New and noteworthy – 12 November 2015

From the University of Chicago to ancient Rome via the ‘palaeo diet’ and China’s Three Gorges Dam: new academic books worth adding to your reading list

November 12, 2015
Person lying on grass reading book

The University of Chicago: A History
By John W. Boyer
University of Chicago Press

As 130-plus pages of footnotes hint at a bumper fact bonanza, the author, the university’s dean of college, conveys quiet pride in his hugely influential institution. Illustrations include the inevitable very long parade of austere scholar-leaders, 19th-century fraternity high jinks and 20th-century anti-war protests.


SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
By Mary Beard
Profile Books

Britain’s best-known Classicist/broadcaster/charismatic public intellectual carries on up the Tiber, single-handedly stemming the decline and fall of Rome in the national consciousness with another witty, rattlingly readable, offhandedly erudite doorstopper. (Oh, and it’s Senatus Populusque Romanus, but you knew that.)


The Last Drop: The Politics of Water
By Mike Gonzalez and Marianella Yanes
Pluto Press

“Where there is water, there is life. Without it, there is nothing.” A UK-based Latin American studies scholar and his Venezuelan co-author track this essential resource from the Amazon to China’s Three Gorges Dam and industrial farms to coltan mines, via privatisation, poverty and climate change.


Crisis
By Sylvia Walby
Polity

A fiscal emergency requiring regulation, or engineered “austerity” serving the rollback of the state? In this lucid work, an eminent sociologist and gender theorist draws on the study of risk, disaster and catastrophe to unpick the social life of the “crisis”, and offers a critique of the social science key to understanding it.


Reconceiving Infertility: Biblical Perspectives on Procreation and Childlessness
By Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden
Princeton University Press

For Eve, childbirth was God’s curse; for Sarah, cause for incredulous laughter. Brilliant young New Testament scholar Candida Moss and Hebrew Bible expert Joel Baden consider fruitfulness and its absence, discussing nephilim offspring, “polluting” menstrual blood and barren women’s plant-killing urine along the way.


Killer Apes, Naked Apes and Just Plain Nasty People: The Misuse and Abuse of Science In Political Discourse
By Richard J. Perry
Johns Hopkins University Press

Eugenics – remember that one? An eminent and exasperated anthropologist serves up a short, sharp critique of biological determinism’s strangely persistent congeries of bad ideas, with some scathing asides for both Thomas Jefferson and the “palaeo diet”. Nearly as good as its withering title are the chapter headings, especially “Don’t Get Me Started” and “That’s Just About Enough of That”.


Beyond Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Thinking about Women’s Violence in Global Politics
By Caron E. Gentry and Laura Sjoberg
Zed Books

A compelling spotlight on a stubborn gender blind spot: the view that pathology, not agency and socio-political contexts, drives women who commit atrocities, from Chechen “Black Widows” to Rwandan genocide participants. Fixed views of what “normal” women look like, the authors argue, mean we see such extra-legal violence as the “unnatural” work of sexually deviant madwomen.

Karen Shook

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