UNC Press highlights historian Nina Silber’s new book, This War Ain’t Over: Fighting the Civil War in New Deal America. Silber’s book examines the place the war, slavery, and reconstruction had in American culture and politics in the pre-Civil Rights, inter-war era. Silber situates the Civil War firmly within FDR’s thinking in addressing the Great Depression. The invocation of “slavery” by Roosevelt and other new dealers was a rhetorical strategy that sought to link Depression-era whites’ economic distress with that of enslaved African Americans of nineteenth century—but often came at the expense of addressing their very African American peers in the 1930s and 40s.
An earlier version of Silber’s approach to these two eras is found in her 2015 article for the Journal of the Civil War Era. There, she discusses Abraham Lincoln’s legacy in the 1930s. According to Silber, “Lincoln now took center stage in volatile discussions about economic collapse, race and civil rights, and global conflict.”
At Harvard University Press’ blog, Lindsay Waters reflects on his longtime editorship of philosopher Bruno Latour.
Latour is a pioneering and interdisciplinary figure whose initial work challenged prevailing notions of scientific facticity and truth. According to some critics, that critique been adopted by climate change deniers and others outside the field’s mainstream. It would be hard to place too much blame on Latour, though. In recent years he has focused almost exclusively on climate change, collaborating with researchers in fields across the earth and planetary sciences.
Latour wrote a short piece for Science in 1998 outlining his engagement with the disciplines. Latour seeks to champion “research” before “science.” “Science,” as such, seeks certainty and finality, whereas “research” seeks uncertainty and new frontiers. “Science might be dead,” he writes, “but then long live research!”
At the University of Minnesota Press’ blog, environmental humanist Nicole Seymour discusses her new book, Bad Environmentalism: Affect and Dissent in the Ecological Age. Seymour’s book interrogates the major modes of environmentalist discourse: “not only shame and guilt but also sanctimony, self-righteousness, ‘gloom and doom,’ reverence, and sentimentality” in favor of “irony, irreverence, glee, absurdity, perversity, and playfulness.”
For Seymour, shame or virtue signaling over personal behavior misses the point that “just 100 companies are responsible for the majority of global emissions,” as a recent report showed.
In an ironic letter to her former home of Little Rock, AR, Seymour links an emergent “ironic” remembrance of Civil Rights historiography to a new environmental ethic, not dissimilar from what she outlines in Bad Environmentalism: “For one thing, irony can ensure that the stories we tell of environmental resilience and recovery—stories that lift us out of gloom and doom—still maintain a critical edge; that they are not naïve or Pollyannaish, that they do not license further environmental destruction.”