What We Are Reading Today: Arab Patriotism by Adam Mestyan

What We Are Reading Today: Arab Patriotism by Adam Mestyan
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Updated 10 November 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Arab Patriotism by Adam Mestyan

What We Are Reading Today: Arab Patriotism by Adam Mestyan

Arab Patriotism presents the essential backstory to the formation of the modern nation-state and mass nationalism in the Middle East. While standard histories claim that the roots of Arab nationalism emerged in opposition to the Ottoman milieu, Adam Mestyan points to the patriotic sentiment that grew in the Egyptian province of the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century, arguing that it served as a pivotal way station on the path to the birth of Arab nationhood.

Through extensive archival research, Mestyan examines the collusion of various Ottoman elites in creating this nascent sense of national belonging and finds that learned culture played a central role in this development. Mestyan investigates the experience of community during this period, engendered through participation in public rituals and being part of a theater audience. He describes the embodied and textual ways these experiences were produced through urban spaces, poetry, performances, and journals.


What We Are Reading Today: Putting it together

What We Are Reading Today: Putting it together
Updated 02 August 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Putting it together

What We Are Reading Today: Putting it together

Edited by James Lapine, Stephen Sondheim

Putting It Together chronicles the two-year odyssey of creating the iconic Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George. 

This is a “really insightful look at a classic show,” said a review on goodreads.com. 

In 1982, James Lapine, at the beginning of his career as a playwright and director, met Stephen Sondheim, 19 years his senior and already a legendary Broadway composer and lyricist. 

Shortly thereafter, the two decided to write a musical inspired by Georges Seurat’s 19th-century painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. 

Through conversations between Lapine and Sondheim, as well as most of the production team, and with a treasure trove of personal photographs, sketches, script notes, and sheet music, the two Broadway icons lift the curtain on their beloved musical. 

Putting It Together is a deeply personal remembrance of their collaboration and friendship and the highs and lows of that journey, one that resulted in the beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning classic. 

Lapine “is an incisive and at times self-deprecating interviewer, conceding that his unfamiliarity with musical theater and direction could sometimes lead him astray,” said the review.


What We Are Reading Today: Metrics at Work by Angele Christin

What We Are Reading Today: Metrics at Work by Angele Christin
Updated 01 August 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Metrics at Work by Angele Christin

What We Are Reading Today: Metrics at Work by Angele Christin

When the news moved online, journalists suddenly learned what their audiences actually liked, through algorithmic technologies that scrutinize web traffic and activity. Has this advent of audience metrics changed journalists’ work practices and professional identities?

In Metrics at Work, Angèle Christin documents the ways that journalists grapple with audience data in the form of clicks, and analyzes how new forms of clickbait journalism travel across national borders.

Drawing on four years of fieldwork in web newsrooms in the US and France, including more than one hundred interviews with journalists, Christin reveals many similarities among the media groups examined— their editorial goals, technological tools, and even office furniture.

Yet she uncovers crucial and paradoxical differences in how American and French journalists understand audience analytics and how these affect the news produced in each country.

American journalists routinely disregard traffic numbers and primarily rely on the opinion of their peers to define journalistic quality.

Meanwhile, French journalists fixate on Internet traffic and view these numbers as a sign of their resonance in the public sphere.


What We Are Reading Today: Shock to the System

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Updated 31 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Shock to the System

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Author: Michael K. Miller

How do democracies emerge? Shock to the System presents a novel theory of democratization that focuses on how events like coups, wars, and elections disrupt autocratic regimes and trigger democratic change. Employing the broadest qualitative and quantitative analyses of democratization to date, Michael Miller demonstrates that more than nine in 10 transitions since 1800 occur in one of two ways: Countries democratize following a major violent shock or an established ruling party democratizes through elections and regains power within democracy.
This framework fundamentally reorients theories on democratization by showing that violent upheavals and the preservation of autocrats in power—events typically viewed as antithetical to democracy—are in fact central to its foundation.
Through in-depth examinations of 139 democratic transitions, Miller shows how democratization frequently follows both domestic shocks (coups, civil wars, and assassinations) and international shocks (defeat in war and withdrawal of an autocratic hegemon) due to autocratic insecurity and openings for opposition actors. He also shows how transitions guided by ruling parties spring from their electoral confidence in democracy.


What We Are Reading Today: The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell

What We Are Reading Today: The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell
Updated 29 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell

What We Are Reading Today: The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell

Ben Machell’s The Unusual Suspect details the remarkable story of socially isolated British college student Stephen Jackley who started robbing banks as the 2007 financial crisis unfolded, becoming a bank robber, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. 

Motivated by a belief that global capitalism was ruining lives and driving the planet towards ecological disaster, he dreamed of changing the world for the better through his crimes. 

The police, despite their concerted efforts, had no idea what was going on or who was responsible. That is, until Jackley’s ambition got the better of him.

Eventually agreeing to return to his native Britain after an arrest on American soil, Jackley wrote of his fears for the world, humanity “standing on the brink of massive change,” detailing his deeply revealing, morally complex motivations for the robberies. It was only later that psychiatric evaluation revealed that, unbeknownst to everybody, Stephen had been living with undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder.


What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade

What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade
Updated 28 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade

What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade

Author: Diana C. Mutz

Winners and Losers challenges conventional wisdom about how American citizens form opinions on international trade. While dominant explanations in economics emphasize personal self-interest— and whether individuals gain or lose financially as a result of trade — this book takes a psychological approach, demonstrating how people view the complex world of international trade through the lens of interpersonal relations.

Drawing on psychological theories of preference formation as well as original surveys and experiments, Diana Mutz finds that in contrast to the economic view of trade as cooperation for mutual benefit, many Americans view trade as a competition between the United States and other countries—a contest of us versus them. These people favor trade as long as they see Americans as the “winners” in these interactions, viewing trade as a way to establish dominance over foreign competitors. For others, trade is a means of maintaining more peaceful relations between countries. 

Just as individuals may exchange gifts to cement relationships, international trade is a tie that binds nations together in trust and cooperation.

Winners and Losers reveals how people’s orientations toward in-groups and out-groups play a central role in influencing how they think about trade with foreign countries, and shows how a better understanding of the psychological underpinnings of public opinion can lead to lasting economic and societal benefits.