Q&A with Mack Hagood, Author of Hush

hagood, mack author photo

Mack Hagood is Robert H. and Nancy J. Blayney Assistant Professor of Comparative Media Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His work on digital media, sound technologies, and popular music can be found in such publications as American Quarterly and Cinema Journal, and he co-produces and hosts the podcast Phantom Power: Sounds about Sound. In his new book, Hush: Media and Sonic Self Control, Hagood explores what he calles “orphic media”: noise-cancelling headphones, tinnitus maskers, white noise machines, nature-sound mobile apps, and other forms of media that give users the ability to create sonic safe spaces for themselves, showing how the desire to block certain sounds are informed by ideologies of race, gender, and class.

Explain what you mean by “sonic self-control”? What kind of sound are you investigating?

I study activities as simple as using a white-noise machine to sleep better at night or using noise-canceling headphones to work or enjoy a movie on an airplane. I am interested in how we use personal media technologies to change sensory experience, thereby managing how we feel and controlling our connection to our surroundings and others. These acts of sonic self-control are among our most common everyday media practices—millions of apps that generate nature sounds have been downloaded, for example, and headphones are now a multi-billion-dollar industry. These technologies’ prevalence alone makes them worthy of research; yet aside from a body of cultural studies work on personal music technologies like the Walkman and the iPod, very little research has been done on them. The kind of practice I’m describing here can involve music, but it can also be completely non-musical. I’m really focusing less on media content and more on how we use our devices to remediate how—and how much—the world affects us. I call these devices “orphic media,” named after the mythical Orpheus, who counteracted the fatal song of the Sirens by playing a song of his own, fighting sound with sound to create a safe space.


In the book, I’m bringing together a diverse array of technologies that are used for this kind of sonic self-control: white noise machines, LPs of natural sounds, mobile apps, noise-canceling headphones, wearable devices that suppress tinnitus, and the evolving category of in-ear wearable computer technology, or “hearables.” Most of these orphic technologies have been ignored by my academic field of media studies, so I’m providing a history and asking why these practices have evolved over the past sixty years. Why do they feel so necessary today? And what can we learn about sensory experience and our cultural moment from them? Is our new ability to (in the words of a Beats headphones slogan) “Hear What You Want,” providing us new levels of freedom or is it making us ever more sensitive to what we don’t want to hear? In this way, I’m using the material and physiological experience of sound as a different way to think through contemporary debates about media echo chambers, filter bubbles, safe spaces, fake news, “snowflakes,” and so on.

Why do you think media studies has overlooked these technologies?

I think there are certain habits and ideas around media that affect scholars and laypeople alike, making some kinds of media practices harder to identify and analyze. For one thing, we tend to think about media in terms of discrete genres and technologies. In the academic world, the attainment of disciplinary expertise demands that you drill down on a specific medium, so you become a film scholar or a radio scholar or a social media scholar, despite the fact that we all know that these different media are converging in our iPhones. I wanted to approach things from the opposite direction, saying, “Here’s something interesting I see people doing on one device—are they also doing similar things with other devices?” So, I’m trying to think across media rather than within these categories that ultimately derive from the industries we are supposed to analyze and critique. This approach has led me to study audio technologies that are marketed as “sensory therapy devices” at the Home and Housewares Show, or prescription devices at the American Academy of Audiology conference—not just the familiar devices you’d find at the consumer electronics tradeshow, CES. My line of inquiry pushed me into some strange and interesting spaces where media scholars don’t often venture.

Then there are two common-sense definitions of media that exclude the technologies I study: First, media are information-transmitting devices. Second, media are communication devices. These are both partial truths that obscure some of what we really use media for—and even though a number of great media theorists have challenged these notions from different angles, they continue to dominate. In my view, media studies, like American culture, lives under the thumb of cybernetics and information theory, which were developed over seventy years ago—now more than ever, in fact! In the book, I argue that the pressures of living in an “information economy” are some of the main reasons we hate and fear noise so much today. What I call “infocentrism” places impossible demands on our attention and makes orphic media feel like necessities. Trying to analyze this dynamic as a scholar while using an informatic notion of media would be like using the Invisible Hand to critique neoliberalism.

My alternative definition, which is inspired by the Spinozan lineage of affect theory, is that media are devices used to control how we affect and are affected by the world. Information technology can facilitate this process, but the embodied, material, and affective aspects of media use just can’t be reduced to immaterial patterns of information or the transmission of messages. Take, for example, a mobile app like White Noise. Say you work in an open-plan office and your co-worker’s sales calls are distracting you from writing a memo, so you use your smartphone to generate noise and block out their voice. Noise is literally the opposite of information, right? You’re using your phone not to communicate, but rather to render communication impossible. In practice, you have contradicted the notion that media are solely technologies for the transmission of information and the facilitation of communication. Sure, your phone is constructed on an information architecture, but we shouldn’t confuse the architecture with the nature of the human practice, which is to remediate the external environment and thereby reorganize our interior experience.

What sparked your interest in sonic self-control? How did your experiences with tinnitus influence this project?

I lived in Taiwan for several years and there I encountered these little boxes that looked like transistor radios and played audio loops of chanted Buddhist sutras. I was completely fascinated by these things and started collecting them. (Years later, a pair of musicians in China commissioned their own version of the device filled with ambient music loops and branded it as The Buddha Machine—it became something of an underground music hit.) My imagination was captivated by the idea that a sound machine could create a sacred space and I recalled how, as a child who had trouble sleeping, I used a radio to make my bedroom feel safer. Years later, in graduate school, I read the passage in A Thousand Plateaus where a frightened child in the dark sings a song to create what Deleuze and Guattari call a milieu, a temporarily pacified space—a little wall of sound to keep the monsters out. I immediately thought back to the sutra boxes and my childhood radio and that’s when I began to wonder if there were other media technologies that sonically pacified space in this way. And yes, it turns out there are a lot of them!

As for tinnitus, I have had it for as long as I can remember—perhaps resulting from a bout of scarlet fever I had as a child. Tinnitus became part of the project when I realized that people who suffered a lot from it were the most avid—and sometimes, desperate—users of orphic media. In fact, audiologists prescribe wearable sound-generators as part of tinnitus therapies. This is because tinnitus grows louder in quiet spaces. Just as the pupils dilate in low light, the auditory system “turns up the volume” in silence, revealing or exacerbating tinnitus. The chapter on tinnitus shows how high the stakes of orphic mediation can get. In my ethnographic research, I met people who couldn’t work and even attempted suicide. A combination of sound enrichment and counseling is the main tinnitus treatment today.

And in fact, the stakes became very high for me as well. By a strange twist of fate, a bike tire burst right next to my ear right before I started my fieldwork, creating tinnitus to a degree I’d never experienced before. So, I was struggling with my own fear and dismay about tinnitus as I was going to clinics and support groups to observe and do interviews. I could deeply empathize with tinnitus sufferers whose bosses or families thought they were flakes or neurotics or malingerers. The tinnitus research soon became the centerpiece of the project. It provided me with a neurophysiological model of how an affect of fear can attach to sound, reshaping sensory experience and social life. It also forced me to study humanistic theories of disability, something that really wasn’t on my radar before. In the end, disability theory helped me resolve my own fear and aversion to tinnitus, which actually may be the only “cure” at this point. I realized that my own ideology of ability—Tobin Siebers’ term for the belief that the body should be perfect—was fueling my flight-or-flight reaction to tinnitus, making it worse. This helped me turn a corner. In time, I came to embrace my tinnitus as a part of myself. In fact, I came to realize that every sound we hate or fear is really part of ourselves, because we are the ones who experiences it. No matter what noise we are fighting, literal or figurative, embracing our experience is the secret to transcending it. Ironically, a lot of human suffering comes from our self-defeating attempts at self-control.

You use the image of Orpheus fending off the sirens’ deadly song with his own as the basis for your concept of “orphic media.” Why Orpheus? How does this myth let you touch upon other themes in your book?

Orpheus fascinates me, especially the Orpheus of the epic poem Argonautica. Here we have an adventure with a boatload of burly heroes, but this sensitive poet-musician-priest guy is an essential member of the crew. This should be not only an inspiration to nerds everywhere, but also a reminder of the power of sound and music. Orpheus keeps the brutish Argonauts from fighting by playing his lyre and singing. He sets the rhythm for the rowers, allowing them to travel with speed. He performs important religious rituals. And, of course, he saves the Argonauts lives by musically fabricating a safe space in the Siren Strait. So, Orpheus allows me to talk about how sound can be instrumentalized as a powerful vibrational force. This is what we see today in all orphic media.

However, Orpheus also exhibits something we have somewhat lost our ear for today. His power comes from the fact that he is exquisitely sensitive to the sacred and unifying power of sound. He is the son of a Muse, and he can hear even the vibrations of spiders spinning their webs. His music can change the course of rivers and move the Earth because he understands that sound is a medium that interconnects us all. So, sound can be utilized to separate and defend, but it also reminds us that we can never truly be separate from one another. Musical rituals are spaces where people give up individuality to sing and move as one. This is the opposite of the instrumentalized and individualized use of music that is so common in the streaming era with its mood- and productivity-focused playlists. Or the utilitarian use of white noise as a protective wall of sound.

In your discussion of different kinds of orphic media, advertisements serve as important examples of how companies have defined sound in terms of race, class, gender, and disability. What are some of the most unexpected ways in which capitalism shapes sound and orphic media?

Well, my broad-stroke answer is that neoliberal capitalism functions sonically the same way it operates generally: structural problems are personalized and made the responsibility of the individual to solve, using products conveniently supplied by the market. Going back to the open office plan, it’s a highly cost-efficient architectural strategy that just happens to drive workers to distraction because of noise. But when a worker has spent a lifetime in spaces like these, they probably aren’t going to blame the economic and built structures of capitalism for their misery, right? They’re going to blame their neighbor with the “annoying voice” or “braying laugh” or whatever. And those personalized perceptions of noise are going to emerge within our culture’s familiar hierarchies of race, class, gender, and ability.

I learned of this dynamic by studying the advertising strategies of the companies that sell orphic media, as well as by reading reviews and news articles in the popular press. These products are marketed around certain identity types: we’ve seen attempts to domesticate and feminize white noise for use in the home through the use of images of sleeping women, while Bose noise-canceling headphones were first marketed to white, male business travelers, and Beats uses a younger, African American perspective to market its headphones. These products are very similar—or, in some cases, basically identical—yet the identities they are portrayed to protect from noise are very different. I mean, there’s often a No Exit, “Hell is other people” discourse at work in the promotion of these media practices. Hell is other people who are different from you. That’s something that surprised me and it predates the “filter bubbles” of the internet by many years.

Hush includes the histories of many sonic technologies, from Beats by Dre headphones to white noise machines. What was the most interesting piece of technology to research and write about?

It’s hard to choose but one stands out from the others because it presented orphic media’s potentials in a different way from all the others. A series of records called environments was quite popular in the 1970s and early 80s and its album sides were dedicated to sonic spaces such as the seashore or a meadow or a country stream. These records are not only beautifully recorded and produced, but their creator, Irv Teibel, also heard a potential in these sounds that Orpheus would recognize. He thought his records could bring people together to go on mental trips, enhance sex, and commune with nature. These are the same kinds of sounds that are marketed today in a very utilitarian and isolating way: you use these sounds to relax alone, fall asleep, or be more productive at work or in your studies. But Teibel heard them as a sonic force of countercultural communalism and resistance to the alienation of modern life. And people agreed with him: his sounds were played on independent radio stations, in “encounter groups” like est, and in the offices of psychotherapists. Sadly, this communitarian usage of orphic media fell away, and today the marketing revolves around an efficiency-enhancing sleep/work binary, as well as individual escape from an anxiety-causing world.

How do you see orphic media evolving in the present moment? What do you think are the implications for our lives in the future?

Through the miniaturization of computer technology, orphic media are becoming increasingly powerful and refined. Augmented reality had been assumed by many to be a visual phenomenon, as exemplified by Google Glass; but arguably more progress is being made in the sonic domain, as in-ear “hearables” allow one to access the internet via voice assistants and block out sound via noise-cancellation. The dream of many developers seems to be the complete customization of hearing, so that, for example, you can simply eliminate specific sounds that you hate while still hearing others. Perhaps in the future, no one will ever hear a crying baby on a plane again! We’ve also seen the weaponization of orphic media—specialized earplugs that offer soldiers a combination of enhanced hearing and protection from gunfire and explosions. I think the implications of these technologies is that they encourage those with enough wealth and power to treat the sonic world like a database of content to selectively access and manipulate. But the history of control also tells us that there can never be enough it, that the more we customize our world, the more sensitized and in need of control we become. And if we do manage to silence the world, we’ll be stuck listening to the noise of our own tinnitus. Noise never sleeps.

How do you hope Hush will change the way readers think about listening?

You know, John Cage used to say that when he heard a sound he didn’t like, he would listen to it more closely to find out why—and almost always, he would learn that there was no reason. Now, I’m not a complete social constructionist when it comes to noise. There are sounds that damage hearing and sounds that are bad for human health. However, a lot of the sounds we recoil from may deserve a second hearing. If we challenge the auditory defensive crouch we go into and challenge ourselves to breathe in the offending sound and really listen to it, we may find that a lot of our reaction is just a habitual reaction to difference. In fact, the sound might even be interesting and informative. I don’t begrudge anyone their noise-canceling headphones—and I myself use a white noise machine to sleep—but there’s value in noticing when and where and why we use these things—and in exploring what we habitually tune out. Who and what are we leaving unheard? Careful listening can reveal the societal at work in the personal, as well as tuning us into the music of life.

Read the introduction to Hush free online, and purchase the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E19HUSH.

Final Day of Our E-Book Sale



Today is the final day of our e-book sale. Through today all e-books on our content site are only $4.99. Tomorrow they will cost the same as the paperback price (usually between $25 and $30).

Hurry over to the site now and purchase as many e-books as you’d like at this special price! Please revisit our announcement of the sale for purchase instructions, or see our FAQs.

If you have problems or questions about your order, please contact our customer service team at orders@dukeupress.edu or 919-688-5134.

Mourning the Passing of Okwui Enwezor

The Nigerian Okwui Enwezor, the designated director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich. The picture shows him at his presentation, eight months before the start of service (01.10.2011).

Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of art critic and curator Okwui Enwezor, who co-edited our book Antinomies of Art and Culture and contributed to Other Cities, Other Worlds. He was also co-founder and co-editor of our journal Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art.

The first African-born director of the Venice Bienniale art exhibition and the first non-European curator of the Documenta art exhibition, Enwezor promoted through his works a more globalized world of contemporary art and art history. His chapter in Other Cities, Other Worlds, “Mega-exhibitions: The Antinomies of a Transnational Global Form,” begins,

“In the last few years a new figure of discourse, one that seeks to analyze the impact of global capitalism and media technology on contemporary culture, has asserted that the conditions of globalization produce new maps, orientations, cultural economies, institutional networks, identities, and social formations, the scale of which not only delimits the distance between here and there, between West and non-West, but also, by the depth of its penetration, embodies a new vision of global totality and a concept of modernity that dissolves the old paradigms of the nation-state and the ideology of the ‘center,’ each giving way to a dispersed regime of rules based on networks, circuits, flows, interconnections.”

Antinomies_of_Art_and_Culture_coverIn Antinomies of Art and Culture, Enwezor’s chapter, “The Postcolonial Constellation: Contemporary Art in a State of Permanent Transition,” considers that modern art occupies an intersection between imperial and postcolonial discourses. “Any critical interest in the exhibition systems of Modern or contemporary art requires us to refer to the foundational base of modern art history,” he writes. “Its roots in imperial discourse, on the one hand, and, on the other, the pressures that postcolonial discourse exerts on its narratives today.”

In 1994, Enwezor co-founded Nka, leading the journal as co-editor and writing the introduction of the first issue, now freely available here for one year. Nka publishes critical work that examines contemporary African and African Diaspora art within the modernist and postmodernist experience. Since its inception, it has contributed significantly to the intellectual dialogue on world art and the discourse on internationalism and multiculturalism in the arts.

Looking back on Enwezor’s work, Duke University Press Editorial Director Ken Wissoker reflects that they “literally redefined the field.”

“The phrase “another world is possible,’ is used to keep people hopeful, imagining that things could be different,” Wissoker continues. “In his too short life, Okwui Enwezor actually made another world possible. In exhibition after exhibition and book after book, he showed us all a different and more global art history, art present, and art future.”

We send our sympathy to Enwezor’s family, friends, and colleagues. Joining them in remembering such a prominent and revolutionary figure in the art world, we echo Wissoker’s sentiments:

“We have lost him far too young at 55. He had so much more to teach and show us. Brilliant and kind, he leaves the rest of us a lot to do in his wake.”

Q&A with Gökçe Günel, Author of Spaceship in the Desert

GOKCE_PORTREGökçe Günel is Assistant Professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona and the author of the new book Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi. In Spaceship in the Desert, Günel examines the development and construction of Masdar City, a zero-carbon city built by Abu Dhabi that houses a research institute for renewable energy which implemented a series of green technologies and infrastructures as a way to deal with climate change and prepare for a post-oil future.

How did this project start? What brought you to the Spaceship in the Desert?

I visited the United Arab Emirates for the first time in 2008, hoping to learn more about the planned city projects burgeoning in the region. But after the economic crisis of 2008, many of these projects were on the verge of collapse. Masdar City was an exception in that it continued to exist beyond the economic crisis. In addition to offering insights about large-scale real estate development projects, this zero-carbon city proposed innovative ways of imagining energy and climate futures. To gain access to the project, I contacted faculty members at Masdar Institute— the energy-focused research center that was set up inside Masdar City by MIT’s Technology and Development Program. Between January 2010 and June 2011, I conducted most of the fieldwork for Spaceship in the Desert, focusing on the design and construction of Masdar City, while interrogating how oil-rich economies, like the UAE, prepare for a time with less oil.

What is Masdar City and what are the “technical adjustments” that it and similar projects generate?

Masdar (meaning “source” in Arabic) is a multifaceted renewable energy and clean technology company sponsored by the Abu Dhabi government. It is most widely known for Masdar City, a futuristic eco-city that was designed by the London-based architecture office Foster + Partners to rely entirely on renewable energies. According to initial plans, Masdar City would house fifty thousand residents and forty thousand commuters on a 600-hectare area. Masdar Institute, the energy-focused research center that was set up and supervised by MIT’s Technology and Development Program, started offering graduate degrees inside the eco-city in September 2010.

However, the Masdar City master plan was soon cancelled, along with many other innovative projects taking place on the Masdar City grounds. Today Masdar City is more or less a special economic zone for renewable energy and clean technology companies.

While the eco-city was central to Masdar’s development, Masdar also invested in renewable energy through its other operations—Masdar Power, Masdar Carbon, and Masdar Capital—in an attempt to ensure Abu Dhabi will remain a significant player in the energy industry, well after its oil reserves run dry.

In the book, I propose the idea of “technical adjustments” as a way of thinking more holistically about the business models, design solutions and technological fixes, which address climate change and energy scarcity. Broadly speaking, I understand technical adjustments as imaginative and wide-ranging responses to global climate change and energy scarcity, which open up certain interventions (such as extending technological complexity) while foreclosing others (such as asking larger-scale moral, ethical, and political questions regarding how to live). While producing innovative and at times fun artifacts, technical adjustments obfuscate the simple realization that humans cannot continue to live and consume as they do.

The adjustments I observed at Masdar City involved market-oriented technical fixes—such as green buildings, research into renewable energy and clean technology, novel ways of imagining exchange, innovative designs for vehicles, and new global governance mechanisms—that promote a belief in the possibility of sustaining the status quo and even improving life for certain segments of society. The book’s chapters look into these projects in detail.

Yet it is important to keep in mind that these strategies are not unique to Masdar City – we see them all over the world. Electric cars, biodegradable plastic bags, and energy-efficient light bulbs provide the piecemeal means through which humans seek to extend their lifestyles into the future while tackling climate change and preserving the status quo. These adjustments guide living arrangements and shape social possibilities in technocratic, typically anthropocentric, ways, along lines drawn by affluent nations. The future becomes a thinly veiled version of the present.

You have focused several of your chapters around metaphors and metonymy that people at Masdar used to describe Masdar City: “a technocratic dictatorship,” “an expensive toy,” and “spaceship and the desert.” What do these concepts mean in your work and how did “spaceship in the desert” become the metaphor that represents your project as a whole?

Metaphors help people see things in new ways. By tracing the kinds of metaphors people used to describe Masdar, I was able to observe how the producers of Masdar made sense of their worlds. What were some of the qualities they noticed about the project, but did not explicitly put into words? Some of these descriptions were forms of criticism directed towards the project (such as “technocratic dictatorship” and “expensive toy”), while others (such as “spaceship in the desert”) perhaps constituted praise.

Spaceship in the Desert became the overarching metaphor for the book, because it encapsulates many aspects of Masdar City, and many aspects of climate change mitigation today. As I say in the book, the spaceship signifies enclosure, archiving, selection, hierarchy, movement, and—most importantly—the maintenance of strict boundaries between interior and exterior spaces. It promotes a technocratic and exclusive universalism, a kind of Noah’s ark that will help save a select few, and produces the outside as a vacuum that should not be inhabited. In this context, the desert becomes the ultimate empty space upon which new ideas can be imposed (though as we all know it is not empty). Many colonialist and settler colonialist projects have framed the desert as this blank or ruined space, which can be fixed with the help of technology and proper governance. And if you think about space movies, you will see that many of them employ desert terrains. Just yesterday, I was reading about how in the movie Star Wars: Episode IV— A New Hope, the Tunisian desert doubled as the landscape of a distant planet called Tatooine. In such spacefaring movies, characters often plot out scenarios that prioritize enclosure for some over collective survival. In this imagination of the future, what happens to those who are left outside the spaceship? By unpacking the metaphor of a spaceship in the desert, I show what kinds of perceptions this praise inheres and renders invisible. Broadly speaking, by thinking through the idea of spaceship in the desert, I’m trying to interrogate why, how and if humans have abandoned the possibility of collective survival at a time of climate change and energy scarcity.


Spaceship in the Desert contains many interesting moments of irony and contradiction. For example, in your introduction you mention that this book project on renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures is in large part built on ethnographic research conducted inside SUVs driving the highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. What is your favorite contradiction that emerged in the course of researching or writing this book?

When the Masdar City project was publicized, many thought it was ironic that an oil-rich state was venturing into renewable energy and clean technology initiatives. But for decision-makers in Abu Dhabi, this made sense. They were embedded in energy sector networks; all they had to do was to retool these networks to employ them for these new purposes. It wasn’t necessarily paradoxical. I’m sharing this, mainly because it was the original irony of the project, but for people in Abu Dhabi, it wasn’t a contradiction. I think this realization alone made me understand how renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures were ways of maintaining the status quo, especially for those who imagined the status quo as a best-case scenario. For some people, today is a utopia, which needs to be stretched further into the future with the help of technical adjustments.

You describe a focus on the future, rather than the present, in the technology, strategies, and appearance of Masdar City. What were the consequences of this focus for Masdar City?

Many of the people I met at Masdar City enjoyed contextualizing their projects in multiple scales at once – say, the immediate space of Masdar City in conjunction with the space of the planet or the universe. They went back and forth between these scales, and this spatial imagination also had temporal equivalents. They could talk about the future, which comprised an undefined stretch of time, the same way they talked about the universe.

But it wasn’t only the people at Masdar City who had this fascination with the future. Renewable energy and clean technology companies everywhere share this disposition. In one part of the book, I discuss how renewable energy and clean technology companies embody a messianic promise, seeking to liberate humanity from its guilt-ridden consciousness of the twentieth century. Perhaps the twentieth century was a time of decadent pleasures, but the future would be characterized by responsible consumption of resources (under the tutelage of these companies).

In this framework, the present mattered for its perpetual potential, prompting renewable energy and clean technology companies to refer to the abstract planetary-scale transformations they could one day trigger and implement. In the book, I explore how people at Masdar City experienced this potential. How exactly do people feel potential, and feel that they can rely and act upon technical adjustments to confront climate change and energy scarcity? How is potential negotiated, realized, limited, or changed? I demonstrate that switching scales and talking about the universe and the future are methods for ensuring such potentiality.

Did your views on climate change, and the strategies for addressing it, shift in the course of completing Spaceship in the Desert? In what way?

Yes, definitely. The project showed me how climate change requires humans to go beyond piecemeal solutions, such as the technical adjustments of Masdar City. These piecemeal solutions are crafted with the goal of ensuring economic growth. Given current climate change scenarios, we need to reevaluate these expectations, and imagine a future that does not prioritize growth. Humans need to drastically reduce their production and consumption, and think about altering the status quo, not preserving it.

What future do you see for renewable energy and green living projects based on your research? What lessons or reflections do you hope readers will draw from Spaceship in the Desert?

In some ways, I would like readers to have a sense of the wide-range of innovations that respond to energy scarcity and global climate change, such as building an eco-city, replacing national currencies with energy-based currencies, or implementing personal rapid transit. It is great to see so many smart people working on significant environmental issues, especially in a context that is not known for breakthroughs in science and technology. But at the same time, I would like readers to be aware that while these innovations are important, they are not necessarily solutions for the climate crisis. The only way human can mitigate that problem is by rethinking the main tenets of capitalism.

Pick up your paperback copy of Spaceship in the Desert for 30% off using coupon code E19GUNEL on our website.

Celebrating International Women’s Day


Today is International Women’s Day, a day to recognize the achievements of women globally. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter: building a more gender-balanced world. We’re excited to share recent books and journals from Duke University Press that align with this mission and celebrate women around the world and throughout history.

Black Feminism Reimagined

In Black Feminism Reimagined Jennifer C. Nash reframes black feminism’s engagement with intersectionality, contending that black feminists should let go of their possession and policing of the concept in order to better unleash black feminist theory’s visionary and world-making possibilities.

The contributors to Seeking Rights from the Left, edited by Elisabeth Jay Friedman, evaluate the impact of the Latin American “Pink Tide” of left-leaning governments (2000-2015) on feminist, women’s, and LGBT movements and issues.

Second World, Second SexKristen Ghodsee recuperates the lost history of feminist activism in Second World, Second Sex by showing how women from state socialist Bulgaria and socialist-leaning Zambia created networks and alliances that challenged American women’s leadership of the global women’s movement.

A Primer for Teaching Women, Gender, and Sexuality in World History by Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks and Urmi Engineer Willoughby is a guide for college and high school teachers who are teaching women, gender, and sexuality history for the first time, for experienced teachers who want to reinvigorate their courses, for those who are training future teachers to prepare their own syllabi, and for teachers who want to incorporate the subject into their world history classes.

The contributors to Spirit on the Move, edited by Judith Casselberry and Elizabeth A. Pritchard, examine Pentecostalism’s appeal to black women worldwide and the ways it provides them with a source of community, access to power, and way to challenge social inequalities. Spirit on the Move will be out in April.

Vexy ThingIn Vexy Thing Imani Perry recenters patriarchy to contemporary discussions of feminism through a social and literary analysis of cultural artifacts—ranging from nineteenth-century slavery court cases and historical vignettes to literature and contemporary art—from the Enlightenment to the present.

Drawing on numerous examples from popular culture, Sarah Banet-Weiser examines the relationship between popular feminism and popular misogyny in her book, Empowered, as it plays out in advertising, online and multi-media platforms, and nonprofit and commercial campaigns, showing how feminism is often met with a backlash of harassment, assault, and institutional neglect.

You may also be interested in these journals in feminist and women’s studies:

MER_17_2_coverimageMeridians, an interdisciplinary feminist journal, features scholarship and creative work by and about women of color in U.S. and international contexts. It engages the complexity of debates around feminism, race, and transnationalism in a dialogue across ethnic, national, and disciplinary boundaries.

differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies highlights interdisciplinary, theoretical debates that address the ways concepts and categories of difference—notably but not exclusively gender—operate within culture. It first appeared in 1989 at the moment of a critical encounter—a head-on collision, one might say—of theories of difference (primarily Continental) and the politics of diversity (primarily American).

MEW_15_1_coverimageThe Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies advances the fields of Middle East gender, sexuality, and women’s studies through the contributions of academics, artists, and activists from around the globe working in the interpretive social sciences and humanities.

Camera Obscura provides a forum for scholarship and debate on feminism, culture, and media studies. It explores areas such as the conjunctions of gender, race, class, and sexuality with audiovisual culture; new histories and theories of film, television, video, and digital media; and politically engaged approaches to a range of media practices.


Remembering Carolee Schneemann

We are sorry to learn of the death of feminist artist Carolee Schneemann, best known for her performance pieces Meat Joy and Interior Scroll. Several of our books feature or engage with Schneemann’s innovative and influential work.

978-0-8223-4511-4_prIn 2010 we published Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle, edited by Duke University Professor of Art Kristine Stiles. The book collects correspondence between Schneemann and those she called “her tribe,” including composer James Tenney, the filmmaker Stan Brakhage, the artist Dick Higgins, the dancer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer, the poet Clayton Eshleman, and the psychiatrist Joseph Berke.

Our 2000 book M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism features an interview with Schneemann by Aviva Rahmani. In the interview, about the censorship of her work, Shneemann says, “My work within erotic and political taboos has been fueled by the constraints of sexism, but my work has offended both men and women, and been defended by both women and men; my work has offended granting agencies and institutions, and been supported by granting agencies and institutions. I like the margins to slip on . . . the uncertainty. From the margins I’ve been free to attack, to sniff out the leaking repressions and denial of subordination.”

The 2007 collection Women’s Experimental Cinema contains an article by M.M. Serra and Kathryn Ramey entitled “Eye/Body: The Cinematic Paintings of Carolee Schneemann,” which begins with a quote from Schneemann: “I’m still a painter and I will always be in essence a painter. . . . Painting doesn’t have to mean that you’re holding a brush in your hand. It might or it might not. It might be a camera. It might be a microphone. It might be your own body that when you go inside the frame and when you adjust your focus you see that the materiality of what you’re working with might include yourself in a force
field.” The authors analyze Schneeman’s use of her own body in her art. They conclude, “Carolee Schneemann persistently enacts the ‘eye/body,’ the seeing, active artist agent and continues to make work that challenges convention and expands our understanding of what painting, performance, and film are or can be.”

Kristine Stiles says, “Carolee Schneemann’s legacy will remain vibrant in her consummately original work. It was a privilege to be her friend for some forty years, however tumultuous. I will miss our regular Sunday telephone calls, her brilliant mind, lively sense of humor, and intrepid devotion to art.”  We join Stiles in mourning this important artist.

Introducing Our New Website


We are excited to launch our new, completely redesigned website today. The improved site is the result of a huge amount of work by nearly everyone at the Press, and we hope you will find it easy to use.

Some of the new features on the site include:

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New Books in March

Spring brings a fresh crop of new books. Check out what’s new in March.

The Politics of Operations, edited by Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, investigates how capital reshapes its relation with politics, showing how contemporary capitalism operates through the extraction of mineral resources, data, and cultures; the logistical organization of relations between people, property, and objects; and the penetration of financialization into all realms of economic life.

Zorach cover with border low resIn Art for People’s Sake Rebecca Zorach traces the little-told story of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, showing how its artistic innovations, institution building, and community engagement helped the residents of Chicago’s South and West Sides respond to social, political, and economic marginalization.

Drawing on previously unexamined archives, the contributors to The Revolution from Within, edited by Michael Bustamante and Jessica Lambe, examine the Cuban Revolution from a Cuba-centric perspective by foregrounding the experience of everyday Cubans in analyses of topics ranging from agrarian reform and fashion to dance and the Mariel Boatlift.

978-1-4780-0380-9.jpgIn Hush Mack Hagood outlines how noise-cancelling headphones, tinnitus maskers, white noise machines, nature-sound mobile apps, and other forms of media give users the ability to create sonic safe spaces for themselves, showing how the desire to block certain sounds are informed by ideologies of race, gender, and class.

In Thought Crime Max Ward explores the Japanese state’s efforts to suppress political radicalism in the 1920s and 1930s through the enforcement of what it called thought crime, providing a window into understanding how modern states develop ideological apparatuses to subject their respective populations.

In Breaking Bad and Cinematic Television, Angelo Restivo uses the innovative show Breaking Bad as a point of departure for theorizing a new aesthetics of television in which the concept of the cinematic points to the ways in which television can change the ways viewers relate to and interact with the world.978-1-4780-0092-1.jpg

Examining the work of writers and artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, and Allan deSouza, in The Difference Aesthetics Makes Kandice Chuh advocates for what she calls “illiberal humanism” as a way to counter the Eurocentric liberal humanism that perpetuates structures of social inequality.

In Surrogate Humanity Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora trace the ways in which robots, artificial intelligence, and other technologies serve as surrogates for human workers within a labor system that is entrenched in and reinforces racial capitalism and patriarchy.

In The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery Alys Eve Weinbaum investigates the continuing resonances of Atlantic slavery in the cultures and politics of human reproduction that characterize contemporary capitalism, showing how black feminist thought offers the best means through which to understand the myriad ways slavery continues to haunt the present.

Eliza Steinbock’s Shimmering Images traces how cinema offers alternative ways to understand gender transitions through a specific aesthetics of change, thereby opening up new means to understand transgender ontologies and epistemologies.

978-1-4780-0091-4.jpgGökçe Günel’s Spaceship in the Desert examines the development and construction of Masdar City, a zero-carbon city built by Abu Dhabi that houses a research institute for renewable energy which implemented a series of green technologies and infrastructures as a way to deal with climate change and prepare for a post-oil future.

In Developments in Russian Politics 9 an international team of experts provide a comprehensive and critical discussion of the country’s most recent developments, offering substantive coverage of the key areas in domestic and foreign Russian politics, perfect for courses on Russia today.

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Author Events in March


Spring is finally on its way, so leave the house and go see one of our many authors on the road this month!

March 4: Duke Law School will host a discussion with Written in Stone author Sanford Levinson and Scott Huler on monuments and history.
4:00pm, 210 Science Dr, Room 3171, Durham, NC 27708

March 6: Surrogate Humanity coauthors Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora will present their book at University of California, Santa Cruz.
4:00pm, Engineering 2, Rm 599, 50 Heller Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95064

March 7: Bates College will host a talk with Vexy Thing author Imani Perry.
7:30pm, Olin Arts Center,75 Russell Street, Lewiston, ME 04240

March 7: Celebrate International Women’s Day and see Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora discuss their new book Surrogate Humanity at San Diego State University.
1:00pm, Women’s Studies Dept, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182

March 7: M Archive author Alexis Pauline Gumbs will give the Lee Scheingold Lecture in Poetry and Poetics at the University of Washington.
5:30pm, Walker Ames Room (Kane Hall), Red Square, Seattle, WA 98105

March 7: From the Tricontinental to the Global South author Anne Garland Mahler will lecture on Ohio State University.
2:30pm, 230 Annie & John Glenn Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210

March 11: The Hagop Kevorkian Center will host a book event for John Lindsay-Poland’s Plan Colombia.
12:00pm, NYU, 255 Sullivan St.New York, NY 10012

March 13: Thomas Grisaffi will have a book launch at University College London for his new book Coca Yes, Cocaine No.
5:00pm, Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PN UK

Is It Still Good to YaMarch 13: Robert Christgau’s Is It Still Good to Ya? is a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism and he will participate in a finalist reading at The New School.
6:30pm, The Auditorium, Room A106, 66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011

March 14: Now that the audience is assembled author David Grubbs will read from his book at The Lab  with an opening performance by John McEntire.
7:30pm, 2948 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

March 14: Sara Ahmed, author of Living a Feminist Life and the forthcoming book What’s the Use?, gives a public lecture at Erasmus University entitled Closing the Door: Complaint as Diversity Work.
3:30pm, Erasmus Paviljoen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

March 16: Kristen Hogan will talk and sign copies of her book The Feminist Bookstore Movement at L’Euguélionne.
4:00pm, 1426 Beaudry, Montreal, Quebec H2L 3E5

March 18: The University of Manchester will have Coca Yes, Cocaine No author Thomas Grisaffi to speak at their Social Anthropology Seminar.
4:00pm, 2nd Flr Boardroom – 2.016/017 Arthur Lewis Building, Manchester UK

March 18: Surrogate Humanity coauthors Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora will discuss their book at Cornell University.
4:30pm, A.D. White House, 27 East Ave, Ithaca, NY 14853

March 22: The Resource Center for Nonviolence has invited Plan Colombia author John Lindsay-Poland to give a talk on his book.
7:00pm, 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060

978-0-938989-42-4.jpgMarch 20: Guest curator Esther Gabara will give a talk with artists Rupert García and Minerva Cuevas at The Nasher Museum of Art on the exhibition “Pop América, 1965 – 1975.”
6:00pm, 2001 Campus Drive, Durham, NC 27708

March 23: Amy Laura Hall will appear at the Virginia Festival of the Book , discussing her book Laughing at the Devil.
4:00pm, UVa Central Grounds, 160 McCormick Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22904

March 26: Spaceship in the Desert author Gökçe Günel will participate in a panel at the Cities of Globalization conference at the University of Southern California.
10:30am, 3607 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

March 28: Counterproductive author Melissa Gregg will have a book event at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge.
6:00pm, 20 Cooper Sq, New York, NY 10003

E-Book Sale! All E-Books $4.99


We are excited to announce that we are launching e-book sales on our content site, read.dukeupress.edu. To celebrate, all e-books are only $4.99 until March 21, 2019.

To purchase a book, browse or search at our content site, choose your book, and click on the blue Buy This Book button. After you’ve added the book to your cart, you can continue shopping by clicking on Back to site.  Once you’ve selected all your e-books, please create an account if you do not already have one. Please note that if you have purchased print books or journal subscriptions from our dukeupress.edu e-commerce site, that is a different account and you will need to create a new one for our content site.

After you complete the check out process, you will receive an email containing a link to download a PDF of the book. The PDF is yours to keep and print if you’d like, but not to share with others or use for commercial purposes. If you lose the file, you can return to our site and download the book again. Please note that e-books are non-returnable.

If you don’t see the option to purchase an e-book, it’s likely because your institution’s library subscribes to our e-book collection. Books you have access to through your institution will feature a green check mark by the title. Download the chapters you want at no charge and thank your librarian for subscribing!

This special offer ends March 21, 2019. After that date, e-books will still be available for purchase on our content site but will cost the same as the paperback edition (usually between $24.95 and $29.95).

If you have problems or questions about your order, please contact our customer service team at orders@dukeupress.edu or 919-688-5134.

Hurry now and stock up on as many e-books as you’d like for only $4.99 each!