Book Review: U.S. Military Bases, Quasi-Bases and Domestic Politics in Latin America by Sebastian E. Bitar

Since 1999 all attempts by the US government to open formal military bases in Latin America have failed. This leads one to assume the US has lost much of its military influence in the region. However, the existence of so-called quasi-bases, or informal bases, discussed in Sebastian Bitar’s book, demonstrates that the US has managed to maintain its military influence. Quasi-bases differ from formal bases in no other way than that they lack a formal lease agreement for use of facilities. Essentially, quasi-bases serve the same purposes as formal bases, but exist in a cloud of secrecy. Continue reading

Book Review: Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932-1965 by Eric Schickler

Beginning his history with Roosevelt’s election in 1932, Schickler argues that civil rights was, put simply, ‘not part of the programmatic liberal vision in the early 1930s’ (27). With African American voters generally loyal to the party of Lincoln, and with Roosevelt attempting to appease both the organized labor movements of the South and West (who were generally resistant to civil rights) and conservative northeastern business interests, it took the creation of the Congress of Industrialized Organizations (CIO) in 1935 to bring African Americans into the coalition and redefine New Deal liberalism. Continue reading

Storify of our #bookhour on HYSTOPIA by David Means

On Tuesday 2nd August 2016, Dr Dorothy Butchard, Dr Ciarán Dowd, Dr Deirdre Flynn, and Dr Dan King joined #bookhour organiser Dr Diletta De Cristofaro to chat about David Means’ Hystopia, in the longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2016. The discussion focused on the form of the novel, both in its postmodern nested narratives and framing devices, and in its various story arcs; on the relationship between alternate history and trauma, as well as on that between individual agency and state intervention; and, finally, on the text’s use of Baudrillardian tropes and its problematic depiction of women. Continue reading

When a novel changes a social system: Mary Jane Ward’s The Snake Pit (1946) and the US state psychiatric hospital

It is rare for a novel to radically affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, yet Mary Jane Ward’s novel, The Snake Pit (1946), drew widespread critical attention to the plight of the mentally ill in American state asylums. It is not claiming too much to say that treatment of the insane began its long, unsteady road to improvement after Ward’s fiction had reached out to a huge, popular audience, tackling a subject that had previously been taboo. Continue reading