Making Threats

Making Threats

Biofears and Environmental Anxieties

Making Threats is designed to make students, scholars, activists and policymakers think critically about how environmental and biological fears are implicated in the construction of threats to local, national and global security.

Writing from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, the authors contribute to scholarship on environment and security that engages with some of the more potent and disturbing political and cultural aspects of the contemporary scene.

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Praise for Making Threats

The chapters inform each other in a cumulative way, building a series of narratives of dangers as they in turn tackle matters of security, scarcity, purity, circulation, and terror.  The book makes a substantial scholarly contribution that will work well as a text but is also such a well-crafted analysis of contemporary anxieties that it deserves to be widely read by the general public.
– Simon Dalby, author of Environmental Security and professor of geography and environmental studies, Carleton University


This provocative collection of essays makes an important contribution to our understanding of how fears related to biological and environmental phenomena are produced and played out.
– Ken Conca, associate professor of government and politics, University of Maryland


Readers will appreciate the painstaking exposition of how narratives, tropes, images and maps, binaries, and stereotypes have been assembled to create a terrifying certainty that the sky is falling…A triumph of empirical discovery.
– Paul Greenough, professor of history, University of Iowa


Making Threats is a remarkable compilation that makes links and connections no one else is making.  This book offers a wonderful, though scary, examination of the manipulation of insider/outsider rhetoric as it plays out in racial, biological, social and political realms.  A must-read for these anxious times.
– Joni Seager, dean of environmental studies, York University

A Quiet Violence

A Quiet ViolenceView from a Bangladesh Village

A quiet violence today stalks the villages and shanty towns of the Third World, the violence of needless hunger. In this book, two Bengali-speaking Americans take the reader to a Bangladesh village where they lived for nine months. There, the reader meets some of the world’s poorest people – peasants, sharecroppers and landless laborers – and some of the not-so-poor people who profit from their misery.

The villagers’ poverty is not fortuitous, a result of divine dispensation or individual failings of character. Rather, it is the outcome of a long history of exploitation, culminating in a social order which today benefits a few at the expense of many.

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Praise for A Quiet Violence

Beautifully written, the book is a timely reminder of the quiet violence that oppresses the poor throughout the developing world.
– Tony Jackson, New Internationalist


Here, in microcosm, is a fascinating, carefully constructed account of the way life works in a million Third World villages.
– Susan George, author of How the Other Half Dies


A book written by insiders, able to see as well as a Bangladeshi the social mechanisms which rule village, town and country.
– Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, People’s Health Center, Savar, Bangladesh


Through the sensitive eyes of Hartmann and Boyce, we meet some of the extraordinary people whose lives and struggles are hidden in the anonymous statistics of world hunger.  Their powerful, first-hand account enables us to pierce through the many myths about the world’s hungry majority…by taking us with them into a single country – a single village.
– Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet

Deadly Election

Deadly ElectionA mysterious suicide in a military prison… a president whose thirst for alcohol may overwhelm his thirst for power…a White House advisor who takes matters into his own hands. With the country’s future in the balance, a Supreme Court justice, a young congressional aide and a grieving mother are swept into a fight for their ideals—and their lives.

As timely as tomorrow’s headlines, Deadly Election is a searing tale of intrigue, courage, and the lust for power.

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Praise for Deadly Election

Betsy Hartmann has written an elegant mystery story, a political thriller that confronts the darkest imponderables of our post-9/11 world.  Deadly Election is that rare thing: a thoughtful page-turner.
– Kai Bird, co-author with Martin J. Sherwin of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.


Betsy Hartmann has done something extraordinary: created a virtual reality version of the Bush administration that is both utterly convincing and even more bone-chillingly scary than the real thing. Like Richard Condon did in The Manchurian Candidate, she’s grasped something that few other writers have: there are times when only a distorting mirror gives us back a true image of ourselves.
– Anthony Giardina, author of White Guys and Recent History


The Republicans fear they’re going to lose the coming election so they hatch a Machiavellian plot to have it postponed. Can they pull it off?

In Betsy Hartmann’s gripping novel, Deadly Election, we’re swept up by the intrigues of a cunning and treacherous political game. Every time we think we see our way clearly to the bottom of things, the story takes a dazzling new turn. Hartmann has her finger on the pulse of behind-the-scenes Washington, and she’s given her characters such depth and verve it’s easy to forget we’re reading fiction.

Deadly Election is more than an electrifying thriller. It’s an insightful investigation into the human condition—what makes some of the most promising people turn evil, and what turns some unlikely people into heroes. This is a dangerous book, and should be required reading for anyone who takes our democracy for granted.
– Corinne Demas, professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and author of Eleven Stories High: Growing up in Stuyvesant Town, 1948—1968


Deadly Election is a seductive thriller that leads us into the beating heart of present day American politics. I turned the pages for the brisk plotting and lively characters, then found myself caught by Hartmann’s profound and chilling understanding of the grave danger faced when fear of terrorism is used as cover for savage political ambition. This is a novel that is a pleasure to read quickly, and that needs to be read urgently.
– Roger King, author of A Girl from Zanzibar, winner of the BABRA award for best novel.


Betsy Hartmann has taken our darkest fears of the Bush administration and carried them one terrifying step further: she’s written a highly plausible thriller about a government conspiracy to postpone the 2008 elections.  An electrifying novel that’s not be missed!
– Michael Klare, author of Blood and Oil

The America Syndrome

The America Syndrome

9781609807405-1Apocalypse, War and Our Call to Greatness

In this thought-provoking, big-idea book, Betsy Hartmann sheds light on a pervasive but—until now—invisible theme shaping the American mindset: apocalyptic thinking, or the belief that the end of the world is nigh. Tracing our nation’s fixation with doomsday from the Puritans to the present, Hartmann makes a compelling case that apocalyptic fears are deeply intertwined with the American ethos, to our detriment.

Hartmann shows how apocalyptic thinking has historically contributed to some of our nation’s biggest problems, such as inequality, permanent war, and the exploitation of natural resources. While it is tempting to view these problems as harbingers of the end times, this mindset constricts the collective imagination and precludes social change. The truth is that we have much more control over the future of our planet than we think, and our fatalism is much more dangerous than the apocalypse.

In The America Syndrome, Hartmann seeks to reclaim human agency and, in so doing, revise the national narrative. By changing the way we think, we just might change the world.

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Praise for The America Syndrome

“Apocalypse, says Betsy Hartmann, is as American as apple pie. In an insightful, crisply written blend of memoir, social history, and political theory, Hartmann shows how the prospect of the imminent end of days has been used for centuries to justify almost any American action—and feed the destructive conviction that this country has a special mission of salvation. Left and right, secular and religious—Americans of every stripe have been infected with the virus of apocalypse. Hartmann shows why we badly need a cure.” —Charles Mann, author of 1491 and the forthcoming The Wizard and the Prophet

“From its origins in Puritan thinking Betsy Hartmann traces the history of how fears of imminent disaster have shaped American thinking on war, population and most recently climate change, invoking fear and violence as responses when practical cooperation would serve so much better for dealing with all manner of social ills. As political therapy for troubled times this very timely volume shows that overcoming misplaced fear of the future is an essential step to seeking ways to live together peacefully in a rapidly changing world.” —Simon Dalby, Balsillie School of International Affairs

“Betsy Hartmann calmly eviscerates the prophets of apocalypse whether it be Malthusian doomsayers obsessed about brown-skinned immigrants with high birth rates or climate-change fearmongers . . . Hartmann’s book is a timely debunking of anti-intellectualism in American life and of all those demagogues who have stoked American nativist paranoia. The America Syndrome explains the Age of Trump in the deepest cultural sense.” —Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and executive director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City

“The ‘America First’ stance espoused by Donald Trump appears as little more than a pastiche of crowd-pleasing campaign tropes, but in fact draws on themes long embedded in American political thought. To guide us through this rich and momentous history, stretching from the Pilgrims’ landing in Plymouth to the onset of climate change, there is no better account than Betsy Hartmann’s The America Syndrome.” —Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left

“For large swaths of the body politic, the December 2016 US elections offered up the prospect of a long and dark winter in America. Hartmann shows that catastrophist thinking has a deep history in the United States, which she traces from early Puritanism to utopian movements, Malthusianism, the Cold War, and more recently global climate change. The America Syndrome is a powerful reminder of how deep is the river of fear and apocalyptic thinking and how it works against important forms of solidarity and common humanity. A timely and provocative primer for the world that President Trump has wrought.” —Michael Watts, Class of ’63 Professor, UC Berkeley

“Betsy Hartmann has written a compelling tragedy of the American psyche that is a fitting riposte to Trumpery. It’s a tragedy about a country that lacks self-awareness, that thinks itself special when it is ‘not so special after all.’ Militarists and apocalyptic environmentalists alike are caught up in this quagmire of exceptionalism, this tragedy of failed imperialism. Cut the hubris, America; it is your undoing.” —Fred Pearce, environment consultant, New Scientist magazine

“Based on meticulous research, Betsy Hartmann offers a desperately needed, incisive analysis of dystopian beliefs that undergird white supremacy in the U.S.” –Loretta Ross, Author, Radical Reproductive Justice


Chris Lehmann, “How the Threat of Apocalypse Justifies American Empire,” In These Times, May 23, 2017.

Steve Pfarrer, “Apocalyptic America: Hampshire College professor looks at the history of ‘the end is nigh,'” Daily Hampshire Gazette, May 10, 2017.


Read this excerpt about utopian dreams from The America Syndrome on Literary Hub.

Read this excerpt on Alternet about why Americans are so predisposed to imagine the end of the world rather than the end of American war-making.

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The Truth About Fire

The Truth About Fire From Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to eastern Germany, neo-Nazism and biological terrorism burst into shocking relief in this powerful literary debut. When graduate student Michael Landis asks Gillian Grace, a scholar of modern German history, to be his academic advisor, she is drawn into a dangerous enterprise that becomes deadly when his thesis on Michigan’s Far Right prompts him to infiltrate the extremist sect, Sons of the Shepherd. Meanwhile, Lucy Wirth, coerced mistress of the Sons’ pastoral leader, is blackmailed into spying on Gillian and her daughter, and learning the most intimate details of their lives.

Despite a sympathetic bond that Lucy develops for them, she reveals their secrets to the Sons, who are determined to destroy anything that impedes their goal of an all-white nation. The suspense builds as Gillian and Lucy, along with their families and neighbors, are threatened by the Sons’ cloud of terror, and confronted with the risk of shattering their own lives to ensure the safety of others.

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 Praise for The Truth About Fire

Hartmann has gifted us with a compelling thriller. In this craven moment of terror and right-wing treachery, The Truth About Fire combines powerful reality with astonishing drama. Riveting from first page to last, everyone interested in love and death, lust, bigotry, and courage, will be moved by these people, these events, this haunting, important book.
– Blanche Wiesen Cook, Author of Eleanor Roosevelt, Volumes I and II


For anyone who’s remained ignorant about the international Right, Hartmann’s beautifully paced thriller will come as a revelation. That it is also an exquisitely rendered novel about mothers and daughter, about marriages tumbling down and women tumbling upward into a pained empowerment makes it something truly special.
– Anthony Giardina, Author of Recent History and White Guys 


Hartmann has imbued a story about militia-types and religious fanatics with the dualities and contradictions of human emotion. The characters may come from today’s headlines, but here love and hate, sin and redemption, spin towards truths less transitory and more fundamental than any news story.
– Leonard Zeskind, MacArthur Fellow and President of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights

From Publishers Weekly
Two unlikely heroines who converge to expose a bioterrorist plot inspired by neo-Nazis and implemented by cultists on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are the protagonists of this absorbing first novel…Over the course of her compelling tale, Hartmann proves herself an able storyteller, creating fearless, idealistic, knowledgeable and opinionated female characters who make difficult choices and reluctantly get involved in dangerous enterprises to protect themselves, their families and their communities. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
This politically charged thriller unfolds through the perspectives of two very different women enmeshed in the same terrifying situation…These well-drawn women lend real drama to a tense, multilayered story. Carrie Bissey

From Midwest Book Review
The Truth About Fire
is a chilling novel about Neo-Nazi acts of biological terrorism taking place in modern-day America. A young college woman becomes drawn into the web of an extremist group, and becomes situated on the crossroads of history as she resolves to foil a deadly plot that threatens the destruction of America. The Truth About Fire is an engaging and suspenseful story that firmly hooks the reader’s total attention from first page to last.

Reproductive Rights

Reproductive Rights and Wrongs

Reproductive Rights and WrongsThe Global Politics of Population Control

With a new prologue by the author, this feminist classic is an important gateway into the controversial topic of population for students, activists, researchers and policymakers. It challenges the myth of overpopulation, uncovering the deeper roots of poverty, environmental degradation and gender inequalities. With vivid case studies, it explores how population control programs came to be promoted by powerful governments, foundations and international agencies as an instrument of Cold War development and security policy. Mainly targeting poor women, these programs were designed to drive down birth rates as rapidly and cheaply as possible, with coercion often a matter of course. In the war on population growth, birth control was deployed as a weapon, rather than as a tool of reproductive choice.

Threaded throughout Reproductive Rights and Wrongs is the story of how international women’s health activists fought to reform population control and promote a new agenda of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all people. While their efforts bore fruit, many obstacles remain. On one side is the anti-choice movement that wants to deny women access not only to abortion, but to most methods of contraception. On the other is a resurgent, well-funded population control lobby that often obscures its motives with the language of women’s empowerment. Despite declining birth rates worldwide—average global family size is now 2.5 children—overpopulation alarm is on the rise, tied now to the threats of climate change and terrorism.

Reproductive Rights and Wrongs helps readers understand how these contemporary developments are rooted in the longer history and politics of population control. In the pages of this book a new generation of readers will find knowledge, argumentation and inspiration that will help in ongoing struggles to achieve reproductive rights and social, environmental and gender justice.

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This is is a book of conscience. Shocking, eloquent, carefully researched, it should be read—and acted upon.
—Gena Corea


Stands out amid the rising tide of books on the population question. Hartmann’s critique of global special interests in population and the environment is must reading for students and policy analysts.
Judy Norsigian and Norma Swenson, co-authors, The New Our Bodies, Ourselves


At this juncture in history when victim blaming has become more blatant and oppressive, there is a need for voices of sanity.  This book is such a voice.  It reflects conviction, courage, sensitivity, and deep insight.
Mira Shiva, Asian Representative, International People’s Health Council