Author: Jessica Malitoris

New Books in May

Jump-start your summer reading with one of our new titles this May!

In Coral Empire Ann Elias traces the history of two explorers whose photographs and films of tropical reefs in the 1920s cast corals and the sea as an unexplored territory to be exploited in ways that tied the tropics and reefs to colonialism, racism, and the human domination of nature.

The contributors to Remaking New Orleans, edited by Thomas Jessen Adams and Matt Sakakeeny, challenge the uncritical acceptance of New Orleans-as-exceptional narratives, showing how they flatten the diversity, experience, and culture of the city’s residents and obscure other possible understandings.

The ChasersRenato Rosaldo’s new prose poetry collection, The Chasers, shares his experiences and those of his group of twelve Mexican-American Tucson High School friends known as the Chasers as they grew up, graduated, and fell out of touch, conveying the realities of Chicano life on the borderlands from the 1950s to the present.

In Queering Black Atlantic Religions Roberto Strongman examines three Afro-diasporic religions—Hatian Vodou, Cuban Lucumí/Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé—to demonstrate how the commingling of humans and the divine during trance possession produce subjectivities whose genders are unconstrained by biological sex.

Written in 1937, published in Spanish in 1973, and appearing here in English for the first time, Freddy Prestol Castillo’s novel You Can Cross the Massacre on Foot is one of the few accounts of the 1937 massacre of tens of thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.

Book Reports

In Book Reports, a generous collection of book reviews and literary essays, rock critic Robert Christgau shows readers a different side to his esteemed career with reviews of books ranging from musical autobiographies, criticism, and histories to novels, literary memoirs, and cultural theory.

The contributors to From Russia with Code, edited by Mario Biagioli and Vincent Antonin Lépinay, examine Russian computer scientists, programmers, and hackers in and outside of Russia within the context of new international labor markets and the economic, technological, and political changes in post-Soviet Russia.

In Camp TV Quinlan Miller reframes American television history by tracing a camp aesthetic and the common appearance of trans queer gender characters in both iconic and lesser known sitcoms throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The coauthors of Decolonizing Ethnography integrate ethnography with activist work in a New Jersey center for undocumented workers, showing how anthropology can function as a vehicle for activism and as a tool for marginalized people to theorize their own experiences.

In Work! Elspeth H. Brown traces modeling’s history from the advent of photographic modeling in the early twentieth century to the rise of the supermodel in the 1980s, showing how it is both the quintessential occupation of a modern consumer economy and a practice that has been shaped by queer sensibilities.

In Figures of Time Toni Pape examines contemporary television that often presents a conflict-laden conclusion first before relaying the events that led up to that inevitable ending, showing how this narrative structure attunes audiences to the fear-based political doctrine of preemption—a logic that justifies preemptive action to nullify a perceived future threat.

In Anti-Japan Leo T. S. Ching traces the complex dynamics that shape persisting negative attitudes toward Japan throughout East Asia, showing how anti-Japanism stems from the failed efforts at decolonization and reconciliation, the U.S. military presence, and shifting geopolitical and economic conditions in the region.

The Cuba Reader

Tracking Cuban history from 1492 to the present, this revised and expanded second edition of The Cuba Reader presents myriad perspectives on Cuba’s history, culture, and politics, including a new section that explores the changes and continuities in Cuba since Fidel Castro stepped down from power in 2006.

The Fernando Coronil Reader, a posthumously published collection of anthropologist Fernando Coronil’s most important work, highlights his deep concern with the global South, Latin American state formation, theories of nature, empire and postcolonialism, and anthrohistory as an intellectual and ethical approach.

The extensively updated and revised third edition of the bestselling Social Medicine Reader (Volume I and Volume II) provides a survey of the challenging issues facing today’s health care providers, patients, and caregivers with writings by scholars in medicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. It will be a great addition to courses in public health, medicine, nursing, and more.

Catherine Waldby traces how the history of the valuing of human oocytes—the reproductive cells specific to women—intersects with the biological and social life of women in her new book The Oocyte Economy.

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.

Out to Sea: A Guest Post by Hester Blum

IMG_5866.JPGHester Blum, Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, reflects on detritus, ocean-bound ephemera, and being swept out to sea by a rogue wave. Her new book, The News at the Ends of the Earth, examines the rich, offbeat collection of printed ephemera created by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century polar explorers as they wrestled with questions of time, space, and community.

I was swept to sea by a rogue wave the day after I first held a copy of my new book. Both incidents were unexpected.

I was in California for an event on women and the polar regions, speaking along with a poet/polar naturalist, an artist/deep sea researcher, and a full-time polar explorer. I didn’t expect to receive copies of my new book for another couple of weeks. As my talk slides were being loaded in the auditorium on UC Davis’s Polar Day I saw with surprise that a university bookstore representative was setting up stacks of my book next to the poet’s and the explorer’s latest volumes. The copies had been shipped directly from the printer—the press did not even have their own copies yet, the bookstore rep told me. I was beside myself with delight and surprise, and asked the explorer take a picture of me hoisting it, smiling so broadly my eyes crinkled nearly shut.

The News at the Ends of the Earth: The Print Culture of Polar Exploration studies the newspapers and other printed ephemera that polar-voyaging sailors produced in environmental extremity, in oceanic circulation, at the margins of the terraqueous world. All of my academic writing and a good portion of my day-to-day thinking is about the ocean, even though I am no sailor. After the polar event I unexpectedly found myself with free time, and rented a car to drive to the Sonoma coast north of Marin County. What better way, I thought, to reflect on the years the polar book had taken me to research and write than to commune with the sea and the nonhuman world on a rocky coast. I took my binoculars (I am new to birding, with the zeal of the convert) and a change of clothes in case it rained on me.

I drove out of the flat, rectilinear agriscape of the Central Valley and through electric green hills topped with tors and resembling the English moors. When I reached Highway 1, the storied California coastal road, I stopped for a lunch of fries and oysters, briny and bracing. After Bodega Bay the highway hits the sea, and I saw breakers for the first time on the drive. I planned to spend the day driving slowly north, stopping at beaches along the way to look at birds, walk, possibly write a little, maybe even see seals. I stopped first at North Salmon Creek Beach to try to spot the snowy plovers that nest on the beach. I took off my sneakers at the bottom of the steps leading down from the parking lot on the cliff, and tucked them behind some driftwood on dry sand.

IMG_5913.jpegThe Sonoma State Beaches are rocky and variable. The estuary at the mouth of Salmon Creek was alternately calm and afroth. Down the beach, visitors had built driftwood structures on wider spits of sand. Where the coastal cliffs jutted farther out the sand was only a few feet wide. My head was down, beachcoming above the waterline, when an unseen tidal surge drenched my leggings, which I didn’t want to get wet. Eyes on the water, I told myself, you know better than to turn your back on the sea. I picked up a palm-sized bit of driftwood, shaped marvelously like a sand dune in its ridges, whorls, and shifting peaks.

IMG_0022.JPGThe surf was rough, insistent, foaming. I walked back toward the estuary and the parking lot so I could continue my drive up the coast—I’d only really just begun, and could see that farther north the rocks and surf were even larger and more dramatic. At the base of the stairs to the lot, near where I had stashed my sneakers, I stopped to look at the birds settling on the estuary’s sand banks. There were a number of different kinds of gulls, and I wasn’t sure if I was observing the snowy plover as well. I walked a few feet down the beach, amid more rocks, and stood with my binoculars to my eyes, a dorsal turn away from the sea, on a stretch of sand well above the waterline.

Without warning the sea was suddenly up to my thighs, my waist, my chest. Later a man told me that he was screaming at me to look out, but I did not hear him. I struggled to keep my feet but the water churned and rose and was soon well over my head, maybe ten feet high, carrying me away down the beach and smashing into the rocks at a terrible pace. I tried to keep feet first, not let my head tip forward. Again and again I hit jagged rocks, no smooth edges of erosion, no driftwood softness. The water roiled with debris, brown and dirty and filled with wood and oceanic detritus. It carried me down the beach and started pulling me into the mouth of Salmon Creek. Only later did I realize how lucky it was to be pulled in (even if against rocks) rather than out, as by a riptide. I swallowed sand and kept clutching for the binoculars that were harnessed to my back. After what felt like a very long time I was able to touch the bottom again, even though the sea kept me from getting a foothold. I could see a number of men scrambling down the cliffside toward me, waving their arms.

I staggered out of the water, finally, as the surge started to recede. I was 50, maybe 100 yards down the beach from where I had stood. Three men met me and held me up, kept asking if I was okay. “That was so stupid, that was so stupid, that was so scary, I should know better” I kept repeating at them. I was embarrassed to have been swept away. “Can you walk?” one asked me and I looked down and saw that my feet were lacerated and bleeding from a number of places. Yes, I could walk. I felt numb, no pain. I felt for my pockets, made sure my keys were still there. I moved toward where I had left my sneakers and did not see them. My ears were packed with sand. I could not open a passage. Where were my shoes? One shoe was down the beach against the cliff face. No sign of the other. I sat on a log, then stood. I spotted my other sneaker hooked on a piece of driftwood. I wanted to get off the beach before another surge found me.

I started a slow, dripping pace up the railroad tie steps. People just arriving looked at me with concern. A man at the top of the steps offered me water to rinse my cuts and I told him that I had some. He said he was a surfer and had been watching the water to see if it was too rough to go out—that the waves were 10 to 16 feet that day, and that the surge when the outer waves met the estuary was very unpredictable. He was the one that had screamed out to me when the rogue wave came in. Later I read that the spot is known for attracting distant groundswells and for its “meaty beachbreak.”

I wanted to get to the car and put on the dry jeans and t-shirt I had brought. I was astonished by the amount of sand on me, in my clothes. The wave that swept me away must have consisted of more sand than water. It was as if I had poured buckets full of wet sand down my shirt, my pants. I stripped to the skin standing in the parking lot. I couldn’t get the sand off. I shuffled into my pants and rolled them high above my battered feet. I still didn’t feel the cuts or the bruises already purpling my ankles and toes. I poured water on my cuts and drove barefoot to a convenience store to get first aid supplies. I hobbled across a parking lot of sharp gravel without my shoes. Looking down at the blood I was treading on the store floor, a woman told me to go to the fire department and see a paramedic. At the fire department I was confused and instead of ringing the bell I used the emergency call box, which called 911 and routed me to the dispatcher. I had a hard time explaining that I was standing outside a fire department and just wanted to be let in.

My phone was dead, of course, cracked and flush with salt and sand. It is very hard to be in a strange place without a smartphone. I thought about driving straight back to Davis, over two hours away. I was compelled instead to go a little farther up Highway 1 to find a café or a place to sit and recover. Ten miles north of the beach that beached me I saw hundreds of baby harbor seals on a long spit of black sand, rolling and slapping and raising their heads and tails while lying sideways, as if they were gray-speckled croissants. The surf rolled over them without incident. I watched the seals for a while through my binoculars, now blurry impossible to adjust, its moving parts packed with sand. I then drove back toward Davis, navigating blind, until I hit a familiar highway.


The book I newly held in my hand the day before being taken up by the sea is about ephemera, detritus, the forms of communicative media that polar explorers created for their own amusement and in order to document the inner lives of their expeditions. These materials, which I call polar ecomedia, also document the inner life of climate extremity. Polar ecomedia includes comic shipboard newspapers, playbills, and mock-formal menus, printed and passed around by fellow shipmates trapped in the ice of Arctic and Antarctic winters. These bits of expeditionary social media haven’t registered within popular histories of polar exploration in part because of their transitory nature—they are rare, fragmentary, satirical. Polar sailors used them as ways to pass and mark time and entertain themselves. And as I argue in The News at the Ends of the Earth, polar ecomedia also are means to reckon with the ephemerality of human life in climate extremity.

Polar exploration is no joke, whether in the nineteenth century or today. Arctic travel is scarcely more safe now than in Sir John Franklin’s time. I know this, and not just from my research on the new book—an Arctic expedition I’m slated to join in July has been postponed two summers in a row for reasons that echo historic expeditionary challenges. (Last year’s ship ran aground in the Gulf of Boothia; you may have also read the news recently about a Norwegian cruise ship that had to be evacuated in stormy seas.) And the ocean, above all, is no joke—I know this too. How could I have washed out so easily? I thought vaguely that this was a punishment for the luxury of a day all to myself on the coast. Or the inevitable letdown after the rush of seeing my book in print and spending the afternoon with ego-ideal polar women.

image1.jpegMy phone is now trash, although I still have the piece of driftwood I picked up in Sonoma, seaside detritus. It was only a few days after a windstorm in central Pennsylvania (where I live) had brought a very large branch down in our backyard. The branch fell perpendicularly to the ground, and the force of its impact drove a six-foot length of wood into the yard, erect as a hurled lightning bolt. My husband wanted to cut it up with the other downed branches for firewood, but I asked him to leave it in place, embedded, as a plinth. Itself storm detritus, the branch lance spared our family, safely inside as it fell.

Not until the next day, writing this, did I realize I had lost my hat to the sea, an orange hat with a whale on it. It was from Channel Islands National Park, where I had traveled last year—for research, alone, to commune with the sea, and to think and write about “female Robinson Crusoes,” women who are castaway.

Save 30% on Hester Blum’s The News at the Ends of the Earth with coupon code E19BLUM.

 

Q&A with Beth C. Caldwell, Author of Deported Americans

Beth Caldwell PhotoBeth C. Caldwell is Professor of Legal Analysis, Writing, and Skills at Southwestern Law School and was formerly an attorney in the Los Angeles County Office of the Public Defender. Caldwell’s experiences as a public defender led her to her new book, Deported Americans, in which she tells the story of dozens of immigrants who were deported from the United States—the only country they have ever known—to Mexico, tracking the harmful consequences of deportation for those on both sides of the border.

Who are the deported Americans about whom you write? What are the most common problems they face that result in their deportation?

I use the term deported Americans primarily to refer to people who migrated to the United States when they were children (often at a very young age), who have now been deported. These are people who were primarily socialized in the United States, who grew up attending American schools, and who are more comfortable speaking English than Spanish. They’re not U.S. citizens, but they identify as Americans culturally, and others perceive them as Americans too.

The term is also broad enough to encompass U.S. citizen family members of people who have been deported—particularly the children and spouses of deportees. Although not technically deported under the law, they often feel like they too have been deported because the only option to keep their families together is to leave the United States.

Both groups refer to their experiences as “banishment” or “exile” from their homes, and they experience a range of problems that are not surprising if you imagine how it would feel to be uprooted from all that is familiar to you—from your home, your career, your family and friends. This can trigger a sense of hopelessness that can fuel mental health issues, most often depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and thoughts of suicide. It can also push some to turn to drugs to numb their pain. Family relationships often erode in the years following deportation, which contributes to these problems.

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In Mexico, deported Americans are stigmatized and are not accepted by the dominant culture. They report feeling marginalized by their American accents and ties to the United States. This can trigger profound questions about one’s identity because people feel a sense of double rejection, by both the United States and Mexico.

You mention in your introduction that you did not set out deliberately to write this book, but rather stumbled upon it through your work and informal conversations with deported people living in Mexico. Can you speak more to how these experiences and relationships shaped your approach?

Since I didn’t deliberately set out to research this issue, I didn’t set out with any preconceived notions or expectations as a researcher who is testing a hypothesis might do. Instead, the project was shaped by listening to people and, in some cases, by observing people’s day-to-day interactions as they adjusted to the reality of being deported. Common themes emerged in people’s narratives. When I would speak with people in the U.S. about what I was hearing, people were often surprised. And I realized that it was important to document and share the other side of deportation, so that people in the U.S. would have to confront, or at least be more aware of, the very real harms that flow from the country’s deportation policies.

How does activism—yours and others’—shape the narrative in Deported Americans?

I consider the negative rhetoric that depicts immigrants as others—as invaders or as dangerous—to be the biggest obstacle to creating more humane immigration policies in the U.S. No amount of activism can bring about just immigration reforms as long as some immigrants are characterized as “good” and “deserving” while others are cast aside as “bad” or “criminal,” and therefore disposable.

One of the primary goals of the narrative in Deported Americans is to highlight the nuances and complexities in people’s lives in order to help readers to see that even people who would commonly be depicted as “bad” or “undeserving” have compelling stories and are deserving of humane treatment under the law. By telling people’s stories, I try to strip away the dehumanizing labels that are often applied to immigrants with criminal convictions in order to help readers to see people more holistically.

What do you think is the most surprising aspect of immigration law as it affects deported Americans?

Often, stories about immigrants focus on recent arrivals to the U.S., but many deportees are members of American families. The U.S. deported over 250,000 parents of U.S. citizen children between 2011 and 2017, in addition to many spouses of U.S. citizens. People are always surprised when I talk about U.S. citizens whose spouses have been deported. There seems to be a pervasive belief that marriage to a U.S. citizen protects people from deportation, but this is not the case. I’ve interviewed many U.S. citizens who now live in Mexico because their spouses have been deported, and others who are struggling with family separation because they have stayed in the U.S. after a spouse’s deportation.

People are also surprised by the lack of proportionality in these cases. There is a major disconnect between sentences in criminal court and the sanctions people experience in the immigration system, even though both systems are often imposing penalties on the basis of the same conduct. For example, a lawful permanent resident (otherwise known as a green card holder) could be convicted of a crime for which they are sentenced with minimal jail time and probation in the criminal justice system. But in immigration court, they could face virtually automatic, permanent deportation—with no realistic hope of ever lawfully returning to the U.S.—because of the same conviction.

Many news stories paint pictures of immigrants and deportees. What is the most important way that you think Deported Americans changes or contradicts these narratives?

I deliberately focus on sharing the stories of immigrants with criminal convictions to disrupt the pervasive representation of some immigrants as “good” and others as “bad.” A lot of people are framed as “dangerous” due to criminal convictions that really have nothing to do with whether they are in fact dangerous. And in many cases, it seems more dangerous to deport them—to separate them from their families, or to force their U.S. citizen family members to leave the United States if they want to stay together.

Harsh immigration policies that apply to immigrants with criminal convictions emerged alongside the tough-on-crime movement of the 1980s and 1990s. In many cases, the same laws that created drug sentencing policies that are now widely criticized also created draconian immigration policies. Although there is an emerging consensus that the War on Drugs was problematic, and there has been some progress to roll back some of its policies, very little attention has focused on the parallel problems in the immigration system. I hope to draw people’s attention to this issue.

In the context of arguments over the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the news about the child detention centers, how do you see conversations about deportation changing? Staying the same?

People are certainly more interested in the topic of deportation now than in the recent past. This is an interesting shift because numerically, more people were actually being deported a few years ago. I think that the more that the consequences of U.S. immigration policy come to light, the more the average American is concerned about the issues, especially when it comes to family separation. Although more attention has focused on family separation affecting people upon their entry to the United States, family separation brought about by deportation fits into the overall problem that the U.S. immigration system regularly separates children from their parents.

The issue of family separation is also directly tied to the wall. When I was first starting out my research in Tijuana, I interviewed a social worker who runs a shelter for women and children. Her shelter houses a lot of recent deportees. She was convinced that no barrier—no fence, no wall, no punishments—would stop mothers from trying to return to the United States because the instinct to reunite with their children was stronger than anything. It’s a primal instinct. Due to a long history of migration from Mexico to the U.S., which the U.S. has welcomed at many times because of a desire for Mexican labor, families are deeply interconnected across the border, and across immigration statuses. The rhetoric framing migration as an “invasion” by foreigners misses this important reality.

What do you hope readers will take away from Deported Americans?

Deportation causes a lot of harm—to both the deportees and their families, who are often U.S. citizens. It has become a normalized aspect of our society, but we should really think about whether it should be. Deportation has always been used as a tool for excluding and removing marginalized people from societies, so its roots are suspect. I hope readers will walk away from the book with lingering questions about how we might better approach the social problems deportation is currently used to address, but in a more humane way.

Read the introduction to Deported Americans free online and purchase the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E19CALDW.

 

New Books in April

We’ve got great new reads in April in anthropology, religious studies, sociology, feminism and women’s studies, and much more.

978-1-4780-0390-8_prIn Deported Americans legal scholar and former public defender Beth C. Caldwell tells the story of dozens of immigrants who were deported from the United States—the only country they have ever known—to Mexico, tracking the harmful consequences of deportation for those on both sides of the border.

In Makers of Democracy A. Ricardo López-Pedreros traces the ways in which a thriving middle class was understood to be a foundational marker of democracy in Colombia in the second half of the twentieth century, showing democracy to be a historically unstable and contentious practice.

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Maura Finkelstein examines what it means for textile mill workers in Mumbai—who are assumed to not exist—to live during a period of deindustrialization, showing in The Archive of Loss how mills and workers’ bodies constitute an archive of Mumbai’s history that challenge common thinking about the city’s past, present, and future.

Hester Blum examines the rich, offbeat collection of printed ephemera created by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century polar explorers, showing in The News at the Ends of the Earth how ship newspapers and other writing shows how explores wrestled with questions of time, space, and community while providing them with habits to survive the extreme polar climate.

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In Autonomy Nicholas Brown theorizes the historical and theoretical conditions for the persistence of art’s autonomy from the realm of the commodity by showing how an artist’s commitment to form and by demanding interpretive attention elude the logic of capital.

In a revised and expanded edition of Medicine Stories, Aurora Levins Morales weaves together the insights and lessons learned over a lifetime of activism to offer a new theory of social justice, bringing clarity and hope to tangled, emotionally charged social issues in beautiful and accessible language.

Exploring a wide range of sonic practices, from birdsong in the Marshall Islands to Zulu ululation, the contributors to Remapping Sound Studies, edited by Gavin Steingo and Jim Sykes, reorient the field of sound studies toward the global South in order to rethink and decolonize modes of understanding and listening to sound.

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In Dance for Me When I Die—first published in Argentina in 2004 and appearing here in English for the first time—Cristian Alarcón tells the story and legacy of seventeen year old Víctor Manuel Vital, aka Frente, who was killed by police in the slums of Buenos Aires.

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.

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.

Q&A with Mack Hagood, Author of Hush

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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.

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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.

World Anthropology Day 2019

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Happy World Anthropology Day! Duke University Press joins the American Anthropological Association to recognize the research and achievements of anthropologists around the world. Celebrate the rich contributions of anthropology and  the exciting possibilities for the discipline’s future with these new and recent titles from Duke University Press!

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In My Butch Career, Esther Newton—a pioneer figure in gay and lesbian anthropology—tells the compelling and disarming story of her struggle to write, teach, and find love, all while coming to terms with her lesbian identity during one of the worst periods of homophobic persecution in the twentieth century.

Lyndon K. Gill’s Erotic Islands foregrounds a queer presence in foundational elements of Trinidad and Tobago’s national imaginary—Carnival masquerade design, Calypso musicianship, and queer HIV/AIDS activism—to show how same-sex desire provides the means for the nation’s queer population to develop survival and community building strategies.

The contributors to Passages and Afterworlds explore death and mortuary rituals across the Caribbean, showing how racial, cultural and class differences have been deployed in ritual practice and how such rituals have been governed in the colonial and postcolonial Caribbean.

In A Nation on the Line, Jan M. Padios examines the massive call center industry in the Philippines in the context of globalization, race, gender, transnationalism, and postcolonialism, outlining how it has become a significant site of efforts to redefine Filipino identity and culture, the Philippine nation-state, and the value of Filipino labor.

978-0-8223-7105-2_prArturo Escobar presents a new vision of design theory in Designs for the Pluriverse by arguing for the creation of what he calls “autonomous design”—a design practice aimed at channeling design’s world-making capacity toward ways of being and doing that are deeply attuned to justice and the Earth.

Drawing on indigenous social movements and politics, the contributors to A World of Many Worlds question Western epistemologies, theorize new forms of knowledge production, and critique the presumed divide between nature and culture—all in service of creating a pluriverse: a cosmos composed of many worlds partially connected through divergent political practices.

The contributors to Constructing the Pluriverse explore how non-Western, pluriversal approaches to core questions in the social sciences and humanities can help to dramatically rethink the relationship between knowledge and power.

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In My Life as a Spy, Katherine Verdery analyzes the 2,781 page surveillance file the Romanian secret police compiled on her during her research trips to Transylvania in the 1970s and 1980s. Reading it led her to question her identity and also revealed how deeply the secret police was Cembedded in everyday life.

The contributors to Infrastructure, Environment, and Life in the Anthropocene chart the shifting conceptions of environment, infrastructure, and both human and nonhuman life in the face of widespread uncertainty about the planet’s future.

Also part of the turn to infrastructure in anthropology, the contributors to The Promise of Infrastructure demonstrate how infrastructure such as roads, power lines, and water pipes offer a productive site for generating new ways to theorize time, politics, and promise.

In Cooking Data Crystal Biruk offers an ethnographic account of research into the demographics of HIV and AIDS in Malawi rethinking how quantitative health data is produced by showing how data production is inevitably entangled with the lives of those who produce it.

Kimberly Chong offers a rich ethnographic account in Best Practice of how a global management consultantcy translates and implements the logic of financialization in contemporary China.

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In Worldmaking, Dorinne Kondo draws on critical ethnographic work and over twenty years of experience as a dramaturge and playwright to theorize how racialized labor, aesthetics, affect, genre, and social inequity operate in contemporary theater .

In After Ethnos, Tobias Rees proposes an understanding of anthropology as a philosophically and poetically oriented and fieldwork-based investigation into the human and human thought rather than a study of culture or society in which anthropology is synonymous with ethnography and fieldwork.

Following Senegalese toxicologists as they struggle to keep equipment, labs, and projects operating, Noémi Tousignant’s Edges of Exposure explores the impact of insufficient investments in scientific capacity in postcolonial Africa.

978-1-4780-0045-7_prFabricating Transnational Capitalism, a collaborative ethnography of Italian-Chinese fashion ventures, offers a new methodology for understanding transnational capitalism in a global era.

In Migrants and City-Making, Ayşe Çağlar and Nina Glick Schiller trace the lived experiences of migrants in three cities struggling to regain their former standing, showing how they live and work in their new cities in ways that require them to negotiate the unequal networks of power that connect their lives to regional, national, and global institutions.

Melissa Hackman’s Desire Work traces the experiences of Pentecostal “ex-gay” men in Cape Town, South Africa, as they attempted to cure their homosexuality, forge a heterosexual masculinity, and enter into heterosexual marriage through various forms emotional, bodily, and religious work.

Through global case studies that explore biometric identification, border control, forensics, militarized policing, and counterterrorism, the contributors to Bodies as Evidence show how bodies have become critical sources of evidence that is organized and deployed to classify, recognize, and manage human life.

978-1-4780-0055-6_prProviding a history of experimental methods and frameworks in anthropology from the 1920s to the present, Michael M. J. Fischer draws on his real world, multi-causal, multi-scale, and multi-locale research to rebuild theory for the twenty-first century in Anthropology in the Meantime.

The contributors to Ethnographies of U.S. Empire examine how people live in and with empire, presenting ethnographic scholarship from across U.S. imperial formations, from the Mohawk Nation, Korea, and the Philippines to Guantánamo and the hills of New Jersey.

In Decolonizing Extinction Juno Salazar Parreñas traces the ways in which colonialism and decolonization shape relations between humans and nonhumans at a Malaysian orangutan rehabilitation center, contending that considering rehabilitation from an orangutan perspective will shift conservation biology from ultimately violent investments in population growth and toward a feminist sense of welfare.

978-0-8223-7079-6_prTulasi Srinivas’s The Cow in the Elevator uses the concept of wonder—feelings of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime—to examine how residents of Banglore, India pursue wonder by practicing Hindu religious rituals as a way to accept and resist neoliberal capitalism.

In Coca Yes, Cocaine No Thomas Grisaffi traces the political ascent and transformation of the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) from an agricultural union of

coca growers into Bolivia’s ruling party, showing how the realities of international politics hindered MAS leader Evo Morales from scaling up the party’s form of grassroots democracy to the national level.

In Domesticating Democracy Susan Helen Ellison offers an ethnography of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) organizations in El Alto, Bolivia, showing that by helping residents cope with their interpersonal disputes and economic troubles how they change the ways Bolivians interact with the state and global capitalism, making them into self-reliant citizens.

Domestication Gone Wild offers a revisionary exploration of domestication as a narrative, ideal, and practice that reveals how our relations with animals and plants are intertwined with the politics of human difference.

Naomi Schiller’s Channeling the State explores how community television in Venezuela created openings for the urban poor to embrace the state as a collective process with the potential for creating positive social change.

Excited to read more? Check out our full list of anthropology titles, or sign up here to be notified of new books, special discounts, and more.

Q&A with John Lindsay-Poland, Author of Plan Colombia

photoJohn Lindsay-Poland is Healing Justice Associate at the American Friends Service Committee. He is the author of numerous articles, reports, and books, including Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama and The Rise and Fall of “False Positive” Killings in Colombia and the Role of U.S. Military Assistance, 2000-2010. In his new book, Plan Colombia: U.S. Ally Atrocities and Community Activism, Lindsay-Poland draws upon his human rights activism and interviews with military officers, community members, and human rights defenders to describe grassroots initiatives in Colombia and the United States that resisted militarized policy and created alternatives to war.

What initially drew you to this project? How did the 2005 massacre in the San José de Apartadó Peace Community become the focus of your inquiry?

In the late 1990s, Colombia was experiencing 14 political murders a day, and Washington was ratcheting up its military involvement, which already had a long history, yet very few people in the United States were talking about it. When I visited San José de Apartadó in 2000, the war was all around them, they were determined to resist it, and I was moved by their commitment to each other—the “community” part of being a Peace Community. So the organization I worked for, Fellowship of Reconciliation, started a project to accompany the community to strengthen their security.

The massacre of two families, including three children, in 2005 during an Army-paramilitary operation, followed by the military’s cover-up, caused indignation among many people, and it deeply affected the community and our band of accompaniers. It was an example of how the U.S. narrative of fighting a war on drugs in Colombia was both untrue and wrong. And our presence in the community gave us an intimate and privileged view of that. The community’s and accompaniers’ versions of the atrocity had to be told.

How does human rights activism inform your approach to historical research and writing? In the same vein, how has historical inquiry influenced your activism?

My activist work led me first to seek out and hear the stories of people impacted by the policies of the United States, my country, then to meet with the policy-makers and military officers who are enacting these policies, and to do both of these over a long enough time that I began to see the patterns as well as the blind spots in the narratives, especially of people in government. So many of these folks believe that anything the United States does will have a positive effect, but don’t stick around to see their impact.

I also saw how valuable both testimony and quantitative data are for policy advocacy, and worked with human rights groups to assemble data in ways that could be used in policy discussions—for example, by identifying military units responsible for civilian killings in order to deny aid to them, under U.S. law.

Your book features striking testimony of victims of armed conflict. What tribute did you wish to pay to these figures?

I was moved by the determination of women and men in communities in the midst of war, such as the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, who denounced its violence and took an independent path. For many of them, “victim” was not a term of passivity.

If from the outside you perceive only violent actors, as is often portrayed in media accounts, then it’s easy to believe that the only way for outsiders to engage the conflict is to support the violent group that is least objectionable. But in Colombia—as elsewhere —communities resist displacement to farm their lands, organize local power to hold armed groups accountable, develop nonviolent guard cells, and resist war and injustice from their identities as feminist, labor, indigenous, Afro, youth, campesino, religious, and international communities. If people facing such overwhelming circumstances can create and resist, what can we—readers in our own circumstances—do in solidarity with these communities, and in our own communities that also face structural violence?

What resources does Plan Colombia provide for activist readers interested in creating peace in the region? How can readers get involved in peace activism in Colombia?

While much of Plan Colombia analyzes U.S. policy at the macro level and narrates the Peace Community, the massacre that took place there, and its aftermath, there is an important chapter on projects of life. One of the most important things readers can do is to visit Colombia, especially in human rights delegations like those organized by Witness for Peace and Global Youth Connect. Groups like Peace Brigades International, Colombia Support Network, and the Latin America Working Group also publish useful resources and actions people can take.

What do you see as the political and ethical consequences of your intervention?

International accompaniment of campesino communties in Colombia and elsewhere establishes a different relationship between those who’ve been harmed by empire and war, on one hand, and those who—like it or not—have benefitted from them. It places accompaniers in a role of support for people who’ve historically faced structural violence, while also using our position to reduce the risk of attack. This book grew from that relationship. Besides the precedent set by accompaniment, we worked to change U.S. policies from above that were wreaking havoc on many levels.

What contentious or controversial material can readers find in your book?

Although the normalization of war can make it seem ordinary, armed conflict is by its nature contentious, and what is accepted truth for some provokes anger and indignation in others. The book presents stories and analysis of the Colombian army’s “false positive” killings—murders of civilians later claimed as combat deaths. I also examined what role the United States played in both the forces that fed the “false positive” murders and the pressures that led to their decline as a systematic army practice. I think the evidence is strong, but it contradicts the dominant conclusion that Plan Colombia is a model that the United States should replicate in other conflicts.

What is the central lesson you want readers to take away from Plan Colombia?

Plan Colombia serves as a template for Washington’s military interventions all over the world, from Syria to the Philippines to Mexico, with few U.S. boots on the ground and a heavy investment in client military forces. U.S. intervention has become normalized in many forms, but its impacts on violence and on communities are rarely scrutinized. They should be.

How do you foresee U.S.-Colombian relations evolving in the coming decade?

The two countries remain strong military allies. U.S. military aid actually increased in the wake of the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas, supposedly to fill a vacuum created by guerrilla demobilization. The Trump administration is reigniting the drug war, and the land issues at the root of the conflict are also heating up, leading to more killings of social leaders. Unless people in the United States examine and prioritize the impacts on the ground of Plan Colombia, I am concerned that the cycle of hubris and violence will continue to repeat itself. The people-to-people relationships like those recounted in Plan Colombia will still be critical.

Read the introduction to Plan Colombia free online, and purchase the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E18PLAN.

Sanford Levinson on Public Monuments and 20th Anniversary Edition of Written in Stone

Sanford V. LevinsonSanford Levinson is Professor of Law at the University of Texas Law School. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today (with Cynthia Levinson). The 20th anniversary edition of his book Written in Stone addresses debates and conflicts over the memorialization of Confederate “heroes,” with a new preface and afterward that take account of recent events. In this guest post, Levinson meditates on some of the newest controversies, including protests surrounding UNC-Chapel Hill’s “Silent Sam” and sports team mascots.

I am immensely grateful to the Duke University Press for giving me the opportunity to publish a 20th anniversary edition of Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies, with a greatly augmented afterword (and new preface as well).  As I noted in the preface, my original suggestion in 2016, when I floated the idea of a new edition, was to prepare about 5000 words that could be submitted in August 2017, with publication taking place in late winter or early spring.  Instead, in part because of what happened in Charlottesville and afterward, the additional material totals around 20,000 words, taking into account events that occurred as late as the summer of 2018, just before the book went to press. As John Lennon is said to have said, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans!

But, already, I have sent emails to my editor, Miriam Angress, suggesting, only half-jokingly, that we begin thinking of a 25th anniversary edition in 2023, for the simple reason that the central topic—how do sometimes drastically changing societies come to terms with monuments, building names, and other such efforts by previous ruling elites to shape a certain view of the society that reflected their own hegemony?—constantly generates brand new, and challenging, examples.

So even in the relatively brief period between the time the book went to press and its publication in October, new examples have arisen from around the world.  Consider the response in Lithuania to a book written by the American granddaughter of a Lithuanian “hero” who had valiantly opposed Soviet hegemony; indeed, he was executed by the Soviets.  In the course of her research, she discovered that he had also been a vigorous anti-Semite and collaborator with Nazis during World War II. An almost full-page story in the New York Times detailed the anguish these discoveries caused the granddaughter, who had expected to write a hagiographic biography of her esteemed grandfather, but who believed that historical facts had priority.  As one might imagine, many present-day Lithuanians do not want to be told that their hero, suitably commemorated in statuary and the names of schoolhouses, might have had feet (at least) of clay. Older readers might remember the great film Who Shot Liberty Valence?, the most memorable line of which is a newspaper editor’s saying that when faced with a choice between reinforcing the legend or writing about the perhaps disillusioning truth, “print the legend.”  Memorialization is quintessentially about myth-making and preservation; suggestions to tear down, or even supply more nuance, to monuments is to attack myths that are important to lots of people. It is not surprising that they resist having their illusions (or outright delusions) shattered.  

Within the United States, students at the University of North Carolina tore down the statue of “Silent Sam,” the anonymous figure commemorating soldiers in the Confederate Army that fought to secure North Carolina’s independence from the United States (and also, of course, to maintain the system of chattel slavery).  This triggered a strong response from the conservative Republican legislature, and it remains to be seen what the ultimate outcome will be with regard to a possible restoration of the statue. The University of Mississippi quickly announced that it would change the name of one of its buildings when it was discovered that the generous benefactor who contributed to its construction (perhaps on condition that it would be named after him) had sent out racist tweets.  A California state college that memorialized “Prospector Pete” as a quintessential participant in the great California Gold Rush of 1849 decided to remove the statute (and change the name of some sports teams from the “Forty Niners”) when informed by a number of Native American students that from their perspective these invading miners were basically imperialists who had destroyed the existing Indian culture and, therefore, deserved no public honor. One might wonder if San Francisco’s professional football team will now receive any of the criticisms that have been long directed at the Washington football team’s use of a racist term as its name.  And Stanford University announced that it would change the name of the street on which it is officially located from Junipero Serra Way to Jane Stanford Way. Father Serra, the most important force behind the settlement of California by Catholic missionaries (and the missions they built throughout the state), is also now regarded by many in California as an agent of imperialism and cultural destruction.

As suggested in the new materials for the Second Edition, the rise of the #MeToo Movement has also called into question a number of namings of buildings at universities and elsewhere.  One can be confident that that many more examples will emerge in the future. One suspects that the reports discussed in the text by the New York Mayor’s commission on public monuments, or by select committees at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton will be avidly read elsewhere, as will former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s truly great speech explaining the removal of  Robert E. Lee from his pedestal atop Lee Circle in that city. The physical removal provides the truly wonderful cover of the new edition of Written in Stone.

There have even been suggestions that Austin, Texas consider changing its name, given that Stephen F. Austin held slaves and that one impetus for the secession from Mexico that created the Republic of Texas over which Austin presided was to assure the maintenance of chattel slavery.  One can doubt that Austin will in fact change its name, any more than Ohio will seek a more anodyne name for its state capital honoring Columbus, the subject of significant and ambivalent discussion by the New York Mayor’s committee. The only thing one can be confident of is that the problems posed by monuments and namings will not be going away in the foreseeable future anywhere in the world.  

Read the introduction to Written in Stone free online, and purchase the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E18STONE.

Open Access Week Q&A with Director Steve Cohn

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Today our Director Steve Cohn answers questions in honor of Open Access Week, a global event dedicated to discussion and education about Open Access within the scholarly and research community and to the expansion of access to research and information across disciplines. Steve Cohn got his start in publishing as the managing editor of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, which he brought with him to the Press in 1984 as the Press’s eighth journal (we now publish over fifty), and which the Press continues to publish today. He came to the Press as the Journals Manager, and after building and strengthening that program he became Director in 1993. Steve led the Press back from a period of financial insecurity in the nineties, through the transition from print to digital formats, and through significant growth and expansion of its publishing program.

Why is it important that Duke University Press experiment with Open Access?

Given the way our world is changing—with many librarians, funding agencies, and governments pushing towards a fully open-access publishing environment—we feel it is imperative that we begin experimenting with open-access publishing, even though we see no way for open-access publishing to be feasible (or desirable) on a broad scale for the sort of publishing we are now doing.

Mainly for that reason, but also because we believe that demonstrating ways to publish open-access projects successfully can allow us to attract some excellent projects that we could not otherwise have attracted, we have begun publishing both journals and books in open-access arrangements, in each case insisting that the OA arrangement must be financially sustainable over the long term.

What was the Press’s first venture into OA publishing?

Our longest-running OA project by far is the Carlyle Letters Online (CLO), the electronic database that has mainly superseded the long series of printed volumes (now nearing fifty) that began in 1970 and will continue to be published steadily at the pace one volume per year, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, until we reach the end of this voluminous set of letters from Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle in a few more years.

The CLO is widely considered to be a model “lives and letters” database, much used, much loved, and much imitated. We hope it can soon start to serve as the model and the base for a much wider set of annotated letters, diaries, and other Victorian life-writing.  

What open access initiatives have been most successful for Duke University Press?

In the realm of journals, we have concentrated our open-access efforts on what are alternatively called diamond or platinum models, i.e., models that do not depend on author payments as their source of sustainability. In the areas we publish in primarily—the humanities, the interpretive social sciences, and mathematics—most authors do not have grant funding to cover OA charges, as they do in the sciences; so they would have to pay article fees out of their own pockets.

The model for those efforts is our very successful publication of Environmental Humanities, a journal that is supported through annual contributions of $5,000 each from five academic centers scattered among Australia, Canada, Europe, and the US. (Magazines for Libraries said, “Environmental Humanities is one of the most beautifully realized open access journals I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. This is a title whose URL should be shouted from the rooftops: it’s that good.”)  

This is a model we are promoting for other open-access journals that want to work with us, and we have recently signed an agreement with Judith Butler and the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs for taking on a fledgling journal called Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory, which we expect will be equally successful.

How do you decide whether to participate in an OA initiative? What are your criteria?

Our criteria for publishing an OA project of any sort are the very same criteria we use for choosing to take on any publishing project: the project must be intellectually significant and it must be financially sustainable. Both our OA books and our OA journals pass through the very same peer-review processes, including final approval by our faculty board, as everything else we publish.

The books we have published in OA form have almost always already been through the approval process long before they are chosen for OA publication. The main OA funding programs for books that we now use—Knowledge Unlatched and TOME—have so far been focused on already-accepted books that are well along in the production process by the time they are chosen for receiving the financial support that will allow the access to be opened up.

But even if we knew from the first that a book would be published OA, we would take it through the same review and approval process; and also we would design, edit, produce, market, and sell it in all the same ways as a book that had no open access.

How do you find ways to make OA book publishing financially sustainable?

So far, we find it impossible to imagine receiving funding that would be sufficient to pay all the costs for our very labor-intensive methods of book publication. Our books are expensive to produce, given the amount of time and care we put into them, and the unlatching amounts provided so far by OA funding sponsors like Knowledge Unlatched and TOME are not nearly sufficient to cover our full publishing costs (including staff time). So, with the exception of a few early and not very successful experiments, all of the books we publish in open access form electronically are also for sale through all our usual sales channels: we print them like any other book we publish; and we also offer them for sale in electronic formats in all the usual ways.

This is sometimes called “hybrid” OA publishing. We expect that the subventions or “unlatching fees” that enable us to open these books up can cover the revenue losses that come from electronic availability, as people choose to use the OA version rather than buy a copy. But we definitely do not expect those fees—on the order of $15,000—to be our sole source of sustainable income on these books, as it would not be nearly enough. With 75 books that are hybrid OA now on the market, we are starting to be in a position to collect good data on the effect of electronic OA publishing on the sales of these books. The ability to measure the effect of OA in a hybrid publishing arena is crucial for us to be able to assess whether a payment of something like $15,000 is enough to cover our revenue losses when we open the electronic access.