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Archive for January, 2009

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Inauguration 2009




Both images are from All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t): Inside the New York Times Op-ed Page by Jerelle Kraus.

Watch a video for the book for more images from the book and to find out about its role in the inauguration.

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Columbia University Press Outstanding Academic Titles from 2008

Every year, Choice subject editors single out for recognition the most significant print and electronic works reviewed in Choice during the previous calendar year. This prestigious list of publications reflects the best in scholarly titles and attracts extraordinary attention from the academic library community. The 2008 feature includes 679 titles in 54 disciplines and subsections.

11 Columbia University Press titles and 2 Wallflower titles were selected:

The Politics of Postsecular Religion: Mourning Secular Futures, by Ananda Abeysekara

Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement Today, edited by David C. Brotherton and Philip Kretsedemas

The Columbia Gazetteer of the World, edited by Saul B. Cohen

The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States, edited by Edward E. Curtis IV

The Cinematic Tango: Contemporary Argentine Film, by Tamara L. Falicov

Human Ecology of Beringia, by John F. Hoffecker and Scott A. Elias

China Rising: Peace, Power, and Order in East Asia, by David C. Kang

American Pests: The Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT, by James E. McWilliams

Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, and the End of the World, by Sidney Perkowitz

Technology in Postwar America: A History
, by Carroll Pursell

The Columbia Guide to Central African Literature in English since 1945, by Adrian Roscoe

Secularism Confronts Islam, by Olivier Roy; translated by George Holoch

International Film Guide, 2008: The Definitive Annual Review of World Cinema, edited by Ian Haydn Smith

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

The China Beat’s 10 Best Books About Chinese Women in 2008

The China Beat has a very interesting list of the best books from 2008 on Chinese women, including two titles from Columbia University Press: The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi; translated by Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan and Changing Clothes in China: Fashion, History, and Nation by Antonia Finnane.

For more on the two Columbia titles, “The China Beat” has an interview with Antonia Finnane along with a review of the book. There is also a fascinating article by Howard Choy reflecting on the importance of The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and how it fits in with the history of twentieth-century Shanghai.

Here’s what “The China Beat” had to say about each book:

Antonia Finnane, Changing Clothes in China: Fashion, History, Nation. Columbia University Press. This beautifully illustrated book covers Chinese fashion from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) through the 1990s, with delightful analysis of how gender, class, and nationalism have influenced Chinese fashions through the ages.

Wang Anyi, The Song of Everlasting Sorrow. Trans. Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan. Columbia University Press. Winner of the 2000 Mao Dun Literature Award, this 1995 novel from the well-known Shanghai novelist came out in English translation this past year. Beginning in 1945 Shanghai, in the sliver of time between wartime Japanese occupation and Communist liberation, the novel traces the steps of one Miss Shanghai as she travels through the longtang alleyways of everyday Shanghai and observes the lives of its occupants, which she traces through 1986 (though with a slight jump over the Cultural Revolution decade of 1966-76).


Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Wired on The Scientific Way of Warfare

Scientific Way of WarfareOn Danger Room, a national security blog on Wired, Michael A. Innes, director of The Complex Terrain Laboratory, reviews and praises Antoine Bousquet’s The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity.

Innes argues that Bousquet’s book will be one of the most important of 2009, offering new perspectives on how the military has used scientific ideas and technological metaphors to wage war. Bousquet himself commented on the post and summarized his argument:

[The Scientific Way of Warfare] is not a gee-whiz-look-at-the-shiny-gadgets engagement with science and technology. It is first and foremost a historical account of the way in which Western militaries have repeatedly drawn on scientific ideas and technological metaphors in their never-ending quest for order and control on the battlefield. I have tried to show how a succession of scientific discourse and paradigmatic technologies has been articulated in military thought and practice since the inception of the Scientific Revolution—one can approve or disapprove of this but the evidence of such a history (and on-going present) is abundant.


Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Paul Offit Confronts the Antivaccine Crusade

Today’s New York Times had an article about Dr. Paul Offit’s new book Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, and the frequently heated debate about the possible link between autism and vaccines.

Dr. Offit, the chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has been an advocate for children’s health and stressed the importance of vaccination as a way of protecting children from disease. Not surprisingly, his position on vaccines has won him the enmity of the antivaccinationists but as the New York Times article states:

Dr. Offit’s book, published in September by Columbia University Press, has been widely endorsed by pediatricians, autism researchers, vaccine companies and medical journalists who say it sums up, in layman’s language, the scientific evidence for vaccines and forcefully argues that vulnerable parents are being manipulated by doctors promoting false cures and lawyers filing class-action suits.

In addition to their fears about autism, some individuals have also argued that the number of vaccines can overwhelm babies’ immune system. Again, this has been refuted by Dr. Offit and other scientists and doctors:

To the newer argument that vaccines overwhelm babies’ immune systems, Dr. Offit notes that current shots against 14 diseases contain 153 proteins, while babies cope with thousands of new foreign proteins daily in food, dirt and animal hair, and that the smallpox vaccine that nearly every American over age 30 got as a child contained 200 proteins.

For more on Autism’s False Prophets you can also read an excerpt or watch the following video of Dr. Offit discussing the book:

Monday, January 12th, 2009

More Interviews with Siddharth Kara

Interest in Siddharth Kara’s Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery continues as he travels the country discussing his book, his first-hand experience talking to victims, and how an economic perspective can help us better understand the sex trafficking and how it can be eradicated.

Here is his interview with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate:

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Post-Convention Wrap-Ups — Philosophy

There seems to have been less coverage of the American Philosophical Association‘s meeting than some of the other academic conventions but below are a few dispatches from the meeting. Like the other conventions concerns about a shrinking job market were on the minds of many along with more scholarly concerns.

Carlin Romano’s article for The Philadelphia Inquirer, while a touch disparaging at times, offers a good overview of the conference and reminds readers that philosophy still elicits passionate debate and has the potential to have an impact beyond academia.

A lively forum on the Romano article from philosophy professors can be found be found at Leiter Reports. (Most tend to be critical of the article’s focus and tone.) Frustration about the meeting can also be found here and here.

Sorry we could not dig up more. However, despite the gloom felt by some at the conference, interesting work continues to be published. Speaking of which, dozens of our philosophy titles are on sale through the month.

Finally for more on the vitality of the philosophy profession, here is a trailer from Examined Life, a documentary now playing in some theaters which focuses on the ideas of key contemporary philosophers, including Cornel West, Peter Singer, Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler, Avital Ronell, Michael Hardt, Anthony Appiah and Martha Nussbaum.

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Is “Thirdhand Tobacco Smoke” a Valid Scientific Concept or a Public Relations Gimmick? — A Post from Geoffrey Kabat

Geoffrey Kabat is the author of Hyping Health Risks: Environmental Hazards in Daily Life and the Science of Epidemiology.

“There are enough scientifically documented harmful effects of exposure to cigarette smoke without concocting catchy but uninformative concepts that, while likely to attract the attention of the jaded media and its audiences, confuse the important issues regarding the health effects from exposure to cigarette smoke.”—Geoffrey Kabat

Hyping Health RisksThe current issue of the journal Pediatrics (January, 2009) carries an article titled “Beliefs about the Health Effects of ‘Thirdhand’ Smoke and Home Smoking Bans”. The study has been reported by the New York Times, the BBC News, and many other news outlets.

The authors of the article, tobacco researchers from Harvard and several other institutions, defined “thirdhand” smoke—in contrast to the better-known secondhand smoke—as the “residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette is extinguished.” They characterized secondhand smoke as the smoke that is visible while the cigarette is being smoked.

Having defined this “novel” exposure, the researchers conducted a survey to determine whether respondents thought that exposure to thirdhand smoke was harmful for children compared to secondhand smoke. Their results indicated that the vast majority of respondents (both smokers and nonsmokers) believed that secondhand smoke harms the health of children, and that smaller but still sizeable proportions of smokers and nonsmokers believed that thirdhand smoke harms children.

The authors conclude that educating parents about the hazard of thirdhand smoke may contribute to making homes smoke-free. (The home is the principal remaining venue where smokers can freely exercise their habit). Few people in public health would quarrel with this objective.

However, since the article presents itself as science (with representative samples, multivariable analysis, statistical tests, and references to the literature), it is fair game to look at the validity of their concepts and inferences.


Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Baseball in the Depression — Breaking the Slump

Breaking the SlumpYesterday’s New York Times quoted Charles Alexander, author of Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era, in their article on how baseball was affected by the Great Depression.

Needless to say, attendance was down, players’ salaries were cut, and even the New York Yankees lost money a couple of years during the Depression. Historians and economists are looking back to that era to see how today’s teams might fare. And, while times were tough, no major league teams folded and in their need to attract fans, the 30s brought on a period of innovation, including night games, an expansion of the minor leagues, and the increase of radio broadcasts.

Players from the period, despite the hardships, remember it fondly and proudly. From Breaking the Slump:

For ballplayers in the Depression era, the professional game wasn’t just how they wanted to make a living; for many of them, it was about the only way they could make a living. The players of those hard times would often look back on the baseball of their day as having been more rugged and generally more demanding than the game they watched in later decades. Billy Rogell, for one was sure of it…. “We got guys playing today that we wouldn’t have even let in the ballpark in my day. It’s a lousy way to say it but it’s true. I played in the best era of baseball.”

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Post-Convention Wrap-Ups — AHA

We continue our recap (or really recap of recaps) of recent conventions with the American Historical Association’s meeting which was recently held in New York City. Given historians penchant for documenting, it is not surprising that there are a lot of scholars out there blogging and writing about the meeting. We’ve probably missed a few and the indispensable History News Network (HNN) will be providing their own rundown of the meeting in the next few days. In the meantime, here are some links of interest:

* On the Chronicle of Higher Education’s News blog there is a report on Gabrielle Spiegel’s presidential address in which provided a valedictory goodbye to postmodernist theory.

* Coverage of the AHA’s decision not to boycott next year’s meeting in San Diego over Proposition 8 can be found at Inside Higher Ed and at Tenured Radical, who calls for queer historians to show up in record numbers and use it as an opportunity for activism.

* A Youtube video of Historians Against the War panel.

* Mary Dudziak, writing for Legal History Blog has a post on the panel “Doing Transnational History,” which includes a mention of our new series Columbia Studies in International and Global History.

* Chapati Mystery includes a look at the conference from the vantage point of a South Asianist.

* Historiann had a “team of reporters” providing posts about the convention including ones focused on graduate studies and the value of historiography, what was happening on the book exhibit floor and the cult of celebrity at the AHA,

* Historying includes an interesting perspective of the use of digital media in the classroom and for the historical profession along with a look at the pros and cons of academic conferences.

* Religion in American History provides a helpful dispatch from the AHA Book Exhibit.

* The depressed job market is explored at Inside Higher Ed.

* Rate Your Students (again) provides a humorous/depressing look at the interviewing process and the highs and lows of the conference. For a sample of what you might find at RYS here’s an excerpt from their random live blog section:

“The Sheraton lobby is lousy with historians: you can spot them as the badly dressed types with laptops wandering round trying to find a free wireless signal (because travel allowances don’t include $15/day for internet at hotels).”

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Excommunicating Dead Terrorists, by Leor Halevi

Muhammad's GraveIn a past post, Columbia University Press authors Bruce Hoffman and Ami Pedazhur looked at the geopolitical and security issues raised by the Mumbai attacks. In his article Excommunicating Dead Terrorists, Leor Halevi, author of Muhammad’s Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society, explores the religious issues relating to the burial of the slain terrorists.

As Halevi points out the Muslim Council of India asked that the dead terrorists be denied burial in India’s largest graveyards since their acts went against the principles of Islam. Halevi explores the various possibilities of what to the with the bodies, including sending them back to Pakistan, a modified burial ceremony, or to cremate the bodies and spread their ashes over international waters as Israel did after executing Adolf Eichmann in 1962.

Halevi argues that this last method is the best, writing:

Cremation would neither shame the bodies of dead terrorists, nor haunt the minds of would-be terrorists, as powerfully as would a symbolic inversion of standard Muslim rites. But it would convey an effective, reasonable and humanistic message to the world: that a Muslim who commits terrorism dies excommunicated, as an infidel.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Post-Convention Wrap-Ups — The MLA

The two weeks after Christmas are kind of the equivalent of “March Madness” for academia and scholarly publishing with conferences for a variety of fields. Not surprisingly, these events are now blogged about and twittered. Over the next few days, we’ll recap some of the events as they were reported by Web sites and blogs. We’ll start with the Modern Language Association (MLA):

Speaking of Twitter, The Chronicle of Higher Education in their last roundup of the MLA cited twitter as both a “hot topic” and a “hot research topic.” (Other hot research topics included Animal Studies and digital scholarship). The twitter panel along with digital scholarship, digital pedagogy and all things digital drew the attention of many others including, Cathy Davidson of Duke University, Matthew Gold, of the CUNY Graduate Center, who participated on the panel on twitter, and John Jones, who offers an interesting recap of the twitter panel at the Humanities, Arts, Science, Technology, Advanced Collaboratory blog. All these posts point to the need to better integrate these technologies and has the potential to change not only the way we communicate but the ways in which we read and write texts.

Not surprisingly, concerns about a shrinking job market was on the minds of many as reported by The Chronicle here, here, and here.

One of the more controversial events at the convention was the panel discussion of Stanley Fish’s new book Save the World on Your Own Time. As you might be able to guess from his title, Fish is calling for the classroom to become a less political place. His argument was challenged by both Judith Butler and Jonathan Culler. Besides the report from the Chronicle, Roxie’s World also weighed in, proclaiming Butler the victor in the debate, as did Matthew Biberman, a former Fish student.

For a more official but still opinionated views, Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA, also blogged the convention, including an interesting post on the panel “The Way We Teach Now,” whose participants included Michael Berube, Amanda Anderson, and Rita Felski, and which underscored the convention’s renewed interest in pedagogy.

Finally, for more unofficial views there is Rate Your Students (RYS) (you’ll need to to a bit of scrolling). RYS gives a more “gritty” and ground’s-eye view of the conference, including the perils of interviewing (check out the post: Does Anyone Know How to Interview: Ten Mistakes from Yesterday’s MLA), awkward social moments, and more. And for those frustrated by the job market, there is always sex or at least a conference about sex at the MLA as reported by Inside Higher Ed in their provocatively titled article, “Handjobs at the Hilton”: A Report on MLA Sex.

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Interviews with Siddharth Kara

Siddharth Kara’s Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery investigates the mechanics of the global sex trafficking business across four continents and takes stock of its devastating human toll.

Recently, Kara was interviewed on Marketplace. In the interview Kara discusses what makes sex trafficking so lucrative, why countries fail to enforce the laws against it, and what can be done to eradicate sex trafficking.

You can also listen to Kara’s recent appearance on Air Talk.

Finally, here is an interview we did with Kara and you can also watch a special video of him discussing the book.

Q. I thought most countries abolished slavery during the Nineteenth Century. Are there still slaves today?

Siddharth Kara: Yes, there are still slaves today, even though slavery is illegal in every country in the world. By my calculation, there were 28.4 million slaves in the world at the end of 2006. These slaves were in three primary categories: 18.1 million debt bondage/bonded labor slaves, 7.6 million forced labor slaves, and 2.7 million trafficked slaves (slaves who were coerced or deceived then transported into a forced labor or debt bondage situation). Of these trafficked slaves, 1.2 million were sex slaves. For reasons I discuss in my book, there will assuredly be more slaves in the world today than at the end of 2006, with the highest growth in the trafficked slave category.

Q: Since sex slaves are a small percentage of slaves worldwide, why did you focus your book on this small category of slavery?

SK: Sex slavery is the first form of slavery I (consciously) encountered. I first came across sex trafficking while I was volunteering in a Bosnian refugee camp in the summer of 1995, an experience that profoundly affected me. In my research I focus on sex slavery for two additional reasons. First, it is perhaps the most grotesque and barbaric form of exploitation suffered by contemporary slaves. Whips, cigarette burns, knife slashes, beatings, broken bones—all slaves suffer these tortures, but sex slaves suffer these as well as ten, fifteen, or even twenty instances of forced sex each and every day. Second, sex slavery is by far the most profitable form of slavery. Even though only 4% of all slaves are sex slaves, these same slaves generate almost 40% of the total profits enjoyed by slave owners each year.


Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Save on Economics and Finance Titles!


Save 20% on selected titles in Economics. Click here for more details.

Sale lasts until February 1.

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Seed Selects Autism’s False Prophets for Their Top Books of 2008

We know it’s a bit late for year-end lists but we did want to point out that the editors of Seed included Paul Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure on their list of outstanding book releases of 2008.

The editors write:

In a perfect world, the public’s knowledge would mirror the scientific consensus. In Autism’s False Prophets, vaccine expert Offit dissects how shady lawyers, suspect science, self-interested politicians, and equivocating journalists have derailed this hope, convincing millions that vaccines cause autism even as the scientific community has proven the theory false. More than a book about a disease, it is an ode to uncorrupted science and a cautionary tale that data alone is never enough.

Monday, January 5th, 2009

History Titles on Sale!

In addition to our other ongoing sales, we are also announcing a special sale on History titles.

Save 20% on dozens of titles in a variety of subjects including:

* U.S. History
* Asian History
* European History
* Middle Eastern History
* Medieval and Classical History
* African History

Sale lasts until February 1. Happy New Year!

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Upcoming Author Events

For the week of January 5 three Columbia University Press authors will be reading from and discussing their book in the New York City area.

Jeffrey B. Perry author of Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918:

Thursday, January 8 at 6:00 pm
Newark Public Library
5 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07101-0630


Donald Prothero author of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters:

Thursday, January 8 at 6:30 pm
American Museum of Natural History
Linder Theater
Central Park West and 79th Street
New York, NY 10024

Saturday, January, January 10 at 1:00 pm
New York City Skeptics
University Settlement
184 Eldridge St.
New York, NY 10002


Siddharth Kara author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery:

Friday, January 9 at 3:00 pm
The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
170 East 64th Street
New York, NY 10065

Sunday, January 11 at 7:00 pm
Bluestocking Books
172 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002