Author: Chris Huebner

Author Events in May

Duke Press authors have virtual and in-person events scheduled around the world throughout the month of May. We hope you’re able to attend some of them!

May 2, 6 pm EDT: Shannen Dee Williams, author of Subversive Habits, participates in a hybrid event at Georgetown University honoring Sister Thea Bowman.

May 4, 6 pm BST: Sara Ahmed, author of Complaint!, presents a lecture entitled “Losing Your Hand: Complaint, Common Sense and Other Institutional Legacies.” It is sponsored by the Department of Psycho-Social Studies at Birkbeck College.

May 4, 4pm EDT: The Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University sponsors an online talk by Jonathan Sterne, author of Diminished Faculties, followed by a Q&A moderated by Emily Lim Rogers.

May 4, 7pm EDT: Aimee Meredith Cox, author of Shapeshifters, joins Bill T. Jones and others for a hybrid conversation to introduce the New York Live Arts Community of Scholars initiative.

May 6, 12pm PDT: micha cárdenas, author of Poetic Operations, will give a talk at the Performance Studies Graduate Spring Forum at UC Davis.

May 9, 2 pm EDT: Mark Rifkin will participate in an online book panel discussion around his book Speaking for the People, hosted by UNC Greensboro’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.

May 9, 3:30 pm CEDT: Sophie Chao, author of In the Shadow of the Palms, speaks about her book at the Stockholm Center for Global Asia.

May 10, 2 pm EDT: Natalie Loveless, author of How to Make Art at the End of the World, joins the Inkcap Collective to discuss her book and an article she wrote with Carrie Smith.

May 10, 4 pm PDT: UCLA’s Department of Asian Languages and Cultures sponsors an in-person talk by Michael K. Bourdaghs, author of A Fictional Commons.

May 10, 7 pm EDT: Max Fox and Kadji Amin join Scott Branson, the translator of Guy Hocquenghem’s Gay Liberation after May ‘68, to discuss the book and the futures of gay liberation.

May 11: Heather Davis, author of Plastic Matter, will give a talk at the Musée des Beaux Art Montréal.

May 11, 5 pm GMT: Cambridge University hosts an online talk by Sophie Chao, author of In the Shadow of the Palms, with responses from Maan Barua, Liana Chua, and Rupert Stasch. 

May 12: 3 pm CEDT: KU Leuven sponsors an in-person launch and roundtable discussion of Thomas Hendriks’s Rainforest Capitalism, featuring panelists Florence Bernault, Jeroen Cuvelier, Peter Geschiere, Nancy Rose Hunt, and  Amandine Lauro, and moderated by Peter Lambertz.

May 13: Dr. Nitasha Tamar Sharma, author of Hawai’i is My Haven, will participate in a virtual symposium hosted by the Faculty of Color Working Group at Tufts University

May 13, 11 am PDT: Rebecca Karl, author of The Magic of Concepts and Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World, is among the participants in a Red May Seattle online talk entitled “Revolution after Such Shipwrecks.”

May 15, 11 am PDT: Johanna Gosse, co-editor of Nervous Systems, is among the participants in a Red May Seattle online conversation entitled “Walter Benjamin’s Message in a Bottle.”

May 16: Heather Davis, author of Plastic Matter, will give a virtual invited talk as part of “Dis/Entangling Perspectives in Material Research” hosted by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

May 18: 6 pm GMT: Jennifer Morgan, author of Reckoning with Slavery, gives the inaugural Elsa Goveia public lecture at the Darwin Lecture Theatre at University College London.

May 19, 8 am PDT: micha cárdenas, author of Poetic Operations, will give a talk as part of “An-Iconology. Theory, History, and Practices of Environmental Images” (AN-ICON) hosted by University of Milan.

May 19, 11 am PDT, Alyosha Goldstein, author of Poverty in Common and co-editor of Formations of United States Colonialism, participates in a Red May Seattle online conversation entitled “For Anti-Fascist Futures: Against the Violence of Imperial Crises.”

May 19, 6:30 pm PDT: Ayala Levin, author of Architecture and Development, will give an in-person talk at UCLA.

May 20, 11 am PDT: Verónica Gago, author of Neoliberalism from Below, participates in a Red May Seattle online conversation entitled “The Feminis Subversion of the Economy.”

May 21, 10 am CDT: Renato Rosaldo, author of The Chasers and The Day of Shelly’s Death, will appear in-person at the San Antonio Book Festival.

May 24, 12 pm BST: Sara Ahmed, author of Complaint! presents a livestreamed public lecture at the University of Iceland, entitled “Feminist Ears: Listening to Complaint, Learning about Violence.”

May 25, 3 pm EDT: Global Sisters Report hosts an online talk by Shannen Dee Williams, author of Subversive Habits.

Honoring Women’s History Month

This month is Women’s History Month, and March 8th is International Women’s Day! This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias to forge gender equality. Let’s highlight some recent Duke Press titles that focus on the important roles that women have played throughout history and that examine issues critical to women’s and gender studies.

In Confidence Culture, Shani Orgad and Rosalind Gill argue that, while imperatives directed at women to “love your body” and “believe in yourself” may feel good, they do not address structural and systemic oppression. Rejecting confidence culture’s remaking of feminism along individualistic and neoliberal lines, Orgad and Gill explore alternative articulations of feminism that go beyond the confidence imperative.

In Workers Like All the Rest of Them, Elizabeth Quay Hutchison recounts the long struggle for domestic workers’ recognition and rights in Chile across the twentieth century. Through archival research, firsthand accounts, and interviews with veteran activists, Hutchison challenges domestic workers’ exclusion from Chilean history and reveals how and under what conditions they mobilized for change, forging alliances with everyone from Catholic Church leaders and legislators to feminists and political party leaders.

In Familial Undercurrents, Afsaneh Najmabadi uncovers her family’s complex experiences of polygamous marriage to tell a larger story of the transformations of notions of love, marriage, and family life in mid-twentieth-century Iran. She traces how the idea of “marrying for love” acquired dominance in Tehran’s emerging middle class and chronicles how the city’s architecture and neighborhood social networks both influenced and became emblematic of the myriad forms of modern Iranian family life.

In Birthing Black Mothers, Jennifer C. Nash examines how the figure of the “Black mother” has become a powerful political category. Through cultural critique and in-depth interviews, Nash acknowledges the complexities of Black motherhood outside its use as political currency. Throughout, Nash imagines a Black feminist project that refuses the lure of locating the precarity of Black life in women and instead invites readers to theorize, organize, and dream into being new modes of Black motherhood.

In Reckoning with Slavery, Jennifer L. Morgan draws on the lived experiences of enslaved African women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to reveal the contours of early modern notions of trade, race, and commodification in the Black Atlantic. Morgan demonstrates that the development of Western notions of value and race occurred simultaneously and illustrates how racial capitalism denied the enslaved their kinship and affective ties while simultaneously relying on kinship to reproduce and enforce slavery through enslaved female bodies.

In Black Trans Feminism, Marquis Bey offers a meditation on blackness and gender nonnormativity in ways that recalibrate traditional understandings of each. Theorizing black trans feminism from the vantages of abolition and gender radicality, Bey articulates blackness as a mutiny against racializing categorizations; transness as a nonpredetermined, wayward, and deregulated movement that works toward gender’s destruction; and black feminism as an epistemological method to fracture hegemonic modes of racialized gender.

In Domestic Contradictions, Priya Kandaswamy analyzes how race, class, gender, and sexuality shaped welfare practices in the United States alongside the conflicting demands that this system imposed upon Black women. Kandaswamy illustrates how the Black female body came to represent a series of interconnected dangers—to white citizenship, heteropatriarchy, and capitalist ideals of productivity—and how a desire to curb these threats drove state policy.

In Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s, Rox Samer explores how 1970s feminists took up the figure of the lesbian in broad attempts to reimagine gender and sexuality. Samer turns to feminist film, video, and science fiction literature, offering a historiographical concept called “lesbian potentiality”—a way of thinking beyond what the lesbian was, in favor of how the lesbian signified what could have come to be. Throughout, Samer embraces the perpetual reimagination of “lesbian” and the lesbian’s former futures for the sake of continued, radical world-building.

We also publish some fantastic journals in women’s studies, including Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, and Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies. Check them out!

New Books in March

Need something to read over Spring Break? Check out our amazing titles coming out this March!

In Bigger Than Life, Mary Ann Doane examines how the scalar operations of cinema, especially those of the close-up, disturb and reconfigure the spectator’s sense of place, space, and orientation. Doane traces the history of scalar transformations from early cinema to the contemporary use of digital technology.

In Poetic Operations, artist and theorist micha cárdenas considers contemporary digital media, artwork, and poetry in order to articulate trans of color strategies for safety and survival. Drawing on decolonial theory, women of color feminism, media theory, and queer of color critique, cárdenas develops a method she calls algorithmic analysis.

In Intimate Eating, Anita Mannur examines how notions of the culinary can create new forms of kinship, intimacy, and social and political belonging. Drawing on critical ethnic studies and queer studies, Mannur traces the ways in which people of color, queer people, and other marginalized subjects create and sustain this belonging through the formation of “intimate eating publics.”

In Warring Visions, Thy Phu explores photography from dispersed communities throughout Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora, both during and after the Vietnam War, to complicate narratives of conflict and memory. While the visual history of the Vietnam War has been dominated by American media, Phu turns to photographs circulated by the Vietnamese themselves.

In Familial Undercurrents, Afsaneh Najmabadi uncovers her family’s complex experiences of polygamous marriage to tell a larger story of the transformations of notions of love, marriage, and family life in mid-twentieth-century Iran.

In Racist Love, Leslie Bow traces the ways in which Asian Americans become objects of anxiety and desire. Conceptualizing these feelings as “racist love,” she explores how race is abstracted and then projected onto Asianized objects.

Throughout Atlantis, an Autoanthropology, Nathaniel Tarn captures this multiplicity and reaches for the uncertainties of a life lived in a dizzying array of times, cultures, and environments. Drawing on his practice as an anthropologist, he takes himself as a subject of study, examining the shape of a life devoted to the study of the whole of human culture.

In Workers Like All the Rest of Them, Elizabeth Quay Hutchison recounts the long struggle for domestic workers’ recognition and rights in Chile across the twentieth century. Hutchison traces the legal and social history of domestic workers and their rights, outlining their transition from slavery to servitude.

In Earworm and Event, Eldritch Priest questions the nature of the imagination in contemporary culture through the phenomenon of the earworm. Through a series of meditations on music, animal mentality, abstraction, and metaphor, Priest uses the earworm and the states of daydreaming, mind-wandering, and delusion it can produce to outline how music is something that is felt as thought rather than listened to.

In Scales of Captivity, Mary Pat Brady traces the figure of the captive or cast-off child in Latinx and Chicanx literature and art between chattel slavery’s final years and the mass deportations of the twenty-first century. She shows how Latinx expressive practices expose how every rescaling of economic and military power requires new modalities of capture, new ways to bracket and hedge life.

In Queer African Cinemas, Lindsey B. Green-Simms examines films produced by and about queer Africans in the first two decades of the twenty-first century in an environment of increasing antiqueer violence, efforts to criminalize homosexuality, and other state-sanctioned homophobia.

In Living Worth, Stefan Ecks draws on ethnographic research on depression and antidepressant usage in India to develop a new theory of value. Framing depressive disorder as a problem of value, Ecks traces the myriad ways antidepressants come to have value, from their ability to help make one’s life worth living to the wealth they generate in the multibillion-dollar global pharmaceutical market.

In The Florida Room, Alexandra T. Vazquez listens to the music and history of Miami to offer a lush story of place and people, movement and memory, dispossession and survival. She transforms the “Florida room”—an actual architectural phenomenon—into a vibrant spatial imaginary for Miami’s musical cultures and everyday life.

In Plastic Matter, Heather Davis traces plastic’s relations to geology, media, biology, and race to show how matter itself has come to be understood as pliable, disposable, and consumable. The invention and widespread use of plastic, Davis contends, reveals the dominance of the Western orientation to matter and its assumption that matter exists to be endlessly manipulated and controlled by humans.

In Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s, Rox Samer explores how 1970s feminists took up the figure of the lesbian in broad attempts to reimagine gender and sexuality. Samer turns to feminist film, video, and science fiction literature, offering a historiographical concept called “lesbian potentiality”—a way of thinking beyond what the lesbian was, in favor of how the lesbian signified what could have come to be.

The contributors to Reframing Todd Haynes, edited by Theresa L. Geller and Julia Leyda, reassess his work in light of his long-standing feminist commitments and his exceptional career as a director of women’s films. They present multiple perspectives on Haynes’s film and television work and on his role as an artist-activist who draws on academic theorizations of gender and cinema.

In Vulgar Beauty, Mila Zuo offers a new theorization of cinematic feminine beauty by showing how mediated encounters with Chinese film and popular culture stars produce feelings of Chineseness. To illustrate this, Zuo uses the vulgar as an analytic to trace how racial, gendered, and cultural identity is imagined and produced through affect.

Jia Zhangke on Jia Zhangke is an extended dialogue between film scholar Michael Berry and the internationally acclaimed Chinese filmmaker. Drawing from extensive interviews and public talks, this volume offers a portrait of Jia’s life, art, and approach to filmmaking.

In this new edition of Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution, C. L. R. James tells the history of the socialist revolution led by Kwame Nkrumah, the first president and prime minister of Ghana.

In Climatic Media, Yuriko Furuhata traces climate engineering from the early twentieth century to the present, emphasizing the legacies of Japan’s empire building and its Cold War alliance with the United States.

China in the World by Ban Wang traces the shifting concept of the Chinese state from the late nineteenth century to the present, showing how the Confucian notion of tianxia—“all under heaven”—influences China’s dedication to contributing to and exchanging with a common world.

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Q&A with Jonathan Sterne

Jonathan Sterne in front of a painting by Ara Osterweil.

Jonathan Sterne is James McGill Professor of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. In his new book, Diminished Faculties, Sterne draws on his personal history with thyroid cancer and a paralyzed vocal cord in order to generate a sweeping cultural study and theorization of impairment, in which experience is understood from the standpoint of a subject that is not fully able to account for itself.

You begin the book with a personal account of your own surgical trauma and difficulty with a speaking impairment. How has that experience contributed to your intellectual development and to this book specifically? And speaking of experience, you discuss the need to reassess phenomenology, which has historically been grounded in white, male experiences.

Writing the parts of the book that deal with my own experience is certainly the most difficult academic writing I’ve ever done. When I acquired a paralyzed vocal cord, a lot of people told me “oh, that’s so interesting—you write on sound, now you have a crip voice, you should write about that.” I also blogged my experience at the time I was going through it, so I had a lot of raw material, which also led to the “you should write about it” response. At first, I resisted it, but after some time and reflection, and the encouragement of several people, including Courtney Berger, I realized I needed to resettle my accounts with phenomenology. While what you say about phenomenology is absolutely true, there has been a growing alternative movement of racialized, queer, feminist, and crip phenomenologies I wanted to join.

But I can’t just join. Sure, I’m disabled. I am also white and male and have benefitted from that status, and very specifically in my academic life. Those canonical phenomenologies are supposed to speak to me and my experience. So I needed a way to interrogate my own experience, to be honest about the mixture of profound privilege and debilitation (both physical and social) that conditions my experience of the world. I’ve sought out colleagues and mentors who don’t necessarily look or sound like me, which has helped a lot.

Do you see impairment phenomenology as contributing to a broader political project during our current moment affected by racist police brutality, COVID-19, and climate change?

I like Stuart Hall’s admonition to be modest in our political claims for intellectual endeavors. I hope the book gives people some inspiration and courage to think differently about human limits (their own, other people’s), maybe some authorization to do what they do or be who they are, and perhaps about how they do their work. My prior experience as a writer is that books can inspire readers in unexpected ways, and that’s my biggest hope for Diminished Faculties.

Throughout the book, you make use of many forms of visual representation that differ from plain text, including the static-y pages at the opening, musical notation, artistic representations and photos. What drew you to these images and how do they contribute to your work?

Most of the credit for visual interest goes to others. Originally I wanted to work with a single artist who would illustrate the whole book, but that idea just didn’t work out. Matt Tauch at the Press translated my vague ideas about spacing in the beginning and “looking like a user manual” into really coherent designs. I commissioned drawings from Lochlann Jain because I love their work and one day Carrie (my partner) and I were trying to work out what 7.5cm really meant. I’m also a fan of Darsha Hewitt, and for the user’s guide, I wanted to pay homage to other great user guides, like the manuals for Madrona Labs’ instruments (which are themselves homages to the manual for the Buchla Music Easel). Zoë de Luca told me I should take the exhibition metaphor more literally for that chapter, and that resulted in looking at actual exhibition maps and then laying out my own.  The artworks didn’t need me to be interesting!  I just had to point to them, and the artists were generous enough to let me reproduce them.

You investigate nonhuman objects throughout your book, including a popcorn machine and a set of “speaking chairs.” How are nonhuman perspectives important to your thinking?

I think technology is profoundly human and humans are profoundly technological. The two works you mention materialize a struggle I have throughout the front end of the book: it is at once extremely ideological and coercive to equate a subject with its voice, to locate the voice as the locus of its agency. But I also live in a world that shaped by those processes and despite my best theoretical equivocations, I can’t help wanting them. Nina Katchadourian’s Talking Popcorn is striking because she follows through so completely, with a long list of experts weighing in on the meaning of the apparatus’ synthesized speech. Graham Pullin’s Speaking Chairs project is an answer to the coercive dimension of augmentative/alternative voice technology that prioritizes the semantic dimensions of speech over the affective. Other objects do other kinds of work. As for other nonhumans, cats make another appearance (including a callback to MP3), and that’s because I am very interested in cats. I originally wanted the book to end with my cat throwing up on me, but that didn’t work with the whole user’s guide conclusion.

You write about some of the challenges of writing impairment phenomenology, including needing to utilize a different set of pronouns than are traditionally used in academic writing. How did those challenges change your experience writing this book for an academic audience? How did you adapt to and overcome them?

The banned pronoun is “we.” It’s an exercise in specificity as much as anything else—when I am doing phenomenology, who am I talking about? Anglophone writers in the humanities use “we” a lot; it solves a lot of problems that they’d otherwise have to deal with when writing about meaning or experience. I’m hardly the first person to note this, but while the “humanities we” can be intended as welcoming or invitational, it has really homogenizing effects. This is especially the case for writing an impairment phenomenology: not only do “we” not hear, see, or feel the same thing, I may not have experienced what I thought I experienced when I recount it later in writing. So I tried to avoid the “humanities we” altogether, and I only used “we” when directly addressing a community of scholars to which I belong, or when I’m narrating something, as in “we went to a party” (oh how I miss going to parties). Towards the end of the book-writing process, I actually did a search of the manuscript, and caught a few places where I slipped up!

Your previous books have been about sound and technology. Diminished Faculties relates to those topics, but also draws significantly from work in disability studies. What brought you to disability studies, and how did you find that transition between disciplines?

I’ve always been interested in disability: for instance, The Audible Past is shaped in part by Deaf historiography and critiques of audism. Some of Diminished Faculties comes out of that thread. I started doing an annual Disability Studies course in 2011. With the help of generations of students, that has really shaped my thinking in profound ways. We could talk about the field’s connection to activism and all the work I and many others have been doing there during the COVID pandemic. But also: disability is constitutive condition of humanity. It is everywhere, yet academics are generally trained to ignore it even when it is right there in the room with them. Disability studies is about getting disabled people into the room—metaphorically but also for real.

There’s another dimension that’s important to me. A lot of disability studies work is in an affirmative mode right now: centering disabled experience, especially those experiences that may not have “counted” as disabled before; it is about showing that disabled people are agents of history. That work is vital and students and activists need to read it. But disability studies also has a profound critique of mastery that is a useful reminder, especially for academics where there is such pressure to perform mastery and control. Again, I’m not the first here: Margaret Price, Remy Yergeau, and Jay Dolmage have had a lot to say on this subject. But I want to push it even further to say that normate thought isn’t as normal or under control as it says it is. Even the most experienced musician will admit that they are not in full control of their instrument—it pushes back; their body does not cooperate; they must adjust. What if we, as scholars, could admit that we are not masters of our own experience, or anyone else’s for that matter? What could that do for hermeneutics, for historiography, for ethnography?

Read the introduction to Diminished Faculties for free and save 30% on the paperback with coupon code E21STERN.