The Singer's Needle: An Undisciplined History of Panamá (Paperback)
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The Singer’s Needle offers a bold new approach to the history of twentieth-century Panamá, one that illuminates the nature of power and politics in a small and complex nation. Using novelistic techniques, Vierba explores three crucial episodes in the shaping and erosion of contemporary Panamanian institutions: the establishment of a penal colony on the island of Coiba in 1919, the judicial drama following the murder of President José Antonio Remón Cantera in 1955, and the “disappearance” of a radical priest in 1971. Skillfully blending historical sociology with novelistic narrative and extensive empirical research, and drawing on the works of Michel Foucault among others, Vierba shows the links between power, interpretation, and representation. The result is a book that deftly reshapes conventional methods of historical writing.
About the Author
Ezer Vierba is an instructor in the writing program at Harvard University.
“The Singer’s Needle is a stunning achievement: Imagine if Foucault had studied Panamá and written as clearly and compellingly as Camus. Immersing himself in the social, political, economic, and cultural history of twentieth-century Panamá, Vierba combines careful and creative archival research, sophisticated theory, and compelling storytelling. His book is an extraordinary work of history, about both what happened in the past and what it means to think and write about it today. Historians of other places and times will marvel at, and learn from, Vierba’s bold and brilliant blend of scholarship and art.”
— James Goodman, Rutgers University
“The Singer’s Needle is a real page-turner—in fact, it’s a path-breaker. Reading Vierba’s unusual book is like playing hopscotch as you skid between its heterogeneous elements. The skill and artistry involved in sliding the different forms of writing and different voices on top of one another, and the intimate tone achieved, is astonishingly refreshing.”
— Michael Taussig, Columbia University