New Books

People, Predicaments and Potentials in Africa

Edited by Takehiko Ochiai, Misa Hirano-Nomoto, Daniel E. Agbiboa

Book cover for People, Predicaments and Potentials in AfricaThe term 'African Potentials' refers to the knowledge, systems, practices, ideas and values created and implemented in African societies that are expected to contribute to overcoming various challenges and promoting people's wellbeing. This collection of articles, focused on African societies, is based on the idea that 'Africa is People'. In this book, African people are placed at the centre of the discussion. The book's contributors, all of whom believe in African people and their potentials, consider women, minors and young people, people with disabilities, entrepreneurs, herders, farmers, mine workers, refugees, migrants, traditional rulers, militiamen and members of the political elite, and examine their predicaments and potentials in detail. Africa is people, and African potentials can be found only in African people themselves. (Read more at African Books Collective)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Daniel E. Agbiboa is an assistant professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University.

The Power of Creative Destruction: Economic Upheaval and the Wealth of Nations

By Philippe Aghion, Céline Antonin, and Simon Bunel

Book cover for The Power of Creative DestructionCrisis seems to follow crisis. Inequality is rising, growth is stagnant, the environment is suffering, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed every crack in the system. We hear more and more calls for radical change, even the overthrow of capitalism. But the answer to our problems is not revolution. The answer is to create a better capitalism by understanding and harnessing the power of creative destruction—innovation that disrupts, but that over the past two hundred years has also lifted societies to previously unimagined prosperity. (Read more at Harvard University Press)

Former Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Philippe Aghion is a professor at the Collège de France and the London School of Economics.

The Political Economy of Education in the Arab World

Edited by Hicham Alaoui and Robert Springborg

Book cover for The Political Economy of Education in the Arab WorldDespite substantial spending on education and robust support for reform both internally and by external donors, the quality of education in many, if not most, Arab countries remains low. Which raises the question: why?

The authors of The Political Economy of Education in the Arab World find answers in the authoritarian political economies that shape the architecture of national governance across the region. Presenting studies from North Africa and the Gulf region, as well as comparative perspectives from Asia and Latin America, they show clearly that efforts to improve education—and thereby enhance economic development and broaden the base of citizenship on which more stable and effective systems of governance can be built—will fail until ruling elites are no longer able to increase their political and economic power at the expense of the greater good. (Read more at Lynne Rienner Publishers)

Weatherhead Center Associate Hicham Alaoui has a DPhil in oriental studies at St Antony's College, Oxford.

Atmosphere Anatomies: On Design, Weather, and Sensation

By Silvia Benedito

Book cover for Atmosphere AnatomiesHow will the human body, collective and individual, cope with the estimated increases in global air temperatures and in the earth’s corresponding thermal stress? Atmosphere Anatomies: On Design, Weather, and Sensation offers an in-depth examination of design strategies that situate the body and its bioclimatic milieu at the core of their spatial formation.

Drawing upon ten paradigmatic projects in urban design and landscape architecture—from Rousham Gardens, Oxfordshire, to the city of Chandigarh in India—the book investigates the designers’ bioclimatic aims and their spatial outcomes. Woven throughout the book, the evocative photographic essays of Iwan Baan showcase the selected projects as inhabited spaces for everyday life. (Read more at Lars Müller Publishers)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Silvia Benedito is an assistant professor of landscape architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Democracy by Petition: Popular Politics in Transformation, 1790–1870

By Daniel Carpenter

Book cover for Democracy by PetitionKnown as the age of democracy, the nineteenth century witnessed the extension of the franchise and the rise of party politics. As Daniel Carpenter shows, however, democracy in America emerged not merely through elections and parties, but through the transformation of an ancient political tool: the petition. A statement of grievance accompanied by a list of signatures, the petition afforded women and men excluded from formal politics the chance to make their voices heard and to reshape the landscape of political possibility.

Democracy by Petition traces the explosion and expansion of petitioning across the North American continent. Indigenous tribes in Canada, free Blacks from Boston to the British West Indies, Irish canal workers in Indiana, and Hispanic settlers in territorial New Mexico all used petitions to make claims on those in power. Petitions facilitated the extension of suffrage, the decline of feudal land tenure, and advances in liberty for women, African Americans, and Indigenous peoples. Even where petitioners failed in their immediate aims, their campaigns advanced democracy by setting agendas, recruiting people into political causes, and fostering aspirations of equality. Far more than periodic elections, petitions provided an everyday current of communication between officeholders and the people. (Read more at Harvard University Press)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Daniel Carpenter is the Allie S. Freed Professor of Government at Harvard University.

Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs to Know®

By Erica Chenoweth

Book cover for Civil ResistanceCivil resistance is a method of conflict through which unarmed civilians use a variety of coordinated methods (strikes, protests, demonstrations, boycotts, and many other tactics) to prosecute a conflict without directly harming or threatening to harm an opponent. Sometimes called nonviolent resistance, unarmed struggle, or nonviolent action, this form of political action is now a mainstay across the globe. It has been a central form of resistance in the 1989 revolutions and in the Arab Spring, and it is now being practiced widely in Trump's America. If we are going to understand the manifold protest movements emerging around the globe, we need a thorough understanding of civil resistance and its many dynamics and manifestations. (Read more at Oxford University Press)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Erica Chenoweth is the Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard Kennedy School and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana

By Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross

Book cover for Becoming Free, Becoming BlackHow did Africans become 'blacks' in the Americas? Becoming Free, Becoming Black tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders' efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies—Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana—Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross demonstrate that the law of freedom—not slavery—established the meaning of blackness in law. Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people. (Read more at Cambridge University Press)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Alejandro de la Fuente is the Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin-American History and Economics and professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University.

New Towns for the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to Planned Communities Worldwide

Edited by Richard Peiser and Ann Forsyth

Book cover for New Towns for the Twenty-First CenturyNew towns—large, comprehensively planned developments on newly urbanized land—boast a mix of spaces that, in their ideal form, provide opportunities for all of the activities of daily life. From garden cities to science cities, new capitals to large military facilities, hundreds were built in the twentieth century and their approaches to planning and development were influential far beyond the new towns themselves. Although new towns are notoriously difficult to execute and their popularity has waxed and waned, major new town initiatives are increasing around the globe, notably in East Asia, South Asia, and Africa. (Read more at University of Pennsylvania Press)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Ann Forsyth is a professor of urban planning at Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Religion and the Rise of Capitalism

By Benjamin M. Friedman

Book cover for Religion and the Rise of CapitalismCritics of contemporary economics complain that belief in free markets–among economists as well as many ordinary citizens–is a form of religion. And, it turns out, that in a deeper, more historically grounded sense there is something to that idea. Contrary to the conventional historical view of economics as an entirely secular product of the Enlightenment, Benjamin M. Friedman demonstrates that religion exerted a powerful influence from the outset. Friedman makes clear how the foundational transition in thinking about what we now call economics, beginning in the eighteenth century, was decisively shaped by the hotly contended lines of religious thought within the English-speaking Protestant world. Beliefs about God-given human character, about the after-life, and about the purpose of our existence, were all under scrutiny in the world in which Adam Smith and his contemporaries lived. Friedman explores how those debates go far in explaining the puzzling behavior of so many of our fellow citizens whose views about economic policies–and whose voting behavior–seems sharply at odds with what would be to their own economic benefit. Illuminating the origins of the relationship between religious thinking and economic thinking, together with its ongoing consequences, Friedman provides invaluable insights into our current economic policy debates and demonstrates ways to shape more functional policies for all citizens. (Read more at Penguin Random House)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Benjamin M. Friedman is the William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University.

Glossolalia and the Problem of Language

By Nicholas Harkness

Book cover for GlossolaliaSpeaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, has long been a subject of curiosity as well as vigorous theological debate. A worldwide phenomenon that spans multiple Christian traditions, glossolalia is both celebrated as a supernatural gift and condemned as semiotic alchemy. For some it is mystical speech that exceeds what words can do, and for others it is mere gibberish, empty of meaning. At the heart of these differences is glossolalia’s puzzling relationship to language. (Read more at the University of Chicago Press)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Nicholas Harkness is a professor of anthropology at Harvard University.

Meritocracy and Its Discontents: Anxiety and the National College Entrance Exam in China

By Zachary M. Howlett

Book cover for Meritocracy and Its DiscontentsMeritocracy and Its Discontents investigates the wider social, political, religious, and economic dimensions of the Gaokao, China's national college entrance exam, as well as the complications that arise from its existence. Each year, some nine million high school seniors in China take the Gaokao, which determines college admission and provides a direct but difficult route to an urban lifestyle for China's hundreds of millions of rural residents. But with college graduates struggling to find good jobs, some are questioning the exam's legitimacy—and, by extension, the fairness of Chinese society. Chronicling the experiences of underprivileged youth, Zachary M. Howlett's research illuminates how people remain captivated by the exam because they regard it as fateful—an event both consequential and undetermined. He finds that the exam enables people both to rebel against the social hierarchy and to achieve recognition within it. (Read more at Cornell University Press)

Former Academy Scholar Zachary M. Howlett is an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale-NUS College at the National University of Singapore.

Transforming the War on Drugs: Warriors, Victims and Vulnerable Regions

Edited by Annette Idler and Juan Carlos Garzón Vergara

Book cover for Transforming the War on DrugsThe war on drugs has failed, but consensus in the international drug policy debate on the way forward is missing. Amidst this moment of uncertainty, militarised lenses on the global illicit drug problem continue to neglect the complexity of the causes and consequences that this war is intended to defend or defeat. Challenging conventional thinking in defence and security sectors, Transforming the War on Drugs constitutes the first comprehensive and systematic effort to theoretically, conceptually, and empirically investigate the impacts of the war on drugs. (Read more at Hurst Publishers)

Weatherhead Scholars Program Visiting Scholar Annette Idler is the director of studies at the Changing Character of War Centre, Pembroke College, University of Oxford.

The Middle Maccabees: Archaeology, History, and the Rise of the Hasmonean Kingdom

Edited by Andrea M. Berlin and Paul J. Kosmin

Book cover for The Middle MaccabeesThe Middle Maccabees lays out the charged, complicated beginnings of the independent Jewish state founded in the second century BCE. Contributors offer focused analyses of the archaeological, epigraphic, numismatic, and textual evidence, framed within a wider world of conflicts between the Ptolemies of Egypt, the Seleucids of Syria, and the Romans. The result is a holistic view of the Hasmonean rise to power that acknowledges broader political developments, evolving social responses, and the particularities of local history. (Read more at SBL Press)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Paul J. Kosmin is Philip J. King Professor of Ancient History at Harvard University.

Latecomer State Formation: Political Geography and Capacity Failure in Latin America

By Sebastián Mazzuca

Book cover for Latecomer State FormationLatin American governments systematically fail to provide the key public goods for their societies to prosper. Sebastián Mazzuca argues this is because nineteenth-century Latin American state formation occurred in a period when commerce, rather than war, was the key driver forging countries. Latin American leaders pursued the benefits of international trade at the cost of long-term liabilities built into the countries they forged, notably patrimonial administrations and dysfunctional regional combinations. (Read more at Yale University Press)

Former Academy Scholar Sebastián Mazzuca is an assistant professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.

Empire of Eloquence: The Classical Rhetorical Tradition in Colonial Latin America and the Iberian World

By Stuart M. McManus

Book cover for Empire of EloquenceThe global reach of the Spanish and Portuguese empires prompted a remarkable flourishing of the classical rhetorical tradition in various parts of the early modern world. Empire of Eloquence is the first study to examine this tradition as part of a wider global renaissance in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa, with a particular focus on the Iberian world. Spanning the sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, the book argues that the classical rhetorical tradition contributed to the ideological coherence and equilibrium of this early modern Iberian world, providing important occasions for persuasion, legitimation and eventual (and perhaps inevitable) confrontation. Drawing on archival collections in thirteen countries, Stuart M. McManus places these developments in the context of civic, religious and institutional rituals attended by the multi-ethnic population of the Iberian world and beyond, and shows how they influenced public speaking in non-European languages, such as Konkani and Chinese. (Read more at Cambridge University Press)

Former Graduate Student Affiliate Stuart M. McManus is an assistant professor of history at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Resetting the Table: Straight Talk about the Food We Grow and Eat

By Robert Paarlberg

Book cover for Resetting the TableConsumers want to know more about their food–including the farm from which it came, the chemicals used in its production, its nutritional value, how the animals were treated, and the costs to the environment. They are being told that buying organic foods, unprocessed and sourced from small local farms, is the most healthful and sustainable option. Now, Robert Paarlberg reviews the evidence and finds abundant reason to disagree. He delineates the ways in which global food markets have in fact improved our diet, and how “industrial” farming has recently turned green, thanks to GPS-guided precision methods that cut energy use and chemical pollution. He makes clear that America’s serious obesity crisis does not come from farms, or from food deserts, but instead from “food swamps” created by food companies, retailers, and restaurant chains. And he explains how, though animal welfare is lagging behind, progress can be made through continued advocacy, more progressive regulations, and perhaps plant-based imitation meat. He finds solutions that can make sense for farmers and consumers alike and provides a road map through the rapidly changing worlds of food and farming, laying out a practical path to bring the two together. (Read more at Penguin Random House)

Weatherhead Center Associate Robert Paarlberg is an associate in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard Kennedy School, and the Betty F. Johnson ‘44 Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Wellesley College.

Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis

By Serhii Plokhy

Book cover for Nuclear FollyNearly thirty years after the end of the Cold War, today’s world leaders are abandoning disarmament treaties, building up their nuclear arsenals, and exchanging threats of nuclear strikes. To survive this new atomic age, we must relearn the lessons of the most dangerous moment of the Cold War: the Cuban missile crisis.

Serhii Plokhy’s Nuclear Folly offers an international perspective on the crisis, tracing the tortuous decision-making that produced and then resolved it, which involved John Kennedy and his advisers, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, and their commanders on the ground. In breathtaking detail, Plokhy vividly recounts the young JFK being played by the canny Khrushchev; the hotheaded Castro willing to defy the USSR and threatening to align himself with China; the Soviet troops on the ground clearing jungle foliage in the tropical heat, and desperately trying to conceal nuclear installations on Cuba, which were nonetheless easily spotted by U-2 spy planes; and the hair-raising near misses at sea that nearly caused a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine to fire its weapons. (Read more at W.W. Norton)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Serhii Plokhy is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University.

Epidemic Illusions: On the Coloniality of Global Public Health

By Eugene T. Richardson

Book cover for Epidemic IllusionsIn Epidemic Illusions, Eugene Richardson, a physician and an anthropologist, contends that public health practices–from epidemiological modeling and outbreak containment to Big Data and causal inference–play an essential role in perpetuating a range of global inequities. Drawing on postcolonial theory, medical anthropology, and critical science studies, Richardson demonstrates the ways in which the flagship discipline of epidemiology has been shaped by the colonial, racist, and patriarchal system that had its inception in 1492. (Read more at Penguin Random House)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Eugene T. Richardson is an assistant professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Combating Inequality: Rethinking Government's Role

Edited by Olivier Blanchard and Dani Rodrik

Book cover for Combating InequalityEconomic inequality is the defining issue of our time. In the United States, the wealth share of the top 1% has risen from 25% in the late 1970s to around 40% today. The percentage of children earning more than their parents has fallen from 90% in the 1940s to around 50% today. In Combating Inequality, leading economists, many of them current or former policymakers, bring good news: we have the tools to reverse the rise in inequality. In their discussions, they consider which of these tools are the most effective at doing so. (Read more at MIT Press)

Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Dani Rodrik is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School.

Trouble of the World: Slavery and Empire in the Age of Capital

By Zach Sell

Book cover for Trouble of the WorldIn this innovative new study, Zach Sell returns to the explosive era of capitalist crisis, upheaval, and warfare between emancipation in the British Empire and Black emancipation in the United States. In this age of global capital, U.S. slavery exploded to a vastness hitherto unseen, propelled forward by the outrush of slavery-produced commodities to Britain, continental Europe, and beyond. As slavery-produced commodities poured out of the United States, U.S. slaveholders transformed their profits into slavery expansion. Ranging from colonial India to Australia and Belize, Sell’s examination further reveals how U.S. slavery provided not only the raw material for Britain’s explosive manufacturing growth but also inspired new hallucinatory imperial visions of colonial domination that took root on a global scale. What emerges is a tale of a system too powerful and too profitable to end, even after emancipation; it is the story of how slavery's influence survived emancipation, infusing empire and capitalism to this day. (Read more at the University of North Carolina Press)

Former Visiting Fellow Zach Sell is a visiting assistant professor of history at Drexel University.

Kincraft: The Making of Black Evangelical Sociality

By Todne Thomas

Book cover for KincraftIn Kincraft Todne Thomas explores the internal dynamics of community life among black evangelicals, who are often overshadowed by white evangelicals and the common equation of the “Black Church” with an Afro-Protestant mainline. Drawing on fieldwork in an Afro-Caribbean and African American church association in Atlanta, Thomas locates black evangelicals at the center of their own religious story, presenting their determined spiritual relatedness as a form of insurgency. She outlines how church members cocreate themselves as spiritual kin through what she calls kincraft—the construction of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Kincraft, which Thomas traces back to the diasporic histories and migration experiences of church members, reflects black evangelicals' understanding of Christian familial connection as transcending racial, ethnic, and denominational boundaries in ways that go beyond the patriarchal nuclear family. Church members also use their spiritual relationships to navigate racial and ethnic discrimination within the majority-white evangelical movement. By charting kincraft's functions and significance, Thomas demonstrates the ways in which black evangelical social life is more varied and multidimensional than standard narratives of evangelicalism would otherwise suggest. (Read more at Duke University Press)

Todne Thomas is a chair of the Weatherhead Research Cluster on Religion in Public Life in Africa and the African Diaspora. She is also the Suzanne Young Murray Assistant Professor at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University; and assistant professor of African American religions at Harvard Divinity School.

Revolution in Development: Mexico and the Governance of the Global Economy

By Christy Thornton

Book cover for Revolution in DevelopmentRevolution in Development uncovers the surprising influence of postrevolutionary Mexico on the twentieth century's most important international economic institutions. Drawing on extensive archival research in Mexico, the United States, and Great Britain, Christy Thornton meticulously traces how Mexican officials repeatedly rallied Third World leaders to campaign for representation in global organizations and redistribution through multilateral institutions. By decentering the United States and Europe in the history of global economic governance, Revolution in Development shows how Mexican economists, diplomats, and politicians fought for more than five decades to reform the rules and institutions of the global capitalist economy. In so doing, the book demonstrates, Mexican officials shaped not only their own domestic economic prospects but also the contours of the project of international development itself. (Read more at University of California Press)

Former Postdoctoral Fellow Christy Thornton is an assistant professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Empire and Righteous Nation: 600 Years of China-Korea Relations

By Odd Arne Westad

Book cover for Empire and Righteous NationKoreans long saw China as a mentor. The first form of written Korean employed Chinese characters and remained in administrative use until the twentieth century. Confucianism, especially Neo-Confucian reasoning about the state and its role in promoting a virtuous society, was central to the construction of the Korean government in the fourteenth century. These shared Confucian principles were expressed in fraternal terms, with China the older brother and Korea the younger. During the Ming Dynasty, mentor became protector, as Korea declared itself a vassal of China in hopes of escaping ruin at the hands of the Mongols. But the friendship eventually frayed with the encroachment of Western powers in the nineteenth century. Koreans began to reassess their position, especially as Qing China seemed no longer willing or able to stand up for Korea against either the Western powers or the rising military threat from Meiji Japan. The Sino–Korean relationship underwent further change over the next century as imperialism, nationalism, revolution, and war refashioned states and peoples throughout Asia. Westad describes the disastrous impact of the Korean War on international relations in the region and considers Sino–Korean interactions today, especially the thorny question of the reunification of the Korean peninsula. (Read more at Harvard University Press)

Former Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Odd Arne Westad is the Elihu Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University.