December 2020

CSSH congratulates Andrew Bickford (“From Idiophylaxis to Inner Armor: Imagining the Self-Armoring Soldier in the United States Military from the 1960s to Today” (CSSH 60-4, 2018) and “Soldiers, Citizens, and the State: East German Army Officers in Post-Unification Germany” (CSSH 51-2, 2009) on the publication of his new manuscript, Chemical Heroes: Pharmacological Supersoldiers in the US Military (Duke University Press, 2020). Duke says of the book:

In Chemical Heroes Andrew Bickford analyzes the US military’s attempts to design performance enhancement technologies and create pharmacological “supersoldiers” capable of withstanding extreme trauma. Bickford traces the deep history of efforts to biologically fortify and extend the health and lethal power of soldiers from the Cold War era into the twenty-first century, from early adoptions of mandatory immunizations, to bio-protective gear, to the development and spread of new performance enhancing drugs during the global War on Terror. In his examination of the government efforts to alter soldiers’ bodies through new technologies, Bickford invites us to contemplate what constitutes heroism when armor becomes built in, wired in, even edited into the molecular beings of an American soldier. Lurking in the background and dark recesses of all US military enhancement research, Bickford demonstrates, is the desire to preserve US military and imperial power.

CSSH would also like to congratulate Krishan Kumar (“The Return of Civilization—and of Arnold Toynbee?” (CSSH 56-4, 2014); “Colony and Empire, Colonialism and Imperialism: A Meaningful Distinction?” (CSSH 63-2, 2021, forthcoming)) for his latest publication, Empires: A Historical and Political Sociology (Polity, 2021). The publisher describes the book thusly:

Empires have been the commonest form of political organization for most of recorded history. How should we best understand them? What are their principles and how do they differ from other political forms, such as the nation-state? What sort of relations between rulers and ruled do they express? Do they, as many have held, follow a particular course of “rise, decline, and fall”? How and why do empires end, and with what consequences? Is the era of empire over? 

This book explores these questions through a fascinating analysis of the major empires of world history and the present. It pays attention not just to the modern overseas empires of the Europeans, but also to the ancient empires of the Middle East and Mediterranean, the Islamic empires of the Arabs, Mughals, and Ottomans, and the two-thousand-year Chinese Empire. As Kumar shows, understanding empires helps us understand better the politics of our own times.