New Books

Mobility, Mobilization, and Counter/Insurgency: The Routes of Terror in an African Context

By Daniel E. Agbiboa

In Mobility, Mobilization, and Counter/Insurgency, Daniel Agbiboa takes African insurgencies back to their routes by providing a transdisciplinary perspective on the centrality of mobility to the strategies of insurgents, state security forces, and civilian populations caught in conflict. Drawing on one of the world’s deadliest insurgencies, the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, this well-crafted and richly nuanced intervention offers fresh insights into how violent extremist organizations exploit forms of local immobility and border porosity to mobilize new recruits, how the state’s “war on terror” mobilizes against so-called subversive mobilities, and how civilian populations in transit are treated as could-be terrorists and subjected to extortion and state-sanctioned violence en route. The multiple and intersecting flows analyzed here upend Eurocentric representations of movement in Africa as one-sided, anarchic, and dangerous. Instead, this book underscores the contradictions of mobility in conflict zones as simultaneously a resource and a burden. Intellectually rigorous yet clear, engaging, and accessible, Mobility, Mobilization, and Counter/Insurgency is a seminal contribution that lays bare the neglected linkages between conflict and mobility. (Read more at University of Michigan Press)

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

A Cultural History of Peace in the Age of Enlightenment

Edited by Stella Ghervas and David Armitage

A Cultural History of Peace presents an authoritative survey from ancient times to the present. The set of six volumes covers over 2500 years of history, charting the evolving nature and role of peace throughout history.

This volume, A Cultural History of Peace in the Enlightenment, explores peace in the period from 1648 to 1815. As with all the volumes in the illustrated Cultural History of Peace set, this volume presents essays on the meaning of peace, peace movements, maintaining peace, peace in relation to gender, religion and war and representations of peace. (Read more at Bloomsbury)

Faculty Associate David Armitage is Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University.

Democratize Work: The Case for Reorganizing the Economy

By Isabelle Ferreras, Julie Battilana and Dominique Méda
Translated by: Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Book cover for Democratize Work with the word 'work' repeatingWhat happens to a society—and a planet—when capitalism outgrows democracy? The tensions between democracy and capitalism are longstanding, and they have been laid bare by the social effects of COVID-19. The narrative of “essential workers” has provided thin cover for the fact that society’s lowest paid and least empowered continue to work risky jobs that keep our capitalism humming. Democracy has been subjugated by the demands of capitalism. For many, work has become unfair. (Read more at the University of Chicago Press)

Faculty Associate Julie Battilana is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

Localizing Learning: The Literati Enterprise in Wuzhou, 1100–1600

By Peter K. Bol

Book cover for Localizing LearningAs the first intellectual history of Song, Yuan, and Ming China written from a local perspective, Localizing Learning shows how literati learning in Wuzhou came to encompass examination studies, Neo-Confucian moral philosophy, historical and Classical scholarship, encyclopedic learnedness, and literary writing, and traces how debates over the relative value of moral cultivation, cultural accomplishment, and political service unfolded locally.

The book is set in one locality, Wuzhou (later Jinhua), a prefecture in China’s Zhejiang province, from the twelfth through the sixteenth century. Its main actors are literati of the Song, Yuan, and Ming, who created a local tradition of learning as a means of cementing their common identity and their claim to moral, political, and cultural leadership. Close readings of philosophical and literary texts with quantitative analysis of social and kinship networks consider why and how the local literati enterprise was built. (Read more at Harvard University Press)

Faculty Associate Peter K. Bol is Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Degenerations of Democracy

By Craig Calhoun, Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, and Charles Taylor

Democracy is in trouble. Populism is a common scapegoat but not the root cause. More basic are social and economic transformations eroding the foundations of democracy, ruling elites trying to lock in their own privilege, and cultural perversions like making individualistic freedom the enemy of democracy’s other crucial ideals of equality and solidarity. In Degenerations of Democracy three of our most prominent intellectuals investigate democracy gone awry, locate our points of fracture, and suggest paths to democratic renewal.

In Charles Taylor’s phrase, democracy is a process, not an end state. Taylor documents creeping disempowerment of citizens, failures of inclusion, and widespread efforts to suppress democratic participation, and he calls for renewing community. Craig Calhoun explores the impact of disruption, inequality, and transformation in democracy’s social foundations. He reminds us that democracies depend on republican constitutions as well as popular will, and that solidarity and voice must be achieved at large scales as well as locally. (Read more at Harvard University Press)

Advisory Committee Chair Craig Calhoun is University Professor of Social Sciences at Arizona State University.

The Oxford Handbook of Politics in Muslim Societies

Edited by Melani Cammett and Pauline Jones

Muslim societies are largely absent from the study of religion and politics in the social sciences, despite the fact that scholarly literature often presumes that religion exercises a colossal influence on social, political, and economic outcomes in predominantly Muslim countries. This volume utilizes real world events and newly available data to more fully integrate the study of politics in Muslim societies into mainstream comparative analytical frameworks. Moreover, it explores the extent to which theories about core topics of inquiry in political science apply to Muslim societies. The aim is to interrogate rather than presume both whether and how Islam and Muslims are distinct from other religions and religious communities. (Read more at Oxford University Press)

Center Director Melani Cammett is Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University and professor of global health and population at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

On Revolutions: Unruly Politics in the Contemporary World

By Colin J. Beck, Mlada Bukovansky, Erica Chenoweth, George Lawson, Sharon Erickson Nepstad, and Daniel P. Ritter

Book cover for On RevolutionsOn Revolutions, coauthored by six prominent scholars of revolutions, reinvigorates revolutionary studies for the twenty-first century. Integrating insights from diverse fields—including civil resistance studies, international relations, social movements, and terrorism—they offer new ways of thinking about persistent problems in the study of revolution. This book outlines an approach that reaches beyond the common categorical distinctions. As the authors argue, revolutions are not just political or social, but they feature many types of change. Structure and agency are not mutually distinct; they are mutually reinforcing processes. Contention is not just violent or nonviolent, but it is usually a mix of both. Revolutions do not just succeed or fail, but they achieve and simultaneously fall short. And causal conditions are not just domestic or international, but instead, they are dependent on the interplay of each. Demonstrating the merits of this approach through a wide range of cases, the authors explore new opportunities for conceptual thinking about revolution, provide methodological advice, and engage with the ethical issues that exist at the nexus of scholarship and activism. (Read more at Oxford University Press)

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

The Boundary of Laughter: Popular Performances across Borders in South Asia

By Aniket De

Book cover for the Boundary of Laughter with photo of people rowing in long boats on a muddy body of waterCombining archival research with ethnographic fieldwork, The Boundary of Laughter explores how spaces of popular performance have changed with the emergence of national borders in modern South Asia. The author traces the making of the popular theater form called Gambhira by Hindu and Muslim peasants and laborers in colonial Bengal, and explores the fate of the tradition after the Partition of the region in 1947. Drawing on a rich and hitherto unexplored archive of Gambhira songs and plays, this book provides a new approach for studying popular performances as shared spaces-that can accommodate peoples across national and religious boundaries. (Read more at Oxford University Press)

Graduate Student Associate Aniket De is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Harvard University.

Right Where We Belong: How Refugee Teachers and Students Are Changing the Future of Education

By Sarah Dryden-Peterson

Book cover for Right Where We Belong with image of blue and pink paper flowersHalf of the world’s twenty-six million refugees are children. Their formal education is disrupted, and their lives are too often dominated by exclusion and uncertainty about what the future holds. Even kids who have the opportunity to attend school face enormous challenges, as they struggle to integrate into unfamiliar societies and educational environments.

In Right Where We Belong, Sarah Dryden-Peterson discovers that, where governments and international agencies have been stymied, refugee teachers and students themselves are leading. From open-air classrooms in Uganda to the hallways of high schools in Maine, new visions for refugee education are emerging. Dryden-Peterson introduces us to people like Jacques—a teacher who created a school for his fellow Congolese refugees in defiance of local laws—and Hassan, a Somali refugee navigating the social world of the American teenager. Drawing on more than 600 interviews in twenty-three countries, Dryden-Peterson shows how teachers and students are experimenting with flexible forms of learning. Rather than adopt the unrealistic notion that all will soon return to “normal,” these schools embrace unfamiliarity, develop students’ adaptiveness, and demonstrate how children, teachers, and community members can build supportive relationships across lines of difference. (Read more at Harvard University Press)

Faculty Associate Sarah Dryden-Peterson is an associate professor of education at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire

By Caroline Elkins

Book cover for Legacy of Violence with drawing of men battling with shields and spearsSprawling across a quarter of the world’s land mass and claiming nearly seven hundred million people, Britain’s twentieth-century empire was the largest empire in human history. For many Britons, it epitomized their nation’s cultural superiority, but what legacy did the island nation deliver to the world? Covering more than two hundred years of history, Caroline Elkins reveals an evolutionary and racialized doctrine that espoused an unrelenting deployment of violence to secure and preserve the nation’s imperial interests. She outlines how ideological foundations of violence were rooted in the Victorian era calls for punishing recalcitrant “natives,” and how over time, its forms became increasingly systematized. And she makes clear that when Britain could no longer maintain control over the violence it provoked and enacted, it retreated from empire, destroying and hiding incriminating evidence of its policies and practices. (Read more at Penguin Random House)

Faculty Associate Caroline Elkins is a professor of history and professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University.

Future Noise: What Stories Help Shape Tomorrow

By Bernhard Fischer-Appelt

Book cover for Future Noise (in German text)Profound upheavals characterize our everyday life today. Digitization is revolutionizing the economy and all kinds of apocalypses are looming as a result of population growth, global warming and pandemics. Uncertainty about the future is rampant and has gripped social debates.

In the future noise of visions and nightmares, of plans and half-truths, how are you supposed to look ahead with optimism and courage? With so many populists and conspiracy theorists, experts and fans of new technologies, who all know what the future holds, who do you still believe? Bernhard Fischer-Appelt is convinced that by learning to distinguish facts from fake news and to correctly classify narratives and stories. He knows how compelling narratives shape public discourse and shows how to develop them yourself. Because only those who have a realistic idea of ​​what is to come can better assess future challenges, set priorities correctly, distinguish between the important and the unimportant and contribute positively to their future. (Translated from German; read more at Redline)

Former Weatherhead Center Fellow Bernhard Fischer-Appelt is the owner and CEO of FischerAppelt. 

Ripe for Revolution: Building Socialism in the Third World

By Jeremy S. Friedman

Book cover for Ripe for Revolution with black and red flag against yellow backgroundIn the first decades after World War II, many newly independent Asian and African countries and established Latin American states pursued a socialist development model. Jeremy Friedman traces the socialist experiment over forty years through the experience of five countries: Indonesia, Chile, Tanzania, Angola, and Iran.

These states sought paths to socialism without formal adherence to the Soviet bloc or the programs that Soviets, East Germans, Cubans, Chinese, and other outsiders tried to promote. Instead, they attempted to forge new models of socialist development through their own trial and error, together with the help of existing socialist countries, demonstrating the flexibility and adaptability of socialism. All five countries would become Cold War battlegrounds and regional models, as new policies in one shaped evolving conceptions of development in another. Lessons from the collapse of democracy in Indonesia were later applied in Chile, just as the challenge of political Islam in Indonesia informed the policies of the left in Iran. Efforts to build agrarian economies in West Africa influenced Tanzania’s approach to socialism, which in turn influenced the trajectory of the Angolan model. (Read more at Harvard University Press)

Faculty Associate Jeremy S. Friedman is an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

Infrastructure Economics and Policy: International Perspectives

Edited by José A. Gómez-Ibáñez and Zhi Liu

Book cover for Infrastructure Economics and Policy with photo of trains from aboveSustainably built and funded infrastructure is indispensable to resilient, equitable, and livable communities and regions worldwide. In this rare comparison of infrastructure across countries and sectors, leading international academics and practitioners consider the latest approaches to infrastructure policy, implementation, and finance. Chapters cover land value capture and other funding mechanisms; the role of infrastructure in urban form, economic performance, and quality of life, especially for disinvested communities; and other essential concepts, economic theories, and policy considerations. (Read more at Columbia University Press)

Faculty Associate (emeritus) José A. Gómez-Ibáñez is Derek C. Bok Research Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Design. 

The Unsettled Plain: An Environmental History of the Late Ottoman Frontier

By Chris Gratien

Book cover for the Unsettled Plain with drawing of mountain against green plainsThe Unsettled Plain studies agrarian life in the Ottoman Empire to understand the making of the modern world. Over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the environmental transformation of the Ottoman countryside became intertwined with migration and displacement. Muslim refugees, mountain nomads, families deported in the Armenian Genocide, and seasonal workers from all over the empire endured hardship, exile, and dispossession. Their settlement and survival defined new societies forged in the provincial spaces of the late Ottoman frontier. Through these movements, Chris Gratien reconstructs the remaking of Çukurova, a region at the historical juncture of Anatolia and Syria, and illuminates radical changes brought by the modern state, capitalism, war, and technology. (Read more at Stanford University Press)

Former Academy Scholar Chris Gratien is an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia.

Subversive Archaism: Troubling Traditionalists and the Politics of National Heritage

By Michael Herzfeld

Book cover for Subversive Archaism with half purple and half red background with subtle drawings on both halvesIn Subversive Archaism, Michael Herzfeld explores how individuals and communities living at the margins of the modern nation-state use nationalist discourses of tradition to challenge state authority under both democratic and authoritarian governments. Through close attention to the claims and experiences of mountain shepherds in Greece and urban slum dwellers in Thailand, Herzfeld shows how these subversive archaists draw on national histories and past polities to claim legitimacy for their defiance of bureaucratic authority. Although vilified by government authorities as remote, primitive, or dangerous—often as preemptive justification for violent repression—these groups are not revolutionaries and do not reject national identity, but they do question the equation of state and nation. Herzfeld explores the political strengths and vulnerabilities of their deployment of heritage and the weaknesses they expose in the bureaucratic and ethnonational state in an era of accelerated globalization. (Read more at Duke University Press)

Faculty Associate (emeritus) Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University.

Leadership to Last: How Great Leaders Leave Legacies Behind

By Tarun Khanna and Geoffrey Jones

Book cover for Leadership to Last with interesting font workSociety tends to glorify the get-rich-quick entrepreneur–who builds a company, takes it public and then (maybe) contributes to charity.

In Leadership to Last, Geoffrey Jones and Tarun Khanna interview iconic leaders in India who have demonstrated leadership to last. There are leaders from South Asia and other emerging markets as well to illustrate that the ideas Indian entrepreneurs speak about are echoed by their counterparts in the Global South. All these magnates—Ratan Tata, Anu Aga, Adi Godrej, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Devi Shetty and Rahul Bajaj, to name a few—have built, to general acclaim and acknowledgement, organizations that are seen as forward-looking and innovative. They subscribe to a code of ethics and contribute to the betterment of society. The authors demonstrate that this is a lot harder to achieve than unicorn status. (Read more at Penguin Random House)

Faculty Associate Tarun Khanna is Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School. 

Familial Undercurrents: Untold Stories of Love and Marriage in Modern Iran

By Afsaneh Najmabadi

Book cover for Familial Undercurrents against black and gray photo of women and children sitting on stepsNot long after her father died, Afsaneh Najmabadi discovered that her father had a secret second family and that she had a sister she never knew about. In Familial Undercurrents, Najmabadi uncovers her family’s complex experiences of polygamous marriage to tell a larger story of the transformations of notions of love, marriage, and family life in mid-twentieth-century Iran. She traces how the idea of “marrying for love” and the desire for companionate, monogamous marriage acquired dominance in Tehran’s emerging urban middle class. Considering the role played in that process by late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century romance novels, reformist newspapers, plays, and other literature, Najmabadi outlines the rituals and objects—such as wedding outfits, letter writing, and family portraits—that came to characterize the ideal companionate marriage. She reveals how in the course of one generation men’s polygamy had evolved from an acceptable open practice to a taboo best kept secret. At the same time, she chronicles the urban transformations of Tehran and how its architecture and neighborhood social networks both influenced and became emblematic of the myriad forms of modern Iranian family life. (Read more at Duke University Press)

Faculty Associate Afsaneh Najmabadi is Francis Lee Higginson Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University. 

Atoms and Ashes: A Global History of Nuclear Disasters

By Serhii Plokhy

Book cover for Atoms and Ashes against photo of nuclear power plant from aboveAlmost 145,000 Americans fled their homes in and around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in late March 1979, hoping to save themselves from an invisible enemy: radiation. The reactor at the nearby Three Mile Island nuclear power plant had gone into partial meltdown, and scientists feared an explosion that could spread radiation throughout the eastern United States. Thankfully, the explosion never took place—but the accident left deep scars in the American psyche, all but ending the nation’s love affair with nuclear power. (Read more at W. W. Norton & Company)

Faculty Associate Serhii Plokhy is Mykhailo S. Hrushevs'kyi Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University.

Carbon Technocracy: Energy Regimes in Modern East Asia

By Victor Seow

The coal-mining town of Fushun in China’s Northeast is home to a monstrous open pit. First excavated in the early twentieth century, this pit grew like a widening maw over the ensuing decades, as various Chinese and Japanese states endeavored to unearth Fushun’s purportedly “inexhaustible” carbon resources. Today, the depleted mine that remains is a wondrous and terrifying monument to fantasies of a fossil-fueled future and the technologies mobilized in attempts to turn those developmentalist dreams into reality. (Read more at University of Chicago Press)

Faculty Associate Victor Seow is an assistant professor of the history of science at Harvard University.

Sing and Sing On: Sentinel Musicians and the Making of the Ethiopian American Diaspora

By Kay Kaufman Shelemay

Book cover for Sing and Sing On against photo of Ethiopian man in hat and suit sitting on the side of a train at sunsetSing and Sing On is the first study of the forced migration of musicians out of the Horn of Africa dating from the 1974 Ethiopian revolution, a political event that overthrew one of the world’s oldest monarchies and installed a brutal military regime. Musicians were among the first to depart the region, their lives shattered by revolutionary violence, curfews, and civil war. Reconstructing the memories of forced migration, Sing and Sing On traces the challenges musicians faced amidst revolutionary violence and the critical role they played in building communities abroad. (Read more at University of Chicago Press)

Faculty Associate Kay Kaufman Shelemay is a professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University.

Renewal: From Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work, and Politics

By Anne-Marie Slaughter

Book cover for Renewal with blue and green paint swipes at the top and bottomLike much of the world, America is deeply divided over identity, equality, and history. Renewal is Anne-Marie Slaughter’s candid and deeply personal account of how her own odyssey opened the door to an important new understanding of how we as individuals, organizations, and nations can move backward and forward at the same time, facing the past and embracing a new future.

Weaving together personal stories and reflections with insights from the latest research in the social sciences, Slaughter recounts a difficult time of self‐examination and growth in the wake of a crisis that changed the way she lives, leads, and learns. She connects her experience to our national crisis of identity and values as the country looks into a four-hundred-year-old mirror and tries to confront and accept its full reflection. The promise of the Declaration of Independence has been hollow for so many for so long. That reckoning is the necessary first step toward renewal. The lessons here are not just for America. Slaughter shows how renewal is possible for anyone who is willing to see themselves with new eyes and embrace radical honesty, risk, resilience, interdependence, grace, and vision. (Read more at Princeton University Press)

Former Faculty Associate Anne-Marie Slaughter is the CEO of New America. 

Ice War Diplomat: Hockey Meets Cold War Politics at the 1972 Summit Series

By Gary J. Smith

Book cover for Ice War Diplomat with image of 1972 hockey goalDiscover a diplomacy mission like no other in Ice War Diplomat, the behind-the-scenes story of the historic 1972 Summit Series. Amid the tension of the Cold War, caught between capitalism and communism, Canada and the Soviet Union, young Canadian diplomat Gary J. Smith must navigate the rink, melting the ice between two nations skating a dangerous path.

On his first overseas assignment, Smith is tasked with finding common ground and building friendships between the world’s two largest countries. Once in Moscow, he opts for sports diplomacy, throwing off his embassy black tie and donning the blue-and-white sweater of the Moscow Maple Leafs. (Read more at Douglas & McIntyre)

Former Fellow Gary J. Smith used to be a diplomat at the Canadian embassy in Moscow. 

Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics

By Drew Pendergrass and Troy Vettese

Book cover for Half-Earth Socialism with neon green icons of animals and plants against gray backgroundOver the next generation, humanity will confront a dystopian future of climate disaster and mass extinction. Yet the only ‘solutions’ on offer are toothless cap-and-trade programmes, catastrophic geoengineering schemes, and privatized conservation, which will do nothing to reverse the damage suffered by the biosphere. Indeed, these mainstream approaches assume that hyper-consumerism in the Global North can continue unabated. It can’t.

What we can do, environmental scholars Troy Vettese and Drew Pendergrass argue, is strive for a society able to ensure high living standards while stabilizing the environment: Half-Earth socialism. (Read more at Verso)

Former William Lyon Mackenzie King Postdoctoral Fellow Troy Vettese is an environmental historian and a Max Weber fellow at the European University Institute.