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NYU Bookshelf

April 11, 2013

Biennials and Beyond:

Exhibitions That Made Art History, Volume II (1962-2002)

By Bruce Altshuler

Phaidon Press, 2013

Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions That Made Art History, by NYU’s Bruce Altshuler, documents 25 of the most significant exhibitions between 1962 and 2002 while surveying developments within the post-WWII art world: the growing role of institutions, the expansion of independent curating, and the impact of globalization.

The work by Altshuler, who directs NYU’s Program in Museum Studies, presents a range of contemporary exhibitions through installation photographs, texts of the time, and exhibition publications, along with an account of the overall exhibition history of the period.

The book follows Altshuler’s Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions That Made Art History, Volume I, published by Phaidon in 2008, which chronicles modern art by documenting important international exhibitions from 1863 to 1959.

Altshuler has also authored The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century and Isamu Noguchi, among other works.  

 

Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination

By Christopher Collins

Columbia University Press, 2013

In his new book, Christopher Collins, an NYU professor emeritus of English, introduces readers to paleopoetics—a new field of research that combines an array of established disciplines in order to shed new light on the experience of reading.

Paleopoetics, a term coined by Collins, combines evolutionary biology, anthropology, archaeology, cognitive psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, and literary study. Under this rubric, he proposes reading literature using cognitive skills that predate language and writing. These include the brain’s capacity to perceive the visible world, store its images, and retrieve them later to form simulated mental events.

Paleopoetics, Collins explains, maps the selective processes that originally shaped the human genus millions of years ago and prepared the human brain to play, imagine, empathize, and engage in fictive thought as mediated by language. The book calls for a broader, more integrated interpretation of the reading experience, one that restores our connection to the ancient modes of thought that still resonate within us.

 

How Soon Is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time

By Carolyn Dinshaw

Duke University Press, 2012

Collins is the author of a number of books, including Homeland Mythology: Biblical Narratives in American Culture; Reading the Written Image: Verbal Play, Interpretation, and the Roots of Iconophobia; and The Poetics of the Mind’s Eye: Literature and the Psychology of Imagination.  

For more than a decade, Carolyn Dinshaw, chair of NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, has been studying asynchronies of time and the relation between the past, present, and future compared to the linear measurements of everyday life. The boundaries and perceptions of time are constantly blurred, changing the value of the present. When Dinshaw witnessed a man in a bathrobe at a medieval festival in New York, she realized that this simple garment drew together all aspects of time, challenging our linear view of the present.

In her most recent book, How Soon Is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time, Dinshaw performs a critique of modernist temporal regimes through its exploration of queer ways of being in time as well as of the potential queerness of time itself. The work is composed of a series of asynchrony stories, literary criticism, argued theory, and autobiography. Dinshaw, also a professor in NYU’s Department of English, questions our interaction with the past, present, and future. In doing so, she contends our linear perception of time prevents us from seeing the more crowded “now” theorists tell us is extant, but that often eludes our temporal grasp.

Her other published works include Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern; Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics; and, co-edited with David Wallace, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women’s Writing. 

 

Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation

By Dan Fagin

Bantam Books, 2013

In Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, NYU professor Dan Fagin tells the dramatic story of a New Jersey town ravaged by industrial pollution, with a cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. But his true subject is much larger: the centuries-long quest to understand the complex relationship between pollution and cancer.

Fagin, director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP), blends investigative reporting with a scientific detective narrative and deep historical research to reveal how rampant pollution and inadequate oversight made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He also explores how new information about gene-environment interaction is changing our understanding of how cancer begins.

Publishers Weekly, which listed the book among its “most anticipated books of spring 2013,” calls Toms River “a crisp, hard-nosed probe into corporate arrogance and the power of public resistance.” 

 

Nostradamus: How an Obscure Renaissance Astrologer Became the Modern Prophet of Doom

By Stéphane Gerson

St. Martin’s Press, 2012

Nostradamus is universally known for his predictions—but what do we know about the man, his enigmatic prophecies, and their lure across the centuries? How and why did the name and the quatrains become an enduring facet of the modern West—despite the facts that no state or organized religion, no intellectual or political school ever made them their own? Ultimately, what does Nostradamus’ posterity teach us about the hold of predictions, forces that are deemed irrational, responses to collective catastrophes, and the workings of the media from the Renaissance to the present?

Stéphane Gerson, an associate professor of French and French studies at NYU, sets out to address these and other questions in Nostradamus: How an Obscure Renaissance Astrologer Became the Modern Prophet of Doom.

His book explores the life and afterlife of Michel de Nostredame, a 16th-century doctor and astrologer whose prophecies have been interpreted over subsequent decades, adopted by successive media, and eventually transformed into the Gospel of Doom for any era—especially during crises of authority such as the Great Fire of London in 1666 or the 9/11 attacks. His book pays equal attention to Nostredame the Renaissance humanist, the power of his words, and the droves of people who have gravitated toward these prophecies in his own century and after his death in 1566.

Through extensive archival research in France, England, and the U.S., Gerson shows how, far from remaining immobile and speaking to narrow segments of the population, the Nostradamus phenomenon has kept refashioning itself and speaking to all kinds of men and women.

Gerson is a cultural historian of modern France and the co-editor of a new edition of Nostradamus’ Prophecies for Penguin Classics. He has won several awards, including the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and the Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies. 

 

“Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron

Edited by Lisa Gitelman 

MIT Press, 2013

We live in the era of big data, with storage and transmission capacity measured not just in terabytes but in petabytes—peta- denoting a quadrillion, or a thousand trillion. Data collection is constant and even insidious, with every click and every “like” stored somewhere for something.

In “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron, Lisa Gitelman, professor of English and of Media, Culture, and Communication at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, reminds us that data is anything but “raw,” that we should not think of it as a natural resource but as a cultural one that needs to be generated, protected, and interpreted.

The book’s essays describe eight episodes in the history of data from the pre-digital to today. Together they address such issues as the ways that different kinds of data and different domains of inquiry are mutually defining, how data are variously “cooked” in the processes of their collection and use, and conflicts over what can ultimately be “reduced” to data. Contributors discuss the intellectual history of data as a concept, describe early financial modeling and some unusual sources for astronomical data, discover the prehistory of the database in newspaper clippings and index cards, and consider contemporary “dataveillance” of our online habits as well as the complexity of scientific data curation. 

 

The Global Pigeon

By Colin Jerolmack

University of Chicago Press, 2013

Perhaps no creature is more synonymous with urban life than the pigeon. Though commonly seen as an irritant—“a rat with wings”—its relationship with its urban surroundings is a complex and long-standing one. In The Global Pigeon, NYU’s Colin Jerolmack examines how society’s complex and contradictory relationships with pigeons—from city campaigns to evict them to working-class and immigrant communities who breed and race them—offer insights into city life, community, culture, and politics. Jerolmack, an assistant professor of sociology and environmental studies, considers these questions by drawing on extended participant observation in New York as well as ethnographic case studies in Berlin, London, Venice, and South Africa’s Sun City—home of the Million Dollar Pigeon Race.

“The pigeons that occupy our sidewalks never existed in the wild,” he writes. “They are descendants of escaped domesticated pigeons that were imported to the United States, Europe, and elsewhere centuries ago. This is a book about how interactions with animals—pigeons, in particular—animate people’s social worlds and their experience of the city.” 

 

101 Careers in Healthcare Management

By Leonard H. Friedman and Anthony R. Kovner

Springer Publishing Company, 2013

Careers in health administration continue to grow, with the field offering job opportunities across a vast spectrum of companies and not-for-profit organizations. 101 Careers in Healthcare Management, by Anthony R. Kovner, professor of health management and policy at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and Leonard H. Friedman of the George Washington University, is a comprehensive guide to careers in health administration ranging from entry-level management positions to the most senior executive opportunities.

The guide explains the responsibilities and duties of each of these careers and how they differ from other management jobs. It describes the integral role of healthcare administrators in creating and sustaining the systems that allow health-care clinicians to do their best work. The book also includes interviews with many different health-care administrators at various types of health-care delivery and payment organizations.

“One of life’s blessings is having meaningful work,” the authors write. 

 

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks With the Sanitation Workers of New York City

By Robin Nagle

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013

NYU anthropologist Robin Nagle chronicles the life and labors of an essential but largely overlooked workforce in Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks With the Sanitation Workers of New York City. From a city that generates 11,000 tons of household garbage daily, Department of Sanitation (DSNY) employees “receive scant notice and even less praise,” writes Nagle, director of NYU’s Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program and the DSNY’s anthropologist-in-residence.

The work recounts New York’s 400-year battle with trash and considers the role that sanitation has played in city politics, moving from the 19th century up to the December 2010 snowstorm. Because Nagle was hired as a sanitation worker in order to research the book, she also offers an insider’s view of the DSNY’s daily workings—from its operational procedures to the different facets of the department’s culture to the challenge of driving a 35-ton truck through rush-hour traffic. 

 

Orientalism and War

Edited by Tarak Barkawi and Keith Stanski

Columbia University Press, 2013

Orientalism and War explores twin phenomena through a series of essays in order to shed light on how depictions of the enemy serve to advance, justify, and understand armed conflict. The work, co-edited by Keith Stanski, a senior program officer with NYU’s Center on International Cooperation, and Tarak Barkawi, a professor at the New School for Social Research, expands upon a concept Edward Said considered in his 1978 work, Orientalism.

“Orientalism” posits differences between “East” and “West,” placing western sophistication, strength, and humanitarianism at odds with eastern barbarism, weakness, and simplicity.

“War might be said to be a difference of opinion pursued through violent means,” Stanski and Barkawi observe. “Orientalism, through interpretation, produces and shapes opinion and belief.”

This perspective dates back to the Greco-Persian Wars and continues in the 21st century.

The editors write: “Notable examples include the Crusades, European wars with the Ottomans, imperial ‘small wars’ in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, efforts to define Germany as non-Western in the World Wars, the Cold War and the idea of the Soviet Union as an ‘oriental despotism,’ and the ‘humanitarian’ wars of the post-Cold War period fought against ‘ethnic barbarians.’ ”

The editors add that “this mode of thinking shapes the actions of those making war, and informs the opinions and beliefs of people far removed in time and place from the fighting,” and that “in and through violent conflict various Western and Eastern identities are defined and come to be taken for granted, as truths about the essential nature of peoples.” 

 

Giving Our Children a Fighting Chance: Poverty, Literacy, and the Development of Information Capital 

By Susan B. Neuman

Teachers College Press, 2012

In Giving Our Children a Fighting Chance: Poverty, Literacy, and the Development of Information Capital, Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development’s Department of Teaching and Learning, and co-author Donna C. Celano of La Salle University, look at the role literacy can play in helping low-income students improve their chances for success. The book provides a comprehensive analysis of community literacy and shows how inequalities begin early and are reinforced by geographic concentration. 

 

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder

By Nassim Taleb

Random House, 2012

In his latest book, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan and the NYU-Poly distinguished professor of risk engineering and co-director for its Research Center for Risk Engineering, explains how to thrive in an uncertain world.

Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, and rumors or riots intensify when someone tries to repress them, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls “antifragile” is that category of things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.  He proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner.

He writes that the antifragile is immune to prediction errors and protected from adverse events. The book spans innovation by trial and error, life decisions, politics, urban planning, war, personal finance, economic systems, and medicine.

Taleb spent 20 years as a derivatives trader and “quant” before starting a full-time career as a scholar of applied probability and risk management. In 2011, he was listed among the Bloomberg 50 most influential people in global finance.

Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery

By Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer

Temple University Press, 2012

The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most important documents in American history. As we approach its 150th anniversary, what do we really know about those who experienced slavery?

In their pioneering book, Envisioning Emancipation, Deborah Willis, University Professor and chair of the Tisch School of the Arts photography and imaging department, and historian Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photos—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery and a way to understand the photos as documents of engagement, action, struggle, and aspiration.

From photos of the enslaved on plantations and African American soldiers and camp workers in the Union Army to Juneteenth celebrations, slave reunions, and portraits of black families and workers in the American South, the images in this book challenge perceptions of slavery. They show not only what the subjects emphasized about themselves but also the ways Americans of all colors and genders opposed slavery and marked its end.

 

Detect, Dismantle, and Disarm: IAEA Verification, 1992–2005 

By Christine Wing and Fiona Simpson

USIP Press Books, 2013

Detect, Dismantle, and Disarm, by Christine Wing and Fiona Simpson, former fellows at NYU’s Center on International Cooperation (CIC), is the first non-technical book on the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in verifying compliance with nuclear agreements. The work examines the agency’s experience in four cases: the discovery of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq at the end of the first Gulf War; the verification of North Korea’s nuclear holdings; the revelation of South Africa’s decades-old weapons program; and the announcement of Libya’s weapons program.

The authors, who wrote the book during their time at CIC, contend that the IAEA’s presence is a key factor in states’ willingness to cooperate with verification because the agency provides credibility and reassurance that involved parties are acting in good faith toward mutually agreeable solutions. Drawing lessons from these case studies, the authors show how the IAEA has effectively functioned across governments and international bodies to achieve goals specific to each situation.


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