Political Sociology and the People's Health
By Jason Beckfield
A social epidemiologist looks at health inequalities in terms of the upstream factors that produced them. A political sociologist sees these same inequalities as products of institutions that unequally allocate power and social goods. Neither is wrong—but can the two talk to one another?
In a stirring new synthesis, Political Sociology and the People's Health advances the debate over social inequalities in health by offering a new set of provocative hypotheses around how health is distributed in and across populations. It joins political sociology's macroscopic insights into social policy, labor markets, and the racialized and gendered state with social epidemiology's conceptualizations and measurements of populations, etiologic periods, and distributions. (Read more at Oxford University Press)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Jason Beckfield is a professor of sociology and chair of the Department of Sociology at Harvard University.
Can We Solve the Migration Crisis?
By Jacqueline Bhabha
Every minute twenty-four people are forced to leave their homes and over sixty-five million are currently displaced worldwide. Small wonder that tackling the refugee and migration crisis has become a global political priority.
But can this crisis be resolved and if so, how? In this compelling essay, renowned human rights lawyer and scholar Jacqueline Bhabha explains why forced migration demands compassion, generosity and a more vigorous acknowledgement of our shared dependence on human mobility as a key element of global collaboration. Unless we develop humane 'win-win' strategies for tackling the inequalities and conflicts driving migration and for addressing the fears fuelling xenophobia, she argues, both innocent lives and cardinal human rights principles will be squandered in the service of futile nationalism and oppressive border control. (Read more at Wiley)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Jacqueline Bhabha is the Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and director of research at François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She is also the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.
Baku: Oil and Urbanism
By Eve Blau
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and formerly part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, is the original oil city, with oil and urbanism thoroughly intertwined—economically, politically, and physical—in the city’s fabric. Baku saw its first oil boom in the late nineteenth century, driven by the Russian branch of the Nobel family modernizing the oil fields around Baku as local oil barons poured their new wealth into building a cosmopolitan city center. During the Soviet period, Baku became the site of an urban experiment: the shaping of an oil city of socialist man. That project included Neft Dashlari, a city built on trestles in the Caspian Sea and designed to house thousands of workers, schools, shops, gardens, clinics, and cinemas as well as 2,000 oil rigs, pipelines, and collecting stations. Today, as it heads into an uncertain post-oil future, Baku’s planners and business elites regard the legacy of its past as a resource that sustains new aspirations and identities.
Richly illustrated with historical images and archival material, this book tells the story of the city, paying particular attention to how the disparate spatial logics, knowledge bases, and practices of oil production and urban production intersected, affected, and transformed one another creating an urban cultural environment unique among extraction sites. The book also features a new photo essay by celebrated photographer Iwan Baan. (Read more at Park Books)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Eve Blau is an adjunct professor of the history of urban form at Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Leading with Dignity: How to Create a Culture That Brings Out the Best in People
By Donna Hicks
This landmark book from an expert in dignity studies explores the essential but under-recognized role of dignity as part of good leadership. Extending the reach of her award-winning book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, Donna Hicks now contributes a specific, practical guide to achieving a culture of dignity.
Most people know very little about dignity, the author has found, and when leaders fail to respect the dignity of others, conflict and distrust ensue. She highlights three components of leading with dignity: what one must know in order to honor dignity and avoid violating it; what one must do to lead with dignity; and how one can create a culture of dignity in any organization, whether corporate, religious, governmental, healthcare, or beyond. Brimming with key research findings, real-life case studies, and workable recommendations, this book fills an important gap in our understanding of how best to be together in a conflict-ridden world. (Read more at Yale University Press)
Donna Hicks is an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.
Threshold: Emergency Responders on the US-Mexico Border
By Ieva Jusionyte
Emergency responders on the US-Mexico border operate at the edges of two states. They rush patients to hospitals across country lines, tend to the broken bones of migrants who jump over the wall, and put out fires that know no national boundaries. Paramedics and firefighters on both sides of the border are tasked with saving lives and preventing disasters in the harsh terrain at the center of divisive national debates.
Ieva Jusionyte’s firsthand experience as an emergency responder provides the background for her gripping examination of the politics of injury and rescue in the militarized region surrounding the US-Mexico border. Operating in this area, firefighters and paramedics are torn between their mandate as frontline state actors and their responsibility as professional rescuers, between the limits of law and pull of ethics. From this vantage they witness what unfolds when territorial sovereignty, tactical infrastructure, and the natural environment collide. Jusionyte reveals the binational brotherhood that forms in this crucible to stand in the way of catastrophe. Through beautiful ethnography and a uniquely personal perspective, Threshold provides a new way to understand politicized issues ranging from border security and undocumented migration to public access to healthcare today. (Read more at University of California Press)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Ieva Jusionyte is an assistant professor of anthropology and of social studies at Harvard University.
Trust: Creating the Foundation for Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries
By Tarun Khanna
Entrepreneurial ventures often fail in the developing world because of the lack of something taken for granted in the developed world: trust. Over centuries, the developed world has built customs and institutions such as enforceable contracts, an impartial legal system, and credible regulatory bodies—and even unofficial but respected sources of information such as Yelp and Consumer Reports—that have created a high level of what scholar and entrepreneur Tarun Khanna calls "ambient trust."
This is not the case in the developing world. But Khanna shows that rather than become casualties of mistrust, smart entrepreneurs can adopt the mindset that, like it or not, it's up to them to weave their own independent web of trust—with their employees, their partners, their clients, their customers, and society as a whole. This can be challenging, and it requires innovative approaches in places where the level of societal mistrust is so high that an official certification of quality simply arouses suspicion—and lowers sales! Using vivid examples from Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and elsewhere, Khanna's stories show how entrepreneurs can build on existing customs and practices instead of trying to push against them. He highlights the role new technologies can play (but cautions that these are not panaceas) and explains how entrepreneurs can find dependable partners in national and local governments to create impact at scale. (Read more at Amazon)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Tarun Khanna is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School.
Where the Party Rules: The Rank and File of China's Communist State
By Daniel Koss
In most non-democratic countries, today governing forty-four percent of the world population, the power of the regime rests upon a ruling party. Contrasting with conventional notions that authoritarian regime parties serve to contain elite conflict and manipulate electoral-legislative processes, this book presents the case of China and shows that rank and-file members of the Communist Party allow the state to penetrate local communities. Subnational comparative analysis demonstrates that in 'red areas' with high party saturation, the state is most effectively enforcing policy and collecting taxes. Because party membership patterns are extremely enduring, they must be explained by events prior to the Communist takeover in 1949. Frontlines during the anti-colonial Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) continue to shape China's political map even today. Newly available evidence from the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961) and the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) shows how a strong local party basis sustained the regime in times of existential crisis. (Read more at Cambridge University Press)
Harvard Academy Scholar Daniel Koss is an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.
The Development Century: A Global History
Edited by Stephen J. Macekura and Erez Manela
This anthology offers a cutting-edge perspective on how development has shaped the history of the modern world. Stephen J. Macekura and Erez Manela have gathered together leading historians to examine development on the international, regional, and national levels, as well as local manifestations of development initiatives and transnational organizing on behalf of alternative approaches. Themes include the relationship between empire and development, the role of international institutions, the influence of the Cold War, decolonization and post-colonial development strategies, reform and resistance to development, development and global health, and the ecological effects of development. The Development Century examines how ideas and discourses about development have shaped its practices on the ground; explores the ways in which policymakers and experts attempted to implement development through specific institutions and policies; and analyzes development initiatives and their effect of local environments and people. (Read more at Cambridge University Press)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Erez Manela is a professor of history at Harvard University.
Piety and Patienthood in Medieval Islam
By Ahmed Ragab
How did pious medieval Muslims experience health and disease? Rooted in the prophet’s experiences with medicine and healing, Muslim pietistic literature developed cosmologies in which physical suffering and medical interventions interacted with religious obligations and spiritual health. This book traces the development of prophetic medical literature and religious writings around health and disease to give a new perspective on how patienthood was conditioned by the intersection of medicine and Islam.
The author investigates the early and foundational writings on prophetic medicine and related pietistic writings on health and disease produced during the Islamic Classical Age. Looking at attitudes from and towards clerics, physicians and patients, sickness and health are gradually revealed as a social, gendered, religious, and cultural experience. Patients are shown to experience certain sensoria that are conditioned not only by medical knowledge, but also by religious and pietistic attitudes.
This is a fascinating insight into the development of Muslim pieties and the traditions of medical practice. It will be of great interest to scholars interested in Islamic Studies, history of religion, history of medicine, science and religion and the history of embodied religious practice, particularly in matters of health and medicine. (Read more at Routledge)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Ahmed Ragab is the Richard T. Watson Assistant Professor of Science and Religion at Harvard Divinity School.
Dynasties and Democracy: The Inherited Incumbency Advantage in Japan
By Daniel M. Smith
Although democracy is, in principle, the antithesis of dynastic rule, families with multiple members in elective office continue to be common around the world. In most democracies, the proportion of such "democratic dynasties" declines over time, and rarely exceeds ten percent of all legislators. Japan is a startling exception, with over a quarter of all legislators in recent years being dynastic. In Dynasties and Democracy, Daniel M. Smith sets out to explain when and why dynasties persist in democracies, and why their numbers are only now beginning to wane in Japan—questions that have long perplexed regional experts.
Smith introduces a compelling comparative theory to explain variation in the presence of dynasties across democracies and political parties. Drawing on extensive legislator-level data from twelve democracies and detailed candidate-level data from Japan, he examines the inherited advantage that members of dynasties reap throughout their political careers—from candidate selection, to election, to promotion into cabinet. Smith shows how the nature and extent of this advantage, as well as its consequences for representation, vary significantly with the institutional context of electoral rules and features of party organization. His findings extend far beyond Japan, shedding light on the causes and consequences of dynastic politics for democracies around the world. (Read more at Stanford University Press)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Daniel M. Smith is an associate professor of government at Harvard University.
The Hell of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy
By Stephen M. Walt
From the New York Times–bestselling author Stephen M. Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions dissects the faults and foibles of recent American foreign policy—explaining why it has been plagued by disasters like the “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan and outlining what can be done to fix it.
In 1992, the United States stood at the pinnacle of world power and Americans were confident that a new era of peace and prosperity was at hand. Twenty-five years later, those hopes have been dashed. Relations with Russia and China have soured, the European Union is wobbling, nationalism and populism are on the rise, and the United States is stuck in costly and pointless wars that have squandered trillions of dollars and undermined its influence around the world.
The root of this dismal record, Walt argues, is the American foreign policy establishment’s stubborn commitment to a strategy of “liberal hegemony.” Since the end of the Cold War, Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to use U.S. power to spread democracy, open markets, and other liberal values into every nook and cranny of the planet. This strategy was doomed to fail, but its proponents in the foreign policy elite were never held accountable and kept repeating the same mistakes. (Read more at Macmillan)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs and faculty chair of the International Security Program at Harvard Kennedy School.
Unruly Waters: How Rains, Rivers, Coasts, and Seas Have Shaped Asia's History
By Sunil Amrith
Asia’s history has been shaped by her waters. In Unruly Waters, historian Sunil Amrith reimagines Asia’s history through the stories of its rains, rivers, coasts, and seas–and of the weather-watchers and engineers, mapmakers and farmers who have sought to control them. Looking out from India, he shows how dreams and fears of water shaped visions of political independence and economic development, provoked efforts to reshape nature through dams and pumps, and unleashed powerful tensions within and between nations.
Today, Asian nations are racing to construct hundreds of dams in the Himalayas, with dire environmental impacts; hundreds of millions crowd into coastal cities threatened by cyclones and storm surges. In an age of climate change, Unruly Waters is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand Asia’s past and its future. (Read more at Basic Books)
Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Sunil Amrith is the Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies and chair of the Department of South Asian Studies at Harvard University.
Improvisational Islam: Indonesian Youth in a Time of Possibility
By Nur Amali Ibrahim
Improvisational Islam is about novel and unexpected ways of being Muslim, where religious dispositions are achieved through techniques that have little or no precedent in classical Islamic texts or concepts. Nur Amali Ibrahim foregrounds two distinct autodidactic university student organizations, each trying to envision alternative ways of being Muslim independent from established religious and political authorities. One group draws from methods originating from the business world, like accounting, auditing, and self-help, to promote a puritanical understanding of the religion and spearhead Indonesia’s spiritual rebirth. A second group reads Islamic scriptures alongside the western human sciences. Both groups, he argues, show a great degree of improvisation and creativity in their interpretations of Islam.
These experimental forms of religious improvisations and practices have developed in a specific Indonesian political context that has evolved after the deposal of President Suharto’s authoritarian New Order regime in 1998. At the same time, Improvisational Islam suggests that the Indonesian case study brings into sharper relief processes that are happening in ordinary Muslim life everywhere. To be a practitioner of their religion, Muslims draw on and are inspired by not only their holy scriptures, but also the non-traditional ideas and practices that circulate in their society, which importantly include those originating in the West. In the contemporary political discourse where Muslims are often portrayed as uncompromising and adversarial to the West and where bans and walls are deemed necessary to keep them out, this story about flexible and creative Muslims is an important one to tell. (Read more at Cornell University Press)
Nur Amali Ibrahim, former Harvard Academy Scholar, is an assistant professor of religion and international studies at Indiana University.
Claiming the State: Active Citizenship and Social Welfare in Rural India
By Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner
Citizens around the world look to the state for social welfare provision, but often struggle to access essential services in health, education, and social security. This book investigates the everyday practices through which citizens of the world's largest democracy make claims on the state, asking whether, how, and why they engage public officials in the pursuit of social welfare. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in rural India, Kruks-Wisner demonstrates that claim-making is possible in settings (poor and remote) and among people (the lower classes and castes) where much democratic theory would be unlikely to predict it. Examining the conditions that foster and inhibit citizen action, she finds that greater social and spatial exposure—made possible when individuals traverse boundaries of caste, neighborhood, or village—builds citizens' political knowledge, expectations, and linkages to the state, and is associated with higher levels and broader repertoires of claim-making. (Read more at Cambridge University Press)
Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner, former Harvard Academy Scholar, is an assistant professor of politics and global studies at the University of Virginia.
Opium’s Long Shadow: From Asian Revolt to Global Drug Control
By Steffen Rimner
The League of Nations Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs, created in 1920, culminated almost eight decades of political turmoil over opium trafficking, which was by far the largest state-backed drug trade in the age of empire. Opponents of opium had long struggled to rein in the profitable drug. Opium’s Long Shadow shows how diverse local protests crossed imperial, national, and colonial boundaries to gain traction globally and harness public opinion as a moral deterrent in international politics after World War I.
Steffen Rimner traces the far-flung itineraries and trenchant arguments of reformers—significantly, feminists and journalists—who viewed opium addiction as a root cause of poverty, famine, “white slavery,” and moral degradation. These activists targeted the international reputation of drug-trading governments, first and foremost Great Britain, British India, and Japan, becoming pioneers of the global political tactic we today call naming and shaming. But rather than taking sole responsibility for their own behavior, states in turn appropriated anti-drug criticism to shame fellow sovereigns around the globe. Consequently, participation in drug control became a prerequisite for membership in the twentieth-century international community. Rimner relates how an aggressive embrace of anti-drug politics earned China and other Asian states new influence on the world stage.
The link between drug control and international legitimacy has endured. Amid fierce contemporary debate over the wisdom of narcotics policies, the 100-year-old moral consensus Rimner describes remains a backbone of the international order. (Read more at Harvard University Press)
Steffen Rimner, former Graduate Student Associate, is an assistant professor of the history of international relations at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.