Author: Camille Wright

Camille Wright was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is currently the Books Publicity Assistant at Duke University Press, where she started as a journals marketing intern in May 2017, and CEO and founder of Merch by Millie, a handmade apparel and accessories shop. Other organizations Wright is involved with include Believe Ticket Project, where she creates email campaigns, graphic content, fact sheets and ask letters, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Girl Scouts of America.

Joshua Neves on the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Anti-Chinese Racism, and the Politics of Underglobalization

Neves, Joshua photoJoshua Neves, author of Underglobalization:
Beijing’s Media Urbanism and the Chimera of Legitimacy
, is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Film Studies at Concordia University and coeditor of Asian Video Cultures, also published by Duke University Press. He wrote this post on February 21, 2020 and updated the statistics today, March 11.

In the 2018-19 flu season, the United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 16.5 million Americans saw a health care provider for their illness, 490,600 people were hospitalized, and 34,200 people died from influenza. Such data helps us to temper recent panic about the coronavirus, contagion narratives, and the repressive Chinese state. 

To be sure, the strict management of information and party-state bureaucracy have plagued China’s response to the virus. My aim here is not to downplay what are very grave challenges to public health, but rather to turn attention to the ways the viral outbreak has also been swollen by frenzied news and social media around the world. Among the many responses in North America and Europe, for example, is a resurgent anti-Chinese racism. This includes suspicions about exotic animals and racialized ideas about sickness and disease, as well as alarm about surgical mask shortages, government cover ups, and entire cities under quarantine. As a recent US headline puts it, “First the media sold you overblown fears. Now it’s selling false comfort.”

But there is little new in this hysteria over China as a breeding ground for pandemics. From counterfeit medicine to authoritarian capitalism, China plays a complicated role in stories about the world system. On the one hand, it’s laboring population serves as factory to the world and has sustained the global economy through stagnation and crisis. It both produces the world’s best known things and is derided as a menial laborer or copycat—and not, that is, a designer. A major theme in recent news coverage centers on profits lost to factory closures. In many such stories, concerns about the well-being of migrant workers, among others, seems limited to their inability to get to work. On the other hand, even while China co-creates what we have come to know as globalization, its ambition and the challenges it poses to the Washington Consensus have led many to see the country as a global villain. Alongside Russia, Iran, etc., the PRC increasingly fills an imaginary void in post-Cold War geopolitics. It is the “other” that “we” organize our anger or fear around. 

What interests me about the tensions framing the COVID-19 outbreak is that China is at once understood to be inside and outside of the world or proper society of nations. It is both a prime mover and sickly underminer. This contradiction—including mistrust, intolerance, fear—must be tied to a history of anti-Chinese racism in North America and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, the current “yellow peril” is once again linked to the exploitation of Chinese workers, as well as a deep suspicion of these same people’s motives and lifeworlds. It highlights the inequality of global supply chains—a current logic of racialized capitalism—which seek to move things in specific directions and keep everyone in their place. It is this sense of global order that the virus ignores with its potential to spread where it should not. Contagion thus not only refers to the unruliness of new flu strains, but to the new mobilities of Chinese people, products, and technologies. The latter includes US attempts to block the Chinese company, Huawei, from building 5G infrastructure around the world. Officials claim that Chinese built networks will allow Beijing to infiltrate critical telecom infrastructure, making them insecure and threatening. These same reports rely on language that could just as well describe panic about the infectivity of influenza. Per Vice President Mike Pence, “We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”

The point of highlighting such tensions is not to bracket the very real problems posed by the People’s Republic of China or its vision of the future. But it is to refuse sweeping and prejudicial assessments of China and the Chinese, which inform insidious racisms by tethering ideas about counterfeits, censorship, exotic animals, the flu, and much more, to particular bodies. Put simply, these critiques are widespread, confused, epidemic—and demand more nuanced attention from journalists, scholars, and publics. What remains undigested by routine critiques of China, and is once again brought into relief by the recent outbreak of the outbreak narrative, is how smug dismissals buttress troubling ideas about the munificent “West” and the “free world.” This is one of the most menacing and normalized aspects of anti-Chinese racism in the North Atlantic. It locates viral contagion in Asian cities and populations, naming them as external threats, thereby consolidating a violent clash of civilization understanding of the earth. Here is safe; there is toxic.

It is important to add that, contrary to Euro-American assumptions about Chinese repression and citizen compliance, political dissent is endemic and visible across the PRC. For example, in Social Protests and Contentious Authoritarianism in China, political scientist Xi Chen describes both the dramatic rise and routinization of social protest in China and also how, “beneath the surface of noise and anxiety,” China’s political system remains stable. This is a complex political formation and no doubt differs from the imagination of protest in places like the US. But these differences notwithstanding, it is important to understand that protest and dissensus are frequent responses to life in contemporary China—and many Chinese citizens are “more than ready to blame the Communist Party for suppressing public health information and closing ranks against the people.” What is distinct, and marks an increasingly global condition, is that such protests are not made within formal civil society. Instead they are quasi- or il-legal, and suggest new modes of political society. Consider the January 2020 essay, “When Fury Becomes Fear,” from the outspoken former academic and critic, Xu Zhangrun. In searing prose, Xu argues that the current epidemic sounds a “viral alarm” and “has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance.” See Geremie R. Barmé’s translation of Xu’s essay here, a Wuhan diary here, a typical report about netizen responses here, or the Sinophobia tracker here. What matters about such examples, is that they refuse the self-righteous politics of pity—where, for example, Americans are free and Chinese are controlled—and instead demands that we re-examine the workings of popular politics under globalization, which includes China and the so-called “West.”

Screen Shot 2020-02-21 at 12.42.46 PMAs I write, 4,379 people have died from the coronavirus and nearly 119,108 cases have been confirmed. Currently over 1000 deaths have been reported outside of China, with Wuhan, Hubei Province, still the most affected area. While details vary, reports indicate that lockdowns and curfews affect hundreds of millions Chinese citizens. The strictest rules, per the South China Morning Post, keep 60 million Hubei residents from leaving their homes. Further coverage suggests that the epidemic may now have peaked, as its spread slows in China, though others note that Japan is now a hotbed for the virus, with new cases also confirmed in the Philippines, South Korea, Iran, Egypt, and others. I linger on the current flu epidemic, stories about its (mis)management, and its Asian hosts and itineraries because they bring into relief a range of issues that are critical to what I call underglobalization

978-1-4780-0805-7When writing Underglobalization, I struggled to make sense of the contradictory and often racist understandings of China that co-exist in much official and popular discourse. As above, I was struck by the way that China is both dismissed as a fake, parasite or outlier nation and, at the same time, is critical to both the global economy and institutions, and to the everyday experience of the world. This paradox brings into relief deep structural conflicts over what constitutes political, economic, and social legitimacy in the present and future. Against such antagonisms, Underglobalization charts how a wide range of social actors underperform or refuse to implement the specific procedures and protocols required by globalization at different scales. Put differently, what international law (like the TRIPS Agreement) identifies as illegal must also be understood, in many contexts, to be locally valid. One important ramification of this claim is the recognition that contemporary global dynamics are shaped by increasing tensions between (il)legality and (il)legitimacy. Most simply the book asks: what happens when legal contracts around the world—including rights, civil society and citizenship—fail or become dangerous, and on what ground are political relationships reclaimed and sustained? 

Save 30% on the paperback edition of Joshua Neves’ Underglobalization using the coupon code E20NEVES and download the introduction here.


Celebrating Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month where studying, observing, and celebrating the role women have had and continue to have in American history is encouraged. While recognizing the achievements, it’s also important to acknowledge the struggles women face and have overcome. We’re excited to share recent books and journals from Duke University Press that align with this mission and celebrate women around the world and throughout history.


In Honeypot, E. Patrick Johnson combines magical realism, poetry, and performative writing to bear witness to the real-life stories of black southern queer women in ways that reveal the complexity of identity and the challenges these women face.

In Invisibility by Design, Gabriella Lukács traces how young Japanese women’s unpaid labor as bloggers, net idols, “girly” photographers, online traders, and cell phone novelists was central to the development of Japan’s digital economy in the 1990s and 2000s.

Lynn M. Thomas’ Beyond the Surface constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond, theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies.

978-1-4780-0645-9The concluding volume in a poetic triptych, Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony takes inspiration from theorist Sylvia Wynter, dub poetry, and ocean life to offer a catalog of possible methods for remembering, healing, listening, and living otherwise.

Laura E. Pérez analyzes Latina art to explore a new notion of decolonial thought and love based on the integration of body, mind, and spirit that offers a means to creating a more democratic and just present and future in Eros Ideologies.

From The Guiding Light to Passions, Elana Levine traces the history of daytime television soap operas as an innovative and highly gendered mass cultural form in Her Stories.


In Mafalda: A Social and Political History of Latin America’s Global Comic, Isabella Cosse examines the history, political commentary, and influence of the world-famous comic character Mafalda from her Argentine origins in 1964 to her global reach in the 1990s.

In Naked Agency, Naminata Diabate explores how the deployment of defiant nakedness by mature women in Africa challenges longstanding assumptions about women’s political agency.

Radical Transnationalism,” a new issue of Meridians, looks at the expansive domains of transnational feminism, considering its relationship to different regions, historical periods, fields, and methodologies. The issue’s contributors, working in locations across the Global South and North, investigate settler colonialism, racialization, globalization, militarization, decoloniality, and anti-authoritarian movements as gendered political and economic projects.

Collected to honor the work of French women’s history scholar Rachel G. Fuchs, the essays in French Historical Studies issue “Patriarchy, Protection, and Women’s Agency in Modern France” touch on interrelated themes central to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France, including evolving forms of male power expressed through paternity, the victimization of women and children resulting from industrial capitalism and male abuse of power, and the development of mechanisms to protect the abused through surveillance of potential victims.

World Anthropology Day 2020

Anthro Day

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 our new and recent titles.

Avian ReservoirsIn the timely new book Avian Reservoirs, Frédéric Keck traces how the anticipation of bird flu pandemics has changed relations between birds and humans in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, showing that humans’ reliance on birds is key to mitigating future pandemics.

Macarthur “genius” grant winner Julie Livingston shows how the global pursuit of economic and resource-driven growth comes at the expense of catastrophic destruction in her latest book, Self-Devouring Growth, thereby upending popular notions that economic growth and development is necessary for improving a community’s wellbeing.

In another newsworthy recent work, Fencing in Democracy, Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-Barriga argue that border wall construction along the U.S.–Mexico border manifests transformations in citizenship practices that are aimed not only at keeping migrants out but also enmeshing citizens into a wider politics of exclusion.

Decolonizing EthnographyAlso examining the experiences of migrants, Decolonizing Ethnography, co-authors Carolina Alonso Bejarano and Daniel M. Goldstein team up with Lucia López Juárez and Mirian A. Mijangos García, both immigrant workers themselves,  to show how to integrate ethnography with activist work. Their fieldwork in a New Jersey center for undocumented workers shows how anthropology can function as a vehicle for activism and as a tool for marginalized people to theorize their own experiences.

In A Possible Anthropology, Anand Pandian offers an ethnography of anthropologists at work: canonical figures like Bronislaw Malinowski and Claude Lévi-Strauss, ethnographic storytellers like Zora Neale Hurston and Ursula K. Le Guin, contemporary scholars like Jane Guyer and Michael Jackson, and artists and indigenous activists inspired by the field. In their company, Pandian explores the moral and political horizons of anthropological inquiry, the creative and transformative potential of an experimental practice.

Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation by Deborah A. Thomas uses the 2010 military and police incursion into the Kingston, Jamaica, Tivoli Gardens neighborhood as a point of departure for theorizing the roots of contemporary state violence in Jamaica and other post-plantation societies.

Progressive DystopiaSavannah Shange traces the afterlives of slavery as lived in a progressive high school set in post-gentrification San Francisco in Progressive Dystopia. Despite the school’s sincere antiracism activism, she shows how it unintentionally perpetuated antiblackness through various practices.

Focusing on Costa Rica and Brazil, Andrea Ballestero examines the legal, political, economic, and bureaucratic history of water in the context of the efforts to classify it as a human right, showing how seemingly small scale devices such as formulas and lists play large role in determining water’s status in A Future History of Water.

In A Revolution in Fragments Mark Goodale uses contemporary Bolivia as an ideal case study with which to theorize the role that political agency, identity, and economic equality play within movements for justice and structural change.

Otaku and the StruggleIn Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan, Patrick Galbraith examines Japanese “otaku,” their relationships with fictional girl characters, the Japanese public’s interpretations of them as excessive and perverse, and the Japanese government’s attempts to co-opt them into depictions of “Cool Japan” to an international audience.

In Ethnography #9, Alan Klima examines moneylending, gambling, funeral casinos, and the consultations of spirits and mediums to predict winning lottery numbers to illustrate the relationship between contemporary Thai spiritual and financial practices and global capitalism’s abstraction of monetary value. Klima uses an unconventional, distinctive, and literary form of storytelling in this experimental new work.

Check out our full list of anthropology titles, and sign up here to be notified of new books, special discounts, and more. Share your love of anthropology on social media with the hashtag #AnthroDay today.


Black History Month Reads

To celebrate Black History Month, we are featuring some of our recent books and journals that explore Black and African-American history, issues, and culture.


In Honeypot, E. Patrick Johnson combines magical realism, poetry, and performative writing to bear witness to the real-life stories of black southern queer women in ways that reveal the complexity of identity and the challenges these women face.

The concluding volume in a poetic triptych that began with Spill, and continued with M Archive, Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony takes inspiration from theorist Sylvia Wynter, dub poetry, and ocean life to offer a catalog of possible methods for remembering, healing, listening, and living otherwise.

In Everything Man, Shana L. Redmond traces Paul Robeson’s continuing cultural resonances in popular culture and politics, showing how he remains a vital force and presence for all those he inspired.

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

Allyson Nadia Field and Marsha Gordon examine the place and role of race in educational films, home movies, industry and government films, anthropological films, church films, and other forms of noncommercial filmmaking throughout the twentieth century in Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film.

Peoples History of DetroitMark Jay and Philip Conklin use a Marxist framework to tell a sweeping story of Detroit from 1913 to the present in A People’s History of Detroit, which comes out in May. It outlines 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 Art for People’s Sake, Rebecca Zorach traces the little-told story of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, showing how its artistic innovations, institution building, and community engagement helped the residents of Chicago’s South and West Sides respond to social, political, and economic marginalization.

In Black Madness :: Mad Blackness, Therí Alyce Pickens examines the speculative and science fiction of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Tananarive Due to rethink the relationship between race and disability, thereby unsettling the common theorization that they are mutually constitutive.

UnfixedJennifer Bajorek traces the relationship between photography and decolonial politics in Francophone west Africa in the years immediately leading up to and following independence from French colonial rule in 1960 in Unfixed. She shows how photography both reflected and actively contributed to social and political change. 

In Beneath the Surface, Lynn M. Thomas constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies.

Beyond countering the brutalizing omission of black British artists in both the art scene and art history chronicles, “Black British Art Histories,” an issue of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, presents perceptive, probing, and illuminating considerations of a range of artists whose practices are fascinating, complex, and of great art-historical importance.

The essays in “Trajectories in Race and Diaspora: Entangled Histories and Affinities of Transgression,” an issue of Qui Parle edited by Donna Honarpisheh, unfold at the dynamic intersections of race and diaspora in a global context. Each essay is preoccupied with how race—as an ontological category born of violence—produces edges, wounds, or incisions that nurture opportunities for further ontological transgressions with possible liberatory potentials.

Q&A with Jacob Blanc, author of Before the Flood

blanc-photo.jpgJacob Blanc is a lecturer in Latin American History at the University of Edinburgh and coeditor of Big Water: The Making of the Borderlands between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. His newest book, Before the Flood: The Itaipu Dam and the Visibility of Rural Brazil, examines the creation of the Itaipu Dam—the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world—on the Brazil–Paraguay border during the 1970s and 1980s to explore the long-standing conflicts around land, rights, indigeneity, and identity in rural Brazil.

What first drew you to study the Itaipu flood? When in your research did you realize the history of Itaipu was rich and complex enough for you to write an entire book on it?

In full disclosure, I had not even heard the name ‘Itaipu’ before my first semester of graduate school. I knew I wanted to study some aspect of rural labor history, but aside from my general interest in politics of the Latin American countryside, I did not have a specific case study to start with. Eventually I came across Itaipu, and it seemed like each time I found a new body of sources, or each time I thought I had a clear sense of what the main narrative was, it kept changing. Was this a history of farmers versus a dictatorship? Yes, but it was more complex. Was there solidarity amongst the different displaced groups? Yes, but it was more complex. Was land a central catalyst for the protest movements? Yes, but the lands that would be flooded did not have the same social meanings for all of the displaced communities. I started out thinking this would be a history about rural protest against military rule, but the kaleidoscope of stories that Itaipu brought together resulted in something much bigger: a history of rurality, and the contingencies of life, political struggle, and community in the countryside.

There were a few key moments in my research where these insights really took root. The first was when I began my interviews with farming communities in western Paraná, Brazil. My first stage of research had mostly focused on archival evidence of the protest encampments against Itaipu, which yielded a lot of fascinating and important details on the standoff between rural communities and the dictatorship. In this initial research I come across some hints of internal conflict in the camps, but it was only when I spent time talking with people that had participated in the protests did I begin to understand the full complexity of what took place. Landless peasants spoke of feeling marginalized within the movement (where their demands for redistribution of land was drowned out by the call for higher prices to be paid for legally owned property), indigenous leaders told me about their parallel movement to seek cultural and political rights, and even the landed small-farmers who had led the main protests shared memories that were far more nuanced than the archival record suggested. It was in this vortex of testimonies that I began to piece together the complex and often-contradictory ways that the displaced communities mobilized in defense of their soon-to-be-flood lands.

A second key moment was when in a twist of good fortune and perseverance, I gained access to the archives of the Itaipu dam. This was something that no scholar had previously done and I was able to spend two months going through their holdings. Because Itaipu was so deeply embedded in the dictatorship’s development and security structures, its archive was a window into the logic of authoritarian rule. From here, I was able to place the question of land at the center of my narrative: how a wide range of actors viewed and acted upon their understanding of what the lands around Itaipu meant and what role the region should play in the future of Brazil.

Before the FloodInstead of centering the book around the technological and ecological effects of the Itaipu Binational hydroelectric dam, you set out to ask what the flooded lands meant to different Brazialian rural groups. What do you find missing in these other accounts? How does the history of the flood change when told from those on the land itself?

It is completely understandable that scholars have devoted time to studying the largest hydroelectric dam in the world: it was a tremendous feat of engineering, and compounded by the conflicts that unfolded between Brazil and Paraguay to harness the energy of the seventh-longest river on the planet, the Itaipu dam was, and continues to be, a remarkable technological achievement. The construction of Itaipu forms part of my book, but it is more as an explanatory backdrop for how, and why, the military government saw this border region as a central part of its worldview. By shifting attention away from the construction of the dam per se, and by focusing instead on the livelihoods that converged in the flood zone, I want to help us see that a history of water management (a giant hyrdoelectric dam) contains an equally important history of land. The narrative shift from water to land opens new questions on the social and material meanings of land. And given that the book is guided by my framework of rural visibility, this shift also lets us explore what it means for a region to be rendered invisible. This process of invisibility was both literal (Itaipu’s flood inundating 1,500 square kilometers of land) and discursive, with rural livelihoods delegitimized in national imaginations.

You work with a framework of visibility, drawing on works from Rob Nixon and others to think about how the nation-state, in its constitution, relies upon the exclusion of communities and places that are rendered invisible through “active unimagining.” How much do certain historical methodological practices contribute to this unimagining? In what way is your alternative periodization– exploring non-chronological modes of writing history– an intervention into historical invisibilities?

This also links really well to the above question, where a potential limitation of a techno-ecological history of a megadam like Itaipu is that it takes its starting point at the moment of the dam’s conception. That is, it operates chronologically on the terms of the nation-state and the governments and corporations that build these massive development projects. Here, the theme of unimagining is important both historically and methodologically.

In terms of method, it can often be very hard to reverse this process of unimagining. In part, this relates to the challenge of ‘doing’ subaltern history and the limits we have as historians—especially those of us working from positions of personal and professional privilege. But histories of development and forced relocation present further problems still: a proper history of Itaipu requires finding communities that had been uprooted from their homes and who then dispersed throughout the region and the country as a whole. So, I could have stayed just in the areas around the present-day dam and put together a pretty good history of rural mobilization that would still have ticked a lot of the boxes of subaltern and grassroots history. Even just including those voices would have been an important intervention in scholarship on dictatorship that has tended to focus on urban spaces and the more traditional vectors of political protest such as student movements, unions, and political parties.

But to more fully present the histories on display at Itaipu, this required me to build networks of solidarity and trust in order to get introduced to people who could put me in touch with several lines of connections that eventually allowed me to meet with peasant and indigenous communities whose perspectives were vital to round out the story I was able to tell. The logistics of this were often exhausting and uncertain; in one case I took a ten-hour bus ride solely on the suggestion that somebody I was hoping to interview lived in a small faraway town. I did not have their phone number or address, but sure enough, when I arrived I was able to ask around for the farmer and eventually found him, where I was invited to not only hear his memories from the time of Itaipu but to also stay the night with him and his family. So methodologically, our goal of trying to reverse this state of unimagining depends also on a certain amount of commitment and trust in our own process. That is not always feasible, and there are of course very real challenges (many of which are gendered, classed, and racialized) to conducting this form of fieldwork, but it can be a powerful approach to actively re-imagine histories that might otherwise continue to be overlooked.

And in terms of non-chronological modes of history-writing, this was something I went back and forth on a lot during my research and then while preparing the book. There is profound weight in the decisions we make as historians, not just in choosing to tell certain histories over others, but even in how we present the stories we do choose to tell. Structurally in my book, I opted for a bit of both worlds, where the first half progresses chronologically in three chapters from the pre-history of the dam through the Itaipu flood in 1982, and then in the second half I have four chapters that give the histories that predated, ran parallel, and ultimately outlasted the more standard history of what took place at Itaipu. By framing this explicitly as such, my hope is to de-emphasize the more linear narratives that tend to get deployed for paradigmatic events like a development project and even Brazil’s dictatorship more broadly. This again comes back to trying to intervene in historical invisibilities, and I sought to not only present histories such as indigenous mobilization, peasant displacement, and landless consciousness, but to also frame them as more than just ancillary themes to the larger story. Instead, they exist as standalone stories with their own chronologies.

You use the phrase “double reality” to describe the simultaneous events of the Itaipu flood, an expression of military power, and the 1982 election, a symbolic return to democratic rule in Brazil. What is the significance of naming the effects of both events as realities? What does it mean to recognize a multiplicity of realities?

‘Reality’ conveys a sense of both what is happening and also what is perceived to be happened. For the case of Itaipu, this is particularly powerful for the official timing of Brazil’s transition from dictatorship to democracy, the process known as abertura. Through my history of rural political struggles and their alternative visions for democracy, I introduce the idea of a double reality of abertura, with competing perceptions of how military rule was experienced. So what does that mean for the multiplicity of realities? It means that there is an imagined idea of a country that has a particular chronology attached to it; in this case, that of a transition from a military to a civilian regime. And yet people experience the big idea at the heart of that transition, the abertura, as a double reality, whose chronology and evolving meanings play out in drastically different ways.

By looking at these histories as both events and realities, we are able to draw out the attachments that different groups project onto what they see transpiring around them. This is important because in arguing for a double reality of abertura, I am not saying that rural Brazilians (or any marginalized group for that matter) is unable to extract real benefits and beliefs from official or mainstream events like the abertura. Instead, I use the idea of doubling to show two main threads. First, how the more official forms of politics like abertura are unable and uninterested in accommodating the ideas and livelihoods like those of the displaced groups at Itaipu. And second, despite these limitations, marginalized groups nonetheless invoke and redeploy official events and narratives to advance their own goals. The concept of double reality helps us explore the lived and discursive experiences of being both marginalized and empowered.

In the aftermath of the flood, mass displacement and resettlement allowed landless workers to lead a new charge to reform agrarian policies in Brazil. How much did these landless movements address issues that predated the flood and even a dictator-ruled Brazil?

The landless campaign in Brazil (known as the MST) has become one of the largest social movements in the world over the past several decades. Founded in 1984, one year before the official end of dictatorship, the MST has championed ideas and demands that long predated the start of military rule in 1964. As is the case all over the world, the question of land has been a constant in Brazilian history, and especially in the twentieth-century there is a long tradition of organized campaigns to win access to land through direct-action occupations. My history of Itaipu helps link the emergence of the post-dictatorship MST through some the earlier iterations of landless campaigns, both before and during the military regime. Although few scholars have yet to fully acknowledge this genealogy, the movement that took place just after Itaipu played a pivotal role in the formation of the MST. And placed within the larger context of landless mobilizations across twentieth-century Brazil, we also see why these groups were met with such sustained waves of repression: because the demand for agrarian reform and the structural redistribution of land was seen as a threat by elites under both military and civilian rule, landless movements have confronted serious challenges regardless of whether the country has been ruled by a dictatorship or a democracy.

Although you name your book Before the Flood, you conclude by challenging neat concepts of “before” and “after” and suggest developing a “plurality of timelines” around a historical event. Do you find there to be further room to challenge the logics of temporality in history? Is it possible to imagine a history that undoes the timeline itself?

This was another tricky, though quite fun, aspect of my project. How to challenge the logics of temporality while at the same time using those logics to advance my arguments. Periodization is at the heart of what we do as historians: we frame a problem and we try to figure out periods of time that in some way are a good match for the problem. And especially as we navigate the process of writing a book, there are logistical and professional demands for telling a story in a way that is legible and efficient. What I tried to achieve was a balance between linear and non-linear storytelling, with enough step-backs and links to show how the multiple sets of temporalities did not exist separate from each other. Instead, the various narratives I cover in my book are in a constant state of engagement and mutual reinforcement. The official chronology of the Itaipu dam and of Brazil’s dictatorship provided a central referent for the other stories I needed to tell. So rather than thinking about writing history in a way that undoes the timeline, we might be better suited to thinking about how to present a wide range of voices that in some form interact with a common temporal thread. This can help us rethink the parameters of how we understand, and how we define, periods of history.

Do you think your work can serve as a blueprint for future methodological experimentation that works outside traditional periodization frameworks?

I hope my book can help spur new approaches to rethinking periodization. Because while my particular case study concerns the Brazilian countryside and the livelihoods of rural Brazilians, the same holds true for any group or community whose reality does not align with mainstream periods of time. My case study was the countryside, but it could have been anywhere that contains competing social realities. And this stands equally across Latin America and globally as well. When we begin to take seriously that officially canonized dates and events do not hold the same social weight for all members of a community or of a nation, we can start to re-imagine on what terms we set historical boundaries.

Read the introduction to Before the Flood free online and save 30% on the paperback edition using coupon code E19BLANC.

National Hispanic Heritage Month Reads

September 15th through October 15th is National Hispanic American Heritage Month. To celebrate, we have selected several of our recent books and journal issues that explore Chincanx and Latinx studies, art, and history, as well as bring awareness to issues faced by the Latinx community.

978-0-8223-6938-7_prIn Eros IdeologiesLaura E. Pérez analyzes Latina art to explore a new notion of decolonial thought and love based on the integration of body, mind, and spirit that offers a means to creating a more democratic and just present and future.

Renato 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 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.

Chicano and Chicana ArtChicano and Chicana Art, curated by Jennifer A. González, C. Ondine Chavoya, Chon Noriega, and Terezita Romo, is an anthology that includes essays from artists, curators, and critics and provides an overview of the history and theory of Chicano/a art from the 1960s to the present, emphasizing the debates and vocabularies that have played key roles in its conceptualization.

Pop América, 1965–1975, edited by Esther Gabara, is a bilingual, fully illustrated catalogue. It accompanies the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University’s exhibition Pop América, 1965–1975, which presents a vision of Pop art across the Americas as a whole.

coverimage-3Trans Studies en las Américas,” a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, is an unprecedented English-language collection by Latin American and Latinx scholars on trans and travesti issues. Contributors offer a hemispheric perspective on trans and travesti issues, expand transgender studies to engage geopolitical connections, and bring interdisciplinary approaches to topics ranging from policy to cultural production.

With roots in protest and social change, Latinx theater carries an artistic vitality and urgency that has only been augmented by resistance to the current wave of repressive white nationalism. In “What’s Next for Latinx?“, an issue of Theater, contributors ask where Latinx theater is going and what challenges it faces.

Q&A with Leah Zani, Author of Bomb Children

Zani, Leah author photo

Leah Zani is a Junior Fellow in the Social Science Research Network at the University of California, Irvine and the author of the new book Bomb Children: Life in the Former Battlefields of Laos. In Bomb Children, Zani considers how the people and landscape of Laos have been shaped and haunted by the physical remains of unexploded ordnance from the CIA’s Secret War.

How did this project start? What brought you to the former battlefields of Laos?

For nearly ten years prior to and during my early research on this project, I thought of myself as a disability studies scholar and advocate. My experiences with dyslexia sparked my scholarly interests in disability. As a child in segregated remedial classes, I was told by my teachers that I would never graduate from high school—let alone finish a bachelor’s, or a doctorate, or write a book!

So I had this personal interest in disability studies. I had intended to study experiences of disability in Laos as they relate to the war, doing fieldwork with the state’s national prosthetics factory and rehabilitation center. Once I was on the ground in Laos, I realized that this was not feasible due to restrictions on foreign researchers—clinicians told me that I could not talk to patients—and made nearly impossible by government restructuring. I sensed that every few months, the name of the appropriate ministry changed as well as the appropriate paperwork. I couldn’t find a way “in” to a project on disability.

While I struggled to find an open door at the rehabilitation center, I was also building connections with humanitarian and development workers, many of whom were involved in victim assistance or explosives clearance. I quickly realized: There was my open door! I began spending more time with humanitarian and development organizations working in former battlefields. My earlier interest in disability studies is still present in the book if you look for it: my theorizing of danger as a disability; my critique of the language of the accident; and my attention to military wasting, i.e., military waste as a process that is simultaneously embodied, ecological, and geopolitical. I came to the project with an existing interest in bodies, the senses, risk, and impairment.

When I started this project, I did not know that the United States had covertly and massively bombed Laos for nine years. The Secret War was initially a silent backdrop to my research on disability, and the war slowly moved into the foreground to become my primary research focus.


You include what you call “fieldpoems” in the book. How does poetry help you make sense of what you learn in the field?

I came to poetry intuitively, provoked by my own confusion in the field. I didn’t know how to process or record what I was experiencing. In the book, I describe this feeling as a kind of vertigo: standing on the edge of another reality, feeling pulled in, but my feet still firmly planted. I was doing fieldwork in Phonsavanh, arguably the most bombed part of our planet. The town was flattened and then rebuilt after the war using bits and pieces of war debris. There had been no systematic clearance after the war, meaning that people rebuilt the town on top of thousands of live bombs. This existential particularity lends itself to poetry. My sense is that a lot of ethnographers come to poetry via this or a similar path: a wrestling with excess, looking over an edge, or losing one’s language. Poetry can be used to notice and give meaning to experiences that resist description.

Later, my interest in poetry led me to the Lao practice of poetic parallelism. In this regional poetic form, lines are split across multiple columns, the gaps generating an unresolvable tension. Parallelism became the central organizing frame of the book—it unlocked my awareness of how war simmers into everyday paranoia, helped me to recognize when interlocutors were sharing information discreetly and gave me a language for writing about peacetime life and ongoing war violence without dissolving one into the other. And I would probably not have picked up on parallelism if I hadn’t already been writing poems. For this project, poetry was a field method that encouraged a related method of poetic inquiry: thus, “fieldpoetry,” poems written as fieldnotes.

My use of fieldpoetry is linked to my experiences with dyslexia: Words are not the way that I know things, so when I write poems as evidence, I mean that they are evidence in this slightly estranged way, a kind of bewilderment or wandering away from words. As a feminist and queer scholar, poetry is one way to engage with what Strathern called “nonknowing” as evidence that does not depend on positivism. Poems are a way for me to explore nonknowing while still feeling rooted and sure of myself. I wrote poems before I wrote ethnographies, and the two are mutually supportive in my work. We need to mainstream more diverse methods and representation practices in anthropology, methods that are as varied as the people and events that we encounter.

I recently became the poetry editor at Anthropology and Humanism, the journal of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. I am, as far as I know, the only poetry editor at a peer-reviewed journal in the social sciences.

You take particular interest in the sociocultural impact of cluster submunitions, known in Laos as “bomb children.” What is it about these particular bombs or their impact that stand out to you?

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Live explosive ordnance on display at a government office in Phonsavan, Xieng Khouang Province. Photo by the author.

Cluster munitions have a social and cultural impact that distinguishes them from conventional weapons. They are, like landmines, a type of antipersonnel weapon that contaminates the places that people live. They are mines in every way that matters. Earlier versions of the Mine Ban Treaty prohibited cluster munitions alongside landmines. Under American pressure, delegates removed cluster munitions from the Mine Ban; the United States signed the Mine Ban but has yet to sign the subsequent Convention on Cluster Munitions. Since deploying these weapons in Laos, the United States has more recently used cluster munitions in the Middle East and continues to sell them.

When a bomber drops a cluster munition from their plane, the force of the fall opens the bomb to disperse hundreds or thousands of smaller submunitions, or bomblets, over vast areas. In Lao, the larger munition is called a “bomb mother” and the smaller bomblets are called “bomb children.” These bomblets are usually the size of two fists held together, lightweight and durable. During the Secret War in Laos, about a third of these bomblets failed to explode on impact. A bomblet will generally not explode if stepped on, though a fire or the impact of a farm tool will likely set it off. Due to their small size, durability, and geographic spread, even heavily bombed areas are still often farmed and inhabited. This means that cluster munitions become part of life—under people’s houses, found in rice fields, used for metal scrap—in ways that challenge distinctions between war and peace, or battlefield and village. They have a unique sociocultural signature, a wasting of the everyday. In the book, I develop a theory of the sociocultural blast radius: the radius of social and cultural effects surrounding explosive ordnance (such as family stigma, endemic risk, ecological destruction, and poverty). A bomb’s sociocultural blast radius is much larger than its zone of mere physical destruction.

Under President Trump, the United States rolled back restrictions on the use of these weapons and is now using cluster munitions with higher failure rates and thus higher civilian causalities.

The title of the book is a reference to the Lao practice of calling these smaller bomblets “bomb children.” The phrase is also a way for me to think about how these weapons have multi-generational, long term effects that exceed the logic of war. I like how the phrase gestures to a future after bombing. And yet, the United States intended the bombing to ruin the incoming state’s capacity to flourish; in a sense, the United States was bombing the future. Fifty years after the war, children are now more likely to be victims of explosions than their parents (because adults know how to safely avoid or handle bombs). What does it mean to be “born” from a bomb, or born from bombing?
Laos is the most cluster bombed country in the world. In 2010, Laos hosted the signing of the Convention banning cluster munitions. The country and the explosive clearance organizations that work there at the forefront of global efforts to create standards for cluster munition clearance.

You mention Laos is “one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world; it is also the world’s most bombed country . . .” How do military waste “haunt” development projects and the government’s response to the country’s rapid growth?

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Fifty-year-old craters used as trash pits. In the background, tables and a parking lot set up for the temple fund-raiser. Photo by the author.

I take up haunting as an attitude to time: the Secret War as haunting, rather than history. At the Sepon Gold Mine, the focus of Chapter Two, the partially state-owned gold mine digs beneath an old communist stronghold bombed during the Secret War, and beneath that into the remains of a 14th century village. These subterranean histories layer on top of each other, sometimes intersecting or puncturing everyday life on the ground above. The first things to be dug up at the Gold Mine were bombs—not gold or copper—and more bombs are found and demolished every day of active operations. During my fieldwork in Sepon, rumors circulated of bombs and war ghosts brought to the surface by the runoff from the mine. And ghosts from the ancient village underneath the mine were possessing mine workers. The gold mine was also a ghost mine—a place where one dug up ghosts or became a ghost oneself.

Back in Vientiane, the Lao capital, I extend this analysis of haunting to explore the relations between state violence and development. My fieldwork was bracketed by the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, an important Lao civil society leader, and the phase-out of one of my primary research hosts. Sombath was abducted from his car in 2012 (on a Vientiane street near my apartment) and has yet to be returned to his family or confirmed dead. I began my preliminary fieldwork just before Sombath was abducted; and when I returned for primary fieldwork I discovered that my research partnerships needed to be renegotiated. One of my research partners rescinded their patronage all together, citing concerns over state violence. My fieldwork ended just as my primary research host was phasing out of Laos, in part due to the challenges of working in an increasingly authoritarian state. In the post-Sombath years, my interlocutors expressed concern that the hardships of working in Laos were caused by Sombath’s ghost. Since Sombath has not been confirmed dead, and his body not found, Sombath’s kin have not be able to perform the proper funerary rituals, thus causing Sombath to become an “angry ghost.” His ghost is haunting Lao development. At the same time, the ambiguity of disappearance (Sombath is alive/dead) points to another possible world of forgiveness and cooperation. Political disappearance creates an awareness of multiple worlds layering within the everyday. In the book’s logic of parallels, this contemporary state violence forms a parallel with the ongoing violence from the Secret War.

In your book, you talk about doing research in what is considered a dangerous environment. What were some of the hazards you encountered while doing your fieldwork?

I went into this research assuming explosives would be the greatest risks to my safety. My Institutional Review Board protocols included procedures for conducting fieldwork in uncleared battlefields and at explosives clearance sites. I soon discovered that state terror, surveillance, and harassment were far greater threats: that being an American woman in an authoritarian state was a greater risk factor than being in the middle of an old air strike zone. I joked to my friends: “The men are more dangerous than the bombs!” I was unprepared for the levels of surveillance and harassment that I was experiencing. In hindsight, I realized that my lack of preparedness was evidence for the public secrecy of state violence: there was no way I could have predicted many of these challenges in advance of doing fieldwork. We must negotiate our research ethics in the field. I also think that my unpreparedness points to a larger, shared issue in field-based sciences around the unequal risks faced by female researchers. As a discipline, we are impoverished in our theories and methods for risk: How I wish that the #metoo anthropology movement had begun before I started my fieldwork! I hope that this book contributes to that larger, disciplinary discussion of research risks and subject/researcher protections.

I approached these challenges as an ethical and methodological provocation to practice fieldwork differently, including my development of a hazardous research methods toolkit. I used the word “hazard” to counter the over-determining language of danger in explosives clearance. I wanted a word that would organically encompass military waste, state terror, and everyday risks like harassment and unsafe water. Ethnographic fieldwork is often a balance between intimacy and danger. The tension is written into our basic method: participant-observation, to participate without losing the distance that is essential to scholarship. Fieldwork in explosives clearance zones materializes the risks of ethnographic intimacy: areas of safety and danger are marked on the ground with stakes and red tape. Get too close, and the bomb with destroy you and itself! I learned to walk the perimeter of explosions, looking inward from a safe distance. My practical development of hazardous research methods eventually dovetailed with my theorizing of parallelism: I began to see how hazards layer on top of each other in postwar zones, amplifying risks without necessarily intersecting or being causally related.

What do you hope readers will take away from Bomb Children?

My goal in writing this book is to increase our collective ability to think about war, particularly covert air war, as a lived human experience. Postwar zones deserve more robust area and cultural studies. Military waste as area studies has only been possible since the 1990s when the widespread use of these weapons, the opening of many Cold War battlefields, and the development of humanitarian explosives clearance made it possible for researchers to study in these zones. Our theories and methods for studying postwar zones are out of step with the realities of the people that we study and our own lives under empire. Many of the theories I put forward are ways of grappling with a world changed by modern warfare’s unprecedented ecological and social impacts. Violence on this scale transforms the very conditions of being, living, and dying. Then, in Laos, half a century passes and new generations are born alongside bomb children, luk labaerd, cluster submunitions. Humanitarian explosives clearance often goes only as deep as a typical Lao plow—a handful of centimeters. More bombs often remain buried deeper, with a thin line of soil separating the farmer from the explosives. How is the violence of war lived in times of peace? How can we lean into the shared challenges of military waste, toxic inheritances that by their nature outlive our politics? Out of respect and accuracy towards the people impacted by these weapons, I offer theories and methods for understanding in parallel both our lives above ground, in all our human richness and possibility, and the brutality of a war buried in the soil just beneath our feet.

Pick up your paperback copy of Bomb Children for 30% off using coupon code E19LZANI on our website.

Farewell to Ann Snitow

Ann Snitow

Credit: Steve Ladner

We were deeply saddened to learn that Ann Snitow passed away on August 10th after battling bladder cancer. Snitow was Associate Professor of Literature and Gender Studies at Lang College, The New School, in New York City. She was the author of The Feminism of Uncertaintypublished by us in 2015.

A longtime activist, Snitow cofounded The Network of East-West Women, No More Nice Girls, and New York Radical Feminists. She wrote for The Village VoiceThe NationThe Women’s Review of BooksDissent, and many other publications, and is coeditor of Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality and The Feminist Memoir Project: Voices from Women’s Liberation.

“Over nearly half a century, Ms. Snitow mobilized feminists, often at her kitchen table in Soho, and chronicled their ebbs and flows in six books and scores of articles in publications including The Village Voice, The Nation and Dissent,” wrote Kit Seelye in the New York Times.

We offer our condolences to Professor Snitow’s colleagues, friends, and family.


World Day against Trafficking in Persons

trafficking-logoToday is World Day against Trafficking in Persons, a day to bring awareness to and encourage action against human trafficking. In honor of this international day, we’re featuring some of our recent journal articles (all available free for six months) and books that explore this global issue.

In the Trail of the Ship: Narrating the Archives of Illegal Slavery,” featured in the March 2019 issue of Social Text, delves into the strange, contradictory archives of the illegal transatlantic slave trade that flourished between Angola and Brazil in the mid-nineteenth century. The article’s author, Yuko Miki, follows the documentary trail of notorious slave ship Mary E. Smith, focusing on the list of the ship’s Africans who were “liberated” from captivity, most of whom were already deceased.

m_ddpos_25_4.coverAuthor Elena Shih explores why and how Thailand functions as a pivotal destination for US human-trafficking rescue projects in “Freedom Markets: Consumption and Commerce across Human-Trafficking Rescue in Thailand,” featured in the November 2017 issue of positions: asia critique. Basing her research on the global anti-trafficking movement in Thailand, China, and the United States between 2008 and 2014, Shih juxtaposes two distinct tourist encounters: a human-trafficking reality tour hosted by a US nonprofit organization, and a separate study-abroad gathering of US university students hosted at the office of a Thai sex worker rights organization.

m_ddglq_22_3_coverIn the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government engaged in a militarized campaign to clean up favelas, blighted areas, and red-light districts so that it could “develop” them. In his article “Evangelical Ecstasy Meets Feminist Fury: Sex Trafficking, Moral Panics, and Homonationalism during Global Sporting Events,” featured in the June 2016 issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Gregory Mitchell argues that by destroying safe and legal venues for sex work, host cities of such events create the very exploitation they purport to prevent.

You may also be interested in these books about human trafficking:

Street Corner Secrets

Street Corner Secrets is an ethnography of women in the city of Mumbai who look for  work at nakas, street corners where day laborers congregate and wait to be hired for construction jobs. Often chosen last, after male workers, or not at all, some women turn to sex work in order to make money, at the nakas, on the street, or in brothels. Svati P. Shah argues that sex work should be seen in relation to other structural inequities affecting these women’s lives, such as threats from the police and lack of access to clean water.

Having spent nearly a decade following the lives of formerly trafficked men and women, Denise Brennan recounts in close detail their flight from their abusers and their courageous efforts to rebuild their lives. Life Interrupted is a riveting account of life in and after trafficking and a forceful call for meaningful immigration and labor reform.

Read an Excerpt from Pamela Reynold’s The Uncaring, Intricate World

Uncaring Intricate WorldIn her new book, The Uncaring, Intricate World, anthropologist Pamela Reynolds shares her fieldwork diary from her time spent in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi valley during the 1980s, in which she recounts the difficulties, pleasures, and contradictions of studying the daily lives of the Tonga people three decades after their forced displacement. This edition of her diary was carefully curated by Todd Meyers, Associate Professor of Anthropology at New York University, Shanghai.

“The diary is not inert. It is not a snapshot or a photograph, but recognizes the inherent problem of a photographic subject to hold still,” says Meyers in the foreword. In this excerpt from the first chapter, Reynolds describes her experiences arriving at the site of her fieldwork, including the environment, her interactions with the children, and her first meal.

Read an excerpt from The Uncaring, Intricate World below and then order a copy from our website for 30% off using coupon code E19RYNLD

Chitenge, Mola
5:45 p.m.

It is, I suppose, one of anthropology’s funny scenes. The sun setting, and I in a house that consists only of poles widely spaced, roofless, doorless, so that all I do is exposed to the eyes of twelve children. That which I do amuses them greatly: I am sitting in a director’s chair at a folding table drinking tea, with a weird assortment of goods scattered around on the bare soil.

Anderson and I arrived at 3:30 p.m., having driven 440 kilo meters from Harare and having been on the road since 6:00 a.m. with half an hour in Karoi. The journey was fine— rather like being massaged by t hose ma-chines that are supposed to tone your muscles and slim you down. The road varies from corrugations to potholes to deep sand with combinations of the three. Over the last 200 kilo meters we met only two busses, one van, two trucks, three warthogs, and many kudu.

On arrival and the discovery of only the bare frames of a kitchen and sleeping platform, I expressed some dis plea sure to Samuel, the builder, who is racing the setting sun to build a ladder to the platform of the busanza (my house on stilts) so that I can climb up there to sleep. I was a little scornful of his pro gress on my house after six weeks. A small audi-ence of children listened in fascination. Samuel has since enjoyed getting his own back making the children roar with laughter at my expense. It is a fine scene, with Samuel and his mate, Shadrick, working hard yet enter-taining the children. One boy has a fearfully distended belly; another eats cold sadza and relish beside my doorpost; yet another plays with a little girl who is in his charge.

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Paulina and I (looking bushed) at her homestead. Photo graph by Alexan-der Joe for the book Lwaano Lwanyika, © Pamela Reynolds and Colleen Crawford Cousins, circa 1985.

Now fourteen children stand and watch me. The sun goes down; there is a little light, and the scruffy ends of twine that tie the steps of the ladder are being trimmed. Who won? Not me. Return to laughter!

6:05 p.m.

I made a grand gesture of climbing the finished ladder and allowed more opportunity for laughter. I gave Samuel and his mate an orange each in ad-miration of their effort. It had ended amicably, and I said a firm “Goodnight,” at which every one miraculously dis appeared. I shall now have a whiskey on the platform and read Virginia Woolf ( ought to be Shakespeare).

I need a candle guard. I have bathed in the moonlight. A tub of warm water has been placed for me in a newly made bathing shelter of matting reed set around a plastered floor. Odd how many new skills one must learn— how to take a little water in a mug, how to balance a watch on a pole, how to dress while keeping feet and clothes dry and clean.

I have my whiskey and candle and book and have watched the final sun’s light go and listened to the new night noises: crickets, a child’s cry, men talking, pots banging, little children’s chatter, and my first mosquito’s whine. Difficult to keep the candle alight on my bare platform. Frogs, crickets, do I hear something more threatening? The night is mysterious beyond the circle of my flame. The bus from Harare is passing, almost empty. Ander-son comes and chats for a while. What joy is the peace after the last two frenetic weeks. I have forgotten methylated spirits, pillows, a stretcher, and copies of photo graphs taken on the last trip to hand out. No doubt much else. Oh well.
Anderson’s uncle ( father’s brother) was arrested on the 21st  of last month. The National Parks game guards caught him in the bush and ac-cused him of poaching. He denied it, but after some interrogation he ad-mitted to having been seen with wire. He is the head of Anderson’s section of Chitenge. He is awaiting trial in Kariba, and as fines have been stopped, he is likely to spend six months in jail.

Anderson told me that the young man with the wonderful crafted bas-ket of fish that he was carry ing from Musamba to a market in Harare, to whom we gave a lift from Musamba to Bumi in July, has been killed. An ex- girlfriend who was living at Groebler’s crocodile farm knifed him. She, too, had been a fish trader but had recently been living with a worker at the camp. She now awaits trial in Kariba and leaves behind three young children.

Anderson’s eldest son fetched me for supper of meat that I had brought from Karoi and sadza. I joined a delightful domestic scene with Anderson chatting animatedly with his wives and little Cosimos being small, vocif-erous, and tired. He would only eat meat and went off to bed saying, “I will not sleep on the mat as a rat will eat me. I shall sleep in your bed” (to his mother and father). The adults laughed.

As we finished eating, a Land Rover approached with one light. I thought, “Ah, that is Bernard” (for I knew that he was passing through Chitenge that day), and I went out to the road. And sure enough it was Bernard Whaley, a friend from my school days. He was with the people undertaking a canoe safari being filmed by a French crew. They were passing en route to Bumi, having canoed some distance down the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls. I appeared to be an apparition as I stepped into their headlights as they ap-proached the end of a long journey through the bush.

Now to sleep to the sound of drums. My house does look peculiar. A pristine white net hangs from a pole across the roofless top; my clothes are carefully arranged on hangers from the same pole; a white bag full of tape recorders, etc., hangs beside my black handbag from a branch of the pole. My large straw hat sits like a moth against the curve. The wind plays with the mosquito net and extinguishes my candle.