University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

University Presses in Space! Before we get started with blog posts, we just want to point out the brand new UP in Space website, devoted to showcasing books on space and space exploration published by university presses. It’s an excellent list, and features two Columbia UP books: Crowded Orbits: Conflict and Cooperation in Space, by James Clay Moltz, and Mankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science, and Future of Human Space Exploration, by Claude A. Piantadosi!

Moving back to earth, we’ll get the Roundup rolling with an interview with Jeff Williamson and Larry Neal on the long, complicated history of capitalism, posted on fifteeneightyfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press. Williamson and Neal discuss ancient economic records from Babylon, claim that the the corporation started to appear in medieval Italy, consider the role of wars in 20th-century capitalism, and wonder if recent levels of economic growth can be sustained throughout the 21st century.

The national dialogue on gun violence that followed the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary last year seems to have faded into the background without any major changes in gun policy. At the JHU Press Blog, Beth McGinty and Colleen Barry have a guest post examining why, despite “polls [that] showed that the overwhelming majority of Americans supported many gun policy options,” Congress did not end up passing any relevant legislation. In particular, they are interested in why “Congress failed to strengthen the background check system for gun sales, despite our polling data showing that 89% of Americans overall, 86% of Republicans, 84% of gun owners, and 74% of National Rifle Association members supported requiring background checks for all gun sales.”

The US invasion of Iraq began eleven years ago this month, and at the OUP blog, Geoffrey S. Corn looks back at “the most significant strategic debacle of the war”: the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. Corn emphasizes that the repeated emphasis from US leaders, both civilian and military, that the enemy in Iraq and more broadly in the Middle East was made up of “‘unlawful’ combatants” played a significant role in the scandal by creating a double-standard for how prisoners should be seen by their guards: “lawful” combatants one way and “unlawful” combatants another.

“In 2005, human rights investigators stumbled on the archives of Guatemala’s National Police…. [containing] 75 million pages of evidence of state-sponsored crimes.” In an interview at the Duke University Press Blog, Kristen Weld, who documents this discovery and its ramifications in her new book, talks about Guatemala’s war-torn history and how its current government and people are reacting to the new information revealed in the archives. (Also from the Duke University Press blog: a brief playlist of experimental music from the 1960s, courtesy of David Grubbs.)

If the United States government and domestic anti-communist action are mentioned, most people would think of the McCarthy Era. However, in an interview at the University of Illinois Press blog, Alex Goodall discusses how many different events between World War I and the 1950s that made McCarthyism possible. Goodall points out that “[i]n the arguments over the NSA surveillance of American citizens, the growth of massive new counter-terrorist bureaucracies and new, post 9/11 laws to address the dangers posed by radical groups from around the world, we see a continuation of the arguments prior generations of Americans had about Communists and Fascists in their midst.”

At the UNC Press Blog, Shane J. Maddock argues that US insistence on maintaining nuclear supremacy does not lead to a nuclear-free world that “would enhance U.S. security and reduce international tensions,” but instead creates international tensions, increases military spending, and pushes other states to develop nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are no longer an asset for the US, he claims: “They are fundamentally unusable against the threats facing the major states, and the superpowers’ large nuclear arsenals only grant legitimacy to the efforts of smaller powers to acquire nuclear weapons in order to guard against great power attacks.”

Bill de Blasio boycotted this year’s NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade because of the parade’s policy “that prohibits homosexuals from marching under a separate banner.” At From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Jennifer Nugent Duffy traces the origins of St. Patrick’s Day parades in the US and examines the history of Irish immigrants to explain the origins of the policy in question, and argues against the “narrow definition of Irishness” espoused by the parade leadership, given that she finds that this definition is grounded in 19th century ways of thinking.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, and clues are starting to accumulate that indicate that the plane was lost at sea. At the MIT Press blog, Robin Murphy writes about how underwater searches and investigations have increasingly come to rely on “disaster robots,” like the ones that found Air France flight AF447 in 2011. Murphy cautions that it’s crucial to remember that “robots don’t replace people, they add new capabilities.”

What is the relationship between the artist, the artwork, and the audience? This question has long been at the forefront of the field of aesthetics, and, in a recent three-part guest post at the University of Minnesota Press blog, Todd Cronan gives a brief history of the ways it has been answered, and tries to provide a new perspective on those answers through the works of variety of artists, including, among others, Shepard Fairey’s OBEY stickers, Olaf Eliasson’s Weather Project, John Cage’s 4’33”, Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Striped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, and Tristan Tzara’s “Dada Poem” from the “1918 Manifesto.”

At Island Press Field Notes, Emily Monosson details the revival of corn rootworms, “once the scourge of corn growers,” who have adapted to once again be able to eat corn genetically modified to produce a specific toxin designed to kill rootworms. Unfortunately, as Monosson points out, “[n]o matter how you feel about biotech, this is bad news because it can only lead to increased pesticide use.”

The fate of wolves in the US and Canada is a controversial topic, with ever-shrinking hunting devastating wolf populations as much as any measures purposefully designed to eliminate them. In an interview at the Oregon State University Press blog, Aimee Lyn Eaton discusses the slowly increasing, but still “collared” wolf population in Oregon, and talks about the difficulties inherent in managing small wolf populations in the modern world.

Want to get up close and personal with a bunch of insects? The UPNEblog of the University Press of New England has a blog post on their new title, Art and Architecture of Insects, complete with a number of (surprisingly pretty) highly magnified pictures of bugs.

Spring has officially sprung after a seemingly interminable winter, and the Princeton University Press Blog is celebrating the occasion with a math and science post from Oscar Fernandez explaining two numbers that are crucial to the existence of the seasons here on earth: 92,000,000 and 23.4. (Fernandez does admit that “[i]t’s not entirely true that just two numbers explain the seasons,” but does bring up a valid point in his defense: discussing all the other relevant factors “would’ve made the title a lot longer.”)

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

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