Author: Jessica

Q&A with Monique Moultrie, author of Passionate and Pious

Monique MoultrieMonique Moultrie, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Georgia State University, is the author of the new book Passionate and Pious: Religious Media and Black Women’s Sexuality. In the book, she 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.

How would you describe your personal history and relationship with the evangelical church, and especially with the televangelist Juanita Bynum, whose ministry you discuss at length in Passionate and Pious?

I was reared in a conservative Christian church (a Baptist church) in a rural community that was a model of evangelicalism and took quite seriously the Christian message to evangelize. I went to Jerry Falwell rallies as a teen and actively participated in Christian organizations/clubs. When I entered college I first became aware of televangelist Juanita Bynum even though as a teen I had practiced purity as was expected from my evangelical model. What I remember about watching Bynum’s “No More Sheets” sermon for the first time in a small group setting with a group of other women was that I remembered many things clicking from the sermon. It made sense on a very guttural level. I also think the sermon offered voice to a lot of the personal experiences of women in the room. Women were trying to live out their faith lives in ways that came into contrast with their own sexual needs, desires, and actual realities. Later as I watched events in Bynum’s personal life unfold, I began to wonder if Bynum was the model exemplar or if in fact this was a model that others could hold onto and participate in the same way.

After personally following Bynum for years she became the topic of my doctoral dissertation as I set out to explain the sexual dilemmas facing black women of faith and why/how they were influenced by No More Sheets. My dissertation used ethnographic research and cultural analysis to examine the authority of evangelical sexual messages produced in religious media like her televangelism. I continued to follow Bynum through her marriage, divorce, and subsequent ministries beyond her initial No More Sheets ministry although the book really only focused on this first step.

How did your background in the evangelical church—your experience in the community and as a consumer of its messages about sexuality—help (or hinder) you as you conducted research?

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I mention in the book that part of my background in the evangelical church meant that a lot of this rhetoric was something I was used to, as I already knew the lingo and phrases. One of the early book reviewers’ comments was that the book was full of a lot of insider language as I described the communities. I was really such an insider that I needed to go back with the editors to get help determining what words/phrases/categories needed to be defined for those outside of these communities. Thus, in this initial way I had a natural in because I was formed in black church settings. I was also familiar with religious media because I grew up watching televangelism and in many ways the evangelical communities I was studying just made sense to me. It made entering into research much easier as I knew what types of questions to ask to get a response. At times, I could even anticipate responses. I could be understood by my audience and in ways that gave me an advantage since I didn’t have to work as hard to earn trust. Having familiarity in their settings aided my research. I didn’t have to be vouched for in many ways and specifically online this helped when people can’t look at you in your eyes and get a feel for whether you seem authentic or not. Being online in many of these accountability groups and participating online it really helped to know the community’s language, theology, worship, etc.

On the other hand, if my insider status did hinder my research, it was because I was very compassionate towards them. I really spent a lot of time thinking of my research questions. I think a lot of what gets written about evangelicals treats them as if they are cultural dupes. They are written about as if they lack intellect or are overruled by emotionality or that they are not making conscious decisions. I knew that not to be the case so I wanted that to show in my own research. I wanted to highlight the very tough decisions that are being made daily in each of these women’s lives where they embody very complicated contemporary realities where being celibate until marriage for a black woman often means participating in celibacy movements for more than half of their lives. Young girls start in groups in their teen years and they participate in college groups and stats show that black women marry much later; they marry much closer to age 50 so that’s a long time to participate in these movements! I wanted to be compassionate towards this experience because I understood this struggle. I also understood their deep desire for sexual relationship and faith to align. I wanted that to come forward in my research. In some ways, my tenderness towards their plight may have obfuscated my ability to be as critical as I may have wanted to.

As a trained academic, I was clear in my goal of illuminating my ethnographic subjects’ experiences while at the same time offering a womanist corrective. My constructive sections are where my critical side shows. In my goal of not just being objective in presenting these various ministries but to humanize them and these women’s experiences I did take a very critical persona. I did mention in the book that my own rearing in a conservative Christian background gave me messages that privileged monogamy and committed relationships as more normative. When I looked back at my questions related to non-monogamous relationships like hook up culture, my own background tainted those sets of questions. I didn’t really presume that non-monogamy would be the norm. Persons talked with me about their experiences with multiple partners, but often it came out as not their own experience but something that they were reporting from others. When I went through the transcripts, I think a large part of that may have been the way that I crafted the question that probably presumed monogamy. If they were in a multiple-partner relationship my questions presumed that this wasn’t what they intended as a mature relationship. Yet, I know for some of the participants that having multiple partners was not a stage or some immature sexual agency. Having multiple partners was deemed as normative as having one partner and so that’s definitely one way when I looked back at the research I saw a hindrance. Thankfully I became aware of this before the book went to print but certainly as I did the interviews I wasn’t as in tune with this unconscious privileging.

Your book discusses the many messages black women receive from the evangelical church: submission, modesty, abstinence outside of marriage, heterosexuality, etc. What tools does your book provide for shifting these messages or encouraging black women to reclaim their sexual agency?

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American Anthropological Association 2017

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Booth staffers ready to go on the first day

The 2017 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., was a great chance for us to meet authors and editors, sell books and journals to excited customers, and celebrate prize-winning books!

Our authors racked up quite a few awards at this year’s conference:

Metabolic Living by Harris Solomon and Tell Me Why My Children Died by Charles Briggs and Clara Mantini-Briggs were co-winners of the New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology.

Sareeta Amrute’s Encoding Race, Encoding Class won the Diana Forsythe Prize from the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology & Computing. Plastic Bodies by Emilia Sanabria received honorable mention for this prize.

Emilia Sanabria’s Plastic Bodies also won the Michelle Rosaldo First Book Prize from the Association for Feminist Anthropology. Downwardly Global by Lalaie Ameeriar was a finalist for the same prize.

Aimee Meredith Cox’s Shapeshifters won the Delmos Jones & Jagna Sharff Memorial Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of North America.

The Look of a Woman by Eric Plemons won the Ruth Benedict Prize in the Single-Authored Monograph category from the Association for Queer Anthropology.

Yolanda Covington-Ward’s Gesture and Power won the Elliott P. Skinner Award from the Association for Africanist Anthropology.

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João Biehl toasts new edited collection Unfinished

Reel World by Anand Pandian won second place for the Victor Turner Prize from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, and David McDermott Hughes’s Energy without Conscience received honorable mention for the same prize.

Everyday Conversions by Attiya Ahmad received honorable mention for the Clifford Geertz Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion.

Congratulations to these outstanding authors!

On Friday we enjoyed a wine reception for the new collection Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming with its editors João Biehl and Peter Locke.

It was exciting to see so many of our authors and editors in person. Check out the photo gallery:

 

Did you miss AAA this year? Not enough room in your luggage to carry all the books and journals you wanted? You can still take advantage of our 30% conference discount—just use coupon code AAA17 on our website through January 15.

“Thank You for Your Service”

On the day before Veterans Day, Grateful Nation author Ellen Moore offers commentary on a phrase many of us take for granted.

ellen-6470As many of us take the day off work for Veterans Day, we pause to honor former military members and often resort to the familiar phrase “Thank you for your service.”  Yet the simple gesture of thanking soldiers for their service is not so simple.

In the years since 9/11 and the onset of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “thank you for your service” has become a ritualized phrase that is repeated in airports, schools, shopping centers, and movie theaters. On college campuses, for example, veteran support meetings routinely begin with civilian speakers thanking the student veterans for their service. When I began my research with veterans attending college, civilians working for the U.S. Army advised that I should introduce myself to veterans by thanking them for their service because it would facilitate communication. Because the phrase was so ubiquitous, instead of repeating it, I chose to ask veterans to describe how they feel when they hear the phrase “thank you for your service.” I got a range of answers from appreciation to active dislike, but many said that the phrase, coming from strangers who knew nothing about them beside their military status, seemed like a platitude; it seemed like something civilians thought they were supposed to say. Others were concerned that the phrase served as a way to avoid deeper discussions about the wars and about the effects on soldiers who are sent to fight them. As Jordan, a former Marine and veteran of the Iraq War told me: “For me the biggest problem is that the people of this country don’t understand what they’re asking [when they send soldiers into war]. They don’t understand what we’re doing. They want to be appreciative. They want to understand. I really believe that. They want to be thankful. They want to be supportive. But all of these things require being informed, being knowledgeable and not burying our heads in the sand when we get to the ugly truth.”

978-0-8223-6909-7For Jordan the “ugly truth” involved sending young men and women into battle to harm or kill unknown others for reasons not always clear to them. Many suffer from what is now called moral injury resulting from having to carry out actions that conflict with their moral beliefs. During the three years I spent in and around veteran communities researching their experiences on college campuses, I found that when civilians, soldiers, or veterans criticized military policies or actions they were often labeled as not just anti-war, but anti-military or even anti-veteran.  But my research found that dichotomous “pro or anti-war” labels cannot adequately describe diverse beliefs held by military members, veterans, and civilians about the military and the contemporary wars.

Daily life today in the United States is marked by a heightened sense of vulnerability and anxiety about national security. We are warned that enemies at home and abroad threaten U.S. jobs, families, and homes. This national insecurity problem has come with a built-in solution: militarized interventions in the form of expanded and instrumental use of deadly force by police, walled-off militarized border zones, drone warfare, and threats of nuclear strikes. Paradoxically, the heightened rhetoric of war is accompanied by a societal silence about the effects of war on soldiers as both victims and perpetrators of violence.

But we must talk about this—and veterans have a lot to say.

War veterans’ complex positions are often informed by what they call the “ground truth”– the lived reality of combat and military occupation. When someone knows this “ground truth”, they cannot reduce that experience to a simplistic choice between being a hero or a villain. However, in our efforts to honor veterans’ service, we can end up idealizing both war and warrior.

News stories and commercial ad campaigns featuring uniformed soldiers highlight heroism, loyalty to country, and sacrifice, but there are few public representations of the ambivalence and conflict that so many veterans shared with me. I found that some student veterans wanted to be acknowledged for their service while others just wanted to blend in on campus and be seen as ordinary students. Some veterans wanted to engage in conversations about the wars with civilian students, while others wanted to avoid discussions they feared would lead to unwelcome interrogations. This diversity highlights the need for more complex and targeted supports for student veterans. We must provide room for conversations involving political difference on college campuses and in veteran support settings.

We can honor military veterans by engaging in difficult conversations about war and peace, consent and dissent, social conformity and social difference, and about what it takes for a nation to be secure. Yet finding common ground across diverse worldviews is difficult since we live in a highly polarized ideological environment that seeps into discussions about military veterans and the current wars.

“Thank you for your service” and other societal conventions that require veterans and civilians to adopt an uncomplicated view of military service and the wars inhibit discussions that some veterans want and need for their own benefit and for the benefit of their fellow veterans. As I conducted the research for my book, I found that for many veterans, enforced silences and heroic narratives about the wars increased cognitive and emotional dissonance between their lived military experience and their return to civilian society.

Jordan and his fellow veterans deserve more than ritualized phrases, they deserve to be listened to and to have their experience understood. We can and should differentiate between support for veterans and support for the wars in which they fought.

Ellen Moore’s Grateful Nation: Student Veterans and the Rise of the Military-Friendly Campus is out now. Pick up the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E17MOORE on our website.
Supporting thoughtful, deeply researched scholarship like Moore’s is what University Press Week is all about. The final day of University Press Week’s blog tour theme is Libraries and Librarians Helping Us All #LookItUP. University of Missouri Press provides a look into the ways the Special Collections archive and certain librarians helped both the press and the author with Lanford Wilson: Early Stories, Sketches, Poems. At University of Nebraska Press, director of Lincoln City Libraries, Pat Leach, will contribute a post. Next, the University Press of Florida will spotlight the Florida and the Caribbean Open Books Series, a collaboration between the press and and the UF George A. Smathers Libraries. An entry from University of Georgia Press demonstrates how libraries serve as bastions of facts and real information against the onslaught of Fake News.  University of Alabama Press  will also have a post. Read and share with the hashtags #ReadUP and #LookItUP and keep talking about the great work university presses do even after this week ends.

The Face Is a Population

Thank you to Kris Cohen, author of new book Never Alone, Except for Now: Art, Networks, Populations, for today’s guest blog post.

cohen-krisApple’s design aesthetic mimics social media intimacy, so the arrival of a new Apple product can feel a lot like something blowing up on one’s Facebook feed, even if not a single person in the world actually cares. Nevertheless, the arrival of a technological capability such as facial recognition software, built into Apple’s new iPhone 8, is worth paying attention to even if it does follow the now entirely predictable commodity arc from military-funded R&D fantasy to ordinary mass consumer good. Maybe its new ordinariness means that people have become numb to it, but it always means that people now have to bargain with it in their daily lives. In the case of facial recognition software—a technology that now plays a major if sometimes shadowy role in all aspects of the security industry: border policing, population control, crime prevention—what exactly are we being made to bargain with?

Like the cameras on our phones and computers, embedded facial recognition software is one more place where the “personal” device becomes entirely porous to the corporations and governments that extract data from all devices. Try shopping for computer camera covers and you will get a sense of how deep and habitual the feeling is that the most personal devices are now the ones we control the least. The threat with a camera is quite concrete: someone is watching. The threat with facial recognition software is slightly more abstract (for some), but it exists because in order to recognize one’s face, the software has to create an open channel between our device and the massive database of faces and correlated data that make automated recognition possible (for some), but over which we have no control at all.

978-0-8223-6940-0Here we see how, in networked cultures, an intensely individualistic address is tightly laminated to a massive effort to form groups of people that can be put to work, producing value, relations, suggestions. As I say in my recent book Never Alone, Except for Now: Art, Networks, Populations, individuality in networked cultures is a kind of group form. In order to better understand individuals in relation to group form, I adapt the term population. The term comes from census technologies used for managing the resources of a nation, but also from Michel Foucault’s late work on neoliberalism. A population logic is one that addresses and organizes individuals through the informatic power of statistics, making the individual into a kind of effect, even a side effect of the population as a predictive and statistical entity. In networked cultures, populations get assembled in databases and prediction is keyed to desire: what we want to see, read, buy. Networked populations make the individual a distillate of the database, and the database an effect of the ordinary habits and activities of individuals, recorded as data. I think this is the untold story of the too-told story of the individual and individualism in contemporary American politics. And this is why populations are not the same as the masses of modernity, which always prioritized some form of unity or sameness. Facial recognition software prioritizes individuality, the quiddity of the unique face, but can only do so by participating deeply in population logics. How can we learn about such effects even as they’re being rolled out at paces and scales beyond human comprehension?

I’m an art historian as well as a media studies theorist, so one of my methods is to look to art: not art as in fine art objects magisterially pronouncing judgment upon the jumbled events of ordinary life, but art as a mode of thought about the present embodied in an encounter between more than one person, any of whom are invited to improvise a relation with one another in a scene that can work at a range of paces. On this view, art is no less mired in and impacted by the present tense than anyone else, and one can read the marks of those impacts on the work as a kind of impression of the ways the present tense shapes people, labor, environments, institutions. The artist Josh Kline would be one kind of resource for thinking about facial recognition software, as it appears so often in his work. There, the mediation of the problem is more or less direct. In this, Kline’s work offers the anchor of concrete feeling, even the prospect of a community of sorts galvanized by shared feeling.

But in the book I also think about artists whose work has no biographical or directly referential relationship to the networked technologies I study (performance artist Sharon Hayes and installation artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres). But as facial recognition software shows so graphically, one of the most distinctive features of networked technologies is that they are distributive by nature, automating the extraction of data from gestures, from movements through streets, from things we say out loud and in print, from our very facial expressions. So we need better resources for thinking about that kind of spread, in which literally nothing doesn’t bear the imprint—maybe slight, maybe bruising, maybe overt, often subliminal or subdermal—of networked technologies. Working between media technologies and works of art that often seem to operate at some distance from those technologies helps me to sense some of these more distributed and deeply encoded impacts.

Facial recognition technology fundamentally, even physically, changes what faces are. Think about that next time you encounter faces such as those in the paintings of Kehinde Wiley, Chuck Close, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Henry Taylor, or Amy Sillman; in the early videos or late paintings of Sadie Benning; or even in the massive public works of Julie Mehretu, which contain no faces, but then neither do the circuits that connect our phones with the populations of people that allow phones to discern a single face out of millions, a face we might once have called our own.

Read the introduction to Kris Cohen’s Never Alone, Except for Now free online, then pick up the paperback for 30% off—just use coupon code E17COHEN at dukeupress.edu.

Black Poetry Day

In honor of Black Poetry Day, we’re more than pleased to share a few poems from Black poets on our list.

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try to silence the loud. the overly proud. the preacher. the
shroud. the sprung and the plowed. try to leaven the low so
the children can grow but the neighbors won’t know, unbossed
but still bowed. try to open the hope with braids and with
rope and with water and soap try to truss out the truth. try to
piecemeal the peace stitch together some sleep and relax for the
reap for the road for the real stuff. try to sap out the stay and
partition the play it is better that way someone whispered once.
try to grow out the grout, groan when you should shout, you
know what it’s about, you know you know you know you know
you know you know but you don’t hear me though.

-Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Spill

 

b jenkins

just so you know, no one could have told me you didn’t want to go
outside. this exercises phonograph to take the receiver and call you
for something we hear together, some of the same stories, some of the
same things. to stretch repeat so thin it fades to various is the aim of
the phone call. the phonograph is also a photograph of movement and
what it bears. you found dances waiting for dancers. your silhouette is
patient form. I know you can cant. I know you can make it if you try.

I’m getting along alright. I say a little prayer. mama’s baby sadie mae
ms. davis’ blue and red. at the duck inn mighty lions roar. you and
bobby bradford run away together. this earth tone air is b.c. marks’s
pine bluff arkansas, asleep in new pajamas at the desert inn, to walk
joe williams pieceway home to waycross, you and me against the world,
every time we say goodbye. I’ll be seeing you in all the unfamiliar places
where they till our long advance. this is the cluster song of our romance.

-Fred Moten, b jenkins

 

And When I Write the Muscles in My Chest Move as if in Flight

Sometimes the eye of the bird
is a sky that is moving
among the molecules and over
twenty different landscapes
someone has crossed, even lived in,
perhaps longing for the soil of at least
one to wear in her pinions in those
high-necked altitudes that see
the endless couplings of man and
woman and woman and man and
man and woman like a garland
circling the broken globe.

-Yvette Christiansë, Castaway

 

Be sure to check out civil rights poetry collection Words of Protest, Words of Freedom as well, and keep an eye out for consent not to be a single being, an upcoming trilogy by Fred Moten, and M Archive, coming in March from Alexis Pauline Gumbs.

National Coming Out Day: New Books in LGBTQ Studies

Today is the 29th annual National Coming Out Day, a celebration of the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. We’re happy to contribute to the occasion by sharing our newest scholarship in LGBTQ and sexuality studies.

978-0-8223-6914-1Developed in the United States in the 1980s, facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a set of bone and soft tissue reconstructive surgical procedures intended to feminize the faces of trans- women. In The Look of a Woman Eric Plemons foregrounds the narratives of FFS patients and their surgeons as they move from consultation and the operating room to postsurgery recovery. He shows how the increasing popularity of FFS represents a shift away from genital-based conceptions of trans- selfhood in ways that mirror the evolving views of what is considered to be good trans- medicine.

art1In the 1970s a group of pioneering feminist and queer entrepreneurs launched a movement that ultimately changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. In Vibrator Nation Lynn Comella tells the fascinating history of how feminist sex-toy stores raised sexual consciousness, redefined the adult industry, and changed women’s lives. Comella describes a world where sex-positive retailers double as social activists, where products are framed as tools of liberation, and where consumers are willing to pay for the promise of better living—one conversation, vibrator, and orgasm at a time.

978-0-8223-6367-5The contributors to The War on Sex, edited by David M. Halperin and Trevor Hoppe, document how government and civil society are waging a war on stigmatized sex by means of law, surveillance, and social control—from sex offender registries to the criminalization of HIV to highly punitive measures against sex work. By examining how the ever-intensifying war on sex affects both privileged and marginalized communities, the essays collected here show why sexual liberation is indispensable to social justice and human rights.

In Disturbing Attachments Kadji Amin challenges the idealization of Jean Genet as a paradigmatic figure within queer studies to illuminate the methodological dilemmas at the heart of queer theory. Pederasty, which was central to Genet’s sexuality and to his passionate cross-racial and transnational political activism late in life, is among a series of problematic and outmoded queer attachments that Amin uses to deidealize and historicize queer theory.

978-0-8223-6365-1Critically Sovereign, a collection edited by Joanne Barker, traces the ways in which gender is inextricably a part of Indigenous politics and U.S. and Canadian imperialism and colonialism. The contributors show how gender, sexuality, and feminism work as co-productive forces of Native American and Indigenous sovereignty, self-determination, and epistemology.

The most recent “In Practice” section of Camera Obscura, “Queerness and Games,” seeks to expand the relationship between feminist film theory and practice and feminist and queer video game culture and criticism. It features essays exploring topics such as Adrienne Shaw’s LGBTQ Video Game Archive, the Queerness and Games Conference (QGCon), and queer performativity in mobile device–assisted interactive play.

ddsaq_116_3The essays in South Atlantic Quarterly’sAgainst the Day” section, “Unrecognizable: On Trans Recognition in 2017,” confront urgent questions regarding transgender recognition in the current political moment. Since Trump was elected, the trans communities in the United States have expressed fear and outrage at the possibility that the “transgender tipping point” might be about to tip back. However, contributors to these essays explore the complicated relationship of the trans community to the “transgender tipping point” and express that even if recognition is inevitable, trans people may not always want to be identified. These essays invent new terms to describe the impossibility and violence of recognition and speculatively suggest an entirely different relation to visibility. In relation to the backlash, too, they argue that we cannot do trans politics without an analysis of political economy, without an analysis of the history of racialization and the violence of liberalism, as well as of hetero and gender normativity.

David Garcia’s Listening for Africa Playlist

978-0-8223-6370-5DSC04996Today, David F. Garcia offers a playlist to accompany his new book Listening for Africa: Freedom, Modernity, and the Logic of Black Music’s African Origins. You can save 30% on the paperback with coupon code E17LISTN.

Taking on a topic like the discourse of a music’s origins entails following multiple artistic, disciplinary, and political directions. Of course, setting boundaries helps make such an endeavor feasible but no less massive. In Listening for Africa I look at a group of fascinating individuals, some well known and others not so well known, who from varying perspectives engaged the idea and nature of black music and dance’s African origins. Their reasons for engaging this idea were not merely didactical but rather to change their world. From the Great Depression, Jim Crow, and the rise of Nazism to World War II, the Cold War, and African decolonization, citizens of the modern world invested their place in it drawing from modernity’s promises of freedom through knowledge, art, and work. Only, the realization of freedom for many would be deferred by modernity’s discursive defaults.

The following audio recordings and films are explored in depth in the book. Listen and watch as you read about the individuals depicted in them and their journeys living in their shared modern world, turbulent though it was.

Chapter 1. Analyzing the African Origins of Negro Music and Dance in a Time of Racism, Fascism, and War

“Ag’ya,” Jamaica & Martinique Fieldwork, 1936, video clip #19, filmed by Katherine Dunham. Music Division, Library of Congress.

L’ag’ya, scene 3, the Katherine Dunham Company, Studebaker Theater, Chicago, 1947, filmed by Ann Barzel.

Chapter 2. Listening to Africa in the City, in the Laboratory, and on Record

“Tambó,” Gilberto Valdés y su Orquesta, recorded with Victor (V83315), Havana, 1940.

“Sangre Africana,” Gilberto Valdés y su Orquesta, recorded with Victor (V 83315), Havana, 1940

“Toitica la Negra,” Katherine Dunham and Ensemble, recorded with Decca (40028), New York, 1945.

“Abakuá song,” Harold Courland: Cuba, Eastern and central regions, Afro-Cubans (253.4), Guanabacoa, 1940.

“Elube Chango,” Harold Courland: Cuba, Eastern and central regions, Afro-Cubans (252.4), Havana, 1940.

“Elube Chango,” Casino de la Playa with Miguelito Valdés, recorded with Victor (V 82770), Havana, 1939.

Chapter 3. Embodying Africa against Racial Oppression, Ignorance, and Colonialism

Sanders of the River (London Film Productions, 1935) featuring Paul Robeson as Bozambo. Boat-rowing scene occurs at 1:07:00.

Nabonga (PRC Pictures, 1944). Modupe Paris appears at 14:23 and 15:45.

Chapter 4. Disalienating Movement and Sound from the Pathologies of Freedom and Time

Liberian Suite, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, New York, 1947.

Film No. 4, Harry Smith, ca. 1950.

“Manteca,” Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra, recorded with RCA Victor (47-2860), New York, 1947.

“Guarachi guaro,” Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra, recorded with RCA Victor (20-3370), New York, 1948.

Chapter 5. Desiring Africa, or Western Civilization’s Discontents

“Rareza del siglo,” Julio Cueva y su Orquesta, recorded with Victor (23-0677), Havana, 1946.

“José” as performed by Pérez Prado in the film Al son del mambo (Filmadora Chapultepec, 1950).

“Kon-Toma,” Pérez Prado y su Orquesta, recorded with Victor (23-1344), Havana, 1949.

“Qué te pasa, José” as performed by Amalia Aguilar and Silvestre Méndez in Ritmos del Caribe (Compañía Cinematográfica Mexicana, 1950).

Del can can al mambo (Producciones Calderón S.A., 1951). Mambo dancing displaying symptoms of el mal de San Vito occurs at 1:21:53.

Women’s Equality Day Reads

Saturday is Women’s Equality Day, and we couldn’t be more glad for an occasion both to commemorate strides in women’s rights and to renew the call for further progress. Today we’re contributing to the cause by sharing some of our most recent scholarship in women’s studies.

In the 1970s a group of pioneering feminist entrepreneurs launched a movement that ultimately changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. Boldly reimagining who sex shops were for and the kinds of spaces they could be, these entrepreneurs opened sex-toy stores like Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, and Babeland not just as commercial enterprises, but to provide educational and community resources as well. In Vibrator Nation Lynn Comella tells the fascinating history of how these stores raised sexual consciousness, redefined the adult industry, and changed women’s lives.

While news of the Rwandan genocide reached all corners of the globe, the nation’s recovery and the key role of women are less well known. 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.

Developed in the United States in the 1980s, facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a set of reconstructive surgical procedures intended to feminize the faces of trans- women. In The Look of a Woman Eric Plemons foregrounds the narratives of FFS patients and their surgeons as they move from consultation and the operating room to postsurgery recovery. Plemons demonstrates how FFS is changing the project of surgical sex reassignment by reconfiguring the kind of sex that surgery aims to change.

In Politics with Beauvoir Lori Jo Marso treats Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist theory and practice as part of her political theory, arguing that freedom is Beauvoir’s central concern and that this is best apprehended through Marso’s notion of the encounter. Beauvoir’s encounters, Marso shows, exemplify freedom as a shared, relational, collective practice.

In The Labor of Faith Judith Casselberry examines the material and spiritual labor of the women of one of the oldest and largest historically Black Pentecostal churches in the United States. This male-headed church only functions through the work of the church’s women, who, despite making up three-quarters of its adult membership, hold no formal positions of power. Focusing on the circumstances of producing a holy black female personhood, Casselberry reveals the ways twenty-first-century women’s spiritual power operates and resonates with meaning in Pentecostal, female-majority, male-led churches.

wpj33_4_23_frontcover_fppIn “Interrupted,” a special issue of World Policy Journal penned entirely by female foreign policy experts and journalists, contributors imagine a world where the majority of foreign policy experts quoted, bylined, and miked are not men. The issue challenges the perception that women are not policymakers by showcasing the voices of female experts and leaders. Contributors to this issue address topics such as feminism in Chinaabortion laws across the Americascombating violent extremism by working with religious leaders, and women in media. The issue also features a conversation with Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritus.

In The Economization of Life Michelle Murphy provocatively describes the twentieth-century rise of infrastructures of calculation and experiment aimed at governing population for the sake of national economy. Murphy traces the methods and imaginaries through which family planning calculated lives not worth living, lives not worth saving, and lives not worth being born. The resulting archive of thick data transmuted into financialized “Invest in a Girl” campaigns that reframed survival as a question of human capital. The book challenges readers to reject the economy as our collective container and to refuse population as a term of reproductive justice.

Lori Merish, in Archives of Labor, establishes working-class women as significant actors within literary culture, dramatically redrawing the map of nineteenth-century US literary and cultural history. Delving into previously unexplored archives of working-class women’s literature, Merish recovers working-class women’s vital presence as writers and readers in the antebellum era. She restores the tradition of working women’s class protest and dissent, shows how race and gender are central to class identity, and traces the ways working women understood themselves and were understood as workers and class subjects.

Among Arab countries, Egypt has witnessed the largest production of feminist writings as Egyptian women begin to write in the mainstream. A themed section on Egyptian women writers and feminism from the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies features three articles about Egyptian women writers and their novels, which investigate the role of gender assignation in late twentieth-century Egyptian society. These literary works interrogate assumptions about the ways in which men and women are seen and are expected to behave.

For more books and journal articles on women’s issues, check out our Read to Respond post on feminism and women’s rights. These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017.

Sneak Peek: Kristen Ghodsee, Red Hangover

We’re pleased to share the prelude, titled Freundschaft, of Kristen Ghodsee’s upcoming book Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism. In Red Hangover Ghodsee reflects on the lived experience of postsocialism and how many ordinary men and women across Eastern Europe suffered from the massive social and economic upheavals in their lives after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This text is not final, but we hope it gives you a taste of this impactful new book, to be published in late October.

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Two pairs of earrings, four bracelets, and a mixtape inspired me to write this book. I was in the Stadtmuseum in the German city of Jena, peering into the various display cases of an exhibit called Freundschaft! Mythos und Realität im Alltag der DDR (Friendship! Myth and reality in everyday life in the GDR [German Democratic Republic]). The exhibit ruminated on the official and unofficial uses of the word “friendship” in the context of communist East Germany between 1949 and 1989. In one case, the museum’s curators displayed the personal items of a teenage girl who had gone to a Freie Deutsche Jugend (Free German Youth) summer camp in 1985. There, accompanying some photos and a letter she sent home to her parents, sat a white cassette tape, some plastic bracelets, and two pairs of oversized, cheap earrings, the kind once fashionable in the mid-1980s when every girl’s hair was two stories too high.

Back in 1985, I spent several weeks of my summer at a camp in the Cuyamaca Mountains one hour east of San Diego. When I left home, I remember packing several pairs of the same horrible earrings, some plastic bangles, and a stack of mixtapes with my favorite songs recorded off the local Top 40 radio station. Standing in Jena thirty years later, I experienced one of those moments of radical empathy, and tried to imagine what my life would have been like if I’d gone to summer camp in communist East Germany rather than in capitalist California. This girl and I might have shared the same passion for similar material objects, but we would have been ideological enemies, surviving our adolescences on different sides of the Iron Curtain.

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A billboard for the Freundschaft exhibit in Jena. All photos by the author.

From the placard on the display case, I understood that this girl was born in 1971, one year after me. Somewhere out there, this girl was now a woman about my age, and I longed to talk to her, to ask her what she remembered about that summer of 1985, and how things had worked out for her since. This German girl would have been eighteen when the Berlin Wall fell, and nineteen when her country ceased to exist. She would have just graduated from secondary school, and probably listened to Madonna and Fine Young Cannibals as I did: “Express Yourself,” “Like a Prayer,” and “She Drives Me Crazy.” But where I had the luxury of geopolitical continuity in my personal life, this East German faced a young adulthood of dramatic social and economic upheaval.

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Items from the East German Freie Deutsche Jugend (Free German Youth).

When I left the museum, I wandered through the cobblestone alleyways leading off the main market square. I saw posters for two upcoming demonstrations in Jena. The right-wing, anti-immigrant political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) would organize a rally and a march in the Marktplatz while Germany’s left-wing party, Die Linke (The Left), in a coalition with other centrist and leftist parties, would organize a counterdemonstration in front of the church. The counterprotesters had plastered the small city with posters saying “FCK AFD” and “refugees welcome,” and I guessed that the center/left demonstrators would outnumber their right-wing counterparts.

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70th Anniversary of Indian Independence and Partition

Today is the 70th anniversary of British India’s partition into two countries, India and Pakistan, and of its independence from the United Kingdom. On this occasion, we suggest scholarship that offers insight into these events and their lasting effects.

978-0-8223-2494-2India’s partition caused one of the most massive human convulsions in history. Within the space of two months in 1947 more than twelve million people were displaced. A million died. More than seventy-five thousand women were abducted and raped. Countless children disappeared. Homes, villages, communities, families, and relationships were destroyed. Yet, more than half a century later, little is known of the human dimensions of this event. In The Other Side of Silence, Urvashi Butalia fills this gap by placing people—their individual experiences, their private pain—at the center of this epochal event.

Through interviews conducted over a ten-year period and an examination of diaries, letters, memoirs, and parliamentary documents, Butalia asks how people on the margins of history—children, women, ordinary people, the lower castes, the untouchables—have been affected by this upheaval. To understand how and why certain events become shrouded in silence, she traces facets of her own poignant and partition-scarred family history before investigating the stories of other people and their experiences of the effects of this violent disruption. Those whom she interviews reveal that, at least in private, the voices of partition have not been stilled and the bitterness remains.

978-0-8223-6289-0In Of Gardens and Graves Suvir Kaul examines the disruption of everyday life in Kashmir in the years following the region’s pervasive militarization in 1990. He explores Kashmir’s pre- and post-Partition history, the effects of militarization, state repression, the suspension of civil rights on Kashmiris, and the challenge Kashmir represents to the practice of democracy in India. The volume also features translations of Kashmiri poetry written in these years of conflict, as well as a photo essay by Javed Dar, whose photographs work together with Kaul’s essays and the poems to represent the interweaving of ordinary life, civic strife, and spectacular violence in Kashmir.

978-0-8223-4411-7Combining film studies, trauma theory, and South Asian cultural history, Bhaskar Sarkar follows the shifting traces of partition in Indian cinema over the six decades that followed in Mourning the Nation. He argues that partition remains a wound in the collective psyche of South Asia and that its representation on screen enables forms of historical engagement that are largely opaque to standard historiography.

Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia, edited by David N. Gellner, provides valuable new ethnographic insights into life along some of the most contentious borders in the world. The collected essays portray existence at different points across India’s northern frontiers and, in one instance, along borders within India. Whether discussing Shi’i Muslims striving to be patriotic Indians in the Kashmiri district of Kargil or Bangladeshis living uneasily in an enclave surrounded by Indian territory, the contributors show that state borders in Northern South Asia are complex sites of contestation.

ddCSA_25_1Generations of Memory: Remembering Partition in India/Pakistan and Israel/Palestine” from Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East considers partition’s memory across the national borders and regional distances of South Asia and the Middle East. The first part of this article reflects on the meaning of “partition” in each population’s collective memory. The second part examines how the state-building project in India, Pakistan, and Israel, and the emerging Palestinian national-liberation project, shaped dominant versions of respective “first generation” partition narratives. The third part analyzes how these dominant historical narratives have been re-envisioned by scholars within the second, “hinge generation” of Indians.

Progressives and ‘Perverts’: Partition Stories and Pakistan’s Future” from Social Text explores short stories on partition by Sa’adat Hasan Manto. By concentrating on Manto’s writings, this essay revisits Pakistan’s early history to demonstrate how, after the country’s creation, there was continued debate among intellectuals about what would constitute a national culture. Within this context, these short stories by Manto enables the author of the essay to offer a critique of Pakistan’s normative national history and to suggest a different path to understand the country’s past and, possibly, to envision its future.