Book Riot recently released a list of 100 must-read books on life in cults and oppressive religious sects. Author Elizabeth Allen moved across the tragic, weird, and terrible landscape of misused faith to guide readers toward everything from the Heaven’s Gate disaster to Waco, Scientology, Jonestown, the Westboro Baptist Church, and a quilt of other sects, communes, and cults.
The list includes Betrayal of the Spirit, Nori J. Muster‘s incredible insider account of the Hare Krishna movement. Muster joined the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), aka the Hare Krishnas, in 1978, shortly after the death of the movement’s spiritual master. She worked for ten years as a public relations secretary and editor of the organization’s newspaper, the ISKCON World Review. Her candid and critical account follows the inner workings of the movement and the Hare Krishnas’ progressive decline.
Combining personal reminiscences with published articles and internal documents, Betrayal of the Spirit details the scandals that beset the Krishnas—drug dealing, weapons stockpiling, deceptive fundraising, child abuse, and murder within ISKCON—as well as the dynamics of schisms that forced some 95 percent of the group’s original members to leave. In the midst of this institutional disarray, Muster continued her personal search for truth and religious meaning as an ISKCON member until, disillusioned at last with the movement’s internal divisions, she left the organization.
In a new preface to the paperback edition, Muster discusses the personal circumstances that led her to ISKCON and kept her there as the movement’s image worsened. She also talks about “the darkest secret”—child abuse in the ISKCON parochial schools—that was covered up by the public relations office where she worked.
Meet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting academic publishing, writing, education, and related topics. Today, industry advice columnist The Bolshevik answers your questions.
With the amazing recent changes in the political landscape, does academic and scholarly publishing have any worries? We’re already seeing an aggressive turn against knowledge with the muzzling of government scientists and experts at federal agencies. The recent election itself could be seen as a rejection of expertise. The first days of the new administration seem dedicated to the rejection of truth itself. Yet you guys are trying to sell expertise and the search for truth all the time. Any thoughts on getting with the prevailing paradigm and just publishing any old thing that makes you look good? Signed, Trender Bender
Dear TB: As someone experienced with the weaving of communist unrealities, the Bolshevik welcomes this new era. It means he once again possesses in-demand job skills beyond designing massive hydroelectric boondoggles. Yet I, too, feel chilled by the partisan anti-intellectualism in the air.
In the book, Sunardi ventures into the regency of Malang in east Java to study and perform with dancers. Through formal interviews and casual conversation, Sunardi learns about their lives and art. Her work shows how performers continually transform dance traditions to negotiate, and renegotiate, the boundaries of gender and sex—sometimes reinforcing lines of demarcation, sometimes transgressing them, and sometimes doing both simultaneously. But Sunardi’s investigation moves beyond performance. It expands notions of the spiritual power associated with female bodies and feminine behavior, and the ways women, men, and waria (male-to-female transvestites) access the magnetic power of femaleness.
Fostering the Farm broadens the literature on child-saving to explain the rise of the emerging administrative state’s social policies and the origins of foster care. Birk is especially adept at unraveling how such policies and popular beliefs emerged from the interactions between local and state level actors. Birk adds an important chapter to a historiography that questions the romantic Jeffersonian myth of agrarian life. In combination with our understanding of the history of slavery, sharecropping, and migrant labor, Fostering of the Farm suggests that exploitive labor of especially vulnerable populations—rather than self-sufficiency—may be a defining characteristic of the history of American farms regardless of region.
And They Were Wonderful Teachers reports the history of state oppression of gay and lesbian citizens during the Cold War and the dynamic set of responses it ignited. Focusing on Florida’s purge of gay and lesbian teachers from 1956 to 1965, this study explores how the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, commonly known as the Johns Committee, investigated and discharged dozens of teachers on the basis of sexuality.
Karen L. Graves details how teachers were targeted, interrogated, and stripped of their professional credentials, and she examines the extent to which these teachers resisted the invasion of their personal lives. She contrasts the experience of three groups—civil rights activists, gay and lesbian teachers, and University of South Florida personnel—called before the committee and looks at the range of response and resistance to the investigations. Based on archival research conducted on a recently opened series of Investigation Committee records in the State Archives of Florida, this work highlights the importance of sexuality in American and education history and argues that Florida’s attempt to govern sexuality in schools implies that educators are distinctly positioned to transform dominant ideology in American society.
Excerpted from Orwell: Life and Art, by Jeffrey Meyers. The chapter deals with George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The past is one of the dominant themes of the novel. The Party confidently believes: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” The Party can not only change the past but can also destroy it and authoritatively state: “it never happened.” By creating a new as well as destroying the old past, the Party can also arrange to predict events that have already taken place. Winston spends a great deal of time conversing with the proles, trying to recall and reestablish the personal and historical past that has been officially abolished, for he believes that the past may still exist in human memory. When Winston plots with O’Brien, they drink “To the past.” O’Brien gravely agrees that the past is more important than the future because under a system of organized lying only a remembrance of the past can prevent the disappearance of objective truth.
Sound transformed British life in the “age of noise” between 1914 and 1945. The sonic maelstrom of mechanized society bred anger and anxiety and even led observers to forecast the end of civilization. The noise was, as James G. Mansell shows, modernity itself, expressed in aural form, with immense implications for the construction of the self.
Tracing the ideas, feelings, and representations prompted by life in early twentieth century Britain, Mansell examines how and why sound shaped the self. He works at the crux of cultural and intellectual history, analyzing the meanings that were attached to different types of sound, who created these typologies and why, and how these meanings connected to debates about modernity. From traffic noise to air raids, everyday sounds elicited new ways of thinking about being modern. Each individual negotiated his or her own subjective meanings through hopes or fears for sound. As Mansell considers the different ways Britons heard their world, he reveals why we must take sound into account in our studies of cultural and social history.
Stallings uses funk in all its iterations to provide us with an innovation in black studies. To her, funk is a multisensory and multidimensional philosophy used in conjunction with the erotic, eroticism, and black erotica. It is the affect that shapes film, performance, sound, food, technology, drugs, energy, time, and the seeds of revolutionary ideas for black movements. But funk is also an experience to feel, to hear, to touch and taste.
On January 21, 1972, DC Comics declared the largely misnamed Metropolis, Illinois the official home town of Superman. Metropolis had already adopted the Son of Krypton, and as we all know the local paper famously called itself the Planet as a tribute to the superhero.
Today, stores sell super-kitsch and a bronze (not steel) statue of Superman stands downtown. So does the Super Museum, home to an immense collection of Superman memorabilia. By virtue of a lucky name choice, Metropolis found that thing essential to any small town’s prosperity: a gimmick to sell itself.
Though Metropolis dates to 1837, European settlement began when the French put up a fort on the site eighty years earlier. Access to the Ohio River made it a popular place for Native American peoples, too. Settled mainly by upland southerners, Metropolis was home to slaves and slaveholders until the 1840s despite Illinois’s status as a free state. In the years before the Civil War, the town became prominent in a scheme to create a “western District of Columbia” that propsed the surrounding area and part of Kentucky as a new national capital. Though never really considered, the idea made a certain amount of sense, as it placed the seat of government in the young nation’s less vulnerable interior. It also meant that the government, and the military, might influence the so-called border states to remain in the Union if a conflict broke out between north and south.
Back before the FBI was accused of throwing elections, it kept immense files on all sorts of American citizens. Many of these suspicious characters worked as public intellectuals, a class of people regarded in some circles as, by definition, subversive.
John Rodden cuts this tall tale down to its authentic pint size, refusing to indulge the public relations myth promoted by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. In Of G-Men and Eggheads, Rodden portrays federal agents’ hilarious obsession with monitoring that ever-present threat to national security, the American literary intellectual. Drawing on government dossiers and archives, Rodden focuses on the onetime members of a radical political sect of ex-Trotskyists (barely numbering a thousand at its height), the so-called New York intellectuals. He describes the nonsensical decades-long pursuit of this group of intellectuals, especially Lionel Trilling, Dwight Macdonald, and Irving Howe. The Keystone Cops style of numerous FBI agents is documented carefully in Rodden’s meticulous case studies of how Hoover’s men recruited informants to snoop on the “Commies,” opened their personal mail, tracked their movements, and reported on their wives and friends.
In a rich and stimulating epilogue, Rodden shows how his Cold War research possesses thought-provoking implications for us today, in our post-9/11 era of debates about data collection, privacy invasion, personal dignity, and the use and abuse of government and corporate power.
Outsiders, in general, consider January off-season for golf in the northern United States. The intemperate weather replaces the pond and sand trap with real hazards like frostbite and packs of ravening wolves.
The addicted golfer, however, believes that one only need a wide open space and visible flag to tee up. And if a mild snap clears patches of dead grass on a fairway, forget it, out come the clubs and the pants and the pocket edition of Bartlett’s Overly-Familiar Caddyshack Quotations. Anyone who lives near a golf course has wondered at the determination of people, almost always grown men, willing to delude themselves into believing they should go out for eighteen even when they have to put chains on the tires of the golf cart.
Richard J. Moss understands. His Golf and the American Country Club, however, ventures not into winter golf—a topic best suited for our Lunacy in American Life series—but into how a game created by skirted Scotsmen with anger management problems became the foundation of of an important American social institution.
Moss traces the evolution of country clubs from informal groups of golf-playing friends to “country estates” in the suburbs and eventually into public and private daily-fee courses, corporate country clubs, and gated golfing communities. The book shows how these developments reflect shifts in American values and attitudes toward health and sport, as well as changing social dynamics.