Preliminary write-up on What I’m Reading Now

The books I’m reading fall into four main categories: the African Diaspora, Language, Economics, and History.
Eight books make up the reading on the African Diaspora, the largest group of the 21 books. It stretches from African History (Vansina) and Culture (Agawu) to the New World, a biography of MLK (Branch), the course of slavery in the U.S. (Berlin) and the development of racial distinctions (Battalora). Africa and the New World are joined by a treatment of the slave trade (Thomas) and the connections between the culture of the Niger Delta and its institutions transplanted to Cuba.
The next largest, at seven, is on language. Reading in French, Urdu, and Russian also carries content with it, the French being on current life in France in the 60s (Ortali), the Urdu made up of literary texts (Narang), and the Russian the stories of Isaac Babel (Babel). Then a pure linguistic theoretical survey by (Lyons) and a comparison of aspect in Slavic and Indic languages (Chatterjee). An extremely detailed review of the uses of one clitic in Spanish (Maldonado) and an extremely detailed exposition on the rules of poetic meter in Urdu (Pybus).
The economics deal with basics: the way things work now in the world (Duflo), an outline of economic thought (Skidelsky) and the story of the super rich (Freeland). Only three of those.

Finally, history of sorts. One book deals with the origins of Christian morality (Meeks), another the Goldwater campaign (Perlstein) and one the people who settled New England (Fischer).

These interact across categories and, of course, within categories. For example, Battalora dealing with the way early colonists (17th century) sorted people (not by color) and the way Fischer details New England’s sorting of people (by sect) interface in law. The laws of the period tell us a great deal about how people saw themselves and their society. Of course, the earlier phase of the Slave Trade (Thomas) discussed that same issue in terms of who could be enslaved. And Berlin early on describes the fluid status of Africans in the American colonies. I am about to embark on Miller’s story of how the Africans shipped to Cuba from the Niger Delta recreated their culture in Cuba.

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