Writing through Political Despair: A Case for Ethnographic Fiction, A Guest Post by Kristen Ghodsee

Five years ago, I began writing a series of essays and short stories to reflect on the upcoming centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution. I wanted to better understand the contemporary legacies of 20th century state socialism in Eastern Europe. At the time, I was living in the city of Jena where the long, dark days of the Eastern German winter kept me huddled indoors listening to David Bowie’s Blackstar on autorepeat.

I’d been reading about the post-WWII denazification process and comparing it to the later de-communization programs that allowed government officials of newly reunified Germany to purge thousands of former members of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) from their jobs after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. These state-organized lustration efforts targeted professors in East German universities, and even mathematicians and natural scientists found themselves summarily dismissed and replaced by West German academics considered untainted by the Marxist politics of the previous regime.

At stake was the moral standing of professors who had either actively or passively collaborated with totalitarianism and whether they could be trusted to educate the next generation of East Germans into the habits of mind necessary for liberal democracy and free market capitalism. Many East German scholars had only joined the SED because they had no choice; professors and academic researchers were expected to be party members in good standing. But during the lustration process, West German leaders insisted that no educators tainted by the previous ideology should have an opportunity to corrupt the minds of the young.

At the same time, I watched the American presidential primaries from afar. An ever-sinking premonition had me convinced that Donald Trump would win the Republication nomination. My German colleagues chastised me for being paranoid and opined that Americans would never be so reckless as to elected someone like Trump to the White House. But by March 2016, when only Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich remained in the race, I had recurrent nightmares about my country under a Trump presidency even as my German and American peers continued to roll their eyes at my alarmist predictions.

I began writing “Interview with a Former Member of the United States Democratic Party” as a way of working through my political despondency. I imagined myself as someone being judged for their lack of resistance to (and thereby tacit collaboration with) a political regime which had been subsequently deemed “evil.” I set the story in 2029, make-believing that someone named Daniel Drumph, Jr. had passed a constitutional amendment allowing him to remain president indefinitely. National Guardsman massacred peaceful demonstrators in Washington and a wave of American intellectuals and anti-Drumph dissidents were seeking political asylum in Germany.

I sat in judgment on myself the way I imagined so many East European intellectuals might have been judged after 1989. The story takes the form of a letter written by a representative of the “Federal Ministry of Immigration and Resettlement” who is reviewing my case. Based on two interviews with me, he works up a recommendation about whether I should be allowed to hold an academic post in a German university even though I was a “former member of the United States Democratic Party.”

I included the story in the manuscript submitted to Duke University Press in May after Trump had clinched the nomination but most observers still believed that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency. The reactions to the story by the anonymous reviewers were mixed. One reviewer felt that the story painted a dystopian and apocalyptic scenario. Although this reader shared my “dark, neurotic forebodings” and “the same creepy Weimaresque feeling” about current political events, they also felt that the story would be “very controversial.”

The second reviewer felt the piece did not fit well into the overall collection. Although they agreed that the story provided “a useful tool for revealing how easy it is for a citizenry to be complicit with state actions,” they felt it also ran “the risk of apologism” for state socialism.

After a thoughtful conversation with my editor, Courtney Berger, I decided to cut the story.  We agreed that it was perhaps too controversial and that no one would remember that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee by the time the book came out in October 2017. Scholarly prudence demanded that I keep my “dark, neurotic forebodings” to myself.

Then on November 10, 2016, I emailed Courtney this note: “So as I crawl out from under the mountain of despair, I am thinking about my “Interview” story.  I know the book is already in production, but is there any possible way to reinsert the story, even as an afterword?  Just feeling like this nightmare is going to get a whole hell of a lot worse before it gets better.”

“I know, Kristen, I know,” Courtney replied. Luckily, the manuscript had not yet been sent out for copyediting; she gave me twenty-four hours to deliver the final version of the story which appeared as chapter thirteen of Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism.

978-0-8223-6949-3_prLast week, almost exactly five years after I began writing Red Hangover, I watched live footage of a pro-Trump mob storming the Capitol building in what felt eerily reminiscent of the colored revolutions that once brought regime change to Eastern Europe. When I look back at the “Interview” story today, I think we are even closer to regime change in the United States than we were then. My forebodings remain decidedly dark and neurotic. For those of us who study the histories and societies of state socialism in Eastern Europe, we know that superpowers can collapse without warning and that the human costs of these collapses are severe.  

Lately, I’ve been listening to Pete Seeger’s “My name is Lisa Kalvelage” on autorepeat, still struggling with that “creepy Weimaresque feeling.” If our democracy collapses and these United States of America cease to exist as a unified and functioning country, I will be forever grateful to Courtney for letting me slip the “Interview” story into the book at the last minute.

I think it highlights the importance of ethnographic fiction, a genre that allows us to enrich our critical imaginations by conjuring potential futures through the creative interplay of history, politics, and cultural interpretation as a supplement to theoretically driven empirical analyses. Duke University Press has kindly agreed to make this story freely available on its website. I hope it inspires other ethnographers to write more experimentally (and that we’ll all be granted political asylum somewhere when the time comes).

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a number of books including Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women’s Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War (2019), Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism (2017), The Left Side of History: World War II and the Unfulfilled Promise of Communism in Eastern Europe (2015), Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life after Communism (2011), and The Red Riviera: Gender, Tourism, and Postsocialism on the Black Sea (2005). She is also a contributor to the volume Writing Anthropology: Essays on Craft and Commitment (2020), which features fifty-two essays on anthropological writing.

2020 Foerster Prize Winner Announced

We’re pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 Norman Foerster Prize, awarded to the best essay of the year in American Literature: “Lost Archives, Lost Lands: Rereading New Mexico’s Imagined Environments” by Carlos Alonso Nugent, published in volume 92, issue 2. Read the essay, freely available through the end of April, here.

The prize committee offered this praise for the winning essay: “Carlos Alonso Nugent’s remarkable article addresses two generations of artists whose work stages environmental struggle in the US-Mexico borderlands. Moving between the imagined environments of the Precarious Desert of Adelina Otero-Warren and Fabiola Cabeza de Baca of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s and the Alianza Federal de Mercedes’s Pueblo Olvidado revival in the 1960s and 1970s, Nugent constellates an archive of environmental writing that is shaped by its complex relationships to colonial power and land claims. Throughout, we not only see exquisite and nuanced readings but an approach to ecology, media, and archival work that should transform how we frame accounts of the borderlands in the twentieth century.”

The honorable mention for this year’s Foerster Prize was Blake Bronson-Bartlett’s “Writing with Pencils in the Antebellum United States: Language, Instrument, Gesture” (vol. 92, issue 2; the essay is freely available through April here). The committee had this to say about the honorable mention: “Blake Bronson-Bartlett’s account of writing in the nineteenth century tells a surprising and highly original story about materiality and writing in the period. The article challenges materialist studies of nineteenth-century archives to take up scenes of writing with media-historical rigor and trains its focus on the case of the pencil as a convincing model for an analysis that can capture the interlaced relationships among instrument, language, and gesture. Bronson-Bartlett reimagines the subject of writing with a refreshing intimacy.”

Congratulations to Carlos Alonso Nugent and Blake Bronson-Bartlett!

New Titles in History

We wish we could be meeting authors and readers in-person at the AHA annual convention. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to offer a 30% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code AHA21 until February 15, 2021. View our History catalog below for a complete list of all our newest titles in the field and across disciplines. You can also explore all of our books and journals in history on dukeupress.edu. And don’t forget to check out our booth in the Virtual AHA exhibit hall, which includes interviews with authors Cait McKinney and Vanessa Freije.

Editorial Director Gisela Fosado

Editorial Director Gisela Fosado has a message for fellow Virtual AHA attendees, and recommendations for the latest titles.

Happy New Year, Wonderful AHA Historians!

I hope the winter holiday break was a restful one and that everyone is staying safe.  In lieu of being able to share my new favorite history books in person at the AHA, I wanted to recommend a few books briefly here. 

First off, I hope everyone will check out two new Southern history books, one that is hot off the press, Brandi Brimmer’s Claiming Union Widowhood: Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South and a second, Theodore Segal’s Point of Reckoning: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University, which will be released next week. Brimmer’s book tells the story of how poor black women during and after the Civil War asserted their rights as citizens individually and collectively to make claims on the State and to define themselves and their community with the dignity and respect they knew they deserved. Segal’s book chronicles the struggles faced by the first Black undergraduates to enroll at Duke in 1963 and narrates the challenges they faced and the movements they led for change in the years that followed.

Continuing on the theme of social movements for change, I hope you’ll take a look at Elizabeth Sine’s and Joanne Rappaport’s new books. Elizabeth Sine’s Rebel Imaginaries: Labor, Culture, and Politics in Depression-Era California, weaves together the stories of the multiracial workers who formed the basis of California’s economy and who gave rise to an oppositional culture that challenged the modes of racialism, nationalism, and rationalism in the decades following the Great Depression. Joanne Rappaport’s Cowards Don′t Make History: Orlando Fals Borda and the Origins of Participatory Action Research examines a group of Colombian intellectuals, led by the pioneering sociologist Orlando Fals Borda, who collaborated with indigenous and rural organizations to in the early 1970s to create Participatory Action Research, a form of research aimed to be used as a political organizing tool.  

Another great book for Latin Americanists (as well as historians of the Cold War) is Eric Zolov’s new book, The Last Good Neighbor: Mexico in the Global Sixties. Revising previous accounts of this period, Zolov offers a new take on Mexican domestic politics and international relations during the long 1960s, tracing how Mexico emerged from the shadow of FDR’s Good Neighbor policy to become a geopolitical player in its own right during the Cold War. Not only does The Last Good Neighbor unearth much new archival material in international diplomacy, left politics, and the workings of the PRI regime, but its transnational approach to understanding the evolving left in Mexico is important and innovative.

I’ll close my recommendations with a book for animal enthusiasts and highlight Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times, edited by Antoinette Burton and Renisa Mawani. Featuring twenty-six animals (including yaks, tigers, vultures, whales, mosquitos and platypuses, the book shows how animals have played central roles in the history of British imperial control. Unconventional and innovative, Animalia shows how the politics of empire—in its racial, gendered, and sexualized forms—played out in multispecies relations across the British Empire.

Looking forward to seeing you all at next year’s AHA!

If you were hoping to connect with Gisela Fosado, Joshua Gutterman Tranen, or another of our editors about your book project at MLA, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our online submissions guidelines here.

And as you’re placing your discounted order, don’t forget to include some of our great new journal issues, like “Fascism and Anti-fascism since 1945” and “Policing, Justice and the Radical Imagination” from Radical History Review or “1968 Decentered” from the South Atlantic Quarterly. Check out the full list of journals in our history catalog.

Congratulations to our 2020 CELJ award winners!

Congratulations to Zong-qi Cai, who won the Distinguished Editor Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) this year, and to Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, which won Best Digital Feature! The CELJ announced the awards this past Saturday at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention.

Zong-qi Cai was named Distinguished Editor for his work on the Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture and Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature, both published by Duke University Press, as well as the Lingnan Journal of Chinese Studies.

“The global impact of Cai’s editorial work is signaled by his efforts to bridge the work of North American and Chinese sinologists. For example, he has consistently promoted and published English translations of key essays by Chinese scholars. Moreover, Cai is committed to publishing interdisciplinary work by early career and senior scholars that brings new theoretical perspectives to Chinese literature and culture. … In sum, Cai’s simultaneous work on three journals shows a deep commitment to editing,” the CELJ wrote.

Meridians was co-winner of the inaugural Best Digital Feature award for its “On the Line” component. The CELJ wrote, “The range of multimedia offered on the website—which complements the print journal—was commended for the ways in which it uses digital technology to give women of color a voice. ‘On the Line’ was cited as a particularly effective example of a print journal using digital features to complement journal content and grow audience engagement. The feature’s collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit was praised by judges, as was its commitment to reaching new readers with urgently pressing content.”

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners! Learn more about the Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, Prism, and Meridians.

New Titles in Literary Studies and Literature

Banner Featuring Text: Modern Language Association 2021 Virtual Conference Exhibit, Use code MLA21 for 30% off when you order from dukeupress.edu. Background features assorted titles.

We wish we could be meeting authors and readers at the MLA 2021 Annual Convention. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to offer a 30% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code MLA21 until February 15, 2021. View our Literature and Literary Studies catalog below for a complete list of all our newest titles in the field and across disciplines. You can also explore all of our books and journals in literature and literary studies on dukeupress.edu.

Executive Editor Courtney Berger

Executive Editor Courtney Berger and Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker each have a welcome message for fellow MLA attendees, and their recommendations for the latest titles.

Most Januarys I end up with a new piece of winter weather gear—lined boots, a long down coat, thicker socks–prompted by the almost inevitable polar vortex or winter storm that accompanies the MLA conference. This year, I won’t be acquiring any new gear (except for maybe some new headphones). Instead, like many of you, I’ll be attending MLA from the warmth of my home in my reliable work-from-home uniform of sweatpants and cardigan. It has been a year since I’ve traveled to an academic conference, and I miss it. I miss meeting you all in person and getting updates on your writing and on your lives. I miss hearing about exciting new projects. And I especially miss showing off our new books and talking with folks in the book exhibit.

Nonetheless, I am excited for this year’s MLA program, which is truly stellar, and for all of the new books that we will be bringing to you in our virtual exhibit, also stellar. You will be seeing me at a lot of panels (a luxury that I’m not usually afforded during in-person conferences). Some of the ones on my list include: Black Feminist Poethics; Dissident Black Feminisms, Black Feminist Dissidence; Editing and Inclusivity; Quare Souths; and Scaling Trans Studies. (My Friday schedule is booked from morning ‘til night. How about yours?)

And now for some of my top picks from this year’s new books:

Riché Richardson’s Emancipation’s Daughters

Riché Richardson’s Emancipation’s Daughters: Reimagining Black Femininity and the National Body is a book for our moment. Richardson focuses on the ways that black women leaders in the U.S.—including Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, Condoleezza Rice, and Michelle Obama–have expanded and challenged exclusionary and white-centered notions of the “national body” and political subjectivity. The book also features some of Richardson’s own quilts created as homage to the Black women leaders she discusses in the book.

In Infamous Bodies: Early Black Women’s Celebrity and the Afterlives of Rights, Samantha Pinto also focuses on iconic Black women, in this case women from the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Sally Hemings, Sarah Baartman, and Sarah Forbes Bonetta. Through her provocative and engaging reading of these women’s lives and continued legacies, Pinto reveals how the forms of pleasure, risk, violence, desire, and ambition that these women experienced can offer powerful models of political embodiment and vulnerability that remain relevant today.

Race and Performance After Repetition by Soyica Diggs Colbert, Douglas A. Jones, and Shane Vogel

In Counterlife: Slavery after Resistance and Social Death Christopher Freeburg asks: how can we think about the lives and artwork created by and about slaves outside of a framework of resistance and freedom? Taking up a diverse set of texts—from Black spirituals to “The Boondocks”—Counterlife is a rich and provocative book that shows how enslaved Africans created meaning through artistic creativity, religious practice, and historical awareness both separate from and alongside concerns about freedom.

Race and Performance After Repetition, edited by Soyica Diggs Colbert, Douglas A. Jones, and Shane Vogel, brings together an impressive set of contributors to focus on the relationship between race and temporality in performance, pushing past the trope of “repetition” to consider pauses, rests, gaps, afterlives, and other forms of temporal interruption.  There will also be a panel featuring some of the contributors on Sunday morning.

Christopher Chitty’s Sexual Hegemony

Sexual Hegemony: Statecraft, Sodomy, and Capital in the Rise of the World System is Christopher Chitty’s posthumous first book, and it’s an incredibly expansive project, taking on 500 years of the history of capitalism and male-male sexual relations in Europe and the U.S. Revising Foucault’s account of the production of modern sexuality, Chitty offers a Marxist history of male homosexuality, focusing on the policing of male-male sexual relations as integral to the consolidation of capital and private property under the bourgeoisie. A must read for folks working in queer studies.

Influx & Efflux: Writing Up with Walt Whitman–Jane Bennett’s long-awaited follow up to Vibrant Matter–will be of special interest to folks in literary studies. Bennett turns to Whitman to help answer the question: What kind of “I” inhabits a world of vibrant matter? In Whitman she finds a model for what she calls a “processual self” – a self constantly in formation, susceptible to influence but also exerting an influence of its own. Bennett’s thinking is expansive and generous; it’s a pleasure to read this book.

Ken Quashie’s Black Aliveness, Or a Poetics of Being

Finally, even though it’s not out yet, I can’t resist pointing you towards Kevin Quashie’s Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being, the latest installment in the Black Outdoors series edited by Sarah Cervenak and J. Kameron Carter. Quashie builds his book on a seemingly simple prompt: “Imagine a black world.” Not a world where the racial logics of antiblackness are inverted, but rather a world where blackness is totality, where black being and the rightness of black being is assumed rather than justified. It’s a beautiful book that draws upon a wealth of Black feminist writing and poetry, from Audre Lorde to Nicky Finney. Quashie’s writing is magnetic. This one makes my must-read list for 2021.

There are plenty more books for you to browse at our virtual exhibit and on our website. Make sure to use the code MLA21 to receive a 30% discount (through March 31st).

If you would like to contact me about a project, you can send me an email, or you can submit your proposal through our online portal. I look forward to seeing folks in person next January (and perhaps sporting a new bit of winter weather gear as well). 

Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker

I share with Courtney the sense of loss of our meeting in person.  I’ve been attending MLA every year for many years, back to the last millennium.  I was the rare person attached to the old conference schedule, when it met between Christmas and New Year’s.  I loved arriving in a city in that liminal time, seeing chosen family, and finding a moment for a little sale shopping, a restaurant I had only read about.  But even after the meeting moved to the start of January, I still love it.  The chance to see so many people in such a short time.  Panels that even now can crystalize a political or theoretical moment. I can remember lots of less-than-great things too – the hidden book display in Boston a mile away from everything – but overall, I’m missing all of you and the event.

So here we are with MLA, the play-at-home game. A consolation prize. Are we consoled? This is my fourth or fifth online conference and I’m here to say it’s not the same.  Entering a room for a panel and finding a friend and joining them beats seeing a person on the same Zoom session every time. Still, we can sit where we want and get coffee without waiting in a twenty-minute line.  We can actually see the speaker up close.  Hang on to their words — or slip out to another session without being too conspicuous.

Sara Ahmed’s What’s the Use?

Like seeing people in person, seeing books in person is hard to replace. I’m in this business, so generally arrive at MLA thinking I’m up on things, but when I go around the book exhibit, there are always great books I hadn’t heard about. I love being in the booth and showing people the new titles – my old bookseller self — that will interest them.  So here are a few exciting recommendations from our list. There are many – that’s why we have two booths – but here are some highlights!  

Sara Ahmed’s next book Complaint! will be out in the fall, but if you haven’t read its companion, What’s the Use? it is a must. Like all of Sara’s book’s it is filled with perfectly described scenes and with clarifying sentences one recalls over and over again in meetings and in everyday life.

Speaking of meetings, Katina Rogers’ Putting the Humanities to Work asks what we need to do to rethink the literature PhD process from curriculum to department websites to hiring, that would make a program work better for all involved.   Matt Brim’s Poor Queer Studies talks about the difference in teaching and theorizing in rich institutions and poor ones and asks how queer theory would have been different if it had developed in and for poorer students and communities of color.

José Estaban Munoz’s The Sense of Brown

Two books that would be headliners on any list came out this past fall.  Jack Halberstam’s Wild Things and José Estaban Munoz’s long-awaited final book, The Sense of Brown. Both books are events. Halberstam is thinking through more wild and open relations to nature and sexuality.  The book takes up more literature than his recent books, so will be especially good to think with for readers at MLA.  José Munoz’s book has been in process for two decades. The thinking and writing runs parallel to Cruising Utopia and the book contains his important work on Brown feeling and the sense of Brown, Latinx performance, and much more.

It’s a particularly strong season for Latinx and Americas work in general.  I’m very excited about former MLA President Diana Taylor’s ¡Presente! bringing her thinking about performance and politics together in some sparkling new ways.  Also Arlene Dávila’s Latinx Art which made several end-of-year best lists, Ren Ellis Neyra, The Cry of the Senses, – just out – and the fabulous Keith Haring’s Line by Ricardo Montez. Finally, don’t miss Jillian Hernandez’s Aesthetics of Excess.

Anthony Reed’s Soundworks

Equally important have been a series of books in Black Studies. R.A. Judy’s long-awaited Sentient Flesh, Ashon Crawley’s moving and beautiful The Lonely Letters, Shana Redmond’s capacious and necessary Everything Man, each brilliant thinking and creative critical writing.  Don’t neglect Brigitte Fielder’s acclaimed Relative Races. And just out, Anthony Reed’s beautiful Soundworks on the interplay of Black poetry and experimental musics. 

This is the moment for combining writing which takes chance with thinking that also moves in new directions.  We have started a whole series Writing Matters! edited by Lauren Berlant, Saidiya Hartman, Erica Rand, and Katie Stewart, to give such books a home. The first, Diary of a Detour by Lesley Stern, came out earlier in the fall, and we have just published Erica Rand’s new The Small Book of Hip Checks: On Queer Gender, Race, and Writing.

Emily J. Lordi’s The Meaning of Soul

Amitava Kumar’s challenge to academic writers, Every Day I Write the Book, is perfect for thinking about opening up one’s own writing.  And if one wanted an example of someone who did this with wonderful skill and ease, read Emily Lordi’s transformative, The Meaning of Soul – both a fabulous book on soul music and an exemplary book of prose style.

One thing I love about our list and this moment – perhaps similar to the combination of theory and writing — is when thinkers take two conversations and think them together.  Erin Mannings’s For a Pragmatics of the Useless, thinks Black theory in relation to neurodiversity, while Ian Baucom’s History 4° Celsius puts the history of the Black Atlantic with the Anthropocene.

Laura Doyle’s Inter-imperiality

We’ve just released Kaiama Glover’s fantastic A Regarded Self, her reading of unruly and uncontainable Caribbean women figures. Glover also translated Françoise Vergès, The Wombs of Women, which we published in the spring. Laura Kang’s Traffic in Asian Women takes these colonial, imperial, and feminist concerns to the Pacific mapping their complexities in a crucial way. Laura Doyle’s Inter-imperiality: Vying Empires, Gendered Labor, and the Literary Arts of Alliance is also just out, with its own longue durée account of empire and literature. Finally – in a true last but not least –if you don’t have Achille Mbembe’s crucial and all-too-timely, Necropolitics, it is the book needed now, for all the good and bad reasons.

There are lots more I could mention, but I hope you get a chance to virtually look around, and that we can wave across some Zoom room.

You can hear about DUP books or join DUP authors in panels online through the MLA conference portal, including:

And flip to page 29 of our literature & literary studies catalog to peruse exciting new issues from journals such as Comparative Literature, English Language Notes, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Modern Language Quarterly, Transgender Studies Quarterly, and many more. Don’t forget that journal issues are eligible for the 30% conference discount with code MLA21!

If you were hoping to connect with Courtney Berger, Ken Wissoker, or another of our editors about your book project at MLA, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our online submissions guidelines here.

Virtual Events in January

Start your new year off right with some great virtual events featuring our authors.

PostmodernismJanuary 9-February 26: Fans of Jane Bennett’s work may want to check out a new art exhibit inspired by her most recent book Influx and Efflux. Artist Taney Roniger’s drawings will be on display at the SVA Flatiron Project Space in New York City, where they can be viewed from outside while social distancing.

January 10, 10:15 am EST: Attendees at the virtual MLA conference won’t want to miss the panel on the thirtieth anniversary of Fredric Jameson’s classic book Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Many of our other authors are also appearing on panels at the virtual MLA, including Fred Moten, Lisa Lowe, Katina Rogers, and Kandace Chuh. There’s also a panel centered on Ronak Kapadia’s recent book Insurgent Aesthetics.

January 20, 12:00 pm CST: Kaiama L. Glover, author of A Regarded Self, joins five other authors for a conversation about global race studies, Black diaspora studies, and transnational feminism, sponsored by Transnational Feminist Scholars.

January 21, 12:00 pm EST: Daisuke Miyao talks about his book Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema in an event sponsored by the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan.

January 21, 5:30pm EST: The Phillips Collection hosts a book club discussion about Latinx Art by Arlene Dávila. The discussion will be led by Fabiola R. Delgado.

January 29, 6:00 pm GMT: Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan celebrates the launch of his book The Globally Familiar with commentary and discussion by eleven scholars.

New OA Journals in 2021: Demography, liquid blackness, Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies

This spring, we are thrilled to welcome three journals to our publishing program, all of which are open access: Demography, liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies, and the Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies.

Demography, the flagship journal of the Population Association of America, will become platinum open access in 2021 as it joins Duke University Press. Since its founding in 1964, Demography has mirrored the vitality, diversity, high intellectual standard, and wide impact of population studies. It is the most cited journal in its field and reaches the membership of one of the largest professional demographic associations in the world. Libraries and institutions, learn how you can support Demography’s conversion to open access.

“In moving Demography from a traditional paid subscription model to open access, we’re thrilled that the worldwide community of population researchers will have access to its content, especially at this moment when access to reliable, peer-reviewed information is critically important,” said Dean Smith, Director of Duke University Press.

liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies carves out a place for aesthetic theory and the most radical agenda of Black studies to come together in productive ways, with the goal of attending to the aesthetic work of blackness and the political work of form. In this way, the journal develops innovative approaches to address points of convergence between the exigencies of black life and the many slippery ways in which blackness is encountered in contemporary sonic and visual culture. The journal showcases a variety of scholarly modes, including audio-visual work and experimental and traditional essays. Read an interview with founding editors Alessandra Raengo and Lauren McLeod Cramer.

The Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies is an international, multidisciplinary publication dedicated to research on pre-1945 East Asian humanities. The journal presents new research related to the Sinographic Cosmopolis/Sphere of pre-1945 East Asia, publishing both articles that stay within traditional disciplinary or regional boundaries and works that explore the commonalities and contrasts found in countries of the Sinographic Sphere. SJEAS joins our rich list of Asian studies journals, which include Archives of Asian Art, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, the Journal of Korean Studies, Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature, and positions: asia critique.

Check out our full list of journals here.

New Books in January

If you made a New Year’s resolution to read more, this month we have some great new books to help achieve your goals. Happy New Year!

The future of FalloutJoseph Masco examines the psychosocial, material, and affective consequences of the advent of nuclear weapons, the Cold War security state, climate change on contemporary US democratic practices and public imaginaries in The Future of Fallout, and Other Episodes in Radioactive World-Making.

Andrew Bickford analyzes the US military’s attempts to design performance enhancement technologies and create pharmacological “supersoldiers” capable of becoming ever more lethal while withstanding various forms of extreme trauma in Chemical Heroes.

Drawing on ethnographic research in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Christopher Harker in Spacing Debt examines how Israel’s use of debt to keep Palestinians economically unstable is a form of slow colonial violence embedded into the everyday lives of citizens.

Whites are the Enemies of Heaven With The Whites are the Enemies of Heaven, Mark W. Driscoll examines Western imperialism in East Asia throughout the nineteenth century and the devastating effects of what he calls climate caucasianism—the West’s racialized pursuit of capital at the expense of people of color, women, and the environment.

In Dear Science and Other Stories Katherine McKittrick presents a creative and rigorous study of black and anticolonial methodologies, exploring how narratives of imprecision and relationality interrupt knowledge systems that seek to observe, index, know, and discipline blackness.

Christopher Freeburg’s Counterlife challenges the imperative to study black social life and slavery and its aftereffects through the lenses of freedom, agency, and domination and instead examines how enslaved Africans created meaning through spirituality, thought, and artistic creativity separate and alongside concerns about freedom.

emancipations daughtersRiché Richardson in Emancipation’s Daughters examines how five iconic black women—Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Condoleezza Rice, Michelle Obama, and Beyoncé—defy racial stereotypes and construct new national narratives of black womanhood in the United States.

Lingzhen Wang examines the work of Chinese women filmmakers of the Mao and post-Mao eras in Revisiting Women’s Cinema to theorize socialist and postsocialist feminism, mainstream culture, and women’s cinema in modern China.

Kaiama L. Glover examines Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean literature whose female protagonists enact practices of freedom that privilege the self, challenge the prioritization of the community over the individual, and refuse masculinist discourses of postcolonial nation building in A Regarded Self.

The Small Book of Hip ChecksErica Rand uses multiple meanings of hip check—an athlete using their hip to throw an opponent off balance and the inspection of racialized gender—to consider the workings of queer gender, race, and writing in the The Small Book of Hip Checks.

Drawing from ethnographic work with queer activist groups in contemporary Turkey, Evren Savcı’s Queer in Translation explores how Western LGBT politics are translated and reworked there in ways that generate new spaces for resistance and solidarity.

Anthony Reed takes the recorded collaborations between African American poets and musicians such as Amiri Baraka, Jayne Cortez, Cecil Taylor, and Charles Mingus to trace the overlaps between experimental music and poetry and the ways in which intellectuals, poets, and musicians define black sound as a radical aesthetic practice in Soundworks.

The Bruce B. Lawrence Reader assembles over two dozen selections of writing by leading scholar of Islam Bruce B. Lawrence which range from analyses of premodern and modern Islamic discourses, practices, and institutions to methodological and theoretical reflections on the study of religion.

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120th Anniversary of the Birth of C. L. R. James

c-l-r-james-3C. L. R. James was born on January 4, 1901, 120 years ago today. James’s work has been a huge influence on many of our other authors, and we are proud to be the home for the book series The C. L. R. James Archives, which both recovers works of James himself and offers new scholarship on his work. Christian Høgsbjerg, editor or author of many of the books in the series, says, “The C. L. R. James Archives series under the editorship of Professor Robert A. Hill has played a critical role in helping to ensure that the intellectual legacy of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable Caribbean revolutionary writers and thinkers has continued to inspire new generations of scholars and activists in the twenty-first century.”

Editorial Director Gisela Fosado says, “C. L. R. James was brilliant, prolific, and influential in wide ranging social movements and scholarly areas. I’ve always loved the way the series forms a backbone for so much of our list. To name the fields that he influenced or that emerged through his influence is basically to name the major areas of strength of our publications.”   

Beyond a BoundaryBeyond a Boundary, which mixes memoir, history, and social commentary through the prism of cricket, is one of James’s best-known and most popular books. Sports Illustrated named it one of the best sports books of all times. Our fiftieth anniversary edition features a new foreword by Paget Henry. Marxism, Colonialism, and Cricket, edited by David Featherstone, Christopher Gair, Christian Høgsbjerg, and Andrew Smith features essays about the classic book.

James’s other best known work is The Black Jacobins, and we have two books in the series that examine that text. The Black Jacobins Reader, edited by Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg, features ten essays on the The Black Jacobins by a wide range of scholars. The contributors discuss its production, context, and enduring importance in relation to debates about decolonization, globalization, postcolonialism, and the emergence of neocolonial Making the Black Jacobinsmodernity. Making the Black Jacobins, by Rachel Douglas, examines the 1938 and 1963 editions of The Black Jacobins, the 1967 play of the same name, and James’s 1936 play, Toussaint Louverture—as well as manuscripts, notes, interviews, and other texts—to show how James continuously rewrote and revised his history of the Haitian Revolution as his politics and engagement with Marxism evolved. James’s play Toussaint Louverture was once thought lost until Christian Høgsbjerg located a draft copy in an archive in 2005. Our edition of the play includes the program, photographs, and reviews from that production, a contextual introduction and editorial notes on the play by Høgsbjerg, and selected essays and letters by James and others.

Høgsbjerg remarks, “Recent works of scholarship on C. L. R. James in the series such as these clearly remind us of the relevance of James’s classic history of the Haitian Revolution for the global Black Lives Matter movement today.” James and The Black Jacobins are regularly referenced in popular culture as well as by academics. The recent Steve McQueen film Small Axe features James as a character (played by Derek Griffiths) and another major character is seen reading The Black Jacobins.

CLR James in Imperial BritainChristian Høgsbjerg is also the author of C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain, which chronicles James’s life and work during his first extended stay in Britain, from 1932 to 1938. It reveals the radicalizing effect of this critical period on James’s intellectual and political trajectory. 

One of the goals of the series is to bring lesser known works by C. L. R. James back into print. Thus far, along with Toussaint Louverture, we have republished World Revolution, 1917–1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International, originally published in 1937, and The Life of Captain Cipriani, James’s earliest full-length work of nonfiction, originally published in 1932. Bridget Brereton edited and introduces The Life of Captain Cipriani, which also includes the pamphlet “The Case for West-Indian Self Government.” Christian Høgsbjerg is the editor of World Revolution, 1917-1936.

Høgsbjerg says, “For much of his own life, so many of even the most essential and foundational of  James’s works were sadly out of print, while much else by him never even found its way into print.  It is therefore tremendous that, thanks to Duke University Press, admirers of James are now able to read some of his very earliest political writings on black and colonial liberation, in works such as The Life of Captain Cipriani and his legendary play Toussaint Louverture, something which would have been almost unthinkable before the series began. Long may the series continue!”

In Conversation: Delinda Collier, Steven Nelson, and Elizabeth Ault

Our newest “In Conversation” video features Delinda Collier, Steven Nelson, co-editor of the Visual Arts of Africa and its Diasporas book series, and Duke University Press editor Elizabeth Ault discussing Collier’s new book Media Primitivism: Technological Art in Africa. They highlight how technologies of art move and are adopted across space and place, how African artists have made media and medium their own, and how African artists have challenged assumptions about African art as unmediated, primal, and natural. Media Primitivism is available now for 30% off with discount code CLLIER30.