe looking for specimens. Museums, botanical gardens, and philosophical societies turned their attention to nature. National governments undertook explorations of the Pacific.

Historian Joyce Appleby vividly recounts the explorers’ triumphs and mishaps, including Magellan’s violent death in the Philippines; the miserable trek of the “new Argonauts” across the Andes on their mission to determine the true shape of the earth; and how two brilliant scientists, Alexander Humboldt and Charles Darwin, traveled to the Americas for evidence to confirm their hypotheses about the earth and its inhabitants. Drawing on detailed eyewitness accounts, Appleby also tells of the turmoil created in the all societies touched by the explorations.

This sweeping, global story imbues the Age of Discovery with fresh meaning, elegantly charting its stimulation of the natural sciences, which ultimately propelled Western Europe toward modernity.


Getty Publishes New Book on StalinismJ. Arch Getty has just published Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition. (Yale University Press, 2013)

In old Russia, patron/client relations, "clan" politics, and a variety of other informal practices spanned the centuries. Government was understood to be patrimonial and personal rather than legal, and office holding was far less important than proximity to patrons. Working from heretofore unused documents from the Communist archives, J. Arch Getty shows how these political practices and traditions from old Russia have persisted throughout the twentieth-century Soviet Union and down to the present day.

Getty examines a number of case studies of political practices in the Stalin era and after. These include cults of personality, the transformation of Old Bolsheviks into noble grandees, the Communist Party's personnel selection system, and the rise of political clans ("family circles") after the 1917 Revolutions. Stalin's conflicts with these clans, and his eventual destruction of them, were key elements of the Great Purges of the 1930s. But although Stalin could destroy the competing clans, he could not destroy the historically embedded patron-client relationship, as a final chapter on political practice under Putin shows.


Lal, Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City Vol. 2Vinay Lal has just published The Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City: Making and Unmaking the City; Politics, Culture, and Life Forms (Oxford University Press, 2013)

The city of modern India is a web of identities, interests, and institutions. Perhaps the city everywhere gives the impression of being unfinished, as people come and go, talking of this and that, but in India the sense of a place on the make is overwhelming. Our colonial cities—Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras—helped redefine our very understanding of Indian culture; the villagers trooping into the city have further reshaped it in their image.

For all the beauty a city may hold, its character flows more from its street life and the intricate patterning of social networks. Some people claim the city as their own, and live as if they own it; some disown the city, and yet others are disowned by it. Violence appears to be present at every corner, and yet the city is the nexus of art, culture, and conviviality. The city is always full of surprises, having multiple selves, varying by day and by night. Together with its companion volume, The City in its Plenitude, this anthology— a collection of writings from across the genres of poetry, short stories, essays, and social commentaries drawn from English as well as the rich literature in Indian languages—is a tribute to the modern Indian city.


Lal, Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City Vol. 1Vinay Lal has just published The Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City: The City in its Plenitude (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Banaras, Bangalore, Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Lucknow . . . cities all, sharing certain characteristics, and yet so unlike each other. Cities are like the people they hold—loved and unloved, likely to attract some and repel others. Each has a character of its own: some are laidback, others more vibrant; a few have witnessed and endured a lot, others appear to have had a relatively mundane existence.

The city has a long history in India—from the urban civilization of the Indus Valley in 2500 bce to the megalopolis found in contemporary India. Taking the reader through an alluring maze of streets, lanes, memories, and much more, the writings in this volume allow her to gaze at the mosaic and imaginary of the city, look back at the city in colonial India, and reflect on the city and its streets as a work of architecture. Together with its companion volume, Making and Unmaking the City: Politics, Culture, and Life Forms, this collection pays tribute to the modern Indian city.


Stevenson, Contested Murder of Latasha HarlinsBrenda Stevenson has just published The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Helicopters thwopped low over the city, filming blocks of burning cars and buildings, mobs breaking into storefronts, and the vicious beating of truck driver Reginald Denny. For a week in April 1992, Los Angeles transformed into a cityscape of rage, purportedly due to the exoneration of four policemen who had beaten Rodney King. It should be no surprise that such intense anger erupted from something deeper than a single incident.

In The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins, Brenda Stevenson tells the dramatic story of an earlier trial, a turning point on the road to the 1992 riot. On March 16, 1991, fifteen-year-old Latasha Harlins, an African American who lived locally, entered the Empire Liquor Market at 9172 South Figueroa Street in South Central Los Angeles. Behind the counter was a Korean woman named Soon Ja Du. Latasha walked to the refrigerator cases in the back, took a bottle of orange juice, put it in her backpack, and approached the cash register with two dollar bills in her hand-the price of the juice. Moments later she was face-down on the floor with a bullet hole in the back of her head, shot dead by Du. Joyce Karlin, a Jewish Superior Court judge appointed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson, presided over the resulting manslaughter trial. A jury convicted Du, but Karlin sentenced her only to probation, community service, and a $500 fine. The author meticulously reconstructs these events and their aftermath, showing how they set the stage for the explosion in 1992.

An accomplished historian at UCLA, Stevenson explores the lives of each of these three women-Harlins, Du, and Karlin-and their very different worlds in rich detail. Through the three women, she not only reveals the human reality and social repercussions of this triangular collision, she also provides a deep history of immigration, ethnicity, and gender in modern America. Massively researched, deftly written, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins will reshape our understanding of race, ethnicity, gender, and-above all-justice in modern America.

Published by Oxford University Press: http://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-contested-murder-of-latasha-harlins-9780199944576


Friedlander, Franz KafkaProfessor Saul Friedlander’s stimulating book investigates some of the sources of Franz Kafka’s personal anguish and its complex reflections in his imaginary world. In his query, Saul Friedländer probes major aspects of Kafka’s life (family, Judaism, love and sex, writing, illness, and despair) that until now have been skewed by posthumous censorship. Contrary to Kafka’s dying request that all his papers be burned, Max Brod, Kafka’s closest friend and literary executor, edited and published the author’s novels and other works soon after his death in 1924. Friedländer shows that, when reinserted in Kafka’s letters and diaries, deleted segments lift the mask of “sainthood” frequently attached to the writer and thus restore previously hidden aspects of his individuality.

Published by Yale University press: http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300136616


Subrahmanyam, Is Indian Civilization a MythSanjay Subrahmanyam has just published Is Indian Civilization a Myth: Fictions and Histories? (Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2013).

In the title essay of this enthralling collection, Sanjay Subrahmanyam sets a provocative ball rolling: At the heart of the matter , he says, is the notion that at some distant point in the past, say about AD 500, the concept of Indian civilization had already been perfected. Everything of any importance was in place: social structure, philosophy, the major literary works ... The central idea here is of India-as-civilization, and it very soon becomes the same as a notion of closed India. Demolishing some of the myths which sustain the notion of the wonder that was India , he shows us a region that was always more a crossroads, a rendezvous for concepts, cultures, and worldviews. Subrahmanyam s book is itself a meeting point for a dazzling variety of ideas. It provides the cosmopolitan perspective of a multilingual world scholar who, having begun life in New Delhi, has gone on to live in several thought-provoking cities, including Paris, Lisbon, and Oxford. He is witty, debunking, iconoclastic, and polemically entertaining in all that he anatomizes here Indian history and fiction, South Asian cultural forms, imperialism and imperialists, secularism and Hindu nationalism, travel writing, and the central conceits in Hemingway, Rushdie, Naipaul, and Marquez.


Marotti, Money Trains and GuillotinesWilliam Marotti has just published Money, Trains, and Guillotines: Art and Revolution in 1960s Japan (Duke University Press, 2013)

During the 1960s a group of young artists in Japan challenged official forms of politics and daily life through interventionist art practices. William Marotti situates this phenomenon in the historical and political contexts of Japan after the Second World War and the international activism of the 1960s. The Japanese government renewed its Cold War partnership with the United States in 1960, defeating protests against a new security treaty through parliamentary action and the use of riot police. Afterward, the government promoted a depoliticized everyday world of high growth and consumption, creating a sanitized national image to present in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. Artists were first to challenge this new political mythology. Marotti examines their political art, and the state's aggressive response to it. He reveals the challenge mounted in projects such as Akasegawa Genpei's 1,000-yen prints, a group performance on the busy Yamanote train line, and a plan for a giant guillotine in the Imperial Plaza. Focusing on the annual Yomiuri Indépendant exhibition, he demonstrates how artists came together in a playful but powerful critical art, triggering judicial and police response. Money, Trains, and Guillotines expands our understanding of the role of art in the international 1960s, and of the dynamics of art and policing in Japan.


Berend Economic HistoryIvan Berend has just published An Economic History of Nineteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge, 2013)

Why did some countries and regions of Europe reach high levels of economic advancement in the nineteenth century, while others were left behind? This new transnational survey of the continent's economic development highlights the role of regional differences in shaping each country's economic path and outcome. Presenting a clear and cogent explanation of the historical causes of advancement and backwardness, Ivan Berend integrates social, political, institutional and cultural factors as well as engaging in debates about the relative roles of knowledge, the state and institutions. Featuring boxed essays on key personalities including Adam Smith, Friedrich List, Gustave Eiffel and the Krupp family, as well as brief histories of innovations such as the steam engine, vaccinations and the co-operative system, the book helps to explain the theories and macro-economic trends that dominated the century and their impact on the subsequent development of the European economy right up to the present day.


Goldman, Opera and the City: The Politics of Culture in Beijing, 1770-1900Andrea S. Goldman has just published Opera and the City: The Politics of Culture in Beijing, 1770-1900 (Stanford University Press, 2012).

Opera and the City: The Politics of Culture in Beijing, 1770-1900 uses opera as a lens through which to examine urban cultural history.  The study offers a new approach to Chinese opera history; it contributes to our understanding of Qing urban culture; and it employs gender as a critical category of analysis in examining state-society relations under Qing rule.  Commercial opera in the Qing capital from circa 1770 to 1900 was poised at the intersection of state power and commercial interests; it refracted literati discontent and ethnic tensions; it blurred the lines between public and private life; and it offered a stage (literally and figuratively) upon which to act out gender and class transgressions.  The urban opera theater thus reveals itself as vitally important to understanding state-society relations and the mechanisms by which ideas and values were shaped, shared, disseminated, and contested.  Through an examination of the context and content of opera in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Beijing, Opera and the City illuminates relationships between culture and power in the Qing dynasty capital, offering insight into how the state and various urban constituencies (officials, scholars, merchants, and petty urbanites) partook of opera and the stories played out on stage and manipulated them to their own ends.  The opera theater was a key site of public discourse in the Qing metropolis; and in fulfilling that role, Goldman argues, it was also a site of competition, conflict, and controversy.



Subrahmanyam, Courtly EncountersSanjay Subrahmanyam has published a new book, Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia (Harvard University Press, 2012).

Cross-cultural encounters in Europe and Asia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries brought the potential for bafflement, hostility, and admiration. The court was the crucial site where expanding Eurasian states and empires met and were forced to make sense of one another. By looking at these interactions, Courtly Encounters provides a fresh cross-cultural perspective on the worlds of early modern Islam, Counter-Reformation Catholicism, Protestantism, and a newly emergent Hindu sphere.

Both individual agents and objects such as texts and paintings helped mediate encounters between courts, which possessed rules and conventions that required decipherment and translation, whether in words or in pictures. Sanjay Subrahmanyam gives special attention to the depiction of South Asian empires in European visual representations, finding a complex history of cultural exchange: the Mughal paintings that influenced Rembrandt and other seventeenth-century Dutch painters had themselves been earlier influenced by Dutch naturalism. Courtly Encounters provides a rich array of images from Europe, the Islamic world, India, and Southeast Asia as aids for understanding the reciprocal nature of cross-cultural exchanges. It also looks closely at how insults and strategic use of martyrdom figured in courtly encounters.

As he sifts through the historical record, Subrahmanyam finds little evidence for the cultural incommensurability many ethnohistorians have insisted on. Most often, he discovers negotiated ways of understanding one another that led to mutual improvisation, borrowing, and eventually change.



Kelley, Africa Speaks, America AnswersRobin Kelley has published a new book, Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Harvard University Press, 2012).

During the 1950s and early 1960s, the global map changed dramatically. The old European empires were crumbling and former colonies were becoming new nations. To much of the world, independent Africa held promise for a new future, a democratic, spiritual and decidedly post-Western modernity. An expression of this new modernity was music, notably jazz. Africa Speaks, America Answers examines how African independence shaped jazz and African American identities, how jazz influenced modern African identities, and how various musical convergences and crossings affected the political and cultural landscape on both continents. The story is told through the lives and works of four artists: Ghanaian-born drummer Guy Warren, pianist Randy Weston, bassist/oudist Ahmed Abdul-Malik (both U.S. born), and South African vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin. Each artist was profoundly shaped by these “revolutionary times”—the moment inspired Weston’s powerful musical tributes to the New African nations, Ahmed Abdul-Malik’s dream to make sacred Arab music swing, Guy Warren’s efforts to meld the hippest African rhythms with modern jazz, and Sathima Bea Benjamin’s struggle to give beauty voice amid the ugliness of apartheid and the struggle for human dignity.

Professor Kelley talks about his book in this UCLA Newsroom article.

Review by The Chronicle of Higher Education



Nile Green has published a new book, Making Space: Sufis and Settlers in Early Modern India (Oxford, 2012).

This volume provides a comprehensive view of the social transformation in early modern India between 1500 and 1750 by studying various Sufi movements. It covers a wide range of topics from Sufism and polity in the Afghan frontier to north Indian context and further to Deccan and the southernmost points of influence of the Mughals. Weaving together investigations of architecture with texts, migration of people, and the ethnographies and local histories, the author investigates community formation and inter-community contact. He reveals the tensions between mobility and locality through the ways Sufi Islam responded to demands of settlement by preserving the migrant bodies of blessed men and the shrines, texts and rituals that surrounded them. The book explores how Afghan, Mughal and Hindustani Muslims constructed new homelands while remembering distant places of origin. Central to this process were migrant Sufis and the hagiographical texts and architectural territories through which they preserved memory over time and anchored it to new spaces of settlement. The book offers bold new insights into Indian, Islamic and comparative early modern history.

This book will be an important reading for scholars, researchers, and students of early modern Indian history, Islamic studies, and religion particularly those interested in Sufism.



Nile Green has published a new book, Sufism: A Global History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).


Since their beginnings in the ninth century, the shrines, brotherhoods and doctrines of the Sufis held vast influence in almost every corner of the Muslim world. Offering the first truly global account of the history of Sufism, this illuminating book traces the gradual spread and influence of Sufi Islam through the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and ultimately into Europe and the United States.