Book Review: Noise Uprising by Michael Denning

The State of the Discipline Series: Part I

As Benedict Anderson’s concept of nationalism relies on the omnipresence of ‘print capitalism’, so Michael Denning here argues that decolonisation depended on an era of ‘sound capitalism’ – a new, urban, plebeian music that circled the world. In this sense, then, while there is no clear moment when the ear was ‘decolonised’, the battle over sound and music was central to the struggle over colonialism. Continue reading

Book Review: The Saltwater Frontier by Andrew Lipman

The State of the Discipline Series: Part I

Most historical accounts of the colonisation of New England focus on  territorial claims made on certain swathes of land between the Hudson River and Cape Cod. Not so Andrew Lipman. Unequivocal in his rejection of ‘surf and turf’ histories, in The Saltwater Frontier Lipman argues that by focusing on the ocean itself as a paradigm of shifting territories, his book offers ‘a new way of thinking about Indian history and a new way of understanding this all-too-familiar region’. Continue reading

Book Review: An American Genocide by Benjamin Madley

In ‘An American Genocide’, Benjamin Madley analyses the devastating demographic decline of California Indians. California’s Native American population declined from about 150,000 people to 30,000 in the period 1846-1873. Madley draws heavily on the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. As he explains, this convention provides a powerful analytical tool to help scholars explain what happened to California’s indigenous people. Continue reading

Book Review: The Jolly Corner and Other Tales by Henry James and N.H. Reeve

The word perhaps most associated with Henry James is ‘difficult’. James, ‘The Master’, wrote weighty tomes—masterpieces of literature—fraught with long-winded, circumlocutory, or rather uniquely expressive, sentences. He is generally considered to be among the greatest novelists in the English language. The Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James aims to provide, for the first time, a full scholarly edition of the novels and tales of this 20th Century American writer. Continue reading

Book review: Out of Oakland, Black Panther Party Internationalism during the Cold War by Sean L. Malloy

Sean L. Malloy’s book provides a convincing and engaging history of the internationalism of the Black Panther Party (BPP). It is a valuable contribution to scholarship on the BPP, black internationalism, and the intersection of issues of race and the Cold War. Continue reading

Book Review: American Niceness: A Cultural History by Carrie Tirado Bramen

When the current U.S. president, as Bramen puts it in her wide-ranging cultural study, ‘epitomizes the bombastic chauvinism of the Ugly American’ (1), the concept of American niceness sounds at best like an out-dated but innocuous cliché and, at worst, like a dangerous fiction. As American Niceness sets out to prove, the trope of the kind and generous American has yet to fall out of fashion and the role that it has played in disguising a long history of ugly violence might account for its unstinting survival. Continue reading

Book Review: James and Esther Cooper Jackson: Love and Courage in the Black Freedom Movement by Sarah Rzeszutek Haviland

In this dual biography, Sarah Haviland traces the political and intellectual career of activist couple James and Esther Cooper Jackson. Utilising a combination of personally-conducted oral history interviews and archival material, she argues that an analysis of the couple demonstrates that communist-affiliated activists of the 1930s Popular Front era were able to adapt their activism and influence the trajectory of the modern civil rights movement that emerged in the 1960s. Continue reading

Book Review: The Boatman: Henry David Thoreau’s River Years by Robert M. Thorson

Most biographers have ignored Henry David Thoreau’s relationship to the river but Robert Thorson here aims to correct this narrow focus by arguing that the river – the active ever-changing water bustiling with activity both human and natural – is as much a part of Thoreau’s canon and its landscape as the still water of Walden Pond. In this book Thorson envisions Thoreau’s environment as a hybrid of land and water, and the man as a boatman as much as a woodsman. Continue reading

Book Review: Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America by Nathaniel Frank

In this book Nathanial Frank traces how marriage became a key debate of the culture wars in the late twentieth, and early twenty-first, centuries. He explores the conflicts within the gay rights movement, conservative resistance, and changing public attitudes towards marriage equality in the United States. Continue reading