Amplifying the unsung voices of South Vietnam

Soon after I joined Cornell University Press, I met with Sarah Grossman, Managing Editor of SEAP Publications, for a cup of coffee. She happened to mention a book that the Press published in 2015 – Voices from the Second Republic of South Vietnam (1967-1975), edited by K. W. Taylor. As Sarah explained, the book—a collection of essays by Vietnamese individuals who worked to build a democracy in Vietnam during the war—took on a life of its own after it came out. Mostly through word of mouth, news of its existence spread widely throughout various Vietnamese American communities, sparking conversation and remembrances, and serving as a much-needed locus for the kinds of stories about the war that are often shamefully overlooked.

voicesLearning about this book’s reception energized me instantly. As someone who works in publicity, I love the fact that the book reached the readers to whom it mattered the most. It also reminded me of why university presses are so important—we are publishing scholarship that has real impact on people around the world, both inside and out of the academy.

I was fortunate enough to be able to connect with one of the contributors, Tam Phan, to further illuminate the story behind this book, and why it has mattered so much to so many people. Our interview is below.

 

  1. This book developed from a symposium on the Second Republic of South Vietnam held at Cornell in 2012. You played an integral part in the volume’s development by providing the initial inspiration for it and contributing an essay. Why did you think it was important to publish these stories for a wider audience?

I share the feeling of the majority of the South Vietnamese community that the plight to build a free and democratic country in South Vietnam was misunderstood during the war. It was further clouded by a propaganda war that the South Vietnamese simply lost. The voices of South Vietnam have largely been absent from U.S. publications and scholarship on the war, and it felt important to have a platform for sharing another, crucial dimension of that time for the wider public. The 2012 symposium “Voices from the South” [Vietnam], organized by Professor Keith Taylor and coordinated by my son John Phan (who by that time was a PhD student at Cornell), provided us a golden opportunity to tell our stories. Professor Taylor went further and put together a volume that captured the main testimonies of eleven former South Vietnamese officials who served during the second republic. The South Vietnamese community has welcomed the book with appreciation and gratitude.

The interest in the book to this point, according to my understanding, remains chiefly among the first generation of Vietnamese Americans, as well as a very limited American public. We hope that the stories of the South Vietnamese and of their many American friends who helped them build their country be known to the younger Vietnamese American generation and the larger American public as well.

  1. The book’s publication attracted much attention within American Vietnamese communities. Why do you think it garnered such interest?

Since the publication of the book in 2015, we have made a consistent effort to protect its integrity by avoiding any attempt to “politicize” it. Despite the clear absence of large-scale publicity events, I am happy to see that the book has spread widely across Vietnamese communities in the U.S. and to some extent in France and Vietnam. I believe that this interest among Vietnamese communities stems from its healing effect. One reader—a former South Vietnamese military officer—told me during a social gathering in St. Paul, Minnesota that he found great comfort after reading the book, and I believe that this comfort stems from a feeling that a broader range of South Vietnamese experiences and perspectives have finally been represented in a publication.

  1. You decided to translate the book into Vietnamese. What motivated you to personally undertake this project? How can people get ahold of this edition?

The book has generated great interest among the first generation of Vietnamese-Americans, especially the older generation—many of whom are not proficient in English. I received several requests from a number of Vietnamese-American communities, as well as some Vietnamese-American media groups, for a Vietnamese edition of the book. I consulted Professor Taylor and Sarah Grossman and received permission to produce a translation. I contracted with a professional translator and did the editing, along with seven of the other original contributors (two of the contributors have passed away in 2017). The whole process was completed by April 2018, and under the suggestion of some of my colleagues, I had released it on April 30, 2018 in commemoration of the end of the Vietnam war. We quickly discovered a number of minor technical issues following the initial release, which were promptly corrected, and the final edition of the translation (titled Tiếng Nói từ Đệ Nhị Cộng Hòa Nam Việt Nam 1967-1975) has been available via Amazon since May of this year.


 

About the author of this blog post: Cheryl Quimba is the Publicity Manager at Cornell University Press. She truly believes that books can and do change the world (and she’ll rattle off a whole laundry list of world-changing books if you ask her!).

Amplifying the unsung voices of South Vietnam

Happy Independence Day, India: Grassroots Resistance in India Past and Present

Since India won its independence in 1947, it has celebrated its victory over its bygone British colonial occupiers on August 15th annually. In contemporary India the holiday is celebrated with parades, flag-raising ceremonies, and the singing of the national anthem, “Jana Gana Mana.” The festivities mark a celebration of the modern Indian state, but it is also day of remembrance and a repudiation of the repressive colonial powers of the past. Most of the princely states and regions that are now unified under the state flag of India were under the thumb of the British Raj for close to a century (and some lands had been under military occupation by the East India Company or other colonial interests for a least a hundred years before that). Thus, India is no stranger to foreign interventions, and it should be quite comprehensible that many Indians are still sensitive to soft and hard applications of power by outside influences.

Celebratory parade in India, photo by Jessica Falcone.

As I discussed in my book, Battling the Buddha of Love: a Cultural Biography of the Greatest Statue Never Built, when an American-based transnational Tibetan Buddhist group of mostly non-heritage Buddhists sought to build the biggest statue in the world, they became embroiled in a dispute with local Indians in Kushinagar. The Buddhist group, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), wanted to build a 500-foot behemoth Maitreya statue in Kushinagar, the site of the Shakyamuni Buddha’s death about 2500 years ago.

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A Buddha statue in Kushinagar, photo by Jessica Falcone

The “Save the Land Movement,” comprised of rural Indian farming families and their advocates, argued that the land acquisition of several hundred arable acres that had been organized by the state government for the Maitreya Project would be a complete disaster for those affected. In the process of arguing against the statue, locals said that even if they did consent to sell their farms, which most refused to do outright, the state was forcibly taking their land at far less than market value. While some Indian farmers felt that the project could offer some benefits to the local economy, they were almost in total agreement that the proposed process of land acquisition would be so imbalanced that they themselves would be shunted aside long before any potential benefits trickled down to their villages.

During my years of research on the Maitreya Project, I was often compelled by informants to think about how such a compulsory land acquisition on behalf of a foreign institution was not unlike a neocolonial incursion.

When I embarked upon ethnographic work in India in the mid-aughts, I did not seek to study the echoes of colonialism, but as many scholars in the region will attest, postcolonial India is haunted by the past, especially insofar as domination of the poor by the rich has continued unabated, albeit under new globalized, neoliberal, neocolonial guises. Even armed with the intellectual understanding of this history and cultural context, I naively hoped that the project that I was studying would be different. But my hope that the cultural logics of Buddhist morality would set this intervention on a more deliberate, ethical path were not borne out in fact. Most surprising to me, FPMT and its Maitreya Project, seemed utterly ambivalent about the local resistance movement directed against them.

A village protesting against the Maitreya Project, photo by Jessica Falcone.

An elderly woman in Kushinagar who counted herself as an anti-Maitreya Project protestor told me that she remembered Gandhi’s anticolonial protests from her childhood. She told me during our interview that they had beat the British and they would fight against this Maitreya Project too. On another occasion, I was approached by a local man, let’s call him Sanjay, who likened the Maitreya Project to a foreign parasite. He said, “We will win against the Maitreya Project. I am 100 percent sure that we will be successful. [Around 1600 CE] the East India Company came from London. The East India Company was also a ‘project.’ The Maitreya Project is like the East India Company.” When I hastily wished him and his peers well in their struggle against the Maitreya Project, he seemed skeptical and anxious.

And so, on the occasion of this year’s celebration of Indian independence, as I find myself thinking about Indian resistance movements past and present, allow me to share what Sanjay said to me by way of farewell, “We are stronger now. You tell them that we can’t be colonized again.”

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About the author of this blog post: Jessica Falcone is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Kansas State University where teaches about South Asian and Asian-American cultural and religious worlds. Her book, Battling the Buddha of Love: a Cultural Biography of the Greatest Statue Never Built, will be released on September 15, 2018 by Cornell University Press. Since the release date of Manikarnika: the Queen of Jhansi was postponed until next year, she will be celebrating India’s Independence day by watching the movie, Lagaan, for the hundredth time.

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Happy Independence Day, India: Grassroots Resistance in India Past and Present

Subscribe Now, and Save 50%! Lessons from MoviePass

The woes of MoviePass recently made me reflect on some ideas we’ve been toying with to market and sell even more books. Loyalty programs, subscription models, premium customer tiers, and so on, have all been on our minds in the last few weeks here at CUP. Most of this came around because of our 150th anniversary next year, but when I started reading about MoviePass, it just came into focus even more.

This blog post, and the ongoing series that will follow, is about looking at non-book-world things in business, marketing, sales, pop culture, and anything else really, and seeing how it might tie into the business of marketing and selling scholarly books.

MoviePass, of course, took its business model from other monthly subscription media services like Scribd, that charge a small fee for which the customers get, in return, access to large volumes of media. The model works because many people sign up, pay the monthly fee, but then don’t use the service all that much. It’s like the gym. The most successful startups using the model have mostly focused on visual media (TV, movies, streaming services), but even books have received the treatment, and not just from Amazon. And though I’m not convinced that the “Netflix” model works for books; the latter is an inherently different kind of media, the 700,000 subscribers Scribd has might disagree. But I am intrigued by what possibilities could exist for a subscription model for a unique publisher.

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What can I offer my customers, that will entice them to pay a monthly fee, in exchange for becoming a “member” or a premium customer? What incentives would be needed to earn their loyalty over the long term? Does the “insider” content of early ESPN initiatives work? Do they need extra-special (read, bigger) discounts on their purchases? If I offer them a rewards program so that they get a free book after every fifth purchase, will that be enough to make them buy more books? Is free shipping all it takes? Of course, none of these standard marketing and sales concepts are new. So, how can we tweak them so that what we offer is different and powerful and exciting and makes the customer, want to buy and read all our books? Is Cadillac’s exclusive treatment the way to go?!  (“This version of our new book is only available in New York!”)

As we build our premium-loyalty-exclusive-subscription-reward model for the 150th Cornell University Press anniversary, the 1869 Club (work it out!) will be a hybrid. Different aspects from the most successful of the existing models will be included. Different tiers might exist. Different options for discerning customers will be featured on the menu. And one model isn’t going to work. We just don’t have the B2C base needed to sustain it. We don’t have enough new content (or existing content on the back list) to hold enough customers. But our PLEaSeR model might just have enough triggers to create and engender long-term commitments from students, scholars, and others to make it work.

The planning is underway, and I literally just came up with PLESR model (I’m pretty pleased so I hope it’s original), but as this new series of Book Marketing from the Real World continues, we’ll reveal more. (I’m not even hiding this behind an “insider” model. Although, I guess that might just change!)


 

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is the marketing and sales director at Cornell University Press. Follow him on Twitter @MartynBeeny. His blogs are always Premium content. He appreciates your Loyalty in always coming back for more. His posts are Exclusive to this blog. You can Subscribe if you like. And the Reward for reading all the way to the end of this bio is that it ends.

Subscribe Now, and Save 50%! Lessons from MoviePass

What Does Faith Demand? Elizabeth Seton and the Beliefs of Others

This summer has found Americans arguing over religion. What do we think of a baker who refused, on grounds of religious liberty, to make a cake celebrating a gay couple’s marriage? Should Catholic hospitals consider offering contraceptive services if they’re the only hospital in their region? Is it ever a good idea to turn to Scripture in order to justify or criticize government policies? Arguments like those made news. Other moments, in which someone looked with kindness, indifference, or contempt at a neighbor’s hijab, or crucifix, or flying spaghetti monster bumper sticker, didn’t. But in their daily accumulation, those small encounters also make history: the history of how people who disagree on things they consider supremely important, decide how and whether they will live in peace.

Elizabeth SetonNext month Cornell University Press will publish Elizabeth Seton, my biography of the woman who in 1975 became the first native born American citizen to be canonized in the Roman Catholic Church. Seton (1774-1821) changed her mind about her beliefs more than once during her life, and she also changed her mind about whether what she believed in should affect the society around her. As a very young woman, Seton laughed at the idea that faith needed any particular doctrinal content: if one found one’s way to cheerfulness and harmony, then all was well. This form of religion neither inspired Seton nor offended anyone else.

 

In her early thirties, after years of personal tragedy and spiritual inquiry, Seton converted to Catholicism. Her new faith allowed her to create a women’s religious community whose spiritual daughters serve others to this day. It also left Seton ablaze with certainty that only those who believed as she did were on the path to salvation. Her efforts to convince others of this angered many in her cosmopolitan Manhattan circle: they thought that faith should be held privately, its edges smoothed to avoid friction. Seton felt her friends’ and family’s insistence that she should keep her faith to herself was an assault on her beliefs and good intentions. Friends and family found her proselytizing a violation of their right to be left alone.  Everyone felt unfairly judged.

Within a decade, Seton had once again changed her mind. And although she continued to believe that the Catholic Church was the only safe path to God, she no longer tried to persuade others to follow it. Neither the venerable magisterium of the Catholic Church nor the First Amendment, its ink still damp, deserve the credit for this view; Seton’s growing desire for harmony and her growing spiritual humility do. She now believed that her faith imposed a different kind of obligation than she’d first believed, an obligation to offer specific, loving attention to those around her. Nurturing relationships, not spreading doctrine, would be the external manifestation of her faith. She wanted, she wrote, to “constantly find occasions of rendering [others] good offices and exercising kindness and good will towards them.”

As the summer’s arguments show, living harmoniously when people disagree vehemently will always be challenging. So will the act of creating a faith community that makes no unwanted claims on those outside it, but is meaningful to those within. Yet I think often of the principle Elizabeth Seton set forth late in her life: “Fear nothing so much as not to love enough.” Amid our many (and necessary) arguments, this seems like a promising place to start.

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Related upcoming event of interest: Living History Tour 

For more on Elizabeth Seton visit:

Daughters of Charity Federation

National Shrine of Elizabeth Seton

About the author of this blog post: Catherine O’Donnell is an historian at Arizona State University.  She writes and teaches about early America, religion, and the Atlantic World.

What Does Faith Demand? Elizabeth Seton and the Beliefs of Others

The smile of the human bomb: an upcoming #CornellPress title

In 2017, nearly six thousand people were killed in suicide attacks across the world. And only a few weeks ago, featured in the morning news, were the reports on a bombing that killed dozens in Pakistan, together with a wave of suicide attacks that took place in southern Syria. Bombs, violence, and suicide attacks seem to transcend the boundaries of geography and time; while the frequency of these episodes remains unchanged. But what have we learned about this ugly side of humanity? And in the aftermath, how can we better grasp these expressions of violence? Is it even possible to stand in a terrorist’s shoes?

In The Smile of the Human Bomb, Gideon Aran dissects the moral logic of the suicide terrorist. Looking into the events that led to the dramatic toll of deaths in 2017, the book is a firsthand examination of the bomb site in the last moments before the explosion, at the moment of the explosion, and during the first few minutes after the explosion. Aran uncovers the suicide bomber’s final preparations before embarking on the suicide mission: the border crossing, the journey toward the designated target, penetration into the site, and the behavior of both sides within it. The book sheds light on the truth of the human bomb.

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Photo by Thomas Griesbeck

Aran’s gritty and often disturbing account comes from joining and watching the devout Jewish volunteers who gather the scorched fragments of the dead after terrorist attacks, interrogation protocols, interviews with Palestinian armed resistance members and retired Israeli counterterrorism agents, questioning of failed suicide terrorists in jail, and conversations with the acquaintances of human bombs.

The Smile of the Human Bomb provides new insights on the Middle East conflict, political violence, radicalism, victimhood, ritual, and death and unveils a suicide terrorism scene far different from what is conventionally pictured. In the end, Aran discovers, the suicide terrorist is an unremarkable figure, and the circumstances of his or her recruitment and operation are prosaic and often accidental. The smiling human bomb is neither larger than life nor a monster, but an actor on a human scale. And suicide terrorism is a drama in which clichés and chance events play their role.

As we continue to witness suicide attacks throughout the world, this upcoming #CornellPress title challenges all conventional approaches to the issue, and is a must-read for all of those trying to understand what lies behind terrorists’ motives, and what is unravelling in their minds at the moment of executing such violent and complex acts.

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About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She is excited about the new wonderful books being published and looking forward to promoting more upcoming fall/winter #CornellPress releases.

The smile of the human bomb: an upcoming #CornellPress title

The difference between good and bad marketing

A couple of weeks ago, news broke of the Build-a-Bear mess. (Build a Bear offered customers a chance to pay in dollars whatever the age of their child was. The outcome was chaos and madness and thousands of people lining up to try and take advantage of the promo.) My wife texted me to share a story and commented that the “pay-your-age” tactic was similar to our #PWYW sale, but didn’t seem to be going quite so successfully! One day later, Chuck E. Cheese offered a similar incentive. (For the price of a child’s age, the child could play as many games as they wanted for thirty minutes.) I’m not directly comparing our #PWYW sale because circumstances are different in each case, but there do seem to be connections and things we can take from all three campaigns.

What’s the difference between good and bad marketing? Sometimes, it’s a really thin margin of error. When I read about Build-a-Bear and then Chuck E. Cheese and thought about #PWYW, it struck me how easily each of these examples could have gone differently. With a little more careful planning and a timely reaction, Build-a-Bear could have been the talk of the town with a smart, adventurous marketing campaign. Instead, they quickly became a case study in how not to handle unanticipated demand. Chuck E. Cheese barely caught any flak at all because of the timing of their much-more-limited pay-what-you-age campaign. At CUP, we rode a wave far bigger than expected, but we managed to keep our balance the whole way into the beach.

We can all learn lessons, though, even for something so different from young kids making the teddy bear of their dream as publishing scholarly books for academics and libraries. No matter the original scope or intention, customers love an insanely good deal. For parents, the opportunity to get a $30+ bear for less than $5 was too good to miss. For grad students, our offer to pay whatever they wanted for books that often run upwards of $50, made heads turn. Upset children who had missed out on a bear quickly found solace in Chuck E. Cheese’s timely offer. A bargain (especially a timely one) is going to draw customers in.

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I’ve already written about it and won’t pretend that we foresaw the size of that wave coming, but we made sure to react quickly and courteously, when we did realize we’d found ourselves on a monster off the coast of Portugal. When you’re reacting in real time to demand beyond your expectations you aren’t going to get everything right; but basic, sound principles of customer service and sales are going to keep your head above water. Sadly, Build-a-Bear just didn’t use tried and true customer service skills when this happened. Trying to placate irate parents contending with upset toddlers and young children with a gift voucher that didn’t even amount to the same price struck me as a recipe for disaster. The ingredients: bad PR, poor customer relations, and lost sales. When we couldn’t immediately cope with the demand during #PWYW, we sent every individual who emailed us a polite apology for the delay, promised we would address their offer even though the window for PWYW was ending, and then, as quickly as we could, responded with the same protocols we’d used on the actual day of the sale. In other words, we treated each person like a valuable customer, and offered them the same deal they would have got if the demand hadn’t been more than we could handle.

In marketing, there’s always something we could have done better, an outcome no one quite anticipated. But as book marketing becomes more dynamic, more content driven, more necessarily creative and non-traditional, these kinds of campaigns are going to feature more often. We’ll need to be on our toes and ready to handle a “crisis” as it happens rather than take the slow approach that tends to have accompanied much of what we have all done in the past. When customer reaction and interaction happens in real time, and is broadcast and shared in the same way, it’s our responsibility as forward-thinking marketers to react and interact in the same way. We must reflect on our customers, know them, think like them, and provide them with the brand experience they wish for, not the one we could simply afford.

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About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director at Cornell University Press. He thought about trying the pay-your-age deal at Build-a-Bear, but you know, math. You can follow him on Twitter, @MartynBeeny

The difference between good and bad marketing

A Tentative History of Wild Bird Feeding (part 2)

Elsewhere in the New Testament, birds are portrayed as agents of wasted opportunity in Jesus’s parable of the sower (Matthew 13:4), consuming the metaphorical “seed as the Good News” carelessly cast onto the path rather than onto the tilled soil. These would have been effective metaphors for Jesus’s rural audience, who would have been familiar with the local birds ready to scavenge any seed they could. For our current purposes, this reminds us of those instances when bird feeding occurs against our wishes: the unwelcome species at the feeder; those aggressive waterbirds that invade the picnic; the scavengers of human food wastes.

A final biblical example of a feeding interaction disturbingly reverses the expected arrangements: God directed the prophet Elijah to await further instructions from a cave in the dry and remote Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan River. How can he possibly survive? By wild bird feeding with a difference. “Ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening” (1 Kings 17:6; ca. 550 BCE). How’s that for deliberate, systematic, and regular provisioning of species-appropriate sustenance?

In reality, however, the historical record—at least the component available in English—is strangely silent (ignoring the Egyptians for the moment) about what we would accept as just about any form of bird feeding from the first century CE until somewhere in the eighteenth. Maybe other things were happening—the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Reformation—but writers, philosophers, and journalists seem to have missed the feeding undoubtedly occurring in their very own streets and villages. In all seriousness, that is the most likely explanation: it was so familiar and commonplace—so ordinary—as to be unworthy of comment.

There are a few worthy exceptions to this dearth of historical detail, although their veracity may be questionable, both involving Roman Catholic saints. The first features the somewhat opaque Scottish figure Saint Serf (or Serbán) (ca. 500–583) of Fife. Among numerous highly improbable adventures (including seven years as pope in Rome) and the usual series of miracles, it was his apparent “taming of a wild robin by the act of hand feeding” that has often warranted mention. Although not directly related to feeding, Saint Cuthbert of Northumberland (634–687) also deserves attention here in the context of a very early concern for bird conservation. Arguably the most famous saint of Anglo-Saxon England, Cuthbert is today recognized for enacting the world’s first bird-protection laws. During a spiritual retreat on the nearby Farne Islands, Saint Cuthbert used his authority as bishop of Lindisfarne to declare legal protection for the eider ducks and other seabirds that were being harvested unsustainably by fishermen. These laws—literally centuries ahead of their time—remain in place today.

Saint Francis of Assisi (ca. 1181–1226) is venerated for his revolutionary ideas on many topics, but of particular relevance here is his conception of the relationship between humanity and nature. Francis regarded the natural world as “the mirror of God,” and therefore all animals were fellow creatures to be treated with appropriate respect. He famously preached to flocks of birds gathered expectantly beside the road—although there is no mention of him actually feeding them. He does, however, convince some irate villagers to feed a starving wolf instead of killing it. The legend says they did so.

The long slow centuries without much reference to bird feeding come to a whimsical end with the advent of the era of broad circulation newspapers, especially in England. For example, on one apparently slow news day in 1787, the Northampton Mercury felt it “worthy of Remark,” that a “Pair of wild Sparrows have built a Nest and hatched their Eggs in the kitchen,” and that the “Mistress of the House often feeds the young Ones.” Furthermore, a predilection to bird feeding may be an indicator of moral character according to a character reference tended to a Scottish court. The accused murderer, according to an acquaintance, was a “kind and mild man of a sensitive nature. He used to carry crumbs of bread for the purpose of feeding birds.” We do not know whether this swayed the jury.

THE BIRDS AT MY TABLEThe following is an excerpt from The Birds at My Table: Why We Feed Wild Birds and Why it Matters, by Darryl Jones.

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A Tentative History of Wild Bird Feeding (part 2)

A Tentative History of Wild Bird Feeding (part 1)

Birds feature everywhere in ancient cultural records, especially in the religious texts from many traditions. This is a rich seam followed in Mark Cocker’s Birds and People, the outstanding compendium of the way birds have featured in cultures throughout the world. Birds are depicted as spirit guides and intermediaries, villains and tricksters, agents of evil and even as deities (with corvids—crows and ravens—being mentioned remarkably often). Ancient and medieval writers also employed birds as metaphors, exemplars, and similes (“You will rise up on wings like eagles,” Isaiah 40:31). Real birds—as opposed to literary devices or religious motifs—appear less often, and where they do, they often feature as game to be hunted, potentially dangerous wildlife, or occupants of remote or desolate locations.

THE BIRDS AT MY TABLE

As far as I have been able to determine, the very earliest mention of the feeding of wild birds is found in Hindu writings of the Vedic era, at least 3500 years ago. These texts describe the daily requirement for orthodox Hindus to practice bhutayajna, one of the panchamahayajnas, the “five great sacrifices” designed to mitigate the accumulation of negative karma. The bhutayajna stipulates the provision of food, traditionally rice cakes, for birds but also “dogs, insects, wandering outcasts, and beings of the invisible worlds.” Given that this remains a standard practice of many contemporary Hindus, it surely is the longest running form of organized wild bird feeding.

 

No civilization can claim a stronger relationship between birds and its religious life, however, than that of the ancient Egyptians. While a number of species feature in Egyptian writings and rituals, as divine representatives on earth or as metaphors for divine attributes, two species, the Sacred Ibis and the Peregrine Falcon, predominate in this spiritual landscape. The vast numbers of ibis (sacred to the god Thoth) mummies involved (Saqqâra alone holds 1.5 million; several sites were capable of processing 10,000 birds annually) have been well documented, but less well known are the millions of falcons (representatives of Horus) that were employed in a similar fashion.

An obvious logistical question arises: How did the Egyptians acquire the birds needed in such numbers? We know through ancient administrative texts that both species were raised specifically in captivity for such purposes as well as being harvested in huge numbers from the wild. To enhance the steady demand for falcons, a stipend was provided by the royal household to the priests to be used for the maintenance of fields dedicated to provisioning falcons with food; a statue commemorating a man named Djedhor describes how he “prepared the food of the falcons living in the land.” Similarly, fields were set aside for exclusive use by ibis and were overseen by priestly wardens. Dating from about 700 BCE, this must surely be the earliest form of mass, well-organized, planned bird feeding. This was intentional provisioning for the living birds; when they were dedicated (which involved capture, ritual killing, and mummification), food was also provided for their journey accompanying the deceased to the afterlife: recent X-ray examinations of ibis mummies have discovered special foods inserted into their bills during preparation.

Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, the earliest writings possibly associated with birds and feeding are thought to be certain passages from the book of Leviticus (written around 1440 BCE). Among the various laws proclaimed is an admonition for some of the harvest—the grain growing at the edges of the field and the fallen gleanings—to be left in place “for the poor and the foreigner among you” (Leviticus 23:9). To this list of unfortunates some scholars have added birds, although this has been contested. A much more characteristic theme is found in the New Testament, in the gospels Luke and Matthew (ca. 80s or 90s CE), of God’s benevolence and care as exemplified by his provision of food for the birds (for example: “Consider the ravens; they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them” (Luke 12:24). This is a powerful image: God as bird feeder, who cares even for the lowly sparrow (Matthew 10:29).

 

The following is an excerpt from The Birds at My Table: Why We Feed Wild Birds and Why it Matters, by Darryl Jones.

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Recommended interview to watch with this blog post:

https://vancouversun.com/entertainment/festivals/bird-lovers-flock-to-vancouver-for-summer-festival

 

 

A Tentative History of Wild Bird Feeding (part 1)

WHAT GALILEO SAW (Twelve New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter)

Today, I woke up to the news that twelve new moons had been found orbiting Jupiter. According to an article in the National Geographic, it seems that a group of astronomers were looking for a hypothetical planet on the far fringes of our solar system, when they came across these twelve new moons dancing around Jupiter instead.

The discovery left me feeling somehow uneasy, wondering what we are looking for when we look out there, how we are prepared for the unexpected, and what really happens by accident, as opposed to by some mysterious cosmic plan of the universe. Science and religion, or rather being caught in the limbo in between. And so I turned to our books.

In What Galileo Saw, author Lawrence Lipking illustrates the blurry line between artistic imagination and rational thought, capturing how they both interplayed in the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. It is a new perspective into the creative minds of those who shaped new visions of science during a turning point in human history, with eye-opening discoveries in cosmology, natural history, engineering, and more.

GALILEOGranted, we are far from that seventeenth-century society that believed in witchcraft and the presence of the devil, but like Galileo, Kepler, Descartes or Hook, astronomical discoveries in the twenty-first century come at the expense of overcoming other obstacles. After all, as the National Geographic article explains, tracking dim dots in the sky requires powerful telescopes, and Jupiter presents its own demons, with intense brightness and glare that can easily obscure such tiny, faint moons.

When Galileo saw the face of the Moon and the moons of Jupiter, Lipking writes, he had to picture a cosmos that could account for them. Kepler thought his geometry could open a window into the mind of God. Francis Bacon’s natural history envisioned an order of things that would replace the illusions of language with solid evidence and transform notions of life and death. Descartes designed a hypothetical “Book of Nature” to explain how everything in the universe was constructed. Thomas Browne reconceived the boundaries of truth and error. Robert Hooke, like Leonardo, was both researcher and artist; his schemes illuminate the microscopic and the macrocosmic. And when Isaac Newton imagined nature as a coherent and comprehensive mathematical system he redefined the goals of science and the meaning of genius.

What Galileo Saw bridges the divide between science and art; it brings together Galileo and Milton, Bacon and Shakespeare. Check out this Cornell Press title and enter the workshops where the Scientific Revolution was fashioned, drawing on art, literature, and the history of science to reimagine how perceptions about the world and human life could change so drastically, and change forever.

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About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She often looks at the sky in search for answers to existential questions and also, to be reminded of how little we humans are.

WHAT GALILEO SAW (Twelve New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter)

THE HEADSCARF IN THE UNITED STATES (or the celebration of freedom on this 4th of July)

The Fourth of July is so close you can almost sense it. And to most people, it feels like freedom and independence. But how does it feel to the Muslim American women wearing a headscarf (or hijab) on that day?

The question about the headscarf, its meaning, and, more than anything, the experience of the women that wear it, has fascinated me for a long time. Maybe because some people don’t seem to think much about it, beyond the simple act of wearing a scarf in itself; maybe because to others, it evokes sentiments of distrust and anxiety, led mainly by stereotypical images propagated on TV.

In April 2014 I traveled to Turkey and asked questions about this practice myself. Because I knew little about it, I was surprised to find out that most Muslim women embraced the covering of their hair, and sometimes their whole body, as an expression of their identities. They talked about religious liberty, their sense of femininity carefully embroidered and woven in cloth.

A few years later, as I strolled the streets of Casablanca, Morocco, I was witness to the same phenomena. Arm in arm, gossiping in their burkas, or with smiling eyes in a hijab, women were voicing their beliefs. How is it that I had not seen through the veil of my own cultural bias, unable to understand the subtleties of wearing a head-covering scarf?

HEADSCARF

The issue of Islamic head-covering and the political and social debates on the topic are as multiple as they are complex. This 4th of July, I invite those interested in unveiling its construction and political consequences, to listen to our latest podcast with Bozena Welborne, Aubrey Westfall, and Sarah Tobin, co-authors of The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States.

On this Independence Day, their book provides us with a chance to hear from Muslim American women, to learn about their values and beliefs, and how they express their identities in a country that aims to be the model of democratic pluralism.

 

 

“I love identifying myself as that, as a Muslim American, especially in that order, too, because this is my country and my religion is the most important to me. But after that, like . . .  this is where I was born, this is where I was raised and I was born with these values, American values of tolerating freedom of expression and freedom of religion and freedom of the press, and I think that’s one reason why our country is so successful is because we’re tolerating so much diversity and therefore people from all over the world can come and bring their talents into our country. So, I take a lot of pride in that phrase, Muslim American.”

—The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States (p.162)

 


 

Recommended artist to follow with this post:

http://www.boushraart.com/

 

About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She is grateful to have had the opportunity to travel around the world and meet people from various countries, with different cultural values and religious beliefs, and to be part of a diverse, multi-cultural and heterogeneous community.

 

THE HEADSCARF IN THE UNITED STATES (or the celebration of freedom on this 4th of July)