Author: Laura Sell

Publicity and Advertising Manager, Duke University Press

Preview Our Spring 2020 Catalog

S20-catalog-coverWe’re excited to unveil our Spring 2020 catalog. Check out some highlights from the season below and then download a copy for a closer read. These titles will be published between January and July 2020.

On the cover we’re featuring a portrait of writer and activist Margaret Randall, whose memoir I Never Left Home is on page one. Randall is the author of over 150 books of poetry and prose and she has lived a remarkable life that included harrowing escapes from a Mexican government crackdown, life among revolutionaries in Nicaragua and Cuba, and fighting the U.S. government after they attempted to take away her citizenship.

DubWe are publishing several books that straddle the line between poetry and scholarship. We’re pleased to welcome back returning authors David Grubbs and Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Grubbs’s The Voice in the Headphones is an experiment in music writing in the form of a long poem centered on the culture of the recording studio. Gumbs offers the final book in her trilogy (begun with Spill and continued with M Archive): Dub: Finding Ceremony, which takes inspiration from theorist Sylvia Wynter, dub poetry, and ocean life to offer a catalog of possible methods for remembering, healing, listening, and living otherwise. And Ashon T. Crawley’s The Lonely Letters is an epistolary blackqueer critique of the normative world in which he meditates on the interrelation of blackqueer life, sounds of the black church, theology, mysticism, and the potential for platonic and erotic connection in a world that conspires against blackqueer life.

Every Day I Write the BookWe’re also pleased to welcome back returning author Amitava Kumar. Fresh off the tremendous success of his novel Immigrant, Montana (Alfred A. Knopf), Kumar’s Every Day I Write the Book offers academics and all writers advice on style and process as well as inspiring examples from conversations with novelists and other writers.

Since we published the English translation of German novelist Peter Weiss’s The Aesthetics of Resistance, Volume 1 in 2005, readers have been asking us when they could get Volume 2. The wait is over! Volume 2 will be out in March. And Volume 3 is under contract with a translator, so we hope to have the whole trilogy available in English in the next few years. The novel is one of the truly great works of postwar German literature and an essential resource for understanding twentieth-century German history.

Influx and EffluxOther returning authors include photographer William Craft Brumfield, whose new book Journeys through the Russian Empire juxtaposes his own contemporary photographs alongside those of nineteenth-century photographer Sergey Prokudin Gorsky. Jane Bennett, whose Vibrant Matter (2010) is one of our bestselling books of all time, returns with Influx and Efflux, which draws on Walt Whitman and other writers to explore the question of human agency amidst a world teeming with powerful nonhuman influences. Anthropologist Arturo Escobar’s new book Pluriversal Politics continues his work in Designs for the Pluriverse (2018), showing how the key to addressing planetary crises is the creation of the pluriverse—a world of many epistemological and ontological worlds.

RelationsOther notable anthropology titles include Relations, by Marilyn Strathern, which provides a critical account of this key concept and its usage and significance in the English-speaking world. Porkopolis by Alex Blanchette explores how the daily lives of a Midwestern town that is home to a massive pork complex were reorganized around the life and death cycles of pigs while using the factory farm as a way to detail the state of contemporary American industrial capitalism. And in Writing Anthropology, editor Carole McGranahan brings together fifty-two anthropologists to reflect on scholarly writing as both craft and commitment.

You’ll also want to check out Poor Queer Studies, in which Matt Brim shows how queer studies also takes place beyond the halls of flagship institutions: in night school; after a three-hour commute; in overflowing classrooms at no-name colleges; with no research budget; without access to decent food; with kids in tow; in a state of homelessness. And in A People’s History of Detroit, Mark Jay and Philip Conklin use a class framework to tell a sweeping story of Detroit from 1913 to the present, embedding Motown’s history in a global economic context.

tsq_7_2_prAnd don’t miss the exceptional journal issues in this catalog. To name a few: “Radical Care,” upcoming from Social Text, draws on a historical trajectory of feminist, queer, and black activism to consider how communities receive and provide care in order to survive environments that challenge their existence. “Trans Pornography,” an issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly offers insight into a largely neglected topic from both scholars and industry insiders. And “Revolutionary Positions,” a Radical History Review issue, explores the impact of the Cuban Revolution through the lens of sexuality and gender.

There’s so much more! We invite you to download the entire catalog and check out all the great books and journals inside. And be sure to sign up for our email alerts so you’ll know when titles you’re interested in are available.

Duke University Press, Duke University Libraries, and Horse & Buggy Press to Release Special Print Edition of Allan Gurganus’s Holiday Story “A Fool for Christmas”

978-1-4780-0938-2Allan Gurganus’s “A Fool for Christmas” first charmed audiences when he read it on NPR’s “All Things Considered” in 2004. Together with Duke University Libraries, which acquired Gurganus’s archives in 2018, and Horse & Buggy Press, Duke University Press is pleased to be bringing the story into print for the first time in a limited edition with hand-printed letterpress covers.

The story is set during the Christmas season, when mall pet store manager Vernon Ricketts splits his time between selling irresistible puppies and kittens festooned with holiday bows and shielding the mall’s loiterers from its over-zealous manager, “Terminator” Vanderlip. Just days before Christmas, Vernon notices a small, bedraggled girl in a worn overcoat desperately trying to blend into the mall’s background. Sensing she’s a runaway in trouble, Vernon feels obliged to help. His kindness and their chance encounter will produce a Christmas miracle that becomes a legend as it changes lives.

Allan Gurganus‘s fiction has been translated into sixteen languages. His books Gurganusinclude Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells AllWhite PeoplePlays Well with OthersThe Practical Heart; and Local Souls. He has been awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the American Academy’s Sue Kaufman Prize for best first novel, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lambda Literary Award, and the National Magazine Prize.

Gurganus created eleven hand-drawn color illustrations for this special edition.

In a new afterword for the story, Allan Gurganus says, “The seasonal reading of this tale always stirs discussion about the state of our imperiled nation: how can we live lives like his—making virtue a daily possibility?”

Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian & Vice Provost for Library Affairs at Duke University Libraries says, “When Duke acquired the literary archive of Allan Gurganus, we knew we were adding a remarkable body of work to our already strong collection of writers in the southern literary tradition. We are delighted to work with Horse & Buggy Press and Duke University Press to bring this first publication of “A Fool for Christmas” out of the archive and onto the page— a gift to us all.”

“We are honored to play a role in this publication,” said Dean Smith, Director of Duke University Press. “Allan Gurganus is a wonderful writer and this holiday story is a compassionate and important one for our time.”

Allan Gurganus will appear at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham to read his beloved story on December 12. He is available for interviews. Copies of the limited edition will be available at Triangle area bookshops.

The publication date is November 26, 2019.

Booksellers wanting more information or wishing to place an order for the book can contact Sales Manager Jennifer Schaper at jennifer.schaper@dukeupress.edu.
All other inquiries: Laura Sell, Publicity, lsell@dukeupress.edu or 919-687-3639.

University Press Week: How to Be an Environmental Steward

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Welcome to Day 3 of the University Press Week blog tour. Today’s theme is How to Be an Environmental Steward. We asked some of our authors to answer the question,“What is one thing that more people need to understand about the current global climate crisis?”

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Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Geology at Duke University and co-author of Sea-Level Rise: A Slow Tsunami on America’s Shores

Much of the CO2 we are putting in the air now will be with us for many years. If we don’t control and lower CO2 emissions within the next 2 decades, climate change will be become a runaway event causing massive global migration, wars over water and migration patterns, critical sea level rise impacts and important, perhaps devastating changes in food sources. The time for action is now.

0Shawna Ross, Assistant Professor of Modern British Literature and the Digital Humanities at Texas A&M University and author of “Teaching in Stormy Weather” (Pedagogy, vol. 19, issue 3)

“Climate change” is a loose and baggy monster of a word, as Henry James might put it. It should not be understood as a single phenomenon, but as a multifaceted problem that manifests in ways that differ profoundly depending on where you are on the globe. We all experience climate change in a local way, and our efforts to combat it must include careful attention to these local conditions.

Bethany Allen, studio portraitsTeena Gabrielson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Wyoming and author of “The Visual Politics of Environmental Justice” (Environmental Humanities vol. 11, issue 1)

In a visually saturated global culture, images are powerful means of communication. Today, there is growing awareness that those hit first and hardest by the escalating climate emergency disproportionately come from the world’s most marginalized communities. To envision a more just and green future and create a more inclusive climate justice movement, we need a better understanding of the visual politics that shape the depiction of environmental injustice and visual strategies that disrupt and resist ways of seeing entrenched in dominant power hierarchies.

cymene-howeCymene Howe, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rice University and author of Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene

We need to understand that it is imperative to immediately transition away from fossil fuels and create a new, global energy infrastructure for a sustainable future. This is an incredible opportunity because we can learn from our past mistakes—where hydrocarbon extraction has led to both environmental destruction and social inequalities. We now have a chance to do it right. What if we were to see new energy sources—such as solar, wind and biofuels—as not only fuels but as the foundation for new political forms that are committed to environmental justice rather than the petrologics of endless growth and resource exploitation?

0Nicole Welk-Joerger, PhD candidate in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Restoring Eden in the Amish Anthropocene” (Environmental Humanities vol. 11, issue 1)

As we approach this global dilemma, many of us place unreasonably high expectations on farmers and farm workers. They need to adapt to our changing tastes and continue to provide us with cheap and convenient food, all while mitigating their own contributions to the climate crisis. Our chance for a sustainable future relies on the recognition that food production and consumption are only one part of a much larger, interdependent system of questionable practices. The transportation and energy industries need to feel the same weight of blame and the necessity to adapt that many of the world’s farmers currently experience.

dominc-boyerDominic Boyer, Professor of Anthropoogy at Rice University and author of Energopolitics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene.

There is no way to bend our current ecocidal trajectory through individual actions. If you want to fly less or recycle more, those are great choices, but they won’t impact climate change. Individual consumption is simply the wrong scale of intervention. And the petrocultural powers that be want you to feel guilty and complicit. The fact is that all that matters where we are now in the neo-Pliocene is coordinated governmental initiatives aimed at developing the infrastructure of a post-growth global civilization committed to values of sustainability, peace and justice. If you want to help, my advice would be to take your guilt and fear and redirect those emotions toward principled passionate work to develop responsible and effective government. Maybe that’s government of a liberal-democratic nature or maybe it’s in the form of a non-state collective. If you can’t find political leadership worthy of your support, become that leader yourself. The world will thank you for it.

CallisonCandis Callison is Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Journalism and in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts.

How we define and think about climate change has changed immensely in the last 30 years, and we’re currently in the midst of a window of time (until 2030) defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to act (i.e. change infrastructure to decrease emissions) in order to limit long term impacts and the increase in global temperature. This is what defines climate change as a global crisis, but that shouldn’t also foreclose on questions about what kind of crisis it is, for whom, and who has a seat at the table where decisions about how to act (and when) are being made.  Many Indigenous communities, globally are already dealing with climate change impacts, yet diverse Indigenous knowledges, experiences, and histories that could offer profound insight into the climate crisis are often not at the table where decisions are being made—limiting the frameworks within which the climate crisis is considered and addressed.

Please continue on the blog tour by visiting the other university presses participating today. At University of Pittsburgh Press, author Patricia Demarco writes about global and local sustainability. Columbia University Press features a guest post from the author of Live Sustainably Now with tips to decreasing your carbon footprint. University of California Press offers a post by the author of forthcoming book A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet. Head to Yale University Press for a post with actionable steps on helping the environment and to University of South Carolina Press for photos from the authors of Carolina Bays about preservation of these unique ecological systems. Bucknell University Press offers a post by Tim Wenzell, editor of Woven Shades of Green: An Anthology of Irish Nature Writing on why ecocriticism makes us better stewards of nature. At Oregon State University Press, Marcy Cottrell Houle discusses her new book, A Generous Nature: Lives Transformed by Oregon. University of Minnesota Press shares a post by Jennifer Telesca on the managed extinction of the giant bluefin tuna. University of Mississippi Press features author Jessica H. Schexnayder, whose work documents the dying histories of coastal communities. And University of Toronto Press has a post by sales rep Alex Keys, discussing the ways in which he is able to merge his job with his desire to be a better steward for the environment.

University Press Week 2019: Read. Think. Act.

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It’s University Press Week! University Press Week highlights the extraordinary work of nonprofit scholarly publishers and their many contributions to culture, the academy, and an informed society. We’ll be celebrating with displays at the Durham County Library’s South Regional branch, the LGBTQ Center of DurhamNorth Carolina Central University, Durham’s Riverside High School library, and around Duke University’s campus at the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, the Music Library, the Office for Faculty Advancement, the John Hope Franklin Center, the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Rubenstein Arts Center, the Center for Muslim Life,  the Center for Documentary Studies, and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. If you’re in Durham please stop by and check out some of our recent titles and pick up a bookmark.

This year’s University Press Week theme is “Read. Think. Act.” It’s is a particularly apt theme as many citizens around the globe continue to engage in important debates that will influence vital decision-making in the months ahead; in fact, this year’s UP Week will begin exactly one year to the day before the 2020 Election Day in the U.S. Through this positive theme AUPresses members worldwide seek to encourage people to read the latest peer-reviewed publications about issues that affect our present and future—from politics to economics to climate change to race relations and more—and to better understand academic presses’ important contribution to these vital areas of concern. To that end, AUPresses members have suggested a “Read. Think. Act. Reading List” that can serve as a starting place for any reader who wants to learn more. Our contribution to that list is Sea Level Rise: A Slow Tsumani on America’s Shores, by Orrin H. Pilkey and Keith C. Pilkey, who argue that the only feasible response to climate change along much of the US shoreline is an immediate and managed retreat.

A blog tour has been set up to highlight university press books, authors, and editors that fit the “Read. Think. Act.” theme. Today’s tour features presses blogging about “how to be a better (global) citizen.” Participating presses are University of California Press, University of Virginia Press, Purdue University Press, Georgetown University Press, University of Wisconsin Press, Manchester University Press, University Press of Florida, and University of Minnesota Press. Check out their posts today and come back here Wednesday, when several of our authors and editors will be participating in a roundtable about the global climate crisis.

Please share your love for university presses and all they do for scholarship on social media this week with the hashtag #ReadUP.

Open Access Resources Available from Duke University Press

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It’s Open Access Week, a global opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research. Duke University Press offers a variety of books, journals, and online collections in an open access format. To learn more about why we consider participating in these initiatives so important, read an interview with our previous director Steve Cohn from last year’s Open Access Week. This year we’re pleased to share some of our open access offerings.

Books

Duke University Press participates in two open access programs to make some of our books available in an open access format: Knowledge Unlatched and TOME. Each year we release about a dozen books that are open access. You may be able to read these books online via your own library. You can also find some of them on Project MUSE, OAPEN, and on our own website. Recent books that are available in an open access format include The News at the Ends of the Earth by Hester Blum, Anti-Japan by Leo T. S. Ching, and The Fixer by Charles Piot. 

Journals

Duke University Press’s journals publishing program offers several open-access journals and e-resources:

coverimage1-1Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory, a new addition to our program, is an online journal sponsored by the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs with the aim of foregrounding the form and global reach of contemporary critical theory.

Environmental Humanities draws humanities scholarship into conversation with natural and social sciences around significant environmental issues.

The Carlyle Letters Online provides access to an outstanding resource in Victorian literature, philosophy, and culture: the letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle.

In addition, many introductions to Duke University Press humanities and social sciences journal issues are available for free at read.dukeupress.edu. We also offer several free or low-cost journal access options to libraries in eligible countries.

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Duke University Press and Cornell University Library also jointly manage Project Euclid, a not-for-profit hosting and publishing platform for the mathematics and statistics communities. About 75% of Project Euclid’s hosted content is open access.

Check out some of our previous blog posts for Open Access Week here.

Final Day of Our Fall Sale

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Attention all procrastinators: our 50% off sale ends tonight, October 21, at 11:59 eastern time. If you’ve been putting off placing your order, now is the time. Use coupon code FALL50 when you place your order online.

Can’t decide what to buy? Check out our editors recommendations.

If you have any difficulty ordering via our website, you can call our customer service department at 888-651-0122 today until 5:00 p.m.

Here’s the usual fine print: The discount does not apply to apparel, journals subscriptions, or society memberships. You can’t order out-of-stock or not yet published titles at the discount. Regular shipping applies and all sales are final.

More Sale Recommendations from Our Editors

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Still haven’t shopped our Fall Sale? Overwhelmed by all your great choices? We’re pleased to offer recommendations from two of our editors today, Courtney Berger and Gisela Fosado. If you missed them yesterday, check out Elizabeth Ault’s and Ken Wissoker’s recommendations here.

Gisela Fosado, Editor

The ChasersRenato Rosaldo’s beautiful prose poetry collection, The Chasers, gives readers a snapshot of Chicano life in Tucson in the ‘50s. Part club, part friend group, the Chasers were twelve Mexican American high schoolers whose rich stories paint a rich picture of teen life near the border.

Beth Caldwell’s Deported Americans: Life After Deportation to Mexico is a powerful book that traces the impact of deportation on both sides of the border. One of the book’s contributions are Caldwell’s recommended legislative and judicial reforms to alleviate the suffering of millions of Americans affected by deportation.

Patricia Hill Collins’s Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory offers an important new take on how and why intersectionality has not yet realized its potential as a critical social theory. Collins outlines the self-reflexive critical analysis of intersectionality’s assumptions, epistemologies, methodologies and practices that will be a required next step for the concept.

Andrea Ballestero’s A Future History of Water is a smart and beautiful ethnography of the devices that people use make a case for water as a human right. Ballestero demonstrates what happens when instead of trying to fix its meaning, we make water’s changing form the precondition of our analyses.

Courtney Berger, Executive Editor

978-1-4780-0653-4_prBest book to bring with you on a trip: E. Patrick Johnson’s Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women. Part fiction, part oral history, Honeypot takes us on a journey through Hymen, the women-only world of the U.S. South, to meet queer Black women who boldly share their stories of love, family, heartbreak, coming out, religion, art, and activism. I adore this book and cherished spending time with Dr. EPJ, Miss B, and all the women who lent their voices to this chorus.

The world is on fire, you might want to read: Savage Ecology: War and Geopolitics at the End of the World by Jairus Grove. Grove offers us a martial theory of the Anthropocene. He locates the origins of the planet’s ecological crisis in the geopolitics of war, a world order that that has been organized around colonial expansion, the eradication of generative differences among humans, species, and environments, and the production of technologies and forms of life that are produced to perpetuate warfare and combat.

Cara New Daggett also delves into the relationship between imperialism, contemporary capitalism, and the environment in The Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics, and the Politics of Work. Daggett tells the history of energy as a product of Northern European industrialization and scientific discourse, which yoked moral imperatives about work and productivity with imperial domination and demands for cheap labor. Daggett urges us a post-work energy politics that would decouple the logics of work and energy and challenge the material and moral valuation of waged labor, as well as our fossil fuel reliance.

978-1-4780-0381-6_pr_captechAnd a great pick for teaching: Ruha Benjamin’s edited collection, Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life. The contributors to this volume highlight the ways in which policing and prison technologies have been brought to bear on everyday social and economic life, reinforcing racialized imaginaries and perpetuating racialized violence. But the book also offers insights into how such technologies could be retooled and reimagined in the service of building a more just and habitable world.

You can get all these books and more for 50% off through Monday, October 21. Use coupon code Fall50 at checkout. See the fine print here.

 

Sale Recommendations from Our Editors

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If you’re not sure what to buy during our week-long Fall Sale, we’re pleased to present some recommendations from our editors. Today we share suggestions from Editor Elizabeth Ault and Editorial Director Ken Wissoker. Tomorrow look for Executive Editor Courtney Berger’s and Editor Gisela Fosado’s recommendations.

Elizabeth Ault, Editor

Making the World Global I am super-energized following the abolitionist university studies conference held last weekend here at Duke (the second-best thing to happen last week following Bodyminds Reimagined author Sami Schalk’s successful #twerkwithlizzo campaign)! To follow up on the great conversations held there, I highly recommend Isaac Kamola’s Making the World Global and Nathan Snaza’s Animate Literacies. These very different books—Kamola’s on how the concept of “the global university” spread from business schools through every level of higher ed, and Snaza’s on rethinking what we mean by literacy to acknowledge all of the historical and more-than-human forces that shape what and how we read—both help us situate ourselves and our reading, teaching, and studying practices within the historical and spatial contingencies of the universities we do (or don’t!) inhabit.

Other books that are trying to help us reenvision the spaces in which we find ourselves include Justin Izzo’s Experiments with Empire focuses on how experimental writers and ethnographers used the tools of empire and empiricism to imagine solidarities and subjectivities beyond the dyadic frameworks empire sought to impose. And in The Archive of Loss, Maura Finkelstein reconceives of Mumbai’s last remaining textile mill as an archive, full of the stories, affects, aches and pains, of those who have made their livings and their lives there. It’s essential reading for understanding post-industrial melancholy.

CampTVFinally, as the fall television season and all its attendant debates about representation and genre get underway, I recommend revisiting some classic TV through Quinn Miller’s Camp TV, which goes beyond representational critique to imagine the possibilities early television created for queering genders. Or, if you’re missing antiheros among the new crop of shows, check out Angelo Restivo’s Breaking Bad and Cinematic Television, which goes beyond an easy equation of cinema with quality to explore what truly makes television “like the movies,” or Toni Pape’s Figures of Time, which reframes Damages and other early 2000s programs through the lens of preemptive politics.

Ken Wissoker, Editorial Director

It would be difficult (and foolish) not to begin my recommendations with two important books that are both new this month, Sara Ahmed’s What’s the Use: On the Uses of Use and Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics. Sara Ahmed’s book moves all three of  978-1-4780-0650-3_prher interconnected projects forward at once.  On the face of it a follow-up to The Promise of Happiness and Willfull Subjects, her books which ‘follow words around,’ it also includes much that moves forward from On Being Included on universities and their ways of side-stepping real equality and inclusion, and from Living a Feminist Life with similarly memorable and life-giving recognitions and everyday feminist realities.  Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics is equally timely and necessary for our lives.  Combining his classic title essay with a translation of his recent politiques de l’inimitié, this is the account we need now of the racist and nationalist state, all-too organized around the right to kill.  A brilliant and useful (that word again) analysis truly needed for our time.

I’m also excited about MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Julie Livingston’s brand new book, Self-Devouring Growth: A Planetary Parable as Told from Southern Africa. Inspired by Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Livingston take three examples of development that were supposed to lead to a better society — roads, water, and cattle — and shows that as soon as one looks at them from a more transnational perspective, they all make the planet — and the lives of those they were intended to help — worse. It’s a brilliant and engaging analysis of how much modern aid projects have accelerated the anthropocene, however helpful-sounding their infrastructural aims.

Racial MelancholiaEver since its publication last spring, I’ve been proselytizing non-stop for David Eng and Shinhee Han’s Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans—the book that we have needed as long as I can remember. A book that puts racialization and it’s effects at the center of the psychoanalytic account—and if psychology is supposed to deal with the constitution of subjects how could that not be central — while still offering a complex and historicized account of cultural and individual lives.  Eng and Han co-wrote it, working on the theory together and using real-life examples from her therapeutic practice. The stories are from Asian Americans and Asians in America, but anyone who thinks about race and personhood in any form will benefit.

I am repeatedly shocked at the bad advice offered to younger scholars, who are told they have to publish in the “right places” or conform to tired disciplinary standards that are busy dying. The last decade has been an open and exciting renaissance moment for intellectual thinking worked through stylish and experimental writing forms. Two leaders in this moment have been Katie Stewart and Lauren Berlant.  Their collaborative work The Hundreds is a masterclass in close attention and eloquent description. I love how Hua Hsu traced its continuity with both authors previous work in his New Yorker essay.  That’s a masterclass too.  In that same brillant direction, the sale is a superb time to be sure one has all three of Fred Moten’s “Consent not to be a single being” trilogy volumes. Widely influential already, they will only become more so.  Finally, I will put in a good word for Benjamin Piekut’s Henry Cow: The World is a Problem which does for the British Marxist post-68 experimental music scene what Tim Lawrence’s work has done for the New York City dance floor, spinning archives and zillions of interviews into a story of musical community, utopic possibilities, and their inevitable limits.

You can get all these books and more for 50% off through Monday, October 21. Use coupon code Fall50 at checkout. See the fine print here.

Save 50% During Our Fall Sale

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You’ve been asking for it and we’re happy to announce that our Fall Sale begins today. Grab brand new titles like Necropolitics by Achille Mbembe and What’s the Use? by Sara Ahmed or stock up on older titles for your comps. Pick up award-winners like Black Feminism Reimagined by Jennifer Nash and Reclaiming the Discarded by Kathleen Millar. Or give the gift of James Baldwin to a young reader this holiday season. Just head to our website and save 50% on all in-stock books and journal issues by entering coupon code FALL50.

Here’s the usual fine print: The discount does not apply to apparel, journals subscriptions, or society memberships. You can’t order out-of-stock or not yet published titles at the discount. And you can’t combine multiple orders to maximize the discount. Regular shipping applies and all sales are final.

If you have any difficulty ordering via our website, you can call our customer service department at 888-651-0122 during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 8-5 Eastern Time).

The sale ends in one week, on Monday, October 21 at 11:59 Eastern Time. Start shopping now!

Q&A with Brenda R. Weber, Author of Latter-day Screens

weberBrenda R. Weber is Professor of Gender Studies at Indiana University, editor of Reality Gendervision: Sexuality and Gender on Transatlantic Reality Television, and author of Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity, both also published by Duke University Press. Her newest book, Latter-day Screens: Gender, Sexuality, and Mediated Mormonism examines how mediation of Mormonism through film, TV, blogs, YouTube videos, and memoirs functions as a means to understand conversations surrounding gender, sexuality, spirituality, capitalism, justice, and individualism in the United States.

You mention in the acknowledgements that two of your close friends—fellow non-Mormons who also grew up surrounded by Mormon culture—thought writing the book was a mistake. What was it that allowed you to move beyond their fears (and perhaps your own) and continue on with the project? 

One of the things I try to capture in the memoir section of the book (coming at the end) is the way that Mormonism influenced practically every aspect of my growing up in Mesa, Arizona, because the religion has such a strong set of beliefs practices, and behaviors—through things like what one can eat or drink but also about your use of time and your perceived friendliness. It also set limits on how hard I could think (and still be considered nice) and what exactly I could aspire to become professionally and personally, and it absolutely forbade the legitimacy of LGBT loves or lives. So for me and my other non-Mormon friends, we lived with a constant sense of a very powerful presence that could be felt and could judge us but couldn’t really be detected or blocked, like the air we breathe. It had a way of seeping into us and taking up residence in our bodies. I think my friends and I dealt with this largely by not dealing with it—we left town, moved on, grew up. Writing the book meant dismantling a coping mechanism I had used for nearly 30 years, and my friends were concerned about no longer having this capacity for separation.

As with most of my projects, it was my fascination with learning that made me move beyond those fears. Instead of turning my back and mind on those people and beliefs that had governed my childhood, I became truly interested in understanding the history, culture, and media representations of Mormons, both mainstream and fundamentalist. It was a wonderful way to purge a lot of childhood ghosts, but I do still have anxieties that I can never again go to a high school reunion and I’ve pretty much been de-friended by all of my LDS friends from childhood. And I want to emphasize, this is not something I could have done as a child or a teenager. I needed to be an adult with enough certainty about me that taking a part a necessary scaffolding wouldn’t undo a broader sense of my self.

Images and ideas of Mormonism, or what you call “mediated Mormonism,” are quite powerful cultural tools: You describe mediated Mormonism as a “lens” through which we can see the inner workings and mechanics of American culture. What do you see as particular to the Church of Latter-Day Saints that allows its representations to have this powerful clarifying effect? 

Latter-day ScreensAs an American religion born in the nineteenth century, Mormonism came alive as new possibilities in media were also born. Religion scholars have long talked about the advent of the printing press as presaging both the Protestant Revolution and a spread and diversification of Christianity. Mormonism nicely illustrates this story as well, fittingly in the New World of the Americas where the book is set. The Book of Mormon was first published in Palmyra, New York in 1830. Joseph Smith ordered a run of 5,000 copies (at a cost of $3,000), which is an astronomical number and cost for that time period. But the print run tells us a great deal about the rise of book culture in the United States, the zealous emergence of a number of new religions in this time period, the rise in literacy across more rural parts of the United States, and the general affordability of publishing in this period.

I had an opportunity while researching this book to visit E. B. Grandin, the print shop that made The Book of Mormon, now turned into a site staffed and run by the mainstream LDS Church. While there, I was astounded that if I stood on tippy toes at the back door, I could see the Erie Canal, which was like an information super highway in the nineteenth century, moving goods and in this case ideas across the country and into Canada. With the spread of the book soon went the spread of missionaries, because this has always been a very proselytizing religion.

This circulation of Mormon missionaries and ideas served to crystalize Mormonism as a recognizable “thing” in the culture, what in the book I call Mormonism as a meme. Broader American and even international culture has not always looked on Mormonism in a positive light, but it is often referenced to do a larger symbolic work. So, as we see in the case of Big Love or Sister Wives, fundamentalist Mormons are called upon to serve as “American everymen” who live their lives a little differently. They become proxy figures for asking if there are limits to the American experiment.

You argue that the struggles against norms taking place inside and around Latter-day screens actually become accelerants for social justice. For instance, you discuss how Utah’s dismissal of their case against the polygamous Brown family from Sister Wives coincided with the state’s issuing of licenses for same-sex marriages. What potential (and limitations) do you see in cultural media like reality television to become agents of change in broader legal and political spheres? 

978-0-8223-5682-0_prWell, culture has always been an agent in the legal and political sphere, so it’s not like this is a new thing. Fighting to eradicate slavery, for instance, brought forth a whole new set of protest literatures from slave narratives to sentimental novels.

But as I discuss in my 2014 book Reality Gendervision, people love to hate on TV, particularly reality TV. And don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to critique, but I don’t think it is the medium itself that is to blame. Perhaps I have convinced myself as a media scholar, but I think the issue is really about critical thinking skills and media literacy. The more people can think critically, the more all kinds of media can be used in beneficial ways.

In the book, you describe the kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart as a “cultural meme,” serving as a sign of the ultimate innocent victim who meets the affective demand to be “happy” after trauma. How do you see these same demands– for innocent victims who don’t “hold a grudge”—working in our own cultural and institutional logics surrounding sexual assault and violence? Is Smart as a meme a direct mirror for our larger culture, or an exaggeration that allows us to see ourselves more clearly?

I see the image of Elizabeth Smart as absolutely an outlying representation, particularly in an era of #MeToo that asks survivors of sexual assault to claim their stories and to be willing to share their feelings of anger about them. Also, I want to be clear that I don’t fault Elizabeth Smart for her affect. I have no idea what her actual feelings are inside, and she may well have a different emotional experience that she, rightfully, does not divulge as part of her public persona. Or maybe she doesn’t. I wouldn’t want to be understood as saying that Smart is wrong in being happy but that the effect of her affect (if you want to put it this way) is to suggest she will never attack. This, in turn, reinforces normative notions of heteronormative femininity that suggest a woman’s value is heightened through her willingness to put others before herself, including their emotional needs. I use a line in the book from Judith Freeman’s excellent memoir The Latter Days (2017) about receiving instructions on femininity as a young Mormon girl. Freeman and others were given an example of sitting in a church pew and not feeling well. If this happened, they were advised, it would be far better to throw up in your purse than to ask others to stand up so that you could get to the restroom. Better to barf in a handbag! That’s the kind of gender identity at the heart of the happy affect I examine in the book.

You close your book by discussing LGBT+ Mormons and their relationship with media as a space for self-recognition, working against patterns in the church where a denial of self-knowledge is often a condition of subjectivity, like in the show My Husband’s Not Gay. Do you think that twenty-first century social media can accomplish this self-representation in a new way that television cannot?

I wouldn’t say that it is mutually exclusive (either television can do it better or social media does) but cumulative. When I use the phrase Latter-day Screens, this is exactly what I’m getting at – that cultural ideas, impressions, and images are produced through a conversation between different media platforms (television, feature film, memoir) and through both high and low, professional and amateur production, all coming together in these relatively coherent symbols that are labeled “Mormon.”

Ideas change through continual and repeated exposure to an idea. Just this week, for example, a new television show popped onto my TIVO, called Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story (Lifetime, released September 28, 2019). It offers a made-for-television version of the 2016 memoir Saving Alex, written by Alex Cooper. Cooper writes about being raised LDS and coming out to her parents, who in desperation, forcibly put her in reparation therapy. It’s a brutal, sad story with a triumphant ending. But Saving Alex is not a singular story—there are many memoirs about LGBT+ lives and loves and the hardship of living as gay and Mormon, many of them self-published, many others serving as the backbone of film or television representation (as for instance in The Falls: Testament of Love or Latter Days).

Social media is critical to all of this because it is immediate and it is amateur, meaning one doesn’t require a ten-million dollar budget and backing from Hollywood before telling one’s truth, or testifying (a key tenet of Mormonism). Mediation, as we discussed in the first question, here serves as quintessentially Mormon, or, as many of the people who create media content around Mormonism say, “As out-Mormoning the Mormons.” Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons, says it most powerfully in the documentary Believer,

There’s one thing my Mormon values have taught me since I was young. It’s that no matter what the world says about who you are, what you believe, still do it. A hundred percent. That spirit was the spirit that carried me through my mission. I felt like I was baring my truth regardless what anyone thought about me. That’s all because of Mormonism and my parents, they all prepped me for this moment now. A determined Mormon is a scary thing, I will tell you that. Because they don’t stop. I knocked a hundred doors to get into one door. I knocked a thousand doors on my mission. If there’s one thing I can guarantee it’s that I will continue to knock this door until somebody answers.

That’s on page 21 of my book, if anyone wants to read more!

What is something you hope readers will take away from this in-depth account of the various ways in which Mormonism circulates in our media?

In terms of media, I hope that readers perceive the clarifying capacities of Mormonism, when we understand it as both a way of seeing and a way of thinking. Really, my book is not so much about Mormons as people or Mormon ideas. Instead, it’s about Mormonism as an idea. Decoding its many values is a bit like taking apart a complex engine, in that we really begin to see and understand how bits and pieces work together to create something far bigger than the sum of its parts.

In terms of the overall project, I hope that readers see that everyone has a story worth telling, and I hope they understand my regard toward actual Mormon people as being not judgmental but also not completely sympathetic. For me, my experience with the influence of Mormonism helped me understand the workings of hegemony, a critical term within gender studies that is often used and seldom defined. But basically, hegemony has to do with the invisible systems that compel people not only to act in ways opposite to their self-interest but also to believe those power relations are superior to other ways, so they champion their continuation. I had a hard time understanding how I could never have been formally schooled in the values of Mormonism yet knew the codes so well I had internalized them. Writing this book allowed me to understand that hegemonic process more and in so doing to be free of them in some ways.

Read the introduction to Latter-day Screens free online and save 30% on the paperback edition using coupon code E19WEBER.