SAME-SEX UNIONS IN PREMODERN EUROPE

Boswell (History/Yale; Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, not reviewed) convincingly establishes that, from ancient times to the 18th century, throughout Christian Europe, same-sex union rituals honored a form of ``gay marriage.'' Working from church manuscripts, mainly in ancient Greek, that describe the ceremonies, Boswell carefully traces the historical context in which these practices occurred, exploring premodern beliefs about love and marriage, both gay and heterosexual. Past historians encountering these manuscripts have usually interpreted the same-sex ceremonies as honoring a spiritual bond or friendship, rather than a marriage equivalent. Boswell argues these readings overlook the ceremonies' striking resemblances to heterosexual nuptials in terms of the vows as well as the use of symbolic objects such as crosses, veils, crowns, and sometimes swords. In addition, both heterosexual and same-sex ceremonies usually involved the joining of right hands. He maintains that when other historians have neglected these parallels, they have done so out of a combination of homophobia and fear. Same-Sex Unions represents extraordinary scholarship, copiously detailing premodern rituals, laws, and value systems. The footnotes are as absorbing as the text, often providing crucial context or opposing viewpoints. Boswell is admirably attuned to the elusive subtleties of language and the dilemmas of translation, especially when it comes to matters of the heart; we are apprised of the multiple meanings and possible nuances of Greek words for friend, lover, kiss, brother, companion, etc. Appendices contain the original ceremony texts, accompanied by Boswell's translations. Also included is a translation of ``The Passion of Serge and Bacchus,'' a story of love between two late-third-century Christian martyrs, which was frequently invoked in same-sex union ceremonies. Well worth the attention of anyone with a serious interest in the social and spiritual history of love and marriage.

Pub Date: July 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-43228-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1994

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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