Cabin Fever: Trapped Onboard the Last Ships at Sea: A Guest Post by Eric Paul Roorda

Near the end of his own stormy passage through life, Mark Twain began an untitled story that he never finished. Its setting was an endless voyage on a sea teeming with terrors, such as the “spider-squid,” which surfaced to snatch the captain’s little boy from the deck of the ship. As it turns out, the vessel is microscopic, plowing through an ocean-like drop of liquid on a slide, under a microscope. The sea monsters that menace it are such miniscule horrors as bacteria and viruses.

Today, a version of that nightmare has come to life onboard ships—containerships, oil tankers, cruise ships—among crew members and passengers alike, who find themselves virtually imprisoned.

Merchant ships continue to circulate around the globe, maintaining the tenuous international supply lines. From one port of call to another, cranes unload thousands of truck-sized boxes full of products from containerships, and pumps fill-up and empty-out tankers, but the mariners working on those ships are not permitted to disembark. The March 26 New York Times cited a single example: an oil tanker manned by eight sailors, plying from China to Singapore to Sri Lanka, due to go on to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with each destination having in common a prohibition against anyone coming ashore.

That means that workers on merchant ships, even those who have fulfilled their contractual terms of labor, are forced to continue doing their duty indefinitely. An estimated 150,000 individuals, mainly from the Philippines, China, India, Indonesia, Ukraine and Russia, find themselves in a nether-region of un-free employment. They have no options other than to toil on, seven days a week, for monthly pay ranging from $400 to $1,000 for ordinary seamen. Officers make more, up to $10,000 per month, but they have the same chance of going home as the greenest oil wiper: zero.

How long can that last? The situation resembles the customary abuse of maritime labor that prevailed in the 19th century, which the Supreme Court approved in its 1897 ruling in Robertson v. Baldwin, known as the Arago decision, after the name of a ship from which four sailors deserted due to brutal treatment. In that case, the justices found that the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, did not apply to mariners! This form of legalized exploitation of workers endured until the Merchant Marine Act of 1915, which afforded American sailors some basic protections. But many countries have never promulgated such a measure, leaving their seagoing citizens prey to conditions of pseudo-slavery, in particular in the outlaw world of commercial fishing in international waters.

Now, the international community is collectively shrugging and acquiescing to this backward leap in workers’ rights. Global demand for the goods the ships deliver outweighs the world’s regard for the people who deliver them.

Cruise ships have had to return to port and stay put, but there are stragglers still out there. One of them has become a disaster zone—Holland America Line’s Zaandam. The ship inexplicably left for a cruise from Argentina to Chile on March 7, more than a month after Princess Line’s Diamond Princess imported COVID-19 to Yokohama, Japan, and at the same time the Grand Princess was bobbing about fifty miles off the Golden Gate, trying to deal with an outbreak of the disease. The Zaandam left Buenos Aires just the day before the State Department’s tardy warning against such herding onto artificial islands (which cruise ships are). It got as far as the Strait of Magellan, where those among the 1,243 guests who were ambulatory went ashore to see the faded grandeur of Punta Arenas, while most of the 586 crew members cleaned their rooms, prepared their food, and maintained the manifold operations of the ship. That was their last port of call. That was March 14. The cruise was supposed to end on March 21.

Since then, Zaandam has made its way up the west coast of South America, from one potential refuge to another, denied entry to all of them, while the deadly novel coronavirus has spread throughout the ship, without discrimination, from roomy penthouses to kennel-like crew quarters. Zaandam reached the Panama Canal with four corpses in a walk-in refrigerator. Another 138 people had reported feeling sick—53 paying “guests” and 85 employees. Two of them had tested positive for the coronavirus in the brief interim since test kits arrived on the ship.

After an initial delay, Zaandam gained permission to transit the isthmian passage, but now has been denied entry into any port in Florida.

Holland America Line is a cruise industry cliché—it caters to the most elderly segment of the market. It is the Geriatric American Line. Anyone a few years short of qualifying for Medicare will feel like a young whipper-snapper on a HAL cruise.

HAL’s Zaandam is a huge ark of wealthy, vulnerable elderly, and relatively penniless, vulnerable servants.

Micky Arison is the Chairman of Carnival Corporation, which his father founded and ran for decades, before expatriating himself, along with his vast, virtually untaxed wealth. Carnival includes a dozen brands, including Princess and HAL.

Micky Arison failed to bring his fleets to port before the inevitable nightmare scenario came to pass—that COVID-19 would hijack a cruise ship like a legion of invisible pirates. While that was happening, Arison offered the idled vessels of Carnival Corp. to the federal government, for use as hospitals—charging a rental fee to cover costs. The president has praised Arison’s proposal as a patriotic, selfless gesture.

In truth, the audacity of Arison’s gambit to salvage revenue at this moment of crisis defies description, if not divine judgment.

In the meantime, Holland America Line’s Zaandam has reached Miami, with nine people onboard having tested positive for COVID, and another 200 showing symptoms, and those four corpses still onboard, maybe in the freezer by now. The Carnival Corp. COO has called Florida its “port of last resort.” At this writing, Governor Ron DeSantis is denying Zaandam’s bid to find shelter in this viral storm. In the interim, the chorus of coughing along its narrow corridors grows louder, coming from behind more and more closed doors, with every passing hour…

Eric Paul Roorda is the editor of The Ocean Reader: History, Culture, Politics. He is a Professor of History at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he specializes in the diplomatic and naval history of  the Caribbean Sea. During the summer, he directs the Munson Institute graduate program in Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. He regularly lectures on cruises on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager. He is the author of The Dictator Next Door and co-editor of The Dominican Republic Reader, both also published by Duke University Press.

 Read the introduction to The Ocean Reader free online and save 50% on all in-stock titles during our special sale using the coupon code SPRING50.

The Politics of the Opioid Epidemic

The Politics of the Opioid Epidemic,” the newest issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, edited by Susan L. Moffitt and Eric M. Patashnik, is freely available for three months. Read the full issue here.

In this special issue, leading political scientists from diverse theoretical traditions provide new insights into the enduring features of American policy and practice that have influenced state-level and national responses to the ongoing opioid crisis.

Key among these features is the persistent power of race in shaping public opinion of the opioid crisis, influencing the development of punitive and treatment-oriented legislation, and impacting media portrayal of opioids and the communities they affect.

Other factors include the development of the conservative welfare state and the challenges of delivering information and services to affected communities through existing, dysfunctional systems.

Courtney Berger on the Canceled SCMS Conference

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Our editors look forward to meeting their authors at conferences every year and are sad to be missing out on that this spring. The annual meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies would have taken place April 1-5 in Denver this year. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new books at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to extend a 50% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues through May 1. In addition, if you spend $100 or more, we are offering free shipping to U.S. addresses. Journal subscriptions and society memberships don’t qualify for the 50% discount, but they do count toward the $100 threshold.

CBerger_webInstead of greeting Executive Editor Courtney Berger in person this year, check out her recommendations for new titles in the discipline and a great round up of other ways to learn about all the new scholarship that was to be presented at the conference.

Hello, SCMSers. I’m sorry that I won’t see you all in person this year. In the past couple of months, we have published an amazing range of new books in film & media studies. I was looking forward to showing them off at the conference.  I hope you’ll go to our website to see the new and forthcoming titles and take advantage of the 50% off sale. (I know, I know. It’s not the same as being able to browse books at the exhibit hall, but it’s the best we’ve got right now.) You can learn Her Storiesabout the centrality of the soap opera to the history of American tv production in Elana Levine’s Her Stories, experience the film culture of mid-20th century Paris with Eric Smoodin in Paris in the Dark, or find out about the environmental publics that emerge in India around radiant technologies like cell-phone towers in Rahul Mukherjee’s Radiant Infrastructures.

There were some exciting panels this year that I was hoping to attend that highlight some emerging areas on Duke’s media studies list. Several panels on environment and media feature work related to the new Elements series, edited by Nicole Starosielski and Stacy Alaimo. Some of these panels will be happening in virtual form during the week, so check them out if Wild Blue Mediayou can. Melody Jue’s Wild Blue Media is the latest book in the series. Jue submerges key concepts of media—such as storage and transmission—under water, asking us to reconsider conventional notions of media environment. It’s a must read for folks in media studies, in my opinion.

Also, here’s a heads up about an upcoming book series on gaming and game culture called “Power Play” that will be edited by Jen Malkowski and TreaAndrea Russworm. It’s brand new, so no books yet; but keep your eyes open for new books in this area. And if you are into queer gaming culture, check out Bonnie Ruberg’s volume The Queer Games Avant-Garde, which features interviews with 22 queer video game developers and designers.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to Eliza Steinbock, whose book Shimmering Images won this year’s SCMS Best First Book Award. Congratulations, Eliza!

Take care, everyone, and I look forward to seeing you next year.

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

We’re also excited to welcome liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies to our publishing program next spring. And don’t forget to check out our great new journal issues in film and media studies, including “On Chantal Akerman” from Camera Obscura, “Contemporary German and Austrian Cinema” from New German Critique, “Scenes of Suffering” from Theater, and “Multimodal Media” from Poetics Today.

Once again, we’re sorry to miss you in person but hope the 50% discount with free U.S. shipping on orders over $100 will make it possible for you to pick up some new books and journal issues. Use coupon SPRING50 at checkout and see the fine print on the sale here.

New Books in April

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Curling up on the couch with a great book is an excellent way to practice social distancing this month. All these titles will deliver before our sale ends on May 1, so check our website regularly. You can save 50% on all in-stock titles with coupon SPRING50

Tyler Bickford traces the dramatic rise of the “tween” pop music industry in Tween Pop, showing how it marshaled childishness as a key element in legitimizing children’s participation in public culture.

The contributors to Playing for Keeps examine the ways in which musical improvisation can serve as a way to negotiate violence, trauma, systemic inequality, and the aftermaths of war and colonialism. This volume is edited by Daniel Fischlin and Eric Porter.

John F. Szwed’s Space is the Place is the definitive biography of Sun Ra—composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, entrepreneur, poet, self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, and a founder of Afrofuturism. We are pleased to be bringing this classic back into print with a new preface.

In Vital Decomposition, Kristina M. Lyons presents an ethnography of human-soil relations in which she follows state soil scientists and peasant farmers in Colombia’s Putumayo region, showing how their relationship with soil is key to caring for the forest and growing non-illicit crops in the face of violence, militarism, and environmental destruction.

Micha Rahder explores how multiple ways of knowing the forest of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve shape conservation practice, local livelihoods, and landscapes in An Ecology of Knowledges.

In Relations, Marilyn Strathern provides a critical account of anthropology’s key concept of relation and its usage and significance in the English-speaking world, showing how its evolving use over the last three centuries reflects changing thinking about knowledge-making and kin-making.

In Virtual Pedophilia, Gillian Harkins traces the genealogy of the transformation of cultural construction of the pedophile as a social outcast into the image of normative white masculinity from the 1980s to the present, showing how his “normalcy” makes him hard to identify and stop.

In A People’s History of Detroit, Mark Jay and Philip Conklin use a Marxist framework to tell a sweeping story of Detroit from 1913 to the present, outlining the complex socio-political dynamics underlying major events in Detroit’s past, from the rise of Fordism and the formation of labor unions to deindustrialization and the city’s recent bankruptcy.

In Revolution and Disenchantment, Fadi A. Bardawil explores the hopes for and disenchantments with Marxism-Leninism in the writings and actions of revolutionary intellectuals within the 1960s Arab New Left.

In Tehrangeles Dreaming, Farzaneh Hemmasi draws on ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles and musical and textual analysis to examine how the pop music, music videos, and television made by Iranian expatriates express modes of Iranianness not possible in Iran.

The Lonely Letters is an epistolary blackqueer critique of the normative world in which Ashon T. Crawley meditates on the interrelation of blackqueer life, sounds of the black church, theology, mysticism, and the potential for platonic and erotic connection in a world that conspires against blackqueer life.

Drawing on Whitman and Adorno, Morton Schoolman proposes aesthetic education through film as a way to redress the political violence inflicted on difference society constructs as its racialized, gendered, Semitic, and sexualized other in A Democratic Enlightenment.

In Kwaito Bodies, Xavier Livermon examines the cultural politics of the youthful black body in South Africa through the performance, representation, and consumption of Kwaito—a style of electronic dance music that emerged following the end of apartheid.

Reflecting on the experience, philosophy, and practice of Latin American indigenous and Afro-descendant activist-intellectuals who mobilize to defend their territories from large-scale extraction, Arturo Escobar shows in Pluriversal Politics how the key to addressing planetary crises is the creation of the pluriverse—a world of many epistemological and ontological worlds.

The contributors to AIDS and the Distribution of Crises outline the myriad ways that the AIDS pandemic exists within a network of varied historical, overlapping, and ongoing crises borne of global capitalism and colonial, racialized, and gendered violence. This collection is edited by Jih-Fei Cheng, Alexandra Juhasz, and Nishant Shahani. It is currently available to read free online as part of our Navigating the Threat of Pandemic syllabus.

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

Virtual and Canceled Events for Spring

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On the first of most months, we enjoy bringing you a list of authors who are out in the world doing readings and talks about their books. Unfortunately, this spring the global COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to in-person book events. We are pleased to share two online events by recent authors and we also invite you to support our authors whose events this spring have been cancelled by checking out interviews and reviews of their books and perhaps purchasing them at 50% off during our Spring Sale.

978-1-4780-0813-2Online Events:

April 2: Home Rule author Nandita Sharma will have a book talk hosted by Another Story Bookshop.
7:00pm, WATCH HERE

April 8: Greenlight Bookstore will host a webinar with The Voice in the Headphones author David Grubbs in-conversation with Josiah McElheny. David promises he will send a chatty, or perhaps even gossipy postcard from his personal collection to anyone who purchases the book from Greenlight.
7:30pm, REGISTER HERE

 

The following authors were supposed to have events this spring. Please check out their books and consider purchasing them from us, using 50% of coupon SPRING50 or from your favorite bookstore.

Cristian Alarcón, Dance for Me When I Die
Fadi A. Bardawil, Revolution and Disenchantment
Matt Brim, Poor Queer Studies. Read an interview with Matt Brim.
Miguel Díaz-Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey, Fencing in Democracy
Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Dub. Listen to an interview with Alexis Pauline Gumbs on WUNC’s The State of Things.
Melody Jue, Wild Blue Media. Listen to an interview with Melody Jue on the Ideas on Fire podcast.
Elena Levine, Her Stories. Read an interview with Elana Levine in Jezebel.
Margaret Randall, I Never Left Home. Read an interview with Margaret Randall in Poetry Magazine.
Christina Sharpe, In the WakeRead about why our Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker considers In the Wake the most important book he acquired in the past decade.

Open-access journal liquid blackness to join Duke University Press

We are excited to announce that liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies, an open-access journal, will join Duke University Press’s publishing program in Spring 2021.

liquid blackness seeks to carve out a place for aesthetic theory and the most radical agenda of Black Studies to come together in productive ways, with a double goal: to fully attend to the aesthetic work of blackness and to the political work of form. In this way, the journal strives to develop innovative approaches to address points of convergence between the exigencies of black life and the many slippery ways in which blackness is encountered in contemporary sonic and visual culture.

Yanique Norman, Fatherlessness 1 (2010). Photo by Mike Jensen

liquid blackness was founded in 2014 at Georgia State University by faculty member Alessandra Raengo and members of the liquid blackness research group: doctoral students Lauren McLeod Cramer, Cameron Kunzelman, and Kristin Juarez. Raengo and Cramer are the journal’s editors.

The journal showcases a variety of scholarly modes, including audio-visual work, poetry, and essays. It aims to fully explore who can do theory (scholars, artists, activists…), how theory can be done (in image, writing, archiving, curating, social activism…), and what a Black aesthetic object is (“high”/“low” art, sound and image, practice and praxis, the work of individual artists and ensembles…).

We look forward to welcoming liquid blackness beginning with its Spring 2021 special issue, “Liquidity.” Learn more about the journal.

Care in Uncertain Times Syllabus

As we collectively deal with the implications of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and a global pandemic, questions of care and self-care have become ever more important.

Free to read online through June 30, the books, journal issues, and articles in our new Care in Uncertain Times Syllabus investigate different ways that care can bind together individuals and communities where larger institutions or governments fail to intervene. They show how radical care is essential to enduring precarity and to laying the groundwork for new futures.

Start reading here.

Now Available Open Access: Hispanic American Historical Review, 1918–1999

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We are glad to announce that all 20th-century volumes (1918–1999) of the Hispanic American Historical Review have been digitized and are now available open access.

Start reading here.

We are proud to offer this open-access resource, especially during a challenging time when many scholars are accessing resources remotely. This long run of issues allows for students and researchers alike to trace the development of key themes in Latin American historiography across time.

Founded in 1918, HAHR pioneered the study of Latin American history and culture in the United States. Today, HAHR publishes rigorous scholarship on every facet of Latin American history and culture. It is edited by Martha Few, Zachary Morgan, Matthew Restall, and Amara Solari.

“[HAHR] has been central now for a hundred years in helping establish the field and really point to the absolute best scholarship within Latin American history,” said Gisela Fosado, editorial director at Duke University Press and member of the HAHR Board of Editors. “It’s always going to be pushing the field, defining the field, bringing out a really wide range of voices.”

Free Duke University Press resources via Project MUSE

In response to current challenges scholars face as a result of COVID-19, Duke University Press is opening archival content for around 20 of our journals hosted on Project MUSE.

Around five years of back content (1999 to 2004) are freely available through June 30, 2020, for select titles. We are also opening all available content for East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal.

Titles included are:

“As so many institutions transition to online instruction, we hope that these additional resources will be useful,” said Kimberly Steinle, Library Relations and Sales Manager.

Read more about the additional support Duke University Press is offering to scholars and libraries at this time. A complete list of publishers offering free resources on MUSE is available here.

The Plague, A Guest Post by Amy Laura Hall

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Amy Laura Hall is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke University Divinity School. She is the author of Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich.

I am writing from Texas. It is Lent, and I am surrounded by Christmas decorations that need to be sorted. My mom, the amazing Carol Hall, teacher of generations of West Texas teens, had her heart cut open and her brain rudely interrupted as the great plague of 2020 began. She suffered a heart-attack and stroke the last week of January.

My dad, the amazing Reverend Robert Hall, has been married to my mom for more decades than I’ve been alive. I do not understand them. Their love confuses me. They have developed a means of communicating that I imagine as a geriatric version of the cant that twins are rumored to have. I’ve been intruding on them regularly since the crisis. Today, I just wanted to go to the grocery store.

Cedar Park, Texas was a small town a half hour from Austin. Now it is Nordstrom Rack, Hobby Lobby, local barbecue, old-timers remembering before Lakeline Mall, and multi-generational families speaking another language. We all exist outside AUSTIN, TEXAS, travel destination of the stars. South by Southwest, now an international phenomenon, was cancelled this year, due to the plague of 2020, and people who were already working three jobs for a living are driving through Cedar Park trying to figure out how to make ends meet. And everyone is converging on their H.E.B.

If you are reading this from North Carolina, H.E.B. is the Piggly Wiggly of Texas. People are loyal to their local H.E.B., and, even if there are other spots to shop, I swear that Cedar Park people are going there for a sense of normalcy. Maybe that is projection. I have shopped there almost daily every visit. Back in North Carolina, I carry H.E.B. reusable shopping bags from each season as if they were Prada.

My mother’s car has a radio function that allows me to shift from the 1940s to the 1980s. I’ve been doing the Charleston to the Hustle between stop lights. Two refrains have stuck in my head. “The things we do for love.” And “Freak Out!”

Laughing at the Devil

I have rarely walked in the rain or the snow, but “the things we do for love” makes for good prayer. When dealing with depends and diapers and tampons and anything else that is “down there,” including all the dog poop I pick up when I am home with mutts, I sing, to myself, “The things we do for love . . .” Here in Cedar Park, this week, looking at all the people standing in line around the corner at the H.E.B., because the store management is doing their best, I thought, yes. The things we do for love.

Yesterday, facing the line around the corner, I gave up and went to buy barbecue at a place that shares the parking lot and has the name Moe. (I am afraid I will get the name wrong, but I recommend everything they serve.) I promised my dad I would not come within 4 feet of anyone. A man about my dad’s age saw me trying gently to avoid him and said “Don’t worry! I don’t have it!” No worries! I am also trying not to scare anyone by my mere presence! Then, over the radio, “Freak Out!”

The barbecue spot is small, and less than a dozen people were there. But we decided, awkwardly – from old Cedar Park and tattooed new Cedar Park, and with at least a few couples venturing to the Hill Country – that “Freak Out” could be a theme song for the great plague of 2020. At least a few of us danced. Mr. Moe, who I have never caught off-guard, cracked a smile.

Here is what I know for sure. It is Lent. I am trying to remember how to eat, not to fast. The birds in Cedar Park are singing their hearts out. The plague of 2020 reminds me that we matter, each of us. Every sparrow. Every mockingbird. Every grackle. Everyone. Each one of us matters. Call me what you will. I am clear that God’s omniamity (yes, I coined that word) does not fit within a primary or an election year or a nation. And . . . and, Julian of Norwich saw all of this. She was a visionary during what is indisputably known as the Great Plague. She lived through proclamations of God’s wrath. She saw people declared as mere peasants rise up together bravely. They were mowed down like mice. I have not forgotten. I will continue to see.

Save 50% on Amy Laura Hall’s Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich and all in-stock titles during our special sale using the coupon code SPRING50.