Musical Duels and Troubadour Poets You Never Knew Existed

aec_photoSelf-described ethnographer-composer-academic-musician Alex E. Chávez shares a playlist and excerpts from his new book Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño, which explores the contemporary politics of Mexican migrant cultural expression manifest in the sounds and poetics of huapango arribeño, a musical genre originating from north-central Mexico. In Sounds of Crossing, Chávez follows huapango arribeño’s improvisational performance on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to demonstrate how Mexican migrants use music to construct meaningful communities amid the United States’ often vitriolic immigration politics.

An accomplished musician and multi-instrumentalist, Chávez has performance experience in an array of styles ranging from American popular music to traditional Mexican folk. He has recorded and toured with his own musical projects, composed documentary scores (most recently Emmy Award-winning El Despertar [2016] & Where Soldiers Come From [2011]), and has collaborated with various artists, including Grammy Award winners Quetzal and Grupo Fantasma and Latin Grammy Award-nominated Sones de México, in addition to Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Charanga Cakewalk/Lila Downs, and Ocote Soul Sounds. He has contributed to the volumes Making Sense of Language (2016), Latino, American, Dream (2016), Iconic Mexico (2015), Celebrating Latino Folklore (2012), and Con La Música a Otra Parte: Migración e Identidad en La Lírica Queretana (2010).

Sweat is trickling down the side of your face, welling at the back of your neck; the heat and humidity are smothering. It’s a typical sweltering July evening in Central Texas, close to ten o’clock. The incandescence of city lights in the distance washes over the starry night sky, an amber glow that crowns the ballroom outside of town where Mexican migrants have gathered. Some sit along concrete bleachers, others lean out across the flanking metal railing and peer leisurely toward the crowd of several hundred below. These soon-to-be dancers are nestled in between two stages, positioned at opposite ends of the dance floor. An indistinguishable murmur of laughter and conversation nervously crescendoes every now and then, in anticipation of the musical duel everyone is awaiting.

The multitude sways to and fro, wave after wave of shifting bodies stirring the dust beneath them into a cloud. Four silhouettes appear on one stage, moving leisurely with their instruments—two violins, a vihuela (small five-stringed chordophone), and a guitarra quinta huapanguera (larger modified eight-string bass guitar, similar to the more common six-stringed version). They assume their positions, exchange glances, and confer quietly, subtly coaxing the music about to be played. They gaze over at the other stage, now similarly occupied by a matching ensemble, waiting patiently. A collective sigh rushes across the congregation, quieting the chatter, tilting bodies forward as everyone focuses on the shadows emerging before them. Suddenly, the strumming of instruments booms out through the sound system; elaborate fiddle melodies erupt, followed by the soaring voice of the troubadour poet. The pulsing 2/4 cadence echoes forcefully, measured, trembling through the body, ascending upward, embracing those present, as do the unraveling verses. These eight musicians—composing two identical huapango arribeño ensembles—will face off in a bout of musical and poetic flyting, exchanging fiddle melodies and improvised verses all night long.

When I describe this type of musical duel—referred to as a topada (from the verb topar, to collide with)—to those unfamiliar with it, they are often amazed at the thought of an eight-, ten-, or twelve-hour back-and-forth at that level of intensity on the part of both the performers and the audience. The excessive nature of the time and energy spent is unlike so many other performance styles. In that very excess lies the conviviality, the tones and tensions, and the laborious explorations that are crucial to huapango arribeño as an intertextual and polyphonic locus of aesthetic enactments and responses. Think of huapango arribeño as a dense, musical architecture that yields a rhythmic and poetic complex. It has jagged, sharp edges in structure, timbre, and tone. There is gravity behind the sudden drops and shifts between verses and melodies. You become attentive to these modulations; they snag the ears—extreme changes that move you, catch you, confront you. Yet, despite this seemingly intense and virtuosic performance style, most of the Mexican public is unaware of this musical tradition.

Huapango arribeño originates in the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Querétaro, and San Luís Potosí, and takes its name from the Nahuatl word cuauhpanco—cuahuitl meaning ‘wood,’ pan designating ‘atop,’ and co ‘place,’ signifying ‘on top of the wood’ and referring to the wooden platform (tarima) atop which people perform patterned footwork (zapateado) to vernacular Mexican stringed music. This seems to indicate that huapango refers explicitly to ritual dance, and in part 
it does, for it may be seen as synonymous with the fandango, a social gathering centered on dance and music-making in 18th-century New Spain. The term arribeño (highlander) refers to the mountainous region of the states of Guanajuato and Querétaro (known as La Sierra Gorda) and to the midregion of San Luís Potosí (La Zona Media), which sits higher in altitude than the huasteca portion of the state, home to the Téenek (or Huastec) Indians and the more widely known huasteco style of huapango. The huasteco variant, specifically, is one of many regional string musics popularized 
in the years following the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920) as state-sponsored cultural education efforts featuring sanitized folkloric performances of select aires nacionales (national anthems) played a role in deeming certain musics ideal expressions of Mexicanidad (Mexican cultural nationalism). At the same time, radio and cinema emerged as powerful commercial vehicles for disseminating the huasteco variant. The resulting streamlined popular huapango style quickly became an emblematic sound of assumed national tradition.

Given this, the term huapango—in a more general sense—typically references its signature rhythm, in a galloping 6/8 meter. Indeed, most appreciators of Mexican music can recognize huapango in many of its variations, whether it be the accordion-based stylings of Mexico’s música norteña or rendered with dramatic bel canto air by the immortal stars of the golden era of Mexican cinema. This latter image exists as an archetype of a sort of “classic” huapango. And again, while the popularity of this music outside its region of origin owes much to the silver screen, this stylized representation lays bare
 the complicated relationship between music and nationalism in the 20th century, and subsequently sheds light on the relative absence of huapango arribeño from this story.

978-0-8223-7018-5My book Sounds of Crossing represents the first extended study of huapango arribeño, a topic otherwise absent from scholarship on Mexican music. And although ethnomusicologists, folklorists, and linguistic anthropologists will be able to glean the details of its formal musico-poetic properties—particularly its extensive use of the Spanish décima (ten-line stanza) and its topada performance style—this book follows moments of this music’s lush and improvisational performance within the lives of both audiences and practitioners, from New Year’s festivities in the highlands of Guanajuato to backyard get-togethers along the back roads of Central Texas. In doing so, it provocatively uses “sounds of crossing” as a graphic model to map the bindings and cultural adjacencies produced through the enactment of huapango arribeño’s music and poetics across this transnational geography in the late twentieth and early twenty- first centuries.

As a student and practitioner of various Mexican folk musics for over two decades, I have engaged in music-making alongside my interlocuters, transforming my own experiences into a unique perspective on the body politics of performance that has shaped my understanding of how people cross various types of borders. This was certainly the case with the research that informs Sounds of Crossing. And while my musical curiosity first compelled me to make performance a cornerstone of my ethnographic process, I soon realized it was vital to gaining a deeper understanding of huapango arribeño music-making more generally given that very few sources exist on the topic. Consulting extensive written sources of any kind was not an option, and furthermore, recordings of the music are rare and have only been made by a few select musicians. So, apprehending both the conventions that govern performance and the rhetorical logics of composition required not only that I observe performances, but also participate in them as a practitioner.

Years later, one such relationship built through research and performance resulted in a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute where I was able to serve as lead producer of a Smithsonian Folkways recording of Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú entitled Serrano de Corazón (Highlander at Heart) (2016). This first-ever recording of its kind by an esteemed cultural institution of this caliber highlights huapango arribeño at its finest and makes anthropological knowledge of this music-culture accessible to a global audience. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States, and is dedicated to supporting increased awareness of peoples from around the world through the documentation and dissemination of sound recordings.

In this same spirit, the playlist I have compiled consists of music that represents the contemporary world of huapango arribeño. And while certainly not a definitive list, this sampling of transnational artists performing in Mexico is an excellent glimpse into both the sounds of this music and its various performative contexts. So, sit back and listen to the music and poetry of troubadour poets you probably never knew existed.

 

Tali Díaz y Los Díaz del Real—“Para que el tiempo no se quebrante” (poesía, valona, & son)

Featuring the young troubadour poet Tali Díaz and his group Los Díaz del Real, this track captures the typical huapango arribeño musical piece, which consists of three distinct components: (1) poesía— recited décimas anchored by a musico-poetic refrain; (2) decimal/valona—sung décimas accompanied by ornate violin interludes; and (3) son—violin-centered portion that displays the typical 6/8 galloping rhythm and showcases virtuosic fiddle melodies.

Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú feat. Maria Isabel “Chabe” Flores Solano—“Brota mi canto y se ufana” (valona & son)

This track is taken from the Smithsonian Folkways album Serrano de Corazón (Highlander at Heart) featuring Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú. Chabe Flores takes the helm on this decimal/valona, showcasing her trademark voice. Here, she addresses the topic of women’s empowerment and self-determination with a commanding and powerful performance. The valona is crowned by a traditional son arribeño titled “La rosita arribeña” (the rose from the highlands).

Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú—“Serrano de corazón” (poesía-inspired composition & son)

Also taken from the Smithsonian Folkways album Serrano de Corazón, this song typifies both the lyrical virtuosity and musical energy Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú bring to their live performances. The song is a hybrid form that alternates between recited décimas—in the spirit of the poesía portion previously described—and a lively canción portion played in 6/8 that features harmonized lyrics in the style of the huapango-canción and canción típica genres. The track ends with another variant of the son “La rosita arribeña.”

El Conjunto de Pedro Sauceda—“La virgen tendió su manto en la tierra del placer” (jarabe)

Taken from the set of albums titled Antologia del Son de Mexico released by Discos Corasón in 1985, this track features El Conjunto de Pedro Sauceda performing a traditional jarabe arribeño. The name jarabe is an analogous reference to the drug of the same name, which is made of various healing herbs, and the musical jarabe is similarly composed of various musical sounds and melodies that give it structure.

Toño Escalante y Conjunto Los Gorrioncillos de la Sierra—“El pajarillo” (son)

Also taken from the Antologia del Son de Mexico (1985), this track features Toño Escalante y Conjunto Los Gorriones de La Sierra performing a traditional son arribeño “El Pajarillo”.

Las Palomitas Serranas with Ángel González (jarabes & son)

This is a live performance featuring the all-female huapango group Las Palomitas Serranas with veteran troubadour poet Ángel González. The group is performing a traditional jarabe arribeño as they arrive in the rural hamlet of Palomas, Guanajuato for an artistic summit centered around Ibero-American music and poetry.

Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú—“La topada de poetas”

Also taken from the Smithsonian Folkways album Serrano de Corazón, “La topada de poetas” is Velázquez’s magnum opus on this album, which both narrates
 and performs the atmosphere of the topada, vividly detailing the portions of the marathon encounter, as night turns into day. It begins with a shortened poesía with a narrated ending, followed by an instrumental polka (typically called a pieza) with narration. Another shortened poesía with a narrated ending ensues, which then introduces two poesías de bravata (boasting poesías, wherein poets engage each other in banter and jibes)—here, Vincent Velázquez and Nicacio López take on the roles of opposing poets. Finally, Guillermo Velázquez performs a valona, followed by an extended jarabe, which captures the climactic energy of the topada in full bloom, when violinists are locked in after several hours, stretching out the music while the zapateado of the audience echoes out in percussive response.

Ángel González with Las Palomitas Serranas (pieza [polka])

This is a live performance featuring the troubadour poet Ángel González with members of the all-female huapango group Las Palomitas Serranas. The group is performing a traditional instrumental polka (typically called a pieza) in the rural hamlet of Palomas, Guanajuato.

Santa Vibra feat. Maria Isabel “Chabe” Flores Solano & Tali Díaz—“Llegar al mesón” (huapango)

While not a traditional huapango arribeño, this track is nonetheless in the galloping 6/8 huapango style and features a duet between Maria Isabel “Chabe” Flores Solano and troubadour poet Tali Díaz. The group Santa Vibra provides the musical backing.

Los Tiradores—“Otro ratito nomas” (valona from Michoacán)

Taken from the album Michoacán: sones de la Tierra Caliente produced by Fonoteca del INAH (the official sound library of the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History), this track features the group Los Tiradores performing a valona typical to the stringed music genre of the state of Michoacán known as son de la Tierra Caliente. I have included this example to demonstrate the musical and poetic similarities the valona maintains across genres. As you will hear, both valona variants feature décima poetry, and the principle violin interlude—referred to as the valoneado in huapango arribeño—expresses some melodic resemblance in both styles.

Los Caporales—“Jarabe ranchero” (jarabe from Michoacán)

Also taken from the album Michoacán: sones de la Tierra Caliente, this track features the group Los Caporales performing a jarabe typical to the son de la Tierra Caliente of Michoacán. This example likewise demonstrates the musical and poetic similarities the jarabe expresses across genres, particularly the virtuosic bundling of violin melodies.

Want to read more about huapango arribeño? Pick up Alex Chávez’s book Sounds of Crossing for 30% off using coupon code E17SOUND on dukeupress.edu.

New online reading platform for Duke University Press books and journals

yaynewsite

In partnership with Silverchair Information Systems (Silverchair), Duke University Press recently launched a new site for its books and journals at read.dukeupress.edu. The new site is home to 50 journals and 2,300 books in the humanities and social sciences, providing scholars with a single reading and research experience across books and journals.

On the new site, our readers can:

  • Discover related works and other content relevant to their interests.
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  • Read books and journals on the go with a responsive site that adapts seamlessly to devices of any size.

Sign up for Latest Issue Journal Alerts:

Our readers will also be able to sign up for Latest Issue Alerts to stay up-to-date with the most recent scholarship from Duke University Press journals. These alerts deliver the most recent table-of-contents from new issues directly to a reader’s inbox.

Register and sign up for Latest Issue Alerts at read.dukeupress.edu/my-account.

 

The Best Books We Read in 2017

From young adult literature to sci-fi trilogies, we love to read at Duke University Press! In this post, our staff members share their favorite reads from the past year. We hope you enjoy their suggestions, and perhaps find a few gift ideas in the mix.

Jeff VanderMeerChris Robinson, Copywriter in Books Marketing, recommends the Southern Reach trilogy: “This year I crossed off one of my bucket-list reads (Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow) but what really struck me was Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. It’s set in a coastal region in the southeastern US where some kind of unknown supernatural event has transformed the landscape so that nature is removing traces of human development. The Southern Reach is a government agency tasked with investigating the area, but it’s never quite clear what happened or is going on. Part sci-fi, part eco-criticism, part surrealist adventure, there’s something for everybody. And the movie trailer for the first book – Annihilation – looks great.”

Gabrielle ZevinKatie Smart, Publicist and Exhibits Coordinator in Journals Marketing, recommends a new novel: “This year I challenged myself to read 100 books written by women and I finished the challenge with four books by Gabrielle Zevin on my list! My favorite was her most recent novel, Young Jane Young, which tells the story of a young congressional intern who has an affair with the congressman she’s working for. Zevin’s latest is funny and thoughtful, and her main characters are courageous and so well-written I wanted to know them in real life.”

Han KangMary Hoch, Senior Editorial Assistant in Acquisitions, recommends two books: “The Vegetarian by Han Kang. This novel, told from three perspectives, is equal parts beauty and brutality. I recommend setting aside time to read it all in one go (it’s quite short!) and reading nothing about it before starting. Tenth of December by George Saunders. Before he won this year’s Booker prize with Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders was best-known for his sci-fi short stories. This collection showcases his ability to put you immediately and intimately inside his characters’ heads.”

 

CaveBarbara Williams, a Production Specialist, recommends a study on books: “The History of Books in 100 Books by Roderick Cabe and Sara Ayad appeals to me because it covers so many time spans and cultures (cave paintings to e-books). It’s necessarily superficial, but succinct and beautifully illustrated. Although I’ve have done a lot of reading on Western book history, I knew very little about the book in Asia and South America; 100 Books was a helpful introduction.”

SaundersLiz Beasley, Managing Editor for Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, recommends three books for 2017: “I read so many beautiful books this year, and oddly, many of them were written by—or about—people who died at a far too young age: Max Ritvo’s stunning poetry debut, Four Reincarnations, which was published just after his death at age twenty-five; Nina Riggs’s brave, funny cancer memoir The Bright Hour; and George Saunders’s strange but superb Booker Prize–winning novel Lincoln in the Bardo, whose plot is fueled by the death of Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son. All are deeply moving, gorgeously written, and sui generis. Ritvo’s lines from ‘The Big Loser’ capture the spirit of all three books: ‘The angel thinks he’s applying lemon oil / to the creaky, wounded wood of the box. / He knows it’s palliative, but it’s beautiful.'”

SpuffordSenior Project Editor for Journals, Charles Brower, recommends two books this year: “Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill, set in 1740s New York, offers everything you want in a historical novel—a secretive stranger, romance, a duel, a trial, a witty narrator—but also is impressively woke to themes of race, gender, and sexuality. Emil Ferris’s graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the illustrated diary of a young girl in 1960s Chicago who’s trying to come to terms with her mother’s illness, her loving but careless older brother, her sexual identity, and the mysterious death of her upstairs neighbor, a haunted Holocaust survivor. The story is a page-turner, but the art is so intricate and gorgeous that you want to linger over each drawing.”

Thanks to our staff for another year of great reads and recommendations! We look forward to expanding our collective literary minds in 2018.

The Jamaican 1960s

ddsmx_21_3_54The most recent issue of Small Axe features a special section, “The Jamaican 1960s.” This section prompts contributors to rethink the cultural-political historiography of Jamaica, as well as question the normative narrative of the making of modern Jamaica.

The revisionary historiographic starting point of the section is the 1960s. Contributors revisit this decade through varied forms of analysis, considering topics from Creole Nationalism to radical skepticism in 1960s Jamaican fiction to post-1952 U.S. foreign policy’s effect on local and colonial perceptions of people’s struggles for sovereignty. The impetus of these essays is not to find fault with the older paradigm but to explore, provisionally and experimentally, how or to what extent this paradigm is helpful in illuminating contemporary Jamaica. The essays themselves grew out of a symposium organized around the theme of the Jamaican 1960s held at the University of Miami in October 2015.

Read the introduction to the section, “On the Very Idea of the Making of Modern Jamaica,” by David Scott, made freely available.

Q&A with Monique Moultrie, author of Passionate and Pious

Monique MoultrieMonique Moultrie, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Georgia State University, is the author of the new book Passionate and Pious: Religious Media and Black Women’s Sexuality. In the book, she explores the impact of faith-based sexual ministries on black women’s sexual agency to trace how these women navigate sexuality, religious authority, and their spiritual walk with God.

How would you describe your personal history and relationship with the evangelical church, and especially with the televangelist Juanita Bynum, whose ministry you discuss at length in Passionate and Pious?

I was reared in a conservative Christian church (a Baptist church) in a rural community that was a model of evangelicalism and took quite seriously the Christian message to evangelize. I went to Jerry Falwell rallies as a teen and actively participated in Christian organizations/clubs. When I entered college I first became aware of televangelist Juanita Bynum even though as a teen I had practiced purity as was expected from my evangelical model. What I remember about watching Bynum’s “No More Sheets” sermon for the first time in a small group setting with a group of other women was that I remembered many things clicking from the sermon. It made sense on a very guttural level. I also think the sermon offered voice to a lot of the personal experiences of women in the room. Women were trying to live out their faith lives in ways that came into contrast with their own sexual needs, desires, and actual realities. Later as I watched events in Bynum’s personal life unfold, I began to wonder if Bynum was the model exemplar or if in fact this was a model that others could hold onto and participate in the same way.

After personally following Bynum for years she became the topic of my doctoral dissertation as I set out to explain the sexual dilemmas facing black women of faith and why/how they were influenced by No More Sheets. My dissertation used ethnographic research and cultural analysis to examine the authority of evangelical sexual messages produced in religious media like her televangelism. I continued to follow Bynum through her marriage, divorce, and subsequent ministries beyond her initial No More Sheets ministry although the book really only focused on this first step.

How did your background in the evangelical church—your experience in the community and as a consumer of its messages about sexuality—help (or hinder) you as you conducted research?

978-0-8223-7004-8

I mention in the book that part of my background in the evangelical church meant that a lot of this rhetoric was something I was used to, as I already knew the lingo and phrases. One of the early book reviewers’ comments was that the book was full of a lot of insider language as I described the communities. I was really such an insider that I needed to go back with the editors to get help determining what words/phrases/categories needed to be defined for those outside of these communities. Thus, in this initial way I had a natural in because I was formed in black church settings. I was also familiar with religious media because I grew up watching televangelism and in many ways the evangelical communities I was studying just made sense to me. It made entering into research much easier as I knew what types of questions to ask to get a response. At times, I could even anticipate responses. I could be understood by my audience and in ways that gave me an advantage since I didn’t have to work as hard to earn trust. Having familiarity in their settings aided my research. I didn’t have to be vouched for in many ways and specifically online this helped when people can’t look at you in your eyes and get a feel for whether you seem authentic or not. Being online in many of these accountability groups and participating online it really helped to know the community’s language, theology, worship, etc.

On the other hand, if my insider status did hinder my research, it was because I was very compassionate towards them. I really spent a lot of time thinking of my research questions. I think a lot of what gets written about evangelicals treats them as if they are cultural dupes. They are written about as if they lack intellect or are overruled by emotionality or that they are not making conscious decisions. I knew that not to be the case so I wanted that to show in my own research. I wanted to highlight the very tough decisions that are being made daily in each of these women’s lives where they embody very complicated contemporary realities where being celibate until marriage for a black woman often means participating in celibacy movements for more than half of their lives. Young girls start in groups in their teen years and they participate in college groups and stats show that black women marry much later; they marry much closer to age 50 so that’s a long time to participate in these movements! I wanted to be compassionate towards this experience because I understood this struggle. I also understood their deep desire for sexual relationship and faith to align. I wanted that to come forward in my research. In some ways, my tenderness towards their plight may have obfuscated my ability to be as critical as I may have wanted to.

As a trained academic, I was clear in my goal of illuminating my ethnographic subjects’ experiences while at the same time offering a womanist corrective. My constructive sections are where my critical side shows. In my goal of not just being objective in presenting these various ministries but to humanize them and these women’s experiences I did take a very critical persona. I did mention in the book that my own rearing in a conservative Christian background gave me messages that privileged monogamy and committed relationships as more normative. When I looked back at my questions related to non-monogamous relationships like hook up culture, my own background tainted those sets of questions. I didn’t really presume that non-monogamy would be the norm. Persons talked with me about their experiences with multiple partners, but often it came out as not their own experience but something that they were reporting from others. When I went through the transcripts, I think a large part of that may have been the way that I crafted the question that probably presumed monogamy. If they were in a multiple-partner relationship my questions presumed that this wasn’t what they intended as a mature relationship. Yet, I know for some of the participants that having multiple partners was not a stage or some immature sexual agency. Having multiple partners was deemed as normative as having one partner and so that’s definitely one way when I looked back at the research I saw a hindrance. Thankfully I became aware of this before the book went to print but certainly as I did the interviews I wasn’t as in tune with this unconscious privileging.

Your book discusses the many messages black women receive from the evangelical church: submission, modesty, abstinence outside of marriage, heterosexuality, etc. What tools does your book provide for shifting these messages or encouraging black women to reclaim their sexual agency?

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Flash Sale: Save 50% on all Art & Photography Books

FLASH50_SaleDec2017_200x300_72dpiWe’re excited to announce a special three-day Flash Sale on all of our in-stock art, art history, and photography books and journal issues. To claim the discount, enter the coupon code FLASH50 when checking out.

What are some of the great gift-worthy titles you can get during this sale? All of the the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize winners are included. Check out the latest winner, Test of Faith by Lauren Pond,  a deeply nuanced, personal look at serpent handling in Appalachia.

Or perhaps you’d like to order a gorgeous special issue of NKA_38_prour journal Nka, such as “Black Portraiture[s]: The Black Body in the West.” Edited by Cheryl Finley and Deborah Willis, it’s full of fascinating essays and artwork. Or grab a catalog from a recent Nasher Museum of Art show, such as Miranda Lash’s and Trevor Schoonmaker’s Southern Accent, which investigates the many realities, fantasies, and myths of the South that have long captured the public’s imagination, while presenting a wide range of perspectives that create a composite portrait of southern identity through contemporary art.

If art history is more your style, check out Collective Situations, edited by Bill Kelley Jr. and Grant H. Kester, or try Jessica Horton’s Art for an Undivided Earth, about the American Indian Movement generation, or MacArthur “genius grant” awardee Kellie Jones’s most recent book, South of Pico.

Here’s the usual fine print: The discount does not apply to apparel, journals subscriptions or society memberships. You can’t order out-of-stock or not yet published titles at the discount. And you can’t combine multiple orders to maximize the discount. Regular shipping applies and all sales are final.

Hurry and shop now on dukeupress.edu because this sale ends at 11:59 pm on Friday, December 8.

Thomas Carlyle and the London Library

Thomas CarlyleThomas Carlyle’s 222nd birthday was yesterday, 4 December. In his honor, we are sharing several lectures on Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle given by Carlyle scholars Brent Kinser and David Sorensen this June at the Carlyle House in Chelsea. The event focused on Carlyle’s involvement with the London Library, the world’s greatest circulating library. Kinser and Sorensen were joined by Helen O’Neill, Librarian of the London Library.

Read the full versions of the talks from David Sorensen and Brent Kinser by selecting the titles of the lectures. We have included excerpts from the talks below.

AN EXCERPT FROM DAVID SORENSEN’S TALK, “Carlyle and the London Library

This evening we acknowledge one of Thomas Carlyle’s most noble, generous, and enduring acts of civic philanthropy: his founding of the London Library in St. James’s Square, a scheme which he first proposed in a speech that he delivered at the Freemason’s Tavern on June 24, 1840, which was reported four days later in the Examiner newspaper. It is worth rehearsing the circumstances behind this address, because they reveal the unusual combination of both personal and professional factors that prompted Carlyle to launch a campaign for the establishment of a new lending library in the center of London. Carlyle was forty-five years old when he began to formulate this plan: by this stage of his career he was the author of the Sartor Resartus and The French Revolution, a renowned public lecturer, and a committed social activist seeking to awaken the Victorian conscience to what he called “The Condition of England Question.”

In 1839 he was preparing to embark on another great historical quest, this time an edition of the letters and speeches of Oliver Cromwell. His experience with the French Revolution had taught him the urgent need of a high-class lending library which would provide him with the works that he required at hand in his quiet study upstairs in this house. He was embarrassed by the want of standard reference sources, and of the difficulty of working quietly in the British Museum. At Cambridge friends procured him copies of Clarendon and Rushworth, but as journeys from Chelsea to Bloomsbury became more laborious, he was determined to try what could be done to found in London a permanent lending library of standard literature. In a letter to his mother of 13 January 1839 he wrote, “Another object that engages me a little in these last weeks is the attempt to see whether a Public Library cannot be got here in London; a thing scandalously wanted, which I have suffered from like others. There is to be some stir made in that business now, and it really looks as if it would take effect.”

AN EXCERPT FROM BRENT KINSER’S TALK, “Carlyle, Gladstone, and the Neapolitan Candidate

On 4 May 1852, the first librarian of the London Library, J. G. Cochrane (b. 1780), breathed his last. The next Day Thomas Carlyle wrote to his brother Jack with a mixture of real sadness and practical exigency: “Poor old lumbering good-natured soul, I am sad to think of him, and that we shall never see him more.— [John Edward] Jones will summon a Comee Meeting so soon as the funeral is over: I know not in the least what they mean to do; but suppose they will find it good to be in no haste, but to pause well and to examine” (CLO: TC to JAC, 5 May 1852). There would be little pause in the effort to replace Cochrane, and the drama surrounding the appointment of his successor offers fascinating insights into the relationship between two of the London Library committee’s most important and influential members: Carlyle and William Ewart Gladstone.

In May 1852 Carlyle found himself incapacitated with the flu, which greatly reduced his ability to be directly involved with the discussions surrounding the choice of the next librarian, but greatly, and for us fortunately, increased his need to negotiate the choice in letters. Because of his illness, he sent Jane to see John Forster to relay his wishes: Carlyle wanted a complete accounting of the condition of the library before any move was made to choose Cochrane’s successor. As he had told his brother, Carlyle wanted a patient, careful process to unfold. Jane returned to report a “revolution,” which Carlyle relayed to his brother on 10 May:

Forster as I knew he wd, patronised all these salutary notions, ready to swear for them on the Koran if needful; but at the same time said, there was not the least hope of getting them carried; or anything but one carried, viz. the Election of Gladstone’s Neapolitan,—whh G. and his Helpers “were stirring Heaven and Earth to bring about; and which from the prest composition of the Committee (Milman, Lyttelton, Milnes, Hallam &c, a clear majority of malleable material, some of it as soft as butter, under the hammer of a Minister in posse [with that capacity]) they were “perfectly certain” to do it. . . . Gladstone, I think with Forster, will probably succeed: but he shall not do it without one man at least insisting on having Reason and common Honesty as well as Gladstone and Charity at other men’s expense, satisfied in the matter; and protesting to a plainly audible extent against the latter amiable couple walking over the belly of the former.— Such protest I am clearly bound to; and that, I believe, will prove to be all that I can do. Of Gladstone’s Neapolitan no man, Italian or other, has ever heard the name before: from G.’s own acct to me, I figured him as some ingenuous bookish young advocate, who probably had helped G. in his Pamphlets underhand,—a useful service, but not done to the Ln Library particularly. (CLO: TC to JAC, 10 May 1852)

The underlying reason for Carlyle’s dismay seems apparent enough. As if it were not bad enough dealing with one Neapolitan librarian, Anthony Panizzi of the British Museum, Gladstone had put forward a second one to take charge of Carlyle’s beloved London Library.

 

drs-bek-ho london 2017Stay connected! Learn more about Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle and to read their many letters, visit the Carlyle Letters Online. Follow @carlyleletters for daily tweets from these prolific writers.

American Anthropological Association 2017

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Booth staffers ready to go on the first day

The 2017 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., was a great chance for us to meet authors and editors, sell books and journals to excited customers, and celebrate prize-winning books!

Our authors racked up quite a few awards at this year’s conference:

Metabolic Living by Harris Solomon and Tell Me Why My Children Died by Charles Briggs and Clara Mantini-Briggs were co-winners of the New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology.

Sareeta Amrute’s Encoding Race, Encoding Class won the Diana Forsythe Prize from the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology & Computing. Plastic Bodies by Emilia Sanabria received honorable mention for this prize.

Emilia Sanabria’s Plastic Bodies also won the Michelle Rosaldo First Book Prize from the Association for Feminist Anthropology. Downwardly Global by Lalaie Ameeriar was a finalist for the same prize.

Aimee Meredith Cox’s Shapeshifters won the Delmos Jones & Jagna Sharff Memorial Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of North America.

The Look of a Woman by Eric Plemons won the Ruth Benedict Prize in the Single-Authored Monograph category from the Association for Queer Anthropology.

Yolanda Covington-Ward’s Gesture and Power won the Elliott P. Skinner Award from the Association for Africanist Anthropology.

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João Biehl toasts new edited collection Unfinished

Reel World by Anand Pandian won second place for the Victor Turner Prize from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, and David McDermott Hughes’s Energy without Conscience received honorable mention for the same prize.

Everyday Conversions by Attiya Ahmad received honorable mention for the Clifford Geertz Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion.

Congratulations to these outstanding authors!

On Friday we enjoyed a wine reception for the new collection Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming with its editors João Biehl and Peter Locke.

It was exciting to see so many of our authors and editors in person. Check out the photo gallery:

 

Did you miss AAA this year? Not enough room in your luggage to carry all the books and journals you wanted? You can still take advantage of our 30% conference discount—just use coupon code AAA17 on our website through January 15.

New Books in December

It’s the season for great new books! Check out what we have coming out in December.

978-0-8223-7017-8In the beautifully illustrated Aerial Aftermaths, Caren Kaplan traces the cultural history of aerial imagery—from the first vistas provided by balloons in the eighteenth century to the sensing operations of military drones—to show how aerial imagery is key to modern visual culture and can both enforce military power and foster positive political connections.

In Biopolitics of Feeling Kyla Schuller unearths the forgotten, multiethnic sciences of impressibility—the capacity to be affected—to expose the powerful workings of sentimental biopower in the nineteenth-century United States, uncovering a vast apparatus of sensory regulation that aimed to shape the evolution of the national population.

Through the lives of religious women in colonial Lima, Nancy van Deusen explores a new understanding of the ways in which pious Catholic women engaged with material and immaterial notions of the sacred or were themselves objectified as conduits of the divine in spiritual narratives in her book Embodying the Sacred.

978-0-8223-7020-8Challenging the academic and cultural stereotypes that do not acknowledge the rhetorical capabilities of autistic people, in Authoring Autism Melanie Yergeau shows how autistics both embrace and reject the rhetorical, thereby queering the lines of rhetoric, humanity, agency, and the very essence of rhetoric itself.

Coming from a number of fields ranging from anthropology, media studies, and theology to musicology and philosophy, the contributors to Feeling Religion, edited by John Corrigananalyze the historical and contemporary entwinement of emotion, religion, spirituality, and secularism, thereby refiguring the field of religious studies and opening up new avenues of research.

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In Considering Emma Goldman Clare Hemmings examines the significance of the anarchist activist and thinker Emma Goldman for contemporary feminist politics, showing how the contradictory and ambivalent aspects of Goldman’s thought for feminism can be used to open new avenues for theorizing gender, sexuality, and race.

In Landscapes of Power Dana E. Powell takes an historical and ethnographic approach to understanding how a controversial coal power plant slated for development in the Navajo (Diné) Nation was defeated and, in the process of its destruction, generated the conditions for new understandings of indigenous environmentalism to emerge.

In Unthinking Mastery Julietta Singh challenges the drive toward the mastery over self and others by showing how the forms of self-mastery advocated by anticolonial thinkers like Fanon and Gandhi unintentionally reproduced colonial logic, thereby leading her to argue for a more productive human subjectivity that is not centered on concepts of mastery.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for Subject Matters, our e-mail newsletter, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

 

Now Available from Duke University Press: T-Shirts!

We are excited to announce that in addition to all our great books and journals, you can now purchase two new t-shirts from Duke University Press.

Show the world your support for transgender rights and our journal TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly by wearing a shirt featuring artwork from the journal’s very first issue cover.

TSQ Group

You can also show the world that you know that to expose a problem is to pose a problem by wearing a Feminist Killjoy t-shirt inspired by Sara Ahmed’s book Living a Feminist Life.

Feminist Killjoy Group

We even have limited numbers of Feminist Killjoy shirts in kids’ sizes.

kids front and back

The shirts come in sizes Small through 2-XL. They are a soft cotton-polyester blend. They are $20 each for adult sizes and $15 for kids. They make a great gift, but be sure to order in the next week to ensure Christmas delivery. We regret that we are currently unable to ship t-shirts outside of the United States. The shirts will also be available at many of the academic meetings we attend including AAA, MLA, and AHA.