Author: Jessica

Poem of the Week

Cesaire_Cover_FinalFor the third week of National Poetry Month, we share an excerpt from our authoritative bilingual edition of Aimé Césaire’s Journal of a Homecoming ⁄ Cahier d′un retour au pays natal, translated by N. Gregson Davis. Originally published in 1939, Cahier d′un retour au pays natal is a landmark of modern French poetry and a founding text of the Negritude movement.

 

O friendly light
O pristine source of light
those who invented neither gunpowder nor compass
those who have never tamed steam or electricity
those who have not explored either seas or sky
but without whom the earth would not be the earth
excrescence growing more benign even as the earth continues to desert
the earth
grain silo where there germinates and ripens what is most earth upon
the earth

My negritude is not a stone, its deafness heaved
against the clamor of day
my negritude is not a film of dead water on the dead eye
of earth
my negritude is neither a tower nor a cathedral
it delves into the red flesh of the soil
it delves into the burning flesh of the sky
it digs through the dark accretions that weigh down its righteous
patience.

Hurray for the majestic Cedrate!
Hurray for those who have never invented anything
for those who have never explored anything
for those who have never vanquished anything
but they surrender, possessed, to the essence of every thing
ignorant of surfaces but possessed by the movement
of every thing
unconcerned to vanquish, but playing the game of the world

truly the elder sons of the world
permeable to all the breaths of the world
fraternal compass points for all the breaths of the world
deep lake bed for all the waters of the world
spark of the sacred fire of the world
flesh of the very flesh of the world, palpitating with the very
movement of the world!
Foreday morning warm with ancestral values

Learn more about Journal of a Homecoming ⁄ Cahier d′un retour au pays natal.

Poem of the Week

978-0-8223-7147-2For the second week of National Poetry Month, we’re sharing an excerpt from David Grubbs’s new book-length prose poem Now that the audience is assembled. The poem, both a work of literature and a study of music, describes a fictional performance during which a musician improvises the construction of a series of invented instruments before an audience that is alternately contemplative, participatory, disputatious, and asleep.

 

The demonstration is scarcely completed when the composer places his instrument on the ground and turns to address the audience.

The musician cannot flip the switch quite so easily, and she rocks back and forth with an unprotesting expression, still cradling her instrument and inhabiting a different sphere while the composer, speaking through the page-turner, shares his take on this brief performance: It needs to be said that a duo performance is something other than this composition. Two is an insufficient number. Two performers suffice only to show the technique. The structure of the work is the invitation for multiple individuals to create and experience alterations on the basis of unforeseen encounters. It’s a pleasure to encounter you in this way (composer and page-turner both gesture toward the musician, who gives no indication that she’s listening) and to do so again and again and differently each time, but a duo performance has a melancholic desert-island quality. That of two survivors, and we need others. Composer and page-turner toe the edge of the lighted rectangle and peer into the darkness: Do we have volunteers?

The audience feigns sleep or slumbers on.

Thankfully the composer knows when to drop the direct address, and the offer is not repeated. There is no need to force participation. He gestures for musician and page-turner to follow him as he shuffles toward the upstage door that once again swings open. They disappear for several minutes into the unknown region.

When they return to the performance space, they come provisioned with a collection of ten bulky round objects, each thick with dust and wrapped in a maroon cloth and tied with a piece of canary-yellow nylon rope. They lean the wrapped objects against the wall in an arrangement based on descending order of size. The largest of the bundles matches the arm span of the page-turner; the smallest resembles a hubcap.

We’re going to try something different, announces the composer.

Learn more about Now that the audience is assembled.

Poem of the Week

978-0-8223-7084-0It’s National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating by sharing a poem with you each Wednesday in April! Today’s choice is from Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s brand-new poetry collection M Archive, which documents the persistence of Black life after an imagined worldwide cataclysm, told from the perspective of a future researcher uncovering evidence of the conditions of late capitalism, antiblackness, & environmental crisis.

 

this thing about one body. it was the black feminist metaphysicians who first said it wouldn’t be enough. never had been enough. was not the actual scale of breathing. they were the controversial priestesses who came out and said it in a way that people could understand (which is the same as saying they were the ones who said it in a way that the foolish would ignore, and then complain about and then co-opt without ever mentioning the black feminist metaphysicians again, like with intersectionality, but that’s another
apocalypse).

the Lorde of their understanding had taught them. this work began before I was born and it will continue . . .

the university taught them through its selective genocide. one body. the unitary body. one body was not a sustainable unit for the project at hand. the project itself being black feminist metaphysics. which is to say, breathing.

hindsight is everything (and also one of the key reasons that the individual body is not a workable unit of impact), but if the biochemists had diverted their energy towards this type of theoretical antioxidant around the time of the explicit emergence of this idea (let’s say the end of the second-to-last century), everything could have been different. if the environmentalists sampling the ozone had factored this in, the possibilities would have expanded exponentially.

that wouldn’t have happened (and of course we see that it didn’t) because of the primary incompatibility. the constitutive element of individualism being adverse, if not antithetical to the dark feminine, which is to say, everything.

to put it in tweetable terms, they believed they had to hate black women in order to be themselves.

even many of the black women believed it sometimes. (which is also to say that some of the people on the planet believed they themselves were actually other than black women. which was a false and impossible belief about origin. they were all, in their origin, maintenance, and measure of survival more parts black woman than anything else.) it was like saying they were no parts water. (which they must have believed as well. you can see what they did to the water.)

the problematic core construct was that in order to be sane, which is to live in one body, which is to live one lifetime at one time, which is to disconnect from the black simultaneity of the universe, you could and must deny black femininity. and somehow breathe. the fundamental fallacy being (obvious now. obscured at the time.) that there is no separation from the black simultaneity of the universe also known as everything also known as the black feminist pragmatic intergenerational sphere. everything is everything.

they thought escaping the dark feminine was the only way to earn breathing room in this life. they were wrong.

you can have breathing and the reality of the radical black porousness of love (aka black feminist metaphysics aka us all of us, us) or you cannot. there is only both or neither. there is no either or. there is no this or that. there is only all.

this was their downfall. they hated the black women who were themselves. a suicidal form of genocide. so that was it. they could only make the planet unbreathable.

Learn more about M Archive.

Reimagining Ourselves: Race, Gender, and Disability in Black Panther and Wrinkle in Time

Sami Final-9Today’s guest post is by Sami Schalk, author of the new book Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction.

It is a good time to be a black nerd—a blerd, if you will. The past few years have seen increased appearances of not only black characters, but entire black speculative worlds, worlds where we are not merely sidekicks, but heroes and heroines. From Netflix’s Luke Cage and Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out to Ryan Coogler’s record-shattering hit film Black Panther and Ava Duvernay’s just-released A Wrinkle in Time, we are in an incredible moment for black speculative film, television, and literature. I use “speculative” here, like I do in my new book, Bodyminds Reimagined, as an umbrella term for non-realist representations, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and magical realism. For a long time, African American literature and film were heavily burdened by the need and desire for positive, realist representations of black people to combat a legacy of influential racist stereotypes. As I discuss in the introduction to Bodyminds Reimagined, available for free here, positive, authentic representations for black and other oppressed groups are often assumed to only occur through realism, like life-writing and historical dramas, but increasingly more writers and filmmakers are experimenting with how speculative fiction and film can also provide empowering representations of marginalized people.

978-0-8223-7088-8Black Panther represents an alternate version of our world in which the people of Wakanda, a secret African nation that went into hiding to protect its supply of vibranium from the colonizing world, have developed their own advanced technology and culture. In this cinematic universe, based on the comic book series of the same title, the Wakandan king, T’Challa, serves as the Black Panther, protector of Wakanda, and is given extraordinary physical abilities through a mystical heart-shaped herb. Throughout the film, T’Challa relies on his genius younger sister Shuri, princess of Wakanda, who develops and improves vibranium technology, and an army of strong black women, the Dora Milaje, who are led by General Okoye. In this speculative world, black people are leaders and inventors as well as farmers, warriors, and spies. Black Panther reimagines the meaning of blackness and womanhood as well as the roles and expectations for black men and women. Importantly, the film provides this reimagining in conjunction with political messages about the history of colonization while also remaining firmly in the superhero genre—full of dramatic fights and chase scenes required of any superhero movie. While black, disabled, and feminist authors of speculative fiction, like Octavia E. Butler, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nnedi Okorafor have been creating politicized non-realist texts which center marginalized characters for years, Hollywood is now beginning to catch up, learning to combine diversity and politics with superheroes, science fiction, and other non-realist genres.

The move to reimagine race and gender identity through speculative fiction and film continues in the new film A Wrinkle in Time, originally a 1962 award-winning speculative fiction novel by Madeleine L’Engle. The book was initially rejected dozens of times, due in part, the author speculated, to its divergence from genre norms at the time, such as featuring a female protagonist. In its current adaptation, A Wrinkle in Time casts a black girl in the lead role of Meg Murray and other characters are also played by women of color. In the film, Meg, along with her friend and younger brother, bend time to travel the universe in order to find and rescue Meg’s scientist father who has been missing for four years. While not as explicitly political at Black Panther and created for a younger audience, A Wrinkle in Time nonetheless reimagines race and gender norms by creating a smart black girl character who must learn to love herself as she is, using her knowledge of physics and love for her family to become a hero.

What is missing from the race and gender diversity of these recent black speculative worlds, however, is disability. In Black Panther, while we see some bodily and age diversity among the tribal leaders, we do not see disabled characters except for the villain Ulysses Klaue who has a prosthetic hand—a representation that aligns with the trope of disability as a symbol or cause of evil. In A Wrinkle in Time, although there are messages about self-love (especially for black people, women and girls) embedded throughout, from Meg’s self-consciousness about her naturally curly hair to Oprah Winfrey’s character Mrs. Which rhetorically asking “Is there such thing as the wrong size?”, disability makes no appearance in the film. Further, in Black Panther CIA operative Everett Ross is shot in the spine but is completely healed by Wakandan technology. This choice suggests that disability has been eliminated in Wakanda. In Chapter 3 of Bodyminds Reimagined, I discuss the role of disability and technology in representations of the future, particularly in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series. There I explain that western visions of the future are typically disability-free futures, like that suggested in Black Panther. Despite the fact that advances in human technology are often used for violence and war (especially against people of color) and despite the fact that technology increasingly allows people to live with more severe and varied disabilities than in the past, we continue to hold onto the ideal of a technologically-created able-bodied, able-minded future in which disabled people cease to exist. The belief in and hope for such a future or fantasy world is based on ableist notions that disabled lives are inherently worse than non-disabled lives and that disabled people do not contribute to the world in important ways.

The lack of positive disability representation (that is, disabled characters who aren’t villains, especially ones played by actually disabled actors) in the increasingly diverse world of speculative film demonstrates that there is still more work to be done. In Bodyminds Reimagined, I analyze how black women writers reimagine the possibilities and limits of bodyminds by creating complex, interesting, and powerful representations of disabled characters. With the release and success of films like Get Out, Black Panther, and A Wrinkle in Time, it seems that speculative film is beginning to catch up the speculative fiction in terms of race and gender, but not as much in terms of disability. By highlighting the role of disability alongside race and gender in black women’s speculative fiction, I hope that Bodyminds Reimagined contributes to this powerful moment in black speculative representations so that perhaps in the Black Panther sequel and other future films, we might see the kind of engagement with and embrace of disability identity that we have begun to see around blackness and womanhood as well.

Pick up Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined for 30% off using coupon code E18BODYM at dukeupress.edu.

World Water Day

wwd-generiq-cmjn_en_2017_square-01-e1521487552747.pngToday is World Water Day, coordinated by the United Nations to draw attention to the importance of water and to the water-related challenges we face today. Our scholarship on water and ocean studies has been steadily growing, and we’re happy to take this occasion to share some of it with you.

978-0-8223-7040-6Matthew Vitz’s A City on a Lake, forthcoming in April, explains Mexico City’s transformation from a forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity plagued by environmental problems and social inequality. Watering the Revolution by Mikael D. Wolfe addresses Mexican agrarian reform through a history of water management in the Laguna region, and Shaylih Muehlmann’s Where the River Ends is a moving look at how the Cucapá people of northwest Mexico have experienced and responded to the diversion of the Colorado River.

ddrhr_116Co-winner of the 2013 award for Best Special Issue from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, Radical History Review‘s “Water: History, Power, Crisis,” examines the historical processes that shape contemporary water issues. Contributors focus on how state-sponsored water programs, from sewage treatment to irrigation to damming, radically transform local communities. Topics include caste legacies and waste management in India, dam building in nineteenth-century Egypt, North African emigration and municipal water policy in Paris, and contested water management programs in the Ecuadorean highlands. Collectively, in essays and photos, the authors investigate how water or its absence has affected human societies and seek to historicize the politics of the struggle to control one of our most crucial natural resources. Read the introduction, made freely available.

In Hydraulic City Nikhil Anand explores the politics of Mumbai’s water infrastructure to demonstrate how citizenship emerges through the continuous efforts to control, maintain, and manage the city’s water. Lisa Björkman’s Pipe Politics, Contested Waters shows how an elite dream to transform Mumbai into a “world class” business center has wreaked havoc on the city’s water pipes.

ddpcult_28_2We live in the age of extremes, a period punctuated by significant disasters that have changed the way we understand risk, vulnerability, and the future of communities. Violent ecological events such as Superstorm Sandy attest to the urgent need to analyze what cities around the world are doing to reduce carbon emissions, develop new energy systems, and build structures to enhance preparedness for catastrophe. The essays in “Climate Change and the Future of Cities: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Social Change on an Urban Planet,” a special issue of Public Culture, illustrate that the best techniques for safeguarding cities and critical infrastructure systems from threats related to climate change have multiple benefits, strengthening networks that promote health and prosperity during ordinary times as well as mitigating damage during disasters. The contributors provide a truly global perspective on topics such as the toxic effects of fracking, water rights in the Los Angeles region, wind energy in southern Mexico, and water scarcity from Brazil to the Arabian Peninsula. Read the introduction, made freely available.

Hough-Snee and Sotelo EastmanBy showing how the waters of the Nile are constantly made and remade as a resource by people in and outside Egypt, Jessica Barnes, in Cultivating the Nile, demonstrates the range of political dynamics, social relations, and technological interventions that must be incorporated into understandings of water and its management.

The Critical Surf Studies Reader, a collection edited by Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee and Alexander Sotelo Eastman, refocuses the history and culture of surfing, paying particular attention to reclaiming the roles that women, indigenous peoples, and people of color have played in surfing. Ulrich Oslender’s The Geographies of Social Movements proposes a critical place perspective to examine the activism of black communities in the lowland rain forest of Colombia’s Pacific Coast region.

978-0-8223-6235-7In The Undersea Network Nicole Starosielski follows undersea Internet cables from the ocean depths to their landing zones on the sandy beaches of the South Pacific, bringing them to the surface of media scholarship and making visible the materiality of the wired network.

Eating the Ocean by Elspeth Probyn is an ethnographic journey around the world’s oceans and fisheries, centering oceans as the site of the entanglement of multiple species and enabling us to realize that we cannot escape the food politics of the human-fish relationship.

 

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, we’re excited to celebrate the achievements of women globally and energized to continue pressing for gender equality. If you’re looking to learn the latest in women’s studies, consider exploring a few of our newest works in this impactful and progressive field.

978-0-8223-7086-4From experimental shorts and web series to Hollywood blockbusters and feminist porn, the work of African American lesbian filmmakers has made a powerful contribution to film history. But despite its importance, this work has gone largely unacknowledged by cinema historians and cultural critics. Assembling a range of interviews, essays, and conversations, Sisters in the Life, edited by Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz, tells a full story of out African American lesbian media-making spanning three decades.

Trump-WomensMarch_2017-top-1510075_(32409710246)On January 21, 2017, over 5 million people marched all over the world in support of women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, environmental policy reform, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and worker’s rights, among other causes. A few weeks ago we shared recent scholarship on the 2017 Women’s March itself, as well as continued journal scholarship on feminism and women’s rights. Check out “Positions in Solidarity: Voices and Images from the US Women’s Marches” by Deborah Frizzell in Cultural Politics and “The Women’s March: New York, January 21, 2017” by Caroline Walker Bynum in Common Knowledge.

978-0-87273-184-4A landmark exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of color during the emergence of second-wave feminism. The Brooklyn Museum published two volumes related to the exhibition. The first, the Sourcebook, republishes an array of rare and little-known documents from the period by artists, writers, cultural critics, and art historians such as Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, bell hooks, Lucy R. Lippard, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Lowery Stokes Sims, Alice Walker, and Michelle Wallace. The second volume, New Perspectives, includes original essays and perspectives by Aruna D’Souza, Uri McMillan, Kellie Jones, and Lisa Jones that place the exhibition’s works in both historical and contemporary contexts, and also includes two new poems by Alice Walker. The exhibition is currently on display at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, through May 27.

readtorespondOur Read to Respond: Feminism and Women’s Rights reading list features journal articles and books tackling topics from abortion laws, maternity leave, Islamic feminism, and more. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

978-0-8223-6257-9In the spring of 1994, the tiny African nation of Rwanda was ripped apart by a genocide that left nearly a million dead.  After the violence subsided, Rwanda’s women—drawn by the necessity of protecting their families—carved out unlikely new roles for themselves as visionary pioneers creating stability and reconciliation in genocide’s wake. In Rwandan Women Rising, Swanee Hunt shares the stories of some seventy women—heralded activists and unsung heroes alike—who overcame unfathomable brutality, unrecoverable loss, and unending challenges to rebuild Rwandan society.

In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized by Girlfriend Tours International, the women construct notions of racial, sexual, and emotional belonging by forming relationships with Jamaican men and other “girlfriends.”

wpj33_4_23_frontcover_fppWorld Policy Journal (WPJ) is the flagship publication of the World Policy Institute. For over thirty years the journal has been home to both distinguished and emerging thinkers from around the globe. Articles inject new ideas into international debates on the world’s most pressing issues. Essays and reported pieces cover global security, regional conflict, political controversy, and cultural and social change. The journal is known for lively, intelligent writing that challenges conventional wisdom and offers fresh perspectives on underreported issues. We’re highlighting three important articles from WPJ for International Women’s Day, made freely available until the end of the month:

978-0-8223-7003-1In Considering Emma Goldman Clare Hemmings examines the significance of the anarchist activist and thinker for contemporary feminist politics. Rather than attempting to resolve the tensions and problems that Goldman’s thinking about race, gender, and sexuality pose for feminist thought, Hemmings embraces them, finding them to be helpful in formulating a new queer feminist praxis. She shows how serious engagement with Goldman’s political ambivalences opens up larger questions surrounding feminist historiography, affect, fantasy, and knowledge production.

Sara R. Farris, in In the Name of Women’s Rights, examines the demands for women’s rights from an unlikely collection of right-wing nationalist political parties, neoliberals, and some feminist theorists and policy makers. Focusing on contemporary France, Italy, and the Netherlands, Farris labels this exploitation and co-optation of feminist themes by anti-Islam and xenophobic campaigns as “femonationalism.” She shows that by characterizing Muslim males as dangerous to western societies and as oppressors of women, and by emphasizing the need to rescue Muslim and migrant women, these groups use gender equality to justify their racist rhetoric and policies.

978-0-8223-7004-8In Passionate and Pious Monique Moultrie explores the impact of faith-based sexual ministries on black women’s sexual agency to trace how these women navigate sexuality, religious authority, and their spiritual walk with God. These popular ministries exist largely beyond the traditional church, with dialogues about sex taking place in chat rooms and through text messages, social media, email, and other media. Moultrie reframes biblical interpretations and conceptions of what constitutes a healthy relationship to provide a basis for sexual decision making that does not privilege monogamy or deny female pleasure.

ddmew_13_3_coverWe’re spotlighting the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies this month to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Follow the blog or sign up for email alerts to read more of the JMEWS blog series featuring the most widely read articles, a theme on war and empire, a special feature on co-editor miriam cooke, and more.

In seventeenth-century Lima, pious Catholic women gained profound theological understanding and enacted expressions of spiritual devotion by engaging with a wide range of sacred texts and objects, as well as with one another, their families, and ecclesiastical authorities. In Embodying the Sacred, Nancy E. van Deusen considers how women created and navigated a spiritual existence within the colonial city’s complex social milieu, transforming early modern Catholicism.

978-0-8223-7002-4In Domestic Economies, Susanna Rosenbaum examines how two groups of women—Mexican and Central American domestic workers and the predominantly white, middle-class women who employ them—seek to achieve the “American Dream.” By juxtaposing their understandings and experiences, she illustrates how immigrant and native-born women strive to reach that ideal, how each group is indispensable to the other’s quest, and what a vital role reproductive labor plays in this pursuit.

Want to show your feminism to the world? We now offer Feminist Killjoy t-shirts, inspired by Sara Ahmed’s book Living a Feminist Life, in both adult and children’s sizes! You can pick one up (or grab one for a friend) here.

Feminist Killjoy Groupkids front and back

Anthropology Day

AnthroDay

Happy Anthropology Day! We’re thrilled to celebrate such a rich, impactful field by sharing some of our latest scholarship. Take advantage of today by digging into a new anthropology book:

978-0-8223-6902-8In Fractivism Sara Ann Wylie traces the history of fracking and the ways scientists and everyday people are coming together to hold accountable an industry that has managed to evade regulation.

In Saamaka Dreaming anthropologists Richard and Sally Price look back on their fieldwork with the Saamaka Maroons of Suriname beginning in 1966, reflecting on the work they undertook that would shape their careers and influence the study of African American societies for decades to come.

978-0-8223-6945-5Contributors to Unfinished, edited by João Biehl and Peter Locke, explore the plasticity and unfinishedness of human subjects and lifeworlds, advancing the conceptual terrain of an anthropology of becoming.

Crumpled Paper Boat, edited by Anand Pandian and Stuart McLean, is a book of experimental ventures in ethnographic writing, an exploration of the possibilities of a literary anthropology. Original essays from notable writers in the field blur the boundaries between ethnography and genres such as poetry, fiction, memoir, and cinema.

978-0-8223-7001-7In Unconsolable Contemporary Paul Rabinow continues his explorations of “a philosophic anthropology of the contemporary,” demonstrating how reflecting on the work of German painter Gerhard Richter provides rich insights into the practices and stylization of the “afterlife of the modern.”

Bianca C. Williams, in The Pursuit of Happiness, traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica on “girlfriend tours,” where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities.

978-0-8223-6909-7In Grateful Nation Ellen Moore traces the experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans at two California college campuses, finding that veterans’ academic struggles result from their military training and combat experience, which complicate their ability to function in civilian schools.

Dana E. Powell’s Landscapes of Power examines the rise and fall of the controversial Desert Rock Power Plant initiative in New Mexico to trace the political conflicts surrounding native sovereignty and contemporary energy development on Navajo (Diné) Nation land.

In Monrovia Modern Danny Hoffman uses the ruins of four iconic modernist buildings in Monrovia, Liberia, as a way to explore the relationship between the built environment and political imagination. The book features nearly 100 color photographs taken by Hoffman, a former photojournalist.

978-0-8223-7050-5Kathleen M. Millar’s Reclaiming the Discarded is an evocative ethnography of Jardim Gramacho, a sprawling garbage dump on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where roughly two thousand self-employed workers known as catadores collect recyclable materials.

In Spiritual Citizenship N. Fadeke Castor illuminates how Ifá/Orisha practices informed by Yoruba cosmology shape local, national, and transnational belonging in African diasporic communities in Trinidad and beyond.

In Domestic Economies Susanna Rosenbaum examines how two groups of women—Mexican and Central American domestic workers and the predominantly white, middle-class women who employ them—seek to achieve the “American Dream.”

978-0-8223-7019-2Medicine in the Meantime by Ramah McKay follows two medical projects in Mozambique through the day-to-day lives of patients and health care providers, showing how transnational medical resources and infrastructures give rise to diverse possibilities for work and care amid constraint.

In Sounds of Crossing Alex E. Chávez explores the contemporary politics of Mexican migrant cultural expression manifest in the sounds and poetics of huapango arribeño, a musical genre originating from north-central Mexico.

Check out our full list of anthropology titles here, or visit the American Anthropological Association website for more information on Anthropology Day.

Black History Month Reads

February is Black History Month, and we’re pleased to share some of our recent books and journals that explore this essential field.

978-0-8223-7005-5In Why the Vote Wasn’t Enough for Selma Karlyn Forner rewrites the heralded story of Selma to explain why gaining the right to vote did not bring about economic justice for African Americans in the Alabama Black Belt. Drawing on a rich array of sources, Forner illustrates how voting rights failed to offset decades of systematic disfranchisement and unequal investment in African American communities. Forner demonstrates that voting rights are only part of the story in the black freedom struggle and that economic justice is central to achieving full citizenship.

Born in 1901, Louise Thompson Patterson was a leading and transformative figure in radical African American politics. Throughout most of the twentieth century she embodied a dedicated resistance to racial, economic, and gender exploitation. In Louise Thompson Patterson: A Life of Struggle for Justice, the first biography of Patterson, Keith Gilyard tells her compelling story, from her childhood on the West Coast, where she suffered isolation and persecution, to her participation in the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. To read her story is to witness the courage, sacrifice, vision, and discipline of someone who spent decades working to achieve justice and liberation for all.

978-0-8223-6164-0Named a Best Art Book of 2017 by the New York Times and Artforum, Kellie Jones’s South of Pico explores how the artists in Los Angeles’s black communities during the 1960s and 1970s created a vibrant, productive, and engaged activist arts scene in the face of structural racism. Emphasizing the importance of African American migration, as well as L.A.’s housing and employment politics, Jones shows how the work of black Angeleno artists spoke to the dislocation of migration, L.A.’s urban renewal, and restrictions on black mobility.

A landmark exhibition on display at the Brooklyn Museum from April 21 through September 17, 2017, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of color during the emergence of second-wave feminism. The accompanying Sourcebook republishes an array of rare and little-known documents from the period by artists, writers, cultural critics, and art historians. 978-0-87273-184-4Available in February, the second volume, New Perspectives, includes original essays and perspectives by Aruna D’Souza, Uri McMillan, Kellie Jones, and Lisa Jones that place the exhibition’s works in both historical and contemporary contexts, and also includes two new poems by Alice Walker. We Wanted a Revolution is on display at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles through January 14, 2018; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York from February 17, 2018 through May 27, 2018; and the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston from June 26, 2018 through September 30, 2018.

In Tropical Freedom Ikuko Asaka engages in a hemispheric examination of the intersection of emancipation and settler colonialism in North America. Asaka shows how from the late eighteenth century through Reconstruction, emancipation efforts in the United States and present-day Canada were accompanied by attempts to relocate freed blacks to tropical regions, as black bodies were deemed to be more physiologically compatible with tropical climates. By tracing negotiations of the transnational racialization of freedom, Asaka demonstrates the importance of considering settler colonialism and black freedom together while complicating the prevailing frames through which the intertwined histories of British and U.S. emancipation and colonialism have been understood.

978-0-8223-6370-5In Listening for Africa David F. Garcia explores how a diverse group of musicians, dancers, academics, and activists engaged with the idea of black music and dance’s African origins between the 1930s and 1950s. Garcia traces how attempts to link black music and dance to Africa unintentionally reinforced the binary relationships between the West and Africa, white and black, the modern and the primitive, science and magic, and rural and urban.

In The Revolution Has Come Robyn C. Spencer traces the Black Panther Party’s organizational evolution in Oakland, California, where hundreds of young people came to political awareness and journeyed to adulthood as members. Challenging the belief that the Panthers were a projection of the leadership, Spencer examines the impact the organization’s internal politics and COINTELPRO’s political repression had on its evolution and dissolution. She also centers gender politics and the experiences of women and their contributions to the Panthers and the Black Power movement as a whole.

http://saq.dukejournals.org/?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=blog%20post&utm_campaign=j-transawareness_Nov2017Drawing primarily on the US #blacklivesmatter movement, contributors to South Atlantic Quarterly’s special issue “After #Ferguson, After #Baltimore: The Challenge of Black Death and Black Life for Black Political Thought” come to terms with the crisis in the meaning of black politics during the post–civil rights era as evidenced in the unknown trajectories of black protests. The authors’ timely essays frame black protests and the implications of contemporary police killings of black people as symptomatic of a crisis in black politics within the white limits of liberal democracy.

Topics in this issue include the contemporary politics of black rage; the significance of the Ferguson and Baltimore black protests in circumventing formal electoral politics; the ways in which centering the dead black male body draws attention away from other daily forms of racial and gender violence that particularly affect black women; the problem of white nationalisms motivated by a sense of white grievance; the international and decolonial dimensions of black politics; and the relation between white sovereignty and black life politics.

ddwpj_33_1World Policy Journal’s special section, “Black Lives Matter Everywhere,” takes an international lens to the topic of Black Lives Matter. In ““What Will Happen to All that Beauty?”: Black Power in the Banlieues“, contributor Hisham Aidi explores how Muslim youth in France are looking to the Black Power movement in the U.S. for inspiration as they found their own race-conscious political organizations. ““Not Blacks But Citizens”: Race and Revolution in Cuba” investigates how Afrocubanas are still fighting anti-black discrimination after the Communist Party seized control of Cuba in 1959. “How are they Dying?: Politicizing Black Death in Latin America” asks the difficult question “How are black people dying?” in order to investigate attempts to humanize and dehumanize black citizens across the Americas.

Q&A with Dana Powell, Author of Landscapes of Power

powell 5 credit Marie Freeman

Photo by Marie Freeman

We spoke with Dana Powell, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Appalachian State University, about her new book Landscapes of Power: Politics of Energy in the Navajo Nation. Powell examines the rise and fall of the controversial Desert Rock Power Plant initiative in New Mexico, tracing the political conflicts surrounding native sovereignty and energy development on Navajo (Diné) Nation land and emphasizing the potential of Navajo resistance to articulate a vision of autonomy in the face of colonial conditions.

How does your book approach and examine the Desert Rock Energy Project initiative, a failed late-2000s attempt to establish a coal-burning power plant on Navajo land in New Mexico?

This is a story about the sociocultural dynamics of intensive extraction. The book takes two tacks: first, I approach the problem of Desert Rock historically, telling the longer story of the Navajo Nation’s decades of economic dependency on energy minerals, but ask readers to critically understand this dependency through the double entanglements of settler colonialism and environmental harm. At the same time, I examine the parallel legacies of resistance and energy activism, which emerged from grassroots leaders who not only recognized this nefarious entanglement but saw how the 1960s ascendence of coal production intensified the risk of exposure already in place from Cold War uranium extraction. Second, I approach the problem ethnographically, inviting readers into some of the on-the-ground complexities of tribal sovereignty, economic development, policy change, and various interpretations of place, by following the work of one social movement organization in particular. Ethnography allows me to examine the situated experiences of Diné people on both sides of the debate—those for the power plant, and those against the plant—as an embodied struggle around science, technology, and the future of infrastructure in indigenous territory. By interspersing ethnographic vignettes in between longer chapters that examine policy, discourse, expressive arts, and resistance strategies, I hope readers gain a feel for the everyday life impacts of large-scale industrial development and their unique dynamics in Diné landscapes.

You were a political organizer and assistant manager with the Indigo Girls, an activist folk-rock duo that campaigns and holds benefits for native communities. How did your involvement affect the direction and nature of your research?

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The national political organizing work that I did through my affiliation with Indigo Girls offered me privileged access to conversations within the Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth, and the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, as well as dozens of tribal NGOs, which deeply shaped my sense of the double entanglement of colonialism and environmental harm in Native America (from early 20th-century extractive legacies to later 20th-century impacts of climate change). This involvement not only established certain alliances and relationships for me, which became crucial as my solidarity work morphed from activist-ally to activist-researcher, but allowed me to develop research questions in tandem with indigenous organizers and policy-makers. I came to see my work as nurturing a conversation among conversations, linking discussions within activist networks with similar discussions in academic debates. Later on, in my academic work with the Social Movements Working Group and Modernity/Coloniality groups at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke, I came to see how the knowledge work of the environmental-social movements I’d been engaged in for many years established the epistemic framework for my newfound anthropological inquiries into the problems. Aesthetically, having spent years working closely with feminist artists who approached social justice through songwriting, performance, and music, I was tuned in to the ways that expressive and sonic arts flowed through Diné and other indigenous environmental justice movements; this orientation provided me with a much-needed balance to my emphasis on the policy and political economy of energy. Last, years of assisting with the production of community-based and larger market-based benefit concerts confirmed for me the power of spectacle and affect in public education and outreach, and I tried to enact this sensibility and intention in the writing that coalesced into this book.

How did your thoughts about indigenous environmental activism shift over the course of your time with the Indigo Girls?

Over time, I came to see environmental activism in the U.S. as social justice work with questions of indigenous political difference and matters of territory front and center. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers offered strong models of how to enact solidarity as white allies to an indigenous movement; their feminist and queer analysis brought new angles to thinking about “justice” in matters of environmental harm. For example, although large-scale environmental organizations were brought to task by grassroots groups of color a few decades ago (see the “Letter to the Group of Ten” authored by the Southwest Organizing Project, and others), changing public discourse on the racialized and gendered dimensions of environmental risk is still pretty poorly understood among wider publics. We were focusing on solutions: supporting community-led and tribal government-led wind and solar development in Native Nations; but, over time, my thoughts shifted from these national efforts toward the complexities of “transition” work in specific locations. Over the years, I came to see that the national (really, international) activism we were engaged in didn’t always line up with what people desired in specific locales, so I became increasingly interested in understanding these frictions and how building power in particular demanded more specific, rather than general kinds of knowledge.  

You describe how environmental journalists packaged Diné activism against the Desert Rock power plant as a “David and Goliath” story. Why was this frame harmful or misleading?

This Biblical metaphor offers no simple alignment: who in this struggle was the godless Goliath? The energy company, the federal government, surrounding jurisdictional states, or the Navajo Council? And who was the liberatory David? Grassroots EJ groups, the Navajo Council, residents of the impacted area who fought back through their endangered status? In the case of Desert Rock, the “perpetrators” and the “underdog” were not so clearly defined adversarial positions. The only appropriate analogy or likeness in this figure of speech is, perhaps, activists’ questioning of the “god” of capital.

You spent time in native communities both as an activist and as an anthropologist-observer. How did these two roles feel distinct from each other? How did your multiple visits to the Navajo Nation affect your understanding of the community and the nature of your research?

Perhaps like anyone who begins working in movements and then shifts in/to the academy, I experienced the unsettling feeling of betrayal: were my newly constructed academic questions—despite being inspired by the knowledge-work on the ground—a departure from more urgently needed, different modes of labor for non-native allies? Could the two positions ever be reconciled? Over time, I came to feel they were not so different, after all: the activist questions, theorizes, experiments, observes, analyzes and expresses, as does the anthropologist, following differing registers of expressive practice and media. Striving to maintain this critical edge within myself, recognizing and valuing both roles, deepened my understanding of the matters at stake and how the “local” struggle was, indeed, a “global” story and critically relevant to other extractive contexts. But at times, these roles made different ethical demands, challenging me to constantly interrogate what I was following, and why. Certainly, the multiple visits (that I discuss through the ethnographic trope of “arrivals” into the field) stretched out over years (1999-present) enabled me to slowly establish what have become long-term relationships of trust and collaboration with particular Diné people, and the project would not have been possible without these connections. And because I was examining the sociocultural life of the contemporary landscape, I had to learn to “see” infrastructures of power (from livestock wells to power lines, from ceremonial hogans to well-worn pathways in the forests) and it took many years of encounters to develop this perspective.

How can activists reconcile care for the environment with an understanding of the complex issues facing Native communities? What resonance do the lessons of Desert Rock hold for today’s activists?

Activists should not start with a consideration of the “environment”: it’s an abstract idea. As Anna Tsing, Bruno Latour, and many activists like those I work with in Navajoland argue, its unquestioned universality occludes the particularities of sites of struggle, in which the matters at stake are often not “the environment” as (we) imagined. Native Nations in the 21st century are facing new kinds of challenges to indigenous territorial sovereignty, often enacted through large-scale energy technologies: this was visible on a new scale, thanks to social media, during the Standing Rock/NoDAPL movement in 2016-2017. As I discuss in the book and elsewhere, activists who yearn for “environmental sustainability” in the U.S. cannot continue to follow the conventional “three E’s” approach to environment/economics/equity: the political difference of American Indians must be front and center in any project of harm reduction or transition. The notion of “equity” cannot contain this political/historical difference or the conditions of violence, ongoing, wrought by centuries of settler colonialism. An idea of “sustainability” that does not include sovereignty, in the case of Native Nations, is bankrupt. Likewise, as Myles Lennon shows in his study of Black Lives Matter activists’ pursuit of solar power, the question of energy justice in the U.S. brings with it long histories of the structural “demattering” of people of color. Activists can take these lessons of historical and political difference from the Desert Rock struggle. In this moment of public lands and sacred lands continually coming under threat (e.g., Bears Ears Monument, Standing Rock, Chaco Canyon, and more), especially with the expansion of energy infrastructure, activists who care for “the environment” would be wise to begin with an inquiry into the patterns of displacement, labor, settlement, and significance in a particular landscape.

Pick up Dana Powell’s Landscapes of Power for 30% off using coupon code E17LAND at dukeupress.edu.

The Trouble with White Women

Kyla SHC Oct 17 croppedToday’s guest blog post is written by Kyla Schuller, author of the new book The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century.

Broad swaths of the left and liberal-leaning U.S. public newly dedicated themselves to political activity in the wake of Trump’s ascension to the White House and the GOP’s control of the Senate and the House. Amidst the awakening of a liberal grassroots, a new enemy crystallized: the white woman voter. She emerged as the victim of a kind of false consciousness forged not in the factory, but in the college classroom and suburban mall. In dominant media narratives, her ubiquity came as a shock. The stats are repeated as incantation: 53% of white women voted for Trump a mere four weeks after video emerged of Trump bragging about sexual assault. 63% of white women voted for Roy Moore in December’s Alabama Senate special election, despite mounds of credible evidence of Moore’s molestation of young teen girls. Why, the narrative muses, would white women betray their own interests? And why are black women—98% of whom voted for Moore’s opponent Doug Jones—seemingly immune to electoral self-sabotage?

I wish to suggest a frame that has not emerged in the mountain of copy addressing the problem of white women. Feminists have generated many useful analyses – white women’s investment in patriarchy, the class structure, the racial status quo—underlining the material benefits conservative politics offer white women. There is a deeper, more structural reason why white women vote for misogynist, white supremacist candidates despite a century and a half of feminist organizing, however. Simply put: sex difference is itself a racial structure.

978-0-8223-6953-0Sexual difference, as a concept, emerged as a function of race. This is particularly salient in the nineteenth century, the era in which modern notions of race and sex difference solidified. My new book, The Biopolitics of Feeling, zeroes in on this generally overlooked phenomenon (outside of the history of evolutionary thought): that a wide variety of scientists, writers, and reformers articulated full sexual differentiation as the unique achievement of the civilized. The binary entities of man and woman were newly understood as thoroughly distinct in terms of mental, physiological, emotional, and psychological capacity. Sex difference was presented as the singular attainment of a teleological evolution moving toward ever greater specialization. The primitive races, by contrast, were cast as unsexed, as insufficiently evolved in both anatomy and character. The category of womanhood emerged in modern times as a unique quality of civilization. Its ramifications are still visible in electoral politics across the country.

The Biopolitics of Feeling uncovers the foundational role of sex difference to biopower. It unearths how sex difference functioned as a key technology of biopower’s racializing structures, which operate to choose some members of the population for life and cast others into disposability and death. Sex difference helped qualify individuals for life. I reveal how the position of the feminine was carved out not only to exemplify social evolutionary achievement, but also to protect it. Scientists identified the key quality of the civilized body to be its impressibility, or the capacity to be affected over time. Receptivity to sensory impressions determined a body’s capacity for growth, mental development, and even, in this Lamarckian and pre-genetic era, the transmission of acquired characteristics to descendants. Impressibility thus served as the ontological basis of progress. Impressibility also, however, entailed a frightening vulnerability to influence and environment, rendering the civilized body in need of careful protection.

I argue that two central technologies were developed in the nineteenth century to manage the constitutional vulnerability of civilization: sex difference and sentimentalism. The civilized body was cleaved in two, and the female half were assigned the liabilities of heightened impressibility as well as increased emotional faculty to mediate temptation to impulsive response to impressions. The male half were thus stabilized as masters of reason and moderate feeling. Sentimentalism, in turn, was a vast technology particularly, but far from exclusively, assigned to women to regulate the growth of the individual and the evolution of the population through managing the flow of impressions throughout a milieu. Both sex and sentiment were deployed as stabilizing forces regulating responses to sensory stimulations and thus their effect on the individual and racial body.

The legacy of womanhood as itself a stabilizing structure of whiteness reverberates loudly today and is particularly resonant in the trope of the white woman voter. The conservative ideology in which women’s role is to protect the private sphere is an element of the biopolitical logic that women’s role is to secure the stability of the civilized races. White Republican women who vote for sexual assaulters are not identifying with their whiteness over their gender, as has often been claimed. Rather, they are enacting their womanhood itself: both absorbing and smoothing over the flow of sensation and feeling that makes up the public sphere, ensuring that white men remain relatively free from the encumbrances of embodiment and are susceptible only to further progress. Our anger at white women conveniently spares the white male voter, who supported Trump and Moore in even larger numbers. The problem with white Republican women is the problem with woman as a category in the first place.

Feminism, too, is revealed in The Biopolitics of Feeling to function as an apparatus of biopower that translates allegedly inherent natural categories into political identities and platforms. But it doesn’t have to be so. Twentieth-and twenty-first century women of color feminists have been strikingly clear that the position of woman has largely been denied to non-white groups, and they have refashioned the meanings of the term woman in the process. Women, as a political group, need no longer be tied to biological discourses of race or anatomy, but this requires explicit excavation and refusal of the term’s lingering past.

Multiethnic feminisms lead the way to disentangling feminism from biopower, and woman as an entity from naturalizing logics. Intersectional and assemblage feminisms and multiethnic #MeToo campaigns are pointing to a new politics in which women no longer serve as civilization’s remainder, the sponge to absorb the impressions and stimulations of which power is itself constituted. Feminism may be born of the biopolitical logic of sex, but it thus also contains the seeds of biopower’s demise.

Pick up Kyla Schuller’s new book The Biopolitics of Feeling for 30% off by using coupon code E17SCHUL at dukeupress.edu.