New and noteworthy – 6 July 2017

Cultivating climate-friendly habits, a masculine discourse on devilry, how to power up and power through scholarly writing, and Black Power’s push into the centre

July 6, 2017
Witch burning
Source: iStock

Vexed with Devils: Manhood and Witchcraft in Old and New England
Erika Gasser

New York University Press

Although much has been written about witchcraft, suggests Erika Gasser, “scholars remain vexed with devils, or at least vexed by them, because they prompted conflicts that resist stable interpretation”. In this book, she explores “possession narratives” from both sides of the Atlantic in the period from 1564 to about 1700. While the vast majority of witches were women, responses to them are also highly revealing about masculine ideals because they “regularly invoke manhood in their attempts to assert control”. Given that suspected witches are still prosecuted in many countries, there are many lessons to be learned from this strange and unsettling history.


The Carbon Code: How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero
Brett Favaro

Johns Hopkins University Press

Climate change, according to the campaigning research scientist Brett Favaro, amounts to “death by a thousand cuts on a planetary scale”. Those of us who live in developed countries may “want to be part of the solution” yet fear that we are “part of the problem”, when “every product we own, every chemical we use, and every kilometer we move is tied to fossil fuels”. This book sets out “a carbon code of conduct” covering all the key areas – electricity, food, short-distance transport and long-distance travel – to show how we can all make a difference while avoiding the risk of burnout.


Seizing Jerusalem: The Architectures of Unilateral Unification
Alona Nitzan-Shiftan

University of Minnesota Press

When the architect Alona Nitzan-Shiftan was growing up in Israel, she never realised that “the urban space around me was implicated in everything we did and thought”. It was only from a distance that she began to understand “the histories and identities that the urban space of Jerusalem fostered and those it forbade”. Seizing Jerusalem provides what she calls “a critical architectural history of Jerusalem’s unilateral unification” while also acknowledging “the ongoing competition between numerous architectural agendas and agencies”. The result, she believes, “reveals an entirely overlooked and divergent set of forces working in and over Jerusalem”.


Write No Matter What: Advice for Academics
Joli Jensen

University of Chicago Press

Most academics need to write, yet for many, argues Joli Jensen, it becomes something close to an “existential trauma”. What they need to do is treat writing like a craft, rather than an ordeal, a matter of learning “effective tools and habits” but not “a measure of [their] inner worth”. There are good ways of finding support and building momentum, but the best place to start is by addressing some common psychological barriers. Forget about producing a magnum opus or the perfect first sentence, Jensen urges aspiring academic authors, worrying about that mythical “hostile reader” or dreaming of a perfectly clear desk…


Mainstreaming Black Power
Tom Adam Davies

University of California Press

The US Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s is often considered an eloquent expression of black rage that had little real political impact. Yet in reality, claims Tom Adam Davies, “mainstream white politicians and institutions” set out to meet head-on – and thus manage and direct – “the challenge that Black Power’s emergence presented”. The first black mayors of Los Angeles and Atlanta, both elected in 1973, “deferred to white downtown business interests” and adopted policies that greatly benefited the black middle class and elite but “ultimately reinforced the disadvantages facing their poor and working-class black constituents”. Mainstreaming Black Power unravels the complexities of this tangled tale.

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