Author: Laura Sell

Publicity and Advertising Manager, Duke University Press

Happy 80th Birthday to Esther Newton

Join us today in wishing pioneering anthropologist Esther Newton a happy eightieth birthday. We are proud to have published three titles by Newton and invite you to revisit them in her honor today.

Newton’s editor, Ken Wissoker, shares, “For as long as I can remember, Esther Newton has been a guiding presence in queer anthropology. When I started as an editor, I would sometimes sit with her and Elizabeth Kennedy at talks, watching what she had helped birth in the legendary Mother Camp grow into a major part of the field. Our collaborations on Margaret Mead Made Me Gay and on her memoir My Butch Career are highlights of my time at the Press, books that will carry her work for queer generations to come.

My Butch CareerIn her memoir My Butch Career (2018), Newton tells the compelling, disarming, and at times sexy story of her struggle to write, teach, and find love, all while coming to terms with her identity during a particularly intense time of homophobic persecution in the twentieth century. Despite having written the now-classic text Mother Camp (1972), she was denied tenure twice. But by age forty, where My Butch Career‘s narrative ends, she began to achieve personal and scholarly stability in the company of the first politicized generation of out lesbian and gay scholars with whom she helped create gender and sexuality studies.

978-0-8223-2612-0_prWhile My Butch Career mingles personal reflection on her upbringing, her parents, and her love affairs with her struggle to be recognized professionally, Margaret Mead Made Me Gay (2000) is more of an intellectual memoir that chronicles the development of her ideas from the excitement of early feminism in the 1960s to friendly critiques of queer theory in the 1990s.

978-0-8223-5553-3_prIn 2014, we brought Newton’s book Cherry Grove, Fire Island, originally published in in 1993, back into print in a teachable paperback edition. The book is a cultural history of the gay and lesbian vacation town near New York City, where she herself vacationed for many years. Her ethnography was deeply personal. In an interview with Cultural Anthropology, she recounts, “I gave a book party in the Grove to sell books, but also to do a slideshow, to give something back to the community. What people really were interested in, though, was to go to the index and look for their own names.”

A movie about Newton is in the works. One scene was filmed at the Duke University Press booth at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, where we launched My Butch Career. We can’t wait to see it!

These days Esther Newton is retired and splits her time between Michigan, where she was previously a professor of American Culture and Women’s and Gender Studies, and Florida. She enjoys spending time with family and doing agility training with her dogs. When interviewed for Queer Forty a few years ago, she said, “The second half of life does hold pleasures. We are not as hot as we once were, but we can know the pleasures of long term life partner relationships and friendships. . . . Some of the uncertainty and anxiety of the earlier years do abate. And I have found that there is such a thing as wisdom.”

Esther Newton on motorcycle

Esther Newton, 1967. Photograph by Nancy Rae Smith.

Thank you, Esther, for all the wisdom you have shared through your scholarship, and Happy Birthday!

In Conversation: Bo Ruberg

Watch our newest “In Conversation” video in which Bo Ruberg, author of The Queer Games Avant-Garde, talks with contributors and game designers Jess Marcotte and Dietrich “Squinky” Squinkifer about how they got into video game design, access and multimedia game design, and labor rights in gaming.

Final Day of our Fall Sale

Fall-sale-2020-BlogToday is the final day to save 50% on in-stock books and journal issues during our Fall Sale. Use coupon FALL2020 and be sure to shop before 11:59 pm EST.

Customers outside North and South America can use the FALL2020 coupon through today at our UK-based distributor Combined Academic Publishers to save on shipping, particularly in Europe.

Can’t decide what to buy? Check out recommendations from our editors for recent books in Gender Studies, American Studies, African Studies, and Anthropology. And if you’ve already shopped early in October, make sure you haven’t missed titles that have been published since then.

See the fine print and FAQs here.

Final Weekend of Our Fall Sale

Fall-sale-2020-BlogOur Fall Sale ends Monday, November 23 at 11:59 pm EST so this is your final weekend to shop. Customers in North and South America can shop our website, and those in the rest of the world may find shipping costs and times to be less if you shop at our UK-based distributor Combined Academic Publishers. At both locations, the coupon code is FALL2020.

If you shopped in early October, you may be missing some great titles that have only just come out in the past few weeks.

writing in spaceWriting in Space, 1973-2019 by Lorraine O’Grady and edited by Aruna D’Souza. Hyperallergic says the book “establishes O’Grady’s literary brilliance that shines through her multifaceted creative practice.”

Liquor Store Theatre by Maya Stovall uses the artist’s well-known project as a point of departure for understanding everyday life in Detroit and the possibilities for ethnographic research, art, and knowledge creation.

Militarized Global ApartheidMilitarized Global Apartheid by Catherine Besteman is a major theoretical work that will be applicable in a wide range of disciplines.

Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times, edited by Antoinette Burton and Renisa Mawani, is a unique collection featuring short chapters on 26 animals that  have played central roles in the history of British imperial control.

For a Pragmatics of the Useless by Erin Manning shows how neurotypicality and whiteness combine to form a normative baseline for existence.

Building Socialism: The Afterlife of East German Architecture in Urban Vietnam by Christina Schwenkel analyzes the collaboration between East German and Vietnamese architects and urban planners as they attempted to transform the bombed-out industrial city of Vinh into a model socialist city.

Aesthetics of ExcessAesthetics of Excess: The Art and Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment by Jillian Hernandez analyzes the personal clothing, makeup, and hairstyles of working-class Black and Latina girls, to examines how cultural discourses of aesthetic value racialize the bodies of women and girls of color.

Biopolitics of the More-Than-Human by Joseph Pugliese examines the concept of the biopolitical through a nonanthropocentric lens, arguing that more-than-human entities—from soil and orchards to animals and water—are actors and agents in their own right with legitimate claims to justice.

Island Futures: Caribbean Survival in the Anthropocene by Mimi Sheller elves into the ecological crises and reconstruction challenges affecting the entire Caribbean region, showing how vulnerability to ecological collapse and the quest for a “just recovery” in the Caribbean emerge from specific transnational political, economic, and cultural dynamics.

stx_38_1_142_coverWe’ve also loved to see which journal issues are topping our bestseller list for the sale. Some are discounted as low as $6, so don’t miss out! “The Ideology Issue” from South Atlantic Quarterly and “Radical Care” from Social Text are heading up the list, and TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly’s recent issues “Trans Pornography,” “Trans Futures,” and “Trans* Studies Now” are popular choices.

Radical History Review’s “Fascism and Anti-fascism since 1945” and “Policing, Justice, and the Radical Imagination” are also selling well, as is “Method as Method” from Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature.

Pick up these new titles and all in-stock books and journal issues for 50%, but only if you shop now with coupon FALL2020! This special offer ends Monday night. See the fine print here.

In Conversation: Anna Watkins Fisher and Elizabeth Ault

Check out our newest “In Conversation” video, in which Editor Elizabeth Ault talks with Anna Watkins Fisher about her new book, The Play in the System: The Art of Parasitical Resistance. Fisher talks about what “parasitical resistance” is, about the ways in which the Trump Era has built on the Obama administration, and about thinking with Bong Joon-Ho’s film Parasite.

What is the Future of Bolivia after the 2020 MAS Victory?

Last November, Bolivia experienced a right-wing military coup d’état ousting Evo Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party based on alleged electoral fraud, with the support of the US-backed Organization of American States (OAS). Overturning the official election results, Jeanine Añez of the right-wing Democrat Social Movement party was declared interim president, and the nation burst into civil uprisings decrying the coup government and calling for the restoration of democracy through the electoral process (though mostly MAS opponents had taken to the streets previously to protest the elections). Pro-MAS protesters, many of them Indigenous, were met with violence, and Morales fled to exile in Mexico and then Argentina. Almost a year later and after much social unrest, general elections were held in Bolivia on October 18, 2020, resulting in a landslide victory for Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca of the MAS party. Shortly thereafter, Morales triumphantly returned to Bolivia in early November.
What does the MAS victory mean for the future of Bolivia? In this roundtable, Duke University Press authors and Bolivia experts Mark Goodale, Thomas Grisaffi, and Bret Gustafson share their thoughts on the future of Bolivia, particularly as it pertains to the industrialization of lithium, the production of coca, and the future of the natural gas industry, respectively.
Contributors

Lithium Industrialization in Bolivia after the Coup – Mark Goodale

978-1-4780-0652-7_prWith the return to power of the MAS in Bolivia, one of the only things I’m confident in saying is that we will need many more months, perhaps even years, and the commitment of research dedicated to the question, to fully understand the contours of the last year. This past year began with a rightwing coup d’état and ended with the resounding electoral triumph of MAS at both the executive and legislative levels (yes, I analyze the mobilizations and eventual Camba takeover of October and November 2019 as a coup, even though it is a strange coup that ends with the golpistas, or coup plotters, allowing a democratic process to play out that leads to their ouster and coup leaders facing likely prison sentences).

But what concerns me here is something more specific: the likelihood that the new MAS government will re-start what was among the most important initiatives right up until the October 2019 election. This is the state project, managed by Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB), to industrialize the country’s lithium resources through an ambitious plan of vertical integration. This process that would oversee the commodity chain in Bolivia from the production of lithium carbonate and hydroxide to its refinement into “battery grade” salt to the development of lithium-ion battery cathodes and, finally, to the production—at an industrial scale—of fully functional lithium-ion batteries targeted for the booming global electronic vehicle (EV) market. 

In the months and years to come, the four-year research project I direct (now at the beginning of its second year) will be focusing on three main developments and possibilities. First: how quickly will the new MAS government resume production and construction activities at the main site in the Uyuni Salt Flat, which have been effectively paused for a year, a stoppage that took place even before the Covid-19 crisis struck Bolivia? Although a skeleton crew has been maintaining the evaporation pools, there is real concern that neglect and degradation over this period have set the process back.

Second, will the new MAS government revisit the decision taken by Evo Morales’ administration—as a late-breaking act of desperation during the social unrest in the days after the 2019 election—to annul the contract with the private German company ACI Systems? ACI Systems was acting as a proxy for Germany, which was acting as a proxy for the European Union, which is rushing to ramp up the transition to EVs and, apropos of the annulled contract, rapidly and exponentially increase the capacity to produce lithium-ion batteries within the EU. The contract with ACI Systems gave the German company the right to manage the later stages in the vertical integration process, but this contract was used by a largely Potosí-based anti-MAS civic movement to oppose the alliance and justify the threat of action against production at the facilities in the Salt Flat. Will the new MAS government reconsider the annulled contract with ACI Systems, and, if not, will the government require the state-owned company Yacimientos de Litio Boliviano (YLB), to take charge of the entire process from extraction to the production and distribution of lithium-ion batteries?

 And finally, will the new MAS government continue to structure economic policy, including lithium industrialization, based on the radical blueprint set out in the “Patriotic Agenda 2025,” a plan for national development that purports to respond to many of the critiques of the state’s reliance on traditional resource extraction, especially around gas and oil? In particular, will the lithium industrialization process remain the centerpiece of the Agenda’s concept of “productive sovereignty,” which imagines the state’s commitment to more sustainable development (although lithium is also a non-renewable resource) as the expression of both economic independence and decolonization?

The future of drug policy in Bolivia – Thomas Grisaffi

978-1-4780-0297-0_prOver the past fifteen years, Bolivia has emerged as a world leader in formulating a participatory, non-violent model in confronting the cocaine trade. The MAS victory in the October 2020 elections ensures that this innovative strategy will continue, but the Luis Arce administration will face challenges to implement it.

Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine, a drug manufactured from coca leaf – which is central to Andean culture. Under the Evo Morales administration (2006-2019) farmers in specific zones were permitted to cultivate a small (between 1,600 – 2,500 square metre) plot of coca and were encouraged to self-police to respect these limits. 

This community-based model has proven more effective in reducing coca acreage than militarized forced eradication. Government investment has encouraged economic diversification away from coca. In Bolivia, 23,100 hectares were under coca cultivation in 2018, less than half that in Peru.

The policy has been lauded by the United Nations Development Programme as a less violent and efficient way to reduce coca cultivation, and has served as an inspiration to coca farmers in Peru and Colombia.

The relative success of the model does not mean it comes easy. There are debates over enforcement at every local union meeting, and some farmers complain that the upper limit on coca production is too low to meet their basic needs. Some farmers play the system and grow more coca than they are legally permitted.

Morales’s forced resignation in November 2019 threatened the future of the program. Despite being an interim government, the Jeanine Añez administration drafted its own five year drug strategy, which presented a hard-line stance to drug control and threatened a return to forced eradication.

Coca growers can breathe a sigh of relief. The incoming MAS government will surely continue with the community coca control model– but there will be challenges to its implementation.

Many growers supported the program out of deep-seated loyalty to Morales, who as President also headed the federation of growers. By contrast, incoming president Luis Arce, a UK-trained economist, lacks any history in the country’s social movements. He will find it difficult to convince farmers to make the sacrifices necessary for the policy to work.

The community control model relies on high levels of trust between the local coca growers’ organizations and the state, but the violence enacted by the police and military following last year’s coup – including the massacre of eleven coca growers – destroyed these foundations. Luis Arce will have to work hard to rebuild faith in the state, so that going forward coca growers are able to collaborate with the police, military and other official actors to restrict coca and curtail drug trafficking. 

The End of Gas and What’s Next for Eastern Bolivia – Bret Gustafson 

Bolivia in the Age of GaThe amazing victory of Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca of Bolivia’s MAS party comes amidst a public health tragedy and challenging economic conditions.  During the government of Evo Morales (2006-2019), the country benefited from high natural gas prices and the expansion of the public sector, policies in part overseen by Arce himself, who was Morales’s Minister of the Economy.  

As I explore in Bolivia in the Age of Gas, the period of the MAS government was nonetheless marked by contradictions. On the one hand, Indigenous and other social movements expanded their presence in government and made significant gains, especially in occupying new political spaces and state institutions long characterized by racial exclusion. On the other hand, the dependence on gas revenues led to compromises with foreign capital – and with more conservative sectors of the Bolivian society – that ran against what many hoped would be a more radical political transformation.  

In the case of the Guaraní of southeastern Bolivia, the impacts were significant. The gas industry transformed daily life in many communities, bringing new forms of labor and some material benefits, but also new forms of social and ecological violence. Many Guaraní benefited from access to jobs working with the government. Others were forced to deal with huge gas plants, large camps of male workers, disruptive seismic exploration (blasting with explosives to chart the underground), and endless efforts to eke out some compensation for damages.  

The right-wing forces that ousted Evo Morales in November of 2019 hoped to bring the MAS era to an end, and would have surely intensified these violences had they stayed in power. Yet the victory of Luis Arce has confirmed that despite the contradictions of the era of Evo Morales, Bolivians overwhelmingly wanted the MAS to return. 

Arce confronts a challenging scenario. Gas reserves are not growing, prices are low, and Brazil and Argentina – Bolivia’s main customers – may soon stop buying so much gas. Many Bolivians see lithium as the new boom, yet its prospects are complicated by national politics and global markets. If Bolivia can find a way to industrialize lithium – making batteries and electric cars, perhaps – there might be some hope there. Yet given what we know about the limits of extractivism, and the particular problems of fossil fuels, one might also hope Bolivia’s new government will deepen its turn to renewables, pursue more economic diversification, and slowly work to free itself from a longer history of being what I call “extractive subjects,” those whose own desires, for better and for worse, paradoxically align with the forces of extractive capitalism.

Through November 23, 2020, you can save 50% on books by all three authors using coupon code FALL2020.

Preview our Spring 2021 Catalog

S21-catalog-frontcoverWe’re excited to unveil our Spring 2021 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 2021 and July 2021.

On the cover we feature an image by Cerron Hooks entitled “Consider the Source,” which is on the cover of our lead title, edited by Lynden Harris. Right Here, Right Now: Life Stories from America’s Death Row collects the powerful first-person stories of dozens of men on death rows across the country. 

Universal TonalityWe have several excellent music books in the catalog. Jazz lovers will definitely want to read the first biography of bassist William Parker, Universal Tonality by Cisco Bradley. The publication of the biography coincides with the release of retrospective box set of Parker’s work. Jazz fans will also want to check out Soundworks: Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production by Anthony Reed, which takes the recorded collaborations between African American poets and musicians such as Amiri Baraka, Jayne Cortez, Cecil Taylor, and Charles Mingus to trace the overlaps between experimental music and poetry. Eric Weisbard’s Songbooks offers a critical guide to American popular music writing, from William Billings’s 1770 New-England-Psalm-Singer to Jay-Z’s 2010 memoir Decoded. Music scholars will also be interested in Sound Alignments: Popular Music in Asia’s Cold Wars, edited by Michael K. Bourdaghs, Paola Iovene, and Kaley Mason.

Spring brings more Black studies and African American history titles as well. We’re thrilled to be adding to our collection of Stuart Hall’s work with two new compilations of his work, Selected Writings on Marxism, edited by Gregor McLennan, and Selected Writings on Race and Difference, edited by Paul Gilroy and Ruth Wilson Gilmore. Both volumes will be great for teaching.

Point of ReckoningPoint of Reckoning: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University by Theodore D. Segal provides crucial historical context for today’s campus discussions of equity and inclusion. Additional titles in African American history include Thomas Aiello’s biography of controversial Black journalist Louis Lomax and Reckoning with Slavery by Jennifer L. Morgan, a groundbreaking work of history that demonstrates that the development of Western notions of value and race occurred simultaneously.

Other great new Black studies works include The Long Emancipation by Rinaldo Walcott; Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being by Kevin Quashie; Black Utopias by Jayna Brown; The Powers of Dignity by Nick Bromell; Counterlife by Christopher Freeburg; Black Bodies, White Gold by Anna Arabindan-Kesson; and Emancipation′s Daughters by Riché Richardson.

The InheritanceThe Inheritance by Elizabeth Povinelli is something new for us: a graphic memoir in which she explores her family’s history and the events, traumas, and social structures that define our individual and collective pasts and futures. We also have a gorgeous book of photos by William Gedney.  In A Time of Youth: San Francisco, 1966–1967, editor Lisa McCarty brings together eighty-seven of the more than two thousand photographs Gedney took in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood between October 1966 and January 1967. The design follows the specifications that Gedney laid out before his death.

Planning a post-pandemic vacation to Jamaica? If so, you can read up on your destination in The Jamaica Reader before you go. Edited by Diana Paton and Matthew J. Smith, the reader collects more than one hundred classic and lesser-known texts that include journalism, lyrics, memoir, and poetry that illuminate the complexities of Jamaica’s past. It will also be a great resource for teaching.

Other books in Caribbean studies coming this spring include A Regarded Self by Kaiama L. Glover, which analyzes Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean literature with female protagonists, and Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism by Samantha A. Noël, which investigates how Black Caribbean and American artists of the early twentieth century responded to and challenged colonial and other white-dominant regimes through tropicalist representation. Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico by Rocío Zambrana develops the concept of neoliberal coloniality in light of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

Eating in TheoryAs always, our anthropology list is strong this spring. Annemarie Mol returns to the Press with Eating in Theory, which reassess notions of human being and becoming by thinking through the activity of eating, showing how eating is a lively practice bound up with our identities, actions, politics, and senses of belonging in the world. Another author with a long history at Duke University Press, Michael Jackson, also returns with a new book, The Genealogical Imagination: Two Studies of Life over Time, which juxtaposes his fieldwork in Sierra Leone and his own family history in Northeast Australia to explore intergenerational trauma and temporality. We also have a couple of great collections for anthropologists: Experimenting with Ethnography: A Companion to Analysis, edited by Andrea Ballestero and Brit Ross Winthereik; and Words and Worlds: A Lexicon for Dark Times, edited by Veena Das and Didier Fassin. Other new anthropology titles include Atmospheric Noise by Marina Peterson; Kincraft by Todne Thomas; Bombay Brokers by Lisa Björkman; and The Charismatic Gymnasium by Maria José de Abreu.

Queer in TranslationOur Middle East studies list continues to grow. We’re looking forward to Palestine Is Throwing a Party and the Whole World Is Invited by Kareem Rabie, which examines how Palestine’s desire to fully integrate its economy into global markets through large-scale investment projects represented a shift away from political state building with the hope that a thriving economy would lead to a free and functioning Palestinian state. In Queer in Translation, Evren Savci explores how Western LGBT politics are translated and reworked in Turkey in ways that generate new spaces for resistance and solidarity. Also forthcoming are Visions of Beirut by Hatim El-Hibri and Decolonizing Memory by Jill Jarvis.

Experiments in SkinOur Asian studies titles range cover art, film, history, and theory.  In Return Engagements:, Việt Lê examines contemporary art in Cambodia and Viet Nam to rethink the entwinement of militarization, trauma, diaspora, and modernity in Southeast Asian art. In Experiments in Skin, Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu examines the ongoing influence of the Vietnam War on contemporary ideas about race and beauty. Kajri Jain returns with her second book for the Press, Gods in the Time of Democracy, examining how monumental icons emerged as a religious and political form in contemporary India. Empire′s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper by Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez follows the life of Filipina vaudeville and film actress Isabel Rosario Cooper, who was the mistress of General Douglas MacArthur. Other Asian studies titles include Minor China by Hentyle Yapp, Coed Revolution by Chelsea Szendi Schieder, and Mao’s Bestiary by Liz P. Y. Chee.

Also look for The Politics of Decolonial Investigations, a new book by Walter Mignolo; Operation Valhalla: Writings on War, Weapons, and Media by Friedrich Kittler; Pollution is Colonialism by Max Liboiron; and many more titles in political theory, geography, art, queer studies, and more.

We’ve also got some great upcoming journal issues—here’s a sampling. In “Crip Temporalities,” an issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly, contributors explore the ways disability shapes the experience of time. “Solarity,” also from SAQ, features essays on the social implications of the emergence of solar energy. And “Queer Political Theologies,” an issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, brings together queer studies and political theology to explore the relationship between the self and politics, theism, and queerness.

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.

Raising Up the Work of First-Time Authors: University Press Week 2020

Logo_UPW2020_lowres (1)It’s University Press Week! This year, the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) has chosen the theme “Raise UP” to emphasize the role that university presses play in elevating authors, subjects, and whole disciplines. Read more about University Press Week and check out the Raise UP gallery and reading list featuring publications published by our peer presses.

We’re excited to be part of the first day of the annual University Press Week blog tour. The theme is “New Voices.” After you read our post, please check out the other posts on the tour, from University of Illinois Press, Georgetown University Press, University of Wisconsin Press, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, University of Toronto Press, University of Missouri Press, Bucknell University Press, University of Manitoba Press, and Amherst College Press.

Here at Duke University Press, we’re particularly proud of the role that we play in helping to bring new voices into scholarly conversations. Below, book acquisitions editors and journal editors discuss the particular joys of working with first-time authors.

Contributors:

  • Elizabeth Ault, Duke University Press Editor, Books
  • Courtney Berger, Duke University Press Executive Editor, Books
  • Sarah Lerner, Managing Editor of Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies
  • Susan Stryker, Editor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly and Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona and Visiting Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University
  • Ken Wissoker, Duke University Press Senior Executive Editor, Books

What unique contributions can a first-time author offer to a publishing program [or journal]?

Courtney Berger: First-time authors are often working on the cutting edge of scholarship. They are pushing against the boundaries of fields and conceptual paradigms. As an editor, I look to these scholars to stay attuned to the conversations and debates that are happening in and across fields and to learn about new fields in formation. This is incredibly valuable to me as an editor and to the Press as a whole, since it keeps our list dynamic and helps us tune into new or underserved audiences and emerging areas of knowledge making. As an editor, I am constantly learning, and my first-time authors teach me a lot, not just about their fields of study but also about changes in the academic world, how people are reading and teaching the things we publish, and the needs of scholars and teachers in the current economic and political climate.

Ken Wissoker: I always treat first book authors as the future. They frequently combine perspectives from different professors and theoretical movements they encountered in grad school (and since) and put them together in ways that the people who taught them never would. That’s true about theories and about topics to investigate as well. Also, first time authors often have had the most time for research—whether fieldwork or archival. They are writing up a project that started as a dissertation many years before.  They get guidance in how to shape and focus that research and receive feedback on the earlier versions of their work.  You’d be surprised how many times authors of subsequent books don’t know how to proceed without those advantages!

Susan Stryker: I’m always looking for the fresh hot takes that do more than add a statement to an existing conversation, but rather approach a topic in some truly new way. First-time authors often have a really generative “beginners mind.” 

Sarah Lerner: First-time authors have profound enthusiasm for their subject, and in the case of Camera Obscura, they are also excited about working with the journal’s editors during the manuscript revision process. New authors bring innovative perspectives, theories, and methods to the discipline that can change scholarly conversations about a subject. When they do, they can expand the journal’s reach.

Elizabeth Ault: Among many other things, first-time authors offer publishers a chance to engage some of the freshest perspectives in our field, and the joy, for an editor, of bringing a new voice into print and getting to build a long relationship with someone.

Are there any experiences working with first-time authors that stand out to you?

Elizabeth Ault: I have worked with so many first-time authors, especially as an emerging editor. Learning together with authors is such a gift—I’m so grateful for all the first-time authors who’ve helped me map the landscapes of their fields and the conversations their books are in as I get to teach them about the publishing process. One book I’m really proud to have worked on is The Black Shoals, Tiffany Lethabo King’s first book, published last fall. She just did a wonderful interview with Jenny Davidson at the-rambling.com about what the process of developing her central idea and navigating her archive was like through the multi-year process of developing the manuscript. It’s such a generous reflection on process. 

Courtney Berger: I really enjoy working with first-time authors, although at times the process can be stressful (on both sides!). Sometimes a manuscript goes through several rounds of review before it is ready for publication. An author might struggle to find time to write while they are also getting acclimated to a new job and new responsibilities. They may have a tough time shedding ideas and materials that are interesting but don’t serve the project as a whole. The review and revision process can be arduous, but it’s invaluable when it comes to shaping a book. It’s exciting to see a project develop and come into focus, as an author starts to recognize the critical aims of their work and can see how to enact that in their writing. Those are the best moments for me as an editor—helping an author figure out how to make the book their own and to make their ideas available to readers. 

Ken Wissoker: How quickly a scholar moves from being a first time author, unsure of their authority and whether what they write will be okay, to an expert in their field.  It’s hard for a scholar to anticipate that ahead of time, or to write in a way that takes advantage of how they will be seen. I love when authors feel passionately about their work and their topic, but haven’t fully realized how widely it will be of interest.  Some of my best experiences have been reflecting back to an unsure author how many people would be excited about what they are doing.

Susan Stryker: I once received a submission from a grad student for a special issue I was editing that I really wanted to publish because it was fresh and insightful but also kind of a mess structurally. I offered to work closely with the author to get it the piece in publishable quality before sending it out for peer review. Going that extra mile as a hands-on editor for a first-time author resulted in what has turned into a years-long friendship with a really innovative emerging scholar. I feel like I got back as much or more than I gave.

What advice do you have for first-time authors?

Susan Stryker: Really, really, think about audience/editor/press and the scholarly conversation you want your work to be situated within.

Sarah Lerner: I would encourage first-time authors to ask the journal’s Managing Editor or shepherding editor (if they have one) questions about the publication process. Gaining insight into the stages that a manuscript will move through from submission to publication supports authors as they navigate an unfamiliar process. If an author knows what the next step is, they can address revisions, proofs, and other tasks with more confidence.

Courtney Berger: Don’t be afraid to share your work and solicit feedback. I find that a lot of authors hesitate to do that. They worry that the project isn’t developed enough, and they strive for perfection. Join a writing group; share your work with colleagues and friends; participate in a manuscript workshop; find out what editors think about the project. While there certainly are risks to putting your work out there, especially at an early stage, I think the benefits far outweigh those risks. Criticism can help an author shape their project and find their voice. Soliciting feedback allows you to think of writing as a conversation: you want a response. And the response can help you to reshape, clarify, or reconsider what you want to say. 

Ken Wissoker: Think about what parts of books in your field you love, and what parts you skim past. Ask your cohort. Where do you need the detail and where the big picture? Where the author’s voice and where that of others in the field? Try to write accordingly! Write for the people in grad school behind you who will look up to you, not for the senior people who you are worried will judge you. Take yourself seriously as a theorist (big or small) and write to convince people of your theory, not as if you were turning in a long report to someone. Find your voice. As mentioned above, the time from post-doc to person with book is comparatively short in the time of a career. In a way one has to write in the voice of the person one is just in the process of becoming. Find an editor who gets your work and will imagine it with you. 

Elizabeth Ault: Briefly, I think the most important advice is to understand and embrace the power that you and your ideas have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or reach out–to colleagues, editors, mentors, etc. But also, be prepared when you do. Have a clear sense of what your project is about, what your argument is, how it’s different from the dissertation, what you imagine your book doing in the world, and who you imagine reading it.

But even if you have all this, it’s important to know that the process can often take a lot longer than anyone hopes! It’s not unusual for me to talk to first-time authors at conferences or over email for several years prior to their formal submission of materials for peer review. During this time, we’re building our relationship  (one of my favorite parts!) and developing the project through discussing ideas, giving feedback on introductions, talking through the structure of the project, suggesting participants for book manuscript workshops, etc. While one round of peer review usually only takes a few months, the full cycle of review and revision and Board Approval—from initial submission till a book appears IN PRINT (!)—almost always takes at least two years, and usually longer (though about a year of that is while the book is in production, being copyedited, designed, proofread, and printed, so the author’s substantive writing work is done). That can sound daunting, but I really think of it as a gift, as Ken has outlined elsewhere when talking about the importance of peer review. This long process is especially important for authors who, like most of the people I work with, are interdisciplinary scholars with ambitions to speak across scholarly conversations. 

Read more of Elizabeth Ault’s advice for first-time book authors in “Asking the Editors” in Inside Higher Ed.

What could publishers do to better support first-time authors?

Courtney Berger: Most presses and editors make efforts to help first-time authors navigate the publishing process by giving talks at conferences and at universities or through one-on-one discussions with new authors. At Duke, we’ve worked hard to connect with and support BIPOC scholars, queer & trans scholars, and scholars from marginalized groups, although there’s room to strengthen those efforts even further across the publishing industry. I also think we could do more outreach to scholars working at HBCUs, smaller universities and colleges, and non-research institutions, who may not have as much access to travel funds for major conferences (where editors tend to meet with authors) or who may not have ready access to publishing workshops and other opportunities to learn about the book publishing process. 

Ken Wissoker: Judge work on its quality, intervention, and potential impact, not the seniority or location of the authors.

Susan Stryker: I think “meet the editors” events do a lot to demystify the process, and help authors get a sense of the wide range of ways that different journals work.

Elizabeth Ault: I think posts like this and other talks/videos/etc/ that my colleagues and I have done are hugely important in demystifying the process. Being upfront about expectations and timelines is important especially with first time authors on the tenure track, since the timing can be so important. Not assuming authors understand the process—either the concrete steps of publishing (including things like selecting images and navigating fair use claims), or the more abstract parts like imagining the audience for your book or thinking about how the chapters should be ordered.

Are there any upcoming projects from first-time authors that you’re particularly excited about?

Courtney Berger: Oh my. So many! A few exciting first books that are about to be released: Evren Savci’s Queer in Translation: Sexual Politics under Neoliberal Islam; Ma Vang’s History on the Run: Secrecy, Fugitivity, and Hmong Refugee Epistemologies; and Hentyle Yapp’s Minor China: Method, Materialisms, and the Aesthetic. All three of these books push against conventional disciplinary boundaries and offer readers new theoretical tools for thinking about the complexities of race, religion, politics, and sexuality. And next fall keep an eye out for Xine Yao’s Disaffected: The Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth Century America and Rana Jaleel’s The Work of Rape, two stunning first books that make us rethink the relationship between gender, sexuality, race, and U.S. imperialism.

Ken Wissoker: Two just out: Alex Blanchette’s beautiful ethnography of a grim subject in Porkopolis—the way every part of a pig’s life cycle is commercialized in a next generation taylorization products one wouldn’t even associate with a pig—while also taking over a town’s life. And Vanessa Diaz’s Manufacturing Celebrity, an ethnography of two groups that keep People and other popular magazines in business. Paparazzi, who are mostly Latinx men working independently to take photos of stars. The magazines depend on the photos, but the men are disposable and easy to vilify as if they were stalkers rather than key to the star system. She also writes about the mostly white women deployed to industry events for gossip, and become likely targets for harassment or abuse.

And one in production: Mercy Romero’s moving and deep memoir of Camden, New Jersey is one I’m really excited by.  The beauty of her writing, combined with the way she gives a picture of race and space in her hometown is totally moving.  A truly exceptional first book!

Elizabeth Ault: I just had a slate of wonderful new first books come out! Please read my recommendations for books to buy to honor the American Anthropological Association conference that, in a parallel universe, is happening right now, to find out more about several of them. 

In Conversation: Kregg Hetherington, Amalia Leguizamón, and Gastón Gordillo

Our latest In Conversation video features a discussion about resource extraction in Latin America. Gastón Gordillo, Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and author of Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction, talks with Kregg Hetherington, author of The Government of Beans: Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops, and Amalia Leguizamón, author of Seeds of Power: Environmental Injustice and Genetically Modified Soybeans in Argentina. The authors discuss soybeans in Paraguay and Argentina and the relationship to governance, power, the environment, and social justice.

Virtual Events in November

There are many great ways to meet our authors online in November. We hope you can attend one of these virtual events. Note that we have included the local time zone for each event; please adjust for your own geographic location.

Influx and EffluxNovember 3, 12 pm EST: Duke University Press will host a panel discussion on Jane Bennett’s book Influx and Efflux, featuring Kathy Ferguson, Emily A. Parker, Bernd Herzogenrath, Derek McCormack and Peter M. Coviello. Register here.

November 5, 7 pm EST: The National Museum of African American History and Culture sponsors an event featuring Maureen Mahon, author of the new book Black Diamond Queens, in conversation with NPR’s Ann Powers. The event will be streamed on the NPR Music YouTube channel.

November 6, 9:30 am EST: Fadi A. Bardawil, author of Revolution and Disenchantment, gives a talk entitled “Overcoming Theory’s Resistances: Translating Arab Revolutions Past and Present,” sponsored by Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center and Franklin Humanities Institute.

November 6, 5:00 pm EST: Brigitte Fielder, author of Relative Races, joins three other scholars for a celebration of new and noteworthy books by members of the Civil War Caucus of the Modern Language Association.

November 10, 12 pm EST: Dr. Louise Amoore presents her new book, Cloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others in an event hosted by the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia.blackdiamondqueens

November 10, 5 pm EST: Tune into a roundtable discussion about Latinx Art by Arlene Dávila. This event is sponsored by the NYU Center for the Humanities and the Latinx Project.

November 11, 3 pm EST: The University of Virginia’s Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures sponsors a talk by Joanne Rappaport, author of Cowards Don’t Make History, in which she will discuss the impact of research on liberation and its emancipatory power.

November 11, 7:30 pm EST: Maureen Mahon joins Bridgette Davis for a conversation about Mahon’s new book Black Diamond Queens, in an event sponsored by Greenlight Bookstore.

November 12, 3:30 pm CST: Samantha Pinto, author of Infamous Bodies, discusses her book with Jennifer Nash, author of Black Feminism Reimagined, in an event sponsored by the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas.

Resource RadicalsNovember 13, 12 pm EST: Thea Riofrancos will present her new book, Resource Radicals, in an event sponsored by the Rhodes Center and Climate Solutions Lab at Brown University.

November 14, 2 pm EST: Join author Ronak K. Kapadia and panelists Jodi Kim, Keith P. Feldman, Sara Mameni, and Kareem Khubchandani for a one-year publication anniversary celebration of Kapadia’s book Insurgent Aesthetics.

November 20, 10 pm EST: Watch a roundtable discussion, featuring Lyle Fearnley, author of Virulent Zones, and Saiba Varma, author of The Occupied Clinic, about the therapeutic politics of care. Sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.

We also encourage you to check out our In Conversation video series on YouTube. Recent videos include Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker speaking with Vanessa Díaz about her book Manufacturing Celebrity and Assistant Editor Joshua Gutterman Tranen talking with Ricardo Montez about his book Keith Haring’s Line.