Ronen ShamirCurrent Flow: The Electrification of Palestine

Stanford University Press, 2013

by Carla Nappi on July 23, 2014

Ronen Shamir

View on Amazon

Ronen Shamir’s new book is a timely and thoughtful study of the electrification of Palestine in the early twentieth century. Current Flow: The Electrification of Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2013) makes use of Actor-Network Theory as a methodology to trace the processes involved in constructing a powerhouse and assembling an electric grid in 1920s Palestine. The book brilliantly shows how electrification “makes politics” rather than just transmitting it: under the auspices of British colonial government, the material processes of electrification produced and affirmed ethno-national distinctions like “Jews” and “Arabs” and the spaces they came to produce and inhabit in Palestine. The electric grid, here, “performs and enables (or disables) social formations through the physical connections it establishes and its attachments to other entities.”  The episteme of separatism and the roots of what would become a partition plan were born in this context, as Shamir shows. The first part of the book (chapters 1 & 2) explores these phenomena by looking at flows of electric current to streetlights and private consumers who were lighting their homes and businesses. The second part of the book (chapters 4 & 5) looks at the attachment (or not) of the electric grid to railways, industry, and agriculture. The third chapter acts as a pivot between them, examining the processes by which the measurement and standardization of current became a potent social force, creating new divisions between areas of the city of Tel Aviv, public and private spheres, and kinds of consumers. Whether you’re interested the history of Palestine or the historical sociology of science, this is a fascinating, inspiring study well worth reading!


Tine M. GammeltoftHaunting Images: A Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam

July 22, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies] Tine Gammeltoft’s new book explores the process of reproductive decision making in contemporary Hanoi. Haunting Images: A Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2014) develops an anthropology of belonging, paying special attention to the ways that women and their communities understand and make decisions based on [...]

Read the full article →

Dr. Craig MartinSubverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science

July 14, 2014

Craig Martin’s new book carefully traces religious arguments for and against Aristotelianism from the eleventh through the eighteenth centuries. Based on a close reading of a staggering array of primary sources, Subverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014) in turn subverts several assumptions about the connection between [...]

Read the full article →

Amit PrasadImperial Technoscience: Transnational Histories of MRI in the United States, Britain, and India

July 9, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Technology] In his new book, Imperial Technoscience: Transnational Histories of MRI in the United States, Britain, and India (MIT Press, 2014), Amit Prasad, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Missouri, examines what he calls the “entangled histories of MRI” by studying the development of the technology in the United States, Britain and India. [...]

Read the full article →

Lisa GitelmanPaper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents

July 9, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] “One doesn’t so much read a death certificate, it would seem, as perform calisthenics on one…” From the first, prefatory page of Lisa Gitelman’s new book, the reader is introduced to a way of thinking about documents as tools for creating bodily experience, and as material objects situated within hierarchies and relationships of labor. [...]

Read the full article →

Mary TerrallCatching Nature in the Act: Réaumur and the Practice of Natural History in the Eighteenth Century

July 4, 2014

Mary Terrall’s new book is a beautifully-written, carefully-researched, and compellingly-argued account of the practices of natural history in the eighteenth-century francophone world. Catching Nature in the Act: Réaumur and the Practice of Natural History in the Eighteenth Century (University of Chicago Press, 2014) explores this world via the work of René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur and his vast [...]

Read the full article →

Elizabeth LunbeckThe Americanization of Narcissism

June 20, 2014

“It is a commonplace of social criticism that America has become, over the past half century or so, a nation of narcissists.” From this opening, Elizabeth Lunbeck’s new book proceeds to offer a fascinating narrative of how this came to be, exploring the entwined histories of narcissism, psychoanalysis, and modernity in 20th and 21st century America. [...]

Read the full article →

Jane MaienscheinEmbryos Under the Microscope: The Diverging Meanings of Life

June 12, 2014

Why do we study the history of science? Historians of science don’t just teach us about the past: along with philosophers of science, they also help us to understand the foundations and assumptions of scientific research, and guide us to reliable sources of information on which to base our policies and opinions. Jane Maienschein’s new [...]

Read the full article →

David NemerFavela Digital: The Other Side of Technology

June 5, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Technology] Inherently problematic in most mainstream discussions of the impact of technology is the dominant western or global northern perspective. In this way, the impact of technology on societies in developing countries, the impact of these societies on technology, and how those technologies are used is often ignored or marginalized. In his [...]

Read the full article →

Omar W. NasimObserving by Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century

June 2, 2014

In Omar W. Nasim’s new book, a series of fascinating characters sketch, paint, and etch their way toward a mapping of the cosmos and the human mind. Observing by Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century (University of Chicago Press, 2013) examines the history of observation of celestial nebulae in the nineteenth century, exploring [...]

Read the full article →