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The History of an Idea
The notion of retrieving a bit of the past-by owning a material piece of it-has always appealed to humans. Often our most prized possessions are those that have had a long history before they came into our hands. Part of the pleasure we gain from the encounter with antiques stems from the palpable age and the assumed (sometimes imaginary) cultural resonances of the particular object. But precisely what is it about these objects that creates this attraction? What common characteristics do they share and why and how do these traits affect us as they do?
In Antiques: The History of an Idea, Leon Rosenstein, a distinguished philosopher who has also been an antiques dealer for more than twenty years, offers a sweeping and lively account of the origin and development of the antique as both a cultural concept and an aesthetic category. He shows that the appeal of antiques is multifaceted: it concerns their value as commodities, their age and historical and cultural associations, their uniqueness, their sensuous and tactile values, their beauty. Exploring how the idea of antiques evolved over time, Rosenstein chronicles the history of antique collecting and connoisseurship. He describes changing conceptions of the past in different epochs as evidenced by preservations, restorations, and renascences; examines shifting attitudes toward foreign cultures as revealed in stylistic borrowings and the importation of artifacts; and investigates varying understandings of and meanings assigned to their traits and functions as historical objects.
While relying on the past for his evidence, Rosenstein approaches antiques from an entirely original perspective, setting history within a philosophical framework. He begins by providing a working definition of antiques that distinguishes them from other artifacts in general and, more distinctly, both from works of fine art and from the collectible detritus of popular culture. He then establishes a novel set of criteria for determining when an artifact is an antique: ten traits that an object must possess in order to elicit the aesthetic response that is unique to antiques. Concluding with a provocative discussion of the relation between antiques and civilization, this engaging and thought-provoking book helps explain the enduring appeal of owning a piece of the past.
The Civil War and America's Culture of Death
"Americans came to fight the Civil War in the midst of a wider cultural world that sent them messages about death that made it easier to kill and to be killed. They understood that death awaited all who were born and prized the ability to face death with a spirit of calm resignation. They believed that a heavenly eternity of transcendent beauty awaited them beyond the grave. They knew that their heroic achievements would be cherished forever by posterity. They grasped that death itself might be seen as artistically fascinating and even beautiful."-from Awaiting the Heavenly Country
How much loss can a nation bear? An America in which 620,000 men die at each other's hands in a war at home is almost inconceivable to us now, yet in 1861 American mothers proudly watched their sons, husbands, and fathers go off to war, knowing they would likely be killed. Today, the death of a soldier in Iraq can become headline news; during the Civil War, sometimes families did not learn of their loved ones' deaths until long after the fact. Did antebellum Americans hold their lives so lightly, or was death so familiar to them that it did not bear avoiding?
In Awaiting the Heavenly Country, Mark S. Schantz argues that American attitudes and ideas about death helped facilitate the war's tremendous carnage. Asserting that nineteenth-century attitudes toward death were firmly in place before the war began rather than arising from a sense of resignation after the losses became apparent, Schantz has written a fascinating and chilling narrative of how a society understood death and reckoned the magnitude of destruction it was willing to tolerate.
Schantz addresses topics such as the pervasiveness of death in the culture of antebellum America; theological discourse and debate on the nature of heaven and the afterlife; the rural cemetery movement and the inheritance of the Greek revival; death as a major topic in American poetry; African American notions of death, slavery, and citizenship; and a treatment of the art of death-including memorial lithographs, postmortem photography and Rembrandt Peale's major exhibition painting The Court of Death. Awaiting the Heavenly Country is essential reading for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of the Civil War and the ways in which antebellum Americans comprehended death and the unimaginable bloodshed on the horizon.
Tobacco and the Making of Modern Bulgaria
In Balkan Smoke, Mary Neuburger leads readers along the Bulgarian-Ottoman caravan routes and into the coffeehouses of Istanbul and Sofia. She reveals how a remote country was drawn into global economic networks through tobacco production and consumption and in the process became modern. In writing the life of tobacco in Bulgaria from the late Ottoman period through the years of Communist rule, Neuburger gives us much more than the cultural history of a commodity; she provides a fresh perspective on the genesis of modern Bulgaria itself.
The tobacco trade comes to shape most of Bulgaria's international relations; it drew Bulgaria into its fateful alliance with Nazi Germany and in the postwar period Bulgaria was the primary supplier of smokes (the famed Bulgarian Gold) for the USSR and its satellites. By the late 1960s Bulgaria was the number one exporter of tobacco in the world, with roughly one eighth of its population involved in production.
Through the pages of this book we visit the places where tobacco is grown and meet the merchants, the workers, and the peasant growers, most of whom are Muslim by the postwar period. Along the way, we learn how smoking and anti-smoking impulses influenced perceptions of luxury and necessity, questions of novelty, imitation, value, taste, and gender-based respectability. While the scope is often global, Neuburger also explores the politics of tobacco within Bulgaria. Among the book's surprises are the ways in which conflicts over the tobacco industry (and smoking) help to clarify the forbidding quagmire of Bulgarian politics.
Modernity, Nation, and the Baroque
In Benjamin's Library, Jane O. Newman offers, for the first time in any language, a reading of Walter Benjamin's notoriously opaque work, Origin of the German Tragic Drama that systematically attends to its place in discussions of the Baroque in Benjamin's day. Taking into account the literary and cultural contexts of Benjamin's work, Newman recovers Benjamin's relationship to the ideologically loaded readings of the literature and political theory of the seventeenth-century Baroque that abounded in Germany during the political and economic crises of the Weimar years.
To date, the significance of the Baroque for Origin of the German Tragic Drama has been glossed over by students of Benjamin, most of whom have neither read it in this context nor engaged with the often incongruous debates about the period that filled both academic and popular texts in the years leading up to and following World War I. Armed with extraordinary historical, bibliographical, philological, and orthographic research, Newman shows the extent to which Benjamin participated in these debates by reconstructing the literal and figurative history of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books that Benjamin analyzes and the literary, art historical and art theoretical, and political theological discussions of the Baroque with which he was familiar. In so doing, she challenges the exceptionalist, even hagiographic, approaches that have become common in Benjamin studies. The result is a deeply learned book that will infuse much-needed life into the study of one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century.
Prostitution and the New German Woman, 1890–1933
During the late nineteenth century the city of Berlin developed such a reputation for lawlessness and sexual licentiousness that it came to be known as the "Whore of Babylon." Out of this reputation for debauchery grew an unusually rich discourse around prostitution. In Berlin Coquette, Jill Suzanne Smith shows how this discourse transcended the usual clichés about prostitutes and actually explored complex visions of alternative moralities or sexual countercultures including the “New Morality” articulated by feminist radicals, lesbian love, and the “New Woman.”
Combining extensive archival research with close readings of a broad spectrum of texts and images from the late Wilhelmine and Weimar periods, Smith recovers a surprising array of productive discussions about extramarital sexuality, women's financial autonomy, and respectability. She highlights in particular the figure of the cocotte (Kokotte), a specific type of prostitute who capitalized on the illusion of respectable or upstanding womanhood and therefore confounded easy categorization. By exploring the semantic connections between the figure of the cocotte and the act of flirtation (of being coquette), Smith’s work presents flirtation as a type of social interaction through which both prostitutes and non-prostitutes in Imperial and Weimar Berlin could express extramarital sexual desire and agency.
Corruption in the European Union
As the European Union moved in the 1990s to a unified market and stronger common institutions, most observers assumed that the changes would reduce corruption. Aspects of the stronger EU promised to preclude-or at least reduce-malfeasance: regulatory harmonization, freer trade, and privatization of publicly owned enterprises. Market efficiencies would render corrupt practices more visible and less common.
In The Best System Money Can Buy, Carolyn M. Warner systematically and often entertainingly gives the lie to these assumptions and provides a framework for understanding the persistence of corruption in the Western states of the EU. In compelling case studies, she shows that under certain conditions, politicians and firms across Europe, chose to counter the increased competition they faced due to liberal markets and political reforms by resorting to corruption. More elections have made ever-larger funding demands on political parties; privatization has proved to be a theme park for economic crime and party profit; firms and politicians collude in many areas where EU harmonization has resulted in a net reduction in law-enforcement powers; and state-led "export promotion" efforts, especially in the armaments, infrastructure, and energy sectors, have virtually institutionalized bribery.
The assumptions that corruption and modernity are incompatible-or that Western Europe is somehow immune to corruption-simply do not hold, as Warner conveys through colorful analyses of scandals in which large corporations, politicians, and bureaucrats engage in criminal activity in order to facilitate mergers and block competition, and in which officials accept private payments for public services rendered. At the same time, the book shows the extent to which corruption is driven by the very economic and political reforms thought to decrease it.
Innovation and the Limits of Asia's Developmental State
After World War II, several late-developing countries registered astonishingly high growth rates under strong state direction, making use of smart investment strategies, turnkey factories, and reverse-engineering, and taking advantage of the postwar global economic boom. Among these economic miracles were postwar Japan and, in the 1960s and 1970s, the so-called Asian Tigers-Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan-whose experiences epitomized the analytic category of the "developmental state."
In Betting on Biotech, Joseph Wong examines the emerging biotechnology sector in each of these three industrial dynamos. They have invested billions of dollars in biotech industries since the 1990s, but commercial blockbusters and commensurate profits have not followed. Industrial upgrading at the cutting edge of technological innovation is vastly different from the dynamics of earlier practices in established industries.
The profound uncertainties of life-science-based industries such as biotech have forced these nations to confront a new logic of industry development, one in which past strategies of picking and making winners have given way to a new strategy of throwing resources at what remain very long shots. Betting on Biotech illuminates a new political economy of industrial technology innovation in places where one would reasonably expect tremendous potential-yet where billion-dollar bets in biotech continue to teeter on the brink of spectacular failure.
Nationality and Emigration among the Greeks of Bulgaria, 1900–1949
In 1900, some 100,000 people living in Bulgaria-2 percent of the country's population-could be described as Greek, whether by nationality, language, or religion. The complex identities of the population-proud heirs of ancient Hellenic colonists, loyal citizens of their Bulgarian homeland, members of a wider Greek diasporic community, devout followers of the Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul, and reluctant supporters of the Greek government in Athens-became entangled in the growing national tensions between Bulgaria and Greece during the first half of the twentieth century.
In Between Two Motherlands, Theodora Dragostinova explores the shifting allegiances of this Greek minority in Bulgaria. Diverse social groups contested the meaning of the nation, shaping and reshaping what it meant to be Greek and Bulgarian during the slow and painful transition from empire to nation-states in the Balkans. In these decades, the region was racked by a series of upheavals (the Balkan Wars, World War I, interwar population exchanges, World War II, and Communist revolutions). The Bulgarian Greeks were caught between the competing agendas of two states increasingly bent on establishing national homogeneity.
Based on extensive research in the archives of Bulgaria and Greece, as well as fieldwork in the two countries, Dragostinova shows that the Greek population did not blindly follow Greek nationalist leaders but was torn between identification with the land of their birth and loyalty to the Greek cause. Many emigrated to Greece in response to nationalist pressures; others sought to maintain their Greek identity and traditions within Bulgaria; some even switched sides when it suited their personal interests. National loyalties remained fluid despite state efforts to fix ethnic and political borders by such means as population movements, minority treaties, and stringent citizenship rules. The lessons of a case such as this continue to reverberate wherever and whenever states try to adjust national borders in regions long inhabited by mixed populations.
Race, Asthma, and the Contested Meaning of Genetic Research in the Caribbean
Steadily increasing numbers of Americans have been diagnosed with asthma in recent years, attracting the attention of biomedical researchers, including those searching for a genetic link to the disease. The high rate of asthma among African American children has made race significant to this search for genetic predisposition. One of the primary sites for this research today is Barbados. The Caribbean nation is considered optimal because of its predominantly black population. At the same time, the government of Barbados has promoted the country for such research in an attempt to take part in the biomedical future.
In Biomedical Ambiguity, Ian Whitmarsh describes how he followed a team of genetic researchers to Barbados, where he did fieldwork among not only the researchers but also government officials, medical professionals, and the families being tested. Whitmarsh reveals how state officials and medical professionals make the international biomedical research part of state care, bundling together categories of disease populations, biological race, and asthma. He points to state and industry perceptions of mothers as medical caretakers in genetic research that proves to be inextricable from contested practices around nation, race, and family.
The reader's attention is drawn to the ambiguity in these practices, as researchers turn the plurality of ethnic identities and illness meanings into a science of asthma and race at the same time that medical practitioners and families make the opaque science significant to patient experience. Whitmarsh shows that the contradictions introduced by this "misunderstanding" paradoxically enable the research to move forward.