Smoking cigarettes in my one clean undershirt. This summer feels like a sermon on pride and speed and neon. We’re indistinct as stars or skateboarders blurry under streetlights. There’s a savant that can mimic creation, from birds in a sack to bullets the size of a boy’s hand. Truckers have jokes about the Department of Transportation we’ll never understand. Our ideals of authenticity and progress stalemate over the sushi place turned Waffle House. Some say it’s all about culture with a lowercase c, while others insist it’s what I do when no one’s looking that matters (e.g., bondage lit, lots of Sheryl Crow). The truck stop up ahead glitters like a mirage. We may never be in the same time zone long enough to compromise our feelings of this place. Its moments of familiarity as fleeting as an oldies station from a passing car, before it becomes another thing altogether. Girls’ night resurfaces, but only as some antinomian treat. The murals conceal their hobo aesthetics beneath layers of persimmon and mauve. It’s not enough to say we valued risk, that we were beautiful as hunters— the ones who said tombstones arch like lovers in a field, their spines thrust in the air, their backs black with crows.
We wish we could be meeting authors and readers in-person at the Association for American Geographers Annual Conference. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to offer a 40% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code AAG21 until May 31, 2021.
Check out the latest geography titles in our virtual catalog, below. And explore all of our books and journals in geography at dukeupress.edu. Since we cannot take photos of authors with their new books in our booth, this year, we instead offer an album of book selfies they have taken from home.
Executive Editor Courtney Berger has a welcome message for AAG attendees.
While I’ve been attending the AAG conference for quite a few years now, it was only in 2019 that the press set up a full book exhibit at the conference. And AAG-ers, you welcomed us with open arms. It was exciting to witness in person the enthusiasm for Duke’s books and the wide-ranging and interdisciplinary interests of the scholars who visited our booth. We haven’t been able to gather in person since then, but we still have plenty of new and important books for you to browse on our website. I’m especially excited about recent books from Katherine McKittrick, Louise Amoore, Rosemary-Claire Collard, Christopher Harker, Hagar Kotef, Candace Fujikane, and Thea Riofrancos. Katherine McKittrick’s book, Dear Science and Other Stories, kicks off the Errantries book series, edited by Simone Browne, Deborah Cowen, and Katherine McKittrick. Keep an eye on this series, which features “radical, interdisciplinary, and theoretically rigorous scholarship that explores geographies of race, anticolonial thought, and rebellious methodologies.” More groundbreaking and rebellious work is coming!
I hope that next year I will be seeing you all in person and showing off our new books in the booth. Until then, please feel free to contact me directly or you can submit a proposal to me through our online submissions portal.
If you were hoping to connect with Courtney Berger or one of our other editors about your book project at AAG, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our online submissions guidelines here.
On April 1, our dear colleague and friend David Southern, age 74, passed away peacefully at home. David had been an invaluable member of the Press since 1998, and he was passionate in his work as managing editor of the Carlyle Letters, a project that reflected his love of the written word. David grew up in North Carolina and was an accomplished local historian. His lifelong interest in poetry is reflected in years of correspondence with and publication of numerous poets, including those associated with the former Black Mountain College near Asheville. His obituary is available here. In today’s post, we share memories of David’s time at the Press.
“I—like many others at the Press—really cared about David. I had worked with him since 1999 and had some incredible conversations with him throughout the years. He was an intellectual decathlete–a person who knew more about more subjects than anyone I’ve probably ever met. He was incredibly kind, thoughtful, conscientious, funny, and humble. He’ll be deeply missed.
“In 2007, my daughters and I went on a hike with David. David talked to them about odology, different wildflowers and birds, colonial history, etc. It was like spending the afternoon with a very intellectual park ranger, but we never left Durham. My kids were like, ‘David knows something about everything.'” —Rob Dilworth, Journals Director
“David never wanted to be a bother or impose on anyone. To a fault. I often found myself in our check-ins caringly upbraiding him for being (what I felt was) too self-effacing and even nagged him on occasion like the Jewish mother I am. Speaking of which, he always remembered to wish me well on the Jewish holidays. He also always inquired about my kids. He was a mensch.
“Every status report he submitted read more like something I would want to pore over while drinking a glass of wine rather than something I would want to get through efficiently. That’s not to say they weren’t informative or pertinent to work; they were just also so imbued with the affable kind of character you yearn for in a narrative voice and so rich with historical digressions and juicy aside. I (half)joked several times in meetings with him that we should publish his status reports in their own right.
“He’d be so upset to know that he wasn’t able to see the publication of the final volume of the Carlyle Letters. And my tears come as I think of this especially. He always noted that he wanted to leave everything in good order, not to be a bother, impose. I would just tell him, as I tell him in my mind now, that he did so much and that all he had done was already enough. That he was always welcome to bother me more and didn’t have to apologize ever for imposing.” —Stacy Lavin, Senior Managing Editor
“I’m very saddened that we’ve lost David. When I first started at DUP I was fortunate to have an office space directly across from his. David was so kind and generous. I looked forward to seeing him every day in the “JEDIT loft” and always enjoyed talking with him, especially about history and baseball (and how our teams, Atlanta and Kansas City, were faring). I learned so much from David about the history of my new home city and state. I very much admired David and his remarkable erudition, wit, and genuineness. He will be greatly missed. I’m so sorry for his family and for everyone who cared so much for him.” —Ray Lambert, Senior Managing Editor
“The courtliness is real. I can’t count the number of times I was walking behind him in the halls of Brightleaf and he jogged back to open whatever door I was headed for. I fondly recall an evening at the Federal when I sat next to him and his friend at the bar, and David facilitated the entire conversation between us—feeding us tidbits of information about each other that he knew would provoke interest and connection, making sure we came to know and enjoy each other.” —Allison Belan, Director for Strategic Innovation and Services
“I was visiting Bennett Place in Durham with some visiting family and was surprised to hear David’s voice narrating the film at the visitor’s center. He was uncredited but admitted to me that it was indeed him, doing a favor for a friend. So typical. Always full of surprises.
“Upon seeing all the dictionaries in my office, he said I could have his 1934 Webster New International 2nd edition when ‘he was done with it.’ I just smiled thinking that was a long way off. Now I know returning to work will definitely not be the same.” —Charles Carson, Managing Editor
“I want to share a video that features David’s beautiful voice: a fundraising video for the Carlyle Letters that the marketing team created. David shared with me once that he’d been told that the Carlyle Letters would be considered one of the Press’s greatest contributions long after all of us were gone…in addition to the Carlyles, it captures correspondence with so many luminous minds of that time (Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Gaskell). No wonder David had such a passion for the project—he was always in good company. Like Stacy, I am so sorry that he won’t see the publication of the final volume.” —Jocelyn Dawson, Journals Marketing Manager
“David’s courtliness cannot be overstated. It showed in his manner with all of us, in his choice of words, even in his style of composing an email. Here’s one he sent last June to the DUP list in response to some insect photos I had circulated.
“The salutation is naturally a classic southern colloquialism (with a comma added in). But before that, the date. Besides the expressions David chose, I loved his way of dating emails, as if he were writing with a quill pen from the desk of. That habit was part whimsy but also, I think, part an act of resistance to technological constraints. David had to use email, as we all do, but he, immersed in Victorian correspondence, wanted it to be something more—a letter.” —Chris Mazzara, Assistant Managing Editor
“I had the honor to work with David on The Carlyle Letters as the liaison to the technological team at the University of South Carolina that develops and manages the Carlyle Letters Online. David was always courtly and generous in person and in his gracious emails; indeed, I wasn’t sure what I had done to merit such kind appreciation! I especially enjoyed when the academic editors would come to town and the four of us would go out for ‘tea,’ a charming euphemism. Our conversations ranged widely, and I began to realize that David had a wonderful knowledge of many things and had some sort of mysterious connection to everyone and everything. He seemed to magically combine all the best qualities of a scholar, a gentleman, and a hippie. With deep attention, expertise, and patience, he maintained the highest editorial standards on the Carlyle Letters; I am so sad for us and the project that he will not be the one to produce the last volume. We should have been saying all these things at his retirement party after publication of volume 50! I feel that we have lost something incalculable with his passing and that when this special and unique person went away from us, he took a whole world with him.” —Sylvia Miller, Senior Program Manager, Franklin Humanities Institute
“It is so sad to hear of the passing of David Southern. I’d had some interesting conversations with him over the years I’ve been at Duke University Press. I’d always tell him, you definitely have a radio voice (and I thought at least one of those movie announcing voices). I’d once discussed inquiring with him on some North Carolina history of Halifax, Warren, and Nash counties, and he told me, sure, anytime. Now, I sadly wish I’d added that time to my schedule. I’m sure I’d have gained a lot.
“In hearing the news of the loss of him I was stopped in my tracks. He always greeted me warmly in the hallways. Kindness can be rare these days and I truly appreciated his kindness. I will continue to remember him as a quiet, gentle soul. To the man of The Carlyle Letters, you will be missed. Rest in peace, David. And know on a Friday afternoon, we stopped the Press for a moment in your honor.” —Sonya Johnson, IT Project Manager
“I am so honored to have known David. Even with all of his knowledge and accomplishments, he was always so unassuming, welcoming, encouraging, and kind. He taught me what a Japanese apricot was. Once, when I passed him straightening the rug in the Brightleaf hallway, he said he just liked to keep it neat—that is the kind of careful, generous person he was. He will be greatly missed.” —Sadye Teiser, Managing Editor
“Shortly after I began working at DUP, our annual meeting theme was on Press history. We were able to benefit from David’s incredible history of DUP. He graciously met with us to provide information and even accompanied our Front Desk Coordinator, Jennifer Tyska, to Duke Archives for research. My initial impression of David being an incredibly intelligent and kind man never changed from that first interaction. He was a true gentleman and will be greatly missed.” —Bonnie Conner, HR Director
We wish we could be meeting authors and readers in-person at the Association for Asian American Studies Annual Conference. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to offer a 40% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code AAAS21 until May 31, 2021.
Explore all of our books and journals in Asian American studies at dukeupress.edu. And don’t forget to check out our official booth in the AAAS exhibit hall.Since we cannot take photos of authors with their new books in our booth, this year, we instead offer an album of book selfies they have taken from home.
In response to recent acts of violence against Asian Americans stemming from a long history of anti-Asian sentiment in the United States, we are offering a syllabus to contextualize the experiences of Asian and Pacific Americans. The articles, issues, and books in our Asian/Pacific American Cultures and Histories Syllabus discuss not only complex histories and contemporary experiences of racism and imperialism, but also community formation, solidarity between marginalized groups, and worldmaking possibilities. All journal articles and issues listed are free to read until August 31, 2021, and the introduction to each book is free. Start reading here.
Executive Editor Courtney Berger has a welcome message for AAAS attendees.
Greetings, AAAS-ers. The past few weeks have been tough, in the wake of the Atlanta murders and ongoing violence against Asian and Asian American people in the U.S. I’ve been especially grateful to hear the voices of so many AAAS members speaking out against anti-Asian violence and drawing attention to the colonial, racial, and sexual histories that have informed this moment. I stand in solidarity with the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities and with efforts to dismantle racial oppression in all its forms.
I am also looking forward to gathering with you this week to celebrate our amazing (and award-winning) new books and to find out what exciting new projects people have in the works. A special congratulations to this year’s AAAS book award winners and honorable mentions, including Jian Neo Chen, Kandice Chuh, Keith Camacho, Maile Arvin, David Eng, and Shinhee Han. I will be attending the Exhibitor Meet & Greet event tonight and will be at panels throughout the conference. Please feel free to contact me if you have a project you would like to discuss, or you can send me a proposal through our online submission portal.
Registered AAAS attendees can join Courtney Berger and Ken Wissoker for a casual Meet & Greet as part of the Pre-Conference events tonight, Wednesday, April 7, 6:00pm-7:00pm EST. For more details and information on how to attend, check your your pre-conference update email.
If you were hoping to connect with Courtney Berger, Ken Wissoker, or one of our other editors about your book project at AAAS, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our online submissions guidelines here.
Since April is National Poetry Month in the US, it is our tradition to offer a poem each week of the month to celebrate our poetry collection. Today’s poem is from Rafael Campo’s 2018 collection Comfort Measures Only. As more and more people get vaccinated and the deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 decline, we celebrate the beauty and power of science. Check back here each Tuesday in April to read a featured poem.
On the Beauty of Science
A colleague at my hospital has won a major prize, for seminal research into the role of lipid bodies in the eosinophil. How I once loved the eosinophil, its nucleus contorted, cytoplasm flecked with red. Of course, I wondered at its function, why it self-destructed on encountering some allergen or parasitic egg, how it killed by dying. Now we know so much that joy in the mysterious seems quaint. Its valentine to us undone by thought, the blushing eosinophil explained: embarrassed by its smallness, or enraged that all its selflessness should be betrayed.
Rafael Campo teaches and practices medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and is author of several books, including Alternative Medicine, The Enemy, and Landscape with Human Figure, all also published by Duke University Press, and The Desire to Heal: A Doctor’s Education in Empathy, Identity, and Poetry.
In this blog post we want to explain the originality and relevance of the idea of ‘viral culture’, which we explore in the special issue of Cultural Politics devoted to the idea. However, before we talk about originality, it is important to note that it is possible to find precursors to what we are calling ‘viral culture’ in the work of a number of writers who understood what was happening with processes of globalisation and informationalisation from the 1960s onwards. It is important to acknowledge their influence upon our theory of ‘viral culture’ because in a sense what we have done is picked up the debates they started and explored them in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In looking for these influences we might track back as far as the 1960s and think about Jacques Derrida’s early work. In his early works, such as Of Grammatology, Derrida was interested in the informationalisation of biology through the discovery of DNA and communication processes filtered through computers that translated meaningful language into mathematical symbols. In his view this transformed everything, what he spoke about in terms of ‘the living’, into a kind of text that was endlessly on the move and fundamentally unfinished and unfinishable. In much the same way that one never finishes writing, Derrida saw that reproduction is endless and really represents the transmission or communication of DNA code to a new generation through sexual contact. This final point about sexual contact and the combination of DNA in the formation of a new person or animal was very important for Derrida because it represented communication and the emergence of new life, new meaning, and new possibilities. As the new is born, so the old must die out. This is why in his later works he writes about auto-immunity, which really means maintaining openness to the other through opposition to processes immunity that seek to shut down communication.
Now, of course, the problem we are facing today in the world of Covid-19 is that auto-immunity has become a serious problem. We need immunity and cannot afford the immune system to attack itself or become confused, which is precisely what happens in the case of the ‘cytokline storm’ that seems to be a major cause of death in cases of Covid-19. In straightforward terms what this means is that a lack of immunity and an excess of openness to otherness has now become a serious threat. The virus itself is clear evidence of this problem. Unlike complex organisms that reproduce through sexual contact, the virus simply replicates, and in this respect represents the strange form of life Freud wrote about in his famous essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which was coincidentally written in the teeth of the Spanish flu epidemic that killed his daughter Sophie one hundred years ago in 1920. While complex organisms, humans and animals, live, reproduce, and die, the virus represents endless life that simply repeats itself and therefore never dies. It does not need otherness. Having said that, the catch is that the virus needs a host to replicate, which is precisely why we need immunity to save ourselves from infection.
If this concern for immunity is what is missing from Derrida’s work, precisely because he is always looking to defend the principle of difference and communication, another French writer Jean Baudrillard clearly understood the problem of virulence in his book, The Transparency of Evil, translated into English in 1993. For Baudrillard, the Derridean universe of difference and communication, a universe of intertextuality, is a universe of virulence and contagion. In other words, Baudrillard saw that we cannot live in a world of globalised communication and information exchange without tipping over into excess and the production of what he calls evil and we might talk about in terms of diseases such as Covid-19 that represent the dark side of what happens when processes of globalisation enter a kind of terminal phase. What we mean by this idea of ‘a terminal phase’ is that everything that once represented communication and freedom, such as long-distance travel and meeting people from distant places, now threatens our very existence and causes us to look for ways to immunise ourselves from the outside. We know all about the forms this tendency to immunisation takes today—vaccine nationalism, the closure of borders, endless testing, masks, and interminable lockdowns—and we can learn more about the long-range impacts of this shift to suspicion of the other when we read Michel Foucault’s works, such as Madness and Civilization, which contains a discussion of ‘the great confinement’ and the emergence of disciplinary attitudes towards difference.
This is the tradition of thought that our concept of ‘viral culture’ draws upon in the context of the current global pandemic. ‘Viral culture’ represents the situation we find ourselves in somewhere between Derrida’s concern to recognise difference and accept the other and Baudrillard’s understanding of virulence and the emergence of a globalisation of evil symptoms that infect every aspect of life, which is precisely what we seek to address in our collection.
While the biological impact of the pandemic is clear because we are all susceptible to disease, Covid-19 has also transformed the political sphere that is now caught between a defence of liberal values and harsh authoritarian measures designed to protect us from the other. The same problem impacts economy and economics. The choice is between liberalisation and a model of state centralisation that now looks increasingly realistic. Similarly, the social world is torn between sociability and a need to maintain distance and sever the connection between self and other with the result that many fall into loneliness and suffer related mental health issues. Finally, the cultural sphere, the place where meaning itself is negotiated, is, we think, the privileged space where these decisions are thought through, worked out, and negotiated. Now we must recognise that every one of these decisions is political, and it is a mistake, as Bernard-Henri Levy notes, to simply let techno-science tell us that they are only about biological health, because we cannot remain immune, immunised, from the other for ever more. This is why this issue of Cultural Politics is not simply about Covid-19 in a narrow sense, but rather ‘viral culture’ and the range of problems that living under Covid has forced us to have to confront. In this respect the originality of our collection resides in the way we explore the cultural politics, and the politics of meaning, around the Covid pandemic from a range of perspectives making use of a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives. What, then, is the wider relevance of the concept of ‘viral culture’ for understanding the contemporary moment?
Thomas Aiello is Associate Professor of History at Valdosta State University and the author of many books, including Jim Crow’s Last Stand and The Grapevine of the Black South. His new book is The Life and Times of Louis Lomax: The Art of Deliberate Disunity, which traces the complicated and fascinating life of pioneering journalist, television host, bestselling author, and important yet overlooked civil rights figure Louis Lomax, who became one of the most influential voices of the civil rights movement despite his past as an ex-con, serial liar, and publicity-seeking provocateur.
David L. Chappell has called your book a “thrilling adventure story,” in addition to a “great intellectual biography.” How do you merge these two genres? That is, how do you work to craft a biography that is stylistically enjoyable for the reader?
It certainly helps to have a subject who lived an interesting life. Louis Lomax was a public intellectual, but also a media personality hungry for fame, a criminal, a crusading advocate for civil rights, and someone who lied consistently about his past. His life was itself an adventure, making telling an enjoyable story about it far easier. It is rare that a public intellectual like Lomax would become involved in the kinds of pursuits in which he was engaged. The most interesting part of his story is not evaluating his ideas, though the book certainly does that, but in figuring out why he thought what he thought and did what he did. It is ultimately that “why” question that combines the adventure story with the intellectual biography. Lomax’s thought and his strategy for relaying it to the public was shaped by his experience of growing up in the Jim Crow South, of lying about his college career, of his conviction for car theft and fraud, of his hustling journalism efforts, and of his desire for the limelight. Melding those stories with the ideas such experiences created is what merges the genres and makes the story enjoyable.
Why has Lomax been left out of the civil rights narrative of the 1960s? What are the stakes of incorporating him into that narrative?
Lomax has largely been given short shrift in discussions of civil rights because most of the era’s well-known figures staked out a position and defended it in the public sphere. Lomax’s position, however, was in a constant state of flux, making it difficult to pin down where he stood on various issues at various times without a full-length study like this one. Also, he was never part of a specific rights organization. He was a media personality that sometimes worked behind the scenes to help various causes and at other times worked to publicize them through his writing and his television and radio program.
When he does appear in civil rights narratives, then, he does so tangentially, because without a full understanding of his life, his influence, and his changing positions, it is difficult for most civil rights historians to pin down exactly where he fits. Hopefully this book can change that. Hopefully it demonstrates how important Lomax was to the trajectory of the movement. The stakes of that addition are significant because civil rights groups, whether the Nation of Islam, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or any other group in between them on the ideological spectrum, could have no substantial influence without the media. Lomax’s access to public platforms gave him the ability to publicize messages he cared about, to give louder voice to those he deemed worthy. In the process, he served as a (sometimes unreliable) gatekeeper for the messages of civil rights advocacy. Both as a thinker who helped develop the messages presented by advocates and as a vehicle to popularize those messages, Lomax was vital to the development of civil rights in the 1960s.
Can you summarize “the art of deliberate disunity,” as Lomax preached it? What might it have to offer our current political moment?
“The art of deliberate disunity” is a phrase coined by Lomax in a 1963 speech. He made the case that “only through diversity of opinion can we establish the basic prerequisite for the democratic process.” He criticized the idea that all civil rights victories were made equal, and that there was one right answer to the problem of Black equality in the United States. He saw as healthy the differences of opinion between, for example, his friends Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Such disputes spurred innovation, which only benefited the movement writ large. If civil rights advocates only thought in a bifurcated way about “what we think” and about “what white people think,” the diversity of Black thought would get reduced to a lowest common denominator. By cultivating good faith debates among Black leaders, the art of deliberate disunity better respected the variety of Black opinions and demonstrated a version of democracy among a group seeking democracy from those in power. If we force everyone into a monolithic way of thinking, he argued, we are no better than white leaders.
It is an idea that does potentially have something to offer our current political moment, wherein warring factions are divided into separate camps, never the twain shall meet. Lomax, were he still around, would argue that the bigotry of the right and the push for ideological orthodoxy on the left create similar problems. The modern civil rights movement, Lomax would argue, needs to foster more internal debates about strategy and about goals. Such is not a weakness, but a democratic benefit that serves as a driver of creative growth.
In your account, Lomax has made a lasting impact both in terms of his contributions to Black journalism and his resistance against global colonialism. How exactly have these two projects benefitted from his influence, and how could they continue to benefit from readers’ increased knowledge of his life?
Lomax was able to move his journalism from his early work with the Black press to a more mainstream profile, publishing with white newspapers and publishers, becoming the first Black host of a news/talk television program, and developing a series of radio shows. His influence in that realm is vital, as so many mainstream journalists, television and radio hosts all benefit from his pioneering work. His success on The Louis Lomax Show, for example, was the country’s first demonstration that a news/talk program hosted by a Black man could be financially viable, removing that potential stigma and opening up that space to more journalists of color.
A similar claim could be made about his anticolonialism advocacy. While Lomax was in no way the first leader to argue against Western hegemony on the global stage, his popular comparisons between colonialism abroad and civil rights abuses at home brought such concerns to a popular audience. Much commentary in that regard came from the far Left, from voices that mainstream (and predominantly white) audiences never heard. But Lomax’s voice was able to make that case to a wider audience. Many others made similar arguments in the years after Lomax’s death, and of course colonialism has not disappeared, but Lomax’s advocacy was the first mainstream comparison of foreign colonialism and domestic racism and among the first public expressions of concern about the tumultuous situations in Africa and Thailand, places often forgotten by American audiences obsessed with Vietnam.
Lomax, as you describe him, is a complicated figure. He was a trailblazing newsman with a sharp political mind; at the same time, he loved to be the center of media attention, and was accused of womanizing and spousal abuse. Is there a Lomax figure living today who matches this combination of laudable attributes and personal flaws?
There is certainly no one today with the same basic profile as Lomax. The background check process would simply eliminate him from consideration for those kinds of jobs. There are, however, many with profiles that retain elements of Lomax’s trailblazing career. The Breakfast Club, for example, have been able to maintain a popular, mainstream radio program that relates news and serves as a hub of racial advocacy. Charlamagne tha God, Angela Yee, and DJ Envy have been able to find a space in the media landscape where they are both media reporters and media creators, chroniclers of advocacy and advocates themselves. On the other side of the political spectrum, pseudo-journalists like Geraldo Rivera, Sean Hannity, or Rush Limbaugh have used entertainment platforms to help guide policy and governing theory for their own side, usually in the cause of the very bigotry that people like Lomax sought to eliminate. Then there are broadcasters like Brian Williams, who was caught lying about a variety of stories, but has been able to make a comeback and continue his career despite that scandal. These are approximations, of course. Lomax’s profile simply could not exist today. His infidelity is probably still very common among news reporters and political theorists, but spousal abuse, lying about academic credentials, and his largely hidden prison record are not the kinds of things that could be covered in modern society.
Religion seems to have played a significant role in Lomax’s life and work. He was the son of a Christian preacher, a friend of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam and accused by some of antisemitism. What can we learn from this confluence of religious affiliation and political movements?
Lomax saw religion as a means to an end. His upbringing was one of strict religious zeal, raised by preachers in the deepest of the Deep South. But his stories about his childhood emphasize religion’s value to people’s lives rather than its inherent truth. The same could be said about his feelings toward the Nation of Islam. He saw the group’s power not in its religious principles but in its political messaging. The religion itself was simply a vehicle for its larger aims, and when that religion got in the way, as when Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad had a falling out, it was ultimately expendable. His supposed antisemitism, too, was less the result of any disagreement with Judaic thinking or belief. It was instead rooted in politics, a concern about the role of high finance in the plight of Black impoverishment. Thus it was that religion was invariably important to Lomax. It was always present in his life. He himself experimented with preaching for a time after he moved to Washington, DC. At the same time, however, religion was a pragmatic presence, there to be marshalled when necessary to make various arguments and influence the proper people.
That confluence of religious affiliation and political movements is also common today. While there are several leaders today whose faith is at the heart of their activism (Reverend William Barber seems to be the most high-profile example), the vast majority of people use their opinions about religion to justify their political beliefs, not the other way around. Lomax wasn’t necessarily allowing his politics to direct his faith, but he was using that faith to selectively influence those to whom he wanted to speak. And he supported that strategy in others like the Nation of Islam.
Check out the great new titles we have coming out in April!
In Right Here, Right Now, Lynden Harris collects the powerful first-person stories of dozens of men who are living on death row in the United States, offering a glimpse into the lives of some of the most marginalized people in America. Watch the trailer.
Rafico Ruiz uses the Grenfell Mission in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, to theorize how settler colonialism establishes itself through the building, maintenance, and mediation of site-specific infrastructure in Slow Disturbance.
Analyzing a range of Chicano/a and Native American novels, films, short stories and other cultural artifacts from the eighteenth century to the present, Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita in Spatial and Discursive Violence in the US Southwest examine literary representations of settler colonial land enclosure and dispossession in the US Southwest.
Hentyle Yapp analyzes contemporary Chinese art as it circulates on the global art market to outline the limitations of the predominant narratives that currently frame understandings of non-Western art in Minor China. Join an online book launch for Minor China on April 15.
We are excited to be bringing out two new volumes in the Stuart Hall: Selected Writings series. Selected Writings on Marxism, edited by Gregor McLennan, collects Stuart Hall’s key writings on Marxism surveys the formative questions central to his interpretations of and investments in Marxist theory and practice.
And in Selected Writings on Race and Difference, Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Paul Gilroy gather more than twenty essays by Stuart Hall that highlight his extensive and groundbreaking engagement with race, representation, identity, difference, and diaspora.
The contributors to Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging, edited by Leerom Medovoi and Elizabeth Bentley, examine how the new political worlds that are emerging—from Trump’s America to the post-Arab-Spring Middle East—intersect with locally specific articulations of religion and secularism.
Todne Thomas explores the internal dynamics of community life among black evangelicals and the ways they create spiritual relationships through the practice of Kincraft—the construction of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, partners in prayer, and spiritual mothers, fathers, and children.
Edited and translated by Ilinca Iurascu, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, and Michael Wutz, Operation Valhalla collects eighteen texts by German media theorist Friedrich Kittler on the close connections between war and media technology.
Annmarie Mol reassess notions of human being and becoming by thinking through the activity of eating, showing how eating is a lively practice bound up with our identities, actions, politics, and senses of belonging in the world in Eating in Theory.
Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu examines the legacies of the Vietnam War on contemporary ideas about race and beauty, in Experiments in Skin, showing how US wartime efforts to alleviate the environmental and chemical risks to soldiers’ skin has impacted how contemporary Vietnamese women use pharmaceutical cosmetics to repair the damage from the war’s lingering toxicity.
Rinaldo Walcott posits that Black people globally live in the time of emancipation and that emancipation is definitely not freedom in The Long Emancipation, showing that wherever Black people have been emancipated from slavery and colonization, a potential freedom became thwarted.
Drawing on Black feminism, Afro-pessimism, and critical race theory, the contributors to Antiblackness, Moon-Kie Jung and João H. Costa-Vargas,trace the forms of antiblackness across time and space, showing how the dehumanization of Black people has been foundational to the establishment of modernity.
Thomas Aiello traces the complicated and fascinating life of pioneering journalist, television host, bestselling author, and important yet overlooked civil rights figure in The Life and Times of Louis Lomax. Lomax became one of the most influential voices of the civil rights movement despite his past as an ex-con, serial liar, and publicity-seeking provocateur.
You can catch our authors and editors at virtual events all around the world this month. Be sure to note the local time zone for all events. Follow us on Twitter for news about events as they are scheduled.
April 1, 6 pm CET: Kaiama Glover, author of A Regarded Self, joins Elsa Dorlin and Alessandra Benedicty for a discussion about her book, sponsored by the Research Center for Material Culture at the National Museum of Worldcultures.
April 7, 6 pm EDT: Registered attendees of the Asian American Studies Association virtual conference can join our editors Ken Wissoker and Courtney Berger for a meet and greet. Check your email for the Zoom link.
April 9, 1 pm EDT: Join editors Sushmita Chatterjee and Banu Subramaniam along with some contributors for a virtual book launch for the new collection Meat!, sponsored by the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Women & Gender.
April 15, 5:30 pm EDT: NYU Tisch School of the Arts hosts a book launch and roundtable for Hentyle Yapp, author of Minor China. The roundtable will feature Mel Chen, Jasbir Puar, and Petrus Liu in conversation with the author.
April 29, 5 pm GMT: University College London’s Institute of the Americas sponsors a book launch for The Surrendered by José Carlos Agüero, featuring editors Charles Walker and Michael Lazzara along with Vicki Bell.
Global maritime traffic, stilled for a year due to a pandemic that hobbled the world economy, was taking baby steps back, when it toppled like a toddler, and hit the corner of the world’s coffee table, the Suez Canal. One of the biggest ships ever built is wedged in that narrow waterway. The Great Suez SNAFU is upon us.
Fifty ships a day, many of them among the largest on the planet, transit the 120-mile ditch through the desert daily. The shortcut, dug in 1869, saves tankers full of Mideast oil and Chinese widgets and whatnots from having to pitch and roll 12,500 miles around the often-hopeless Cape of Good Hope.
The good ship Evergreen Ever Given, one of the ten most capacious container ships afloat, is the pride of the Taiwanese merchant fleet, launched less than two years ago. It is capable of carrying 20,124 “containers,” those metal boxes one sees going by on semis on the highway and on trains at RR crossings. The biggest container ship ever, brand new, can handle 24,000.
The Ever Given is about a quarter mile long. A healthy person walking at a brisk pace would take five full minutes to go from stem to stern. It will be interesting to learn exactly how the captain managed to go aground sideways, blocking that crucial maritime chokepoint.
Already, 150 vessels have queued up due to the SNAFU. But no one knows how to pry Ever Given loose. It’s stuck like Pooh Bear; it needs to get unfatter!
That will involve unburdening it of some of those 20,000 containers in a spot with no infrastructure to do so. It will require creative thinking to accomplish that. If it is botched, the ship will capsize. Then what?
At the same time, the cruise industry is trying to baby-step its way back to its pre-COVID-19 vigor. Most of the fleet has been anchored, with skeleton crews, in Manila Bay, for a year.
But COVID-19’s multivalent “variants”—mutations—known by their apparent place of origin—the UK, South Africa, Brazil—bedevil the industry’s effort to innovate its way out of the crisis. Two bastions of cruising, Great Britain and Italy, have had to batten their public health hatches yet again, threatening any hoped-for cruise ship resurgence this summer.
Eric Paul Roorda is editor of The Ocean Reader: History, Culture, Politics and Professor of History at Bellarmine University. A recent review in World History Connected called The Ocean Reader “a wonderful supplement for a global or maritime history course or an interdisciplinary course that explores the Ocean on its own terms.”