Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and States in Modern America

Ronit Y. Stahl’s new book, Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America, brings an important new perspective to the study of religious progress and acceptance in the United States. Focusing on the American military chaplaincy and its role in legitimating different faith groups domestically and internationally, Stahl highlights the influence of the military complex in shaping society and social norms. Continue reading

Book Review: The Lives of Frederick Douglass by Robert S. Levine

The State of the Discipline Series: Part II

The Lives of Frederick Douglass is a fascinating collage of images that recreate various facets of the life of Frederick Douglass. Robert Levine demonstrates insight in delving into the complexity of racialised identities and the changing contours of self-definition in a collection that spans the most popular of Douglass’s writings, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845), as well as his lesser known My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881), along with letters, articles, and speeches. Continue reading

‘[S]omething to feel about’: Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of The Last Slave

A Review Essay

It is nearly a century since Zora Neale Hurston wrote Barracoon, an ethnography of Cudjo Lewis, the Alabama man believed to be the last living African enslaved in the United States. On May 8 Lewis’ story became widely available to the public for the first time. To mark this historic occasion, and to commemorate the life and works of Zora Neale Hurston – a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, African-American folklorist and ethnographer, and one of the most significant women writers of the twentieth century – USSO has commissioned a series of articles on any aspect of Hurston’s life, her art, her anthropology. This article is the second in the series. Continue reading

Book Review: Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in North America by Jennifer Brier, Jim Downs and Jennifer L. Morgan (eds.)

This expansive and ambitious collection sets out to ask what the American past looks like when race and sexuality are the ‘animating questions’ (3), addressing a persistent failure in scholarship to integrate concerns about race and sexuality. Essays here span almost four centuries of North American history, from same-sex desire on seventeenth-century slave plantations to the mass marches of the 1990s and early 2000s. Continue reading

Book Review: The FBI in Latin America: The Ecuador Files by Marc Becker

While scholars have devoted considerable attention to CIA activities in Latin America during the Cold War, they have spent less time examining intelligence-gathering before 1947, when the CIA was created. Marc Becker, currently Professor of History at Truman State University and author of several books on Ecuador, argues in The FBI in Latin America that scholars need to study FBI operations in Latin America in the 1940s. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: THE QUIET CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN NOVEL, BY RACHEL SYKES

Rachel Sykes’ much-needed monograph, The Quiet Contemporary American Novel (TQCAN) compellingly argues that there is a vein of quiet that runs through American literary canon and remains prevalent in contemporary US culture.
This book explores ‘quiet’ as a narrative concept in contemporary US fiction. In her thorough development of the term, Sykes gives us an idiom for a narrative aesthetic that is motivated by values of contemplation and characterised by its interest in the lives of introverted scholarly characters. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: HILLBILLY ELEGY: A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY AND CULTURE IN CRISIS, BY J.D. VANCE

Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus (2007) drew a global readership’s attention to underprivileged Appalachian communities. J.D. Vance replicates this with his memori Hillbilly Elegy. Published, like Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash, in 2016, Vance and Isenberg agree that despite constitutionally enshrined freedom, social mobility remains unattainable for many disenfranchised white working-class US citizens. Continue reading

Book Review: Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism: U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015, by Melvyn P. Leffler

Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism presents a selection of work from one of the world’s leading scholars of US foreign relations. Together these essays offer an elegant and engagingly written survey of twentieth century US foreign policy and national security debates. Continue reading

Book review: Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S. Army, 1815-1917, by J.P. Clark

J.P. Clark combines his military experience and meticulous research in Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S Army. The book is an insightful combination of military, political, and social history, and describes the evolution of Army officers’ formal education between 1815-1917 in an attempt to contextualise the shift from nineteenth to twentieth century understandings of military proficiency. Continue reading