Author: Laura Sell

Publicity and Advertising Manager, Duke University Press

Virtual Events in March

There are lots of opportunities in March to join our authors online for panel discussions, lectures, book launches, and conversations about their work. Hope you can join some of them. Please note the time zone for each event.

March 3, 5 pm GMT: The Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London sponsors a book launch for Christopher Harker’s Spacing Debt.

March 3, 6:30 pm GMT: Sara Ahmed, author of What’s the Use? and the forthcoming Complaint!, gives a talk entitled “Complaints, Diversity and Other Hostile Environments,” sponsored by the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

March 4, 12 pm EST: Yale’s Macmillan Center Council on Middle East Studies sponsors a conversation with Ronak Kapadia, author of Insurgent Aesthetics. It will be moderated by Najwa Meyer.

March 4, 3 pm EST: Join a roundtable discussion on Seeds of Power by Amalia Leguizamón, hosted by Penn’s Latin American and Latinx Studies Program.

March 5, 9:30 am EST: Roberto Dainotto, co-editor of Gramsci in the World and author of Europe (In Theory) gives an online talk entitled “Sovversivismo: Gramsci on Reactionary Insurrections,” sponsored by Duke University’s Franklin Humanities Institute.

March 5, 3:30 pm EST: Evren Savci speaks about her book Queer in Translation in a talk sponsored by Duke University’s Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

March 7, 3 pm EST: The Democratic Socialists of American sponsor an International Women’s Day event entitled “Love and Sex Behind the Iron Curtain: 20th Century State Socialism in Eastern Europe.” Kristen Ghodsee, author of Red Hangover and Second World, Second Sex, is a panelist.

March 8, 9 pm EST: Sara Ahmed, author of Complaint! gives an International Women’s Day lecture entitled “Complaint as Feminist Pedagogy,” sponsored by Bournemouth University. 

March 9, 6 pm CST: Kristen Ghodsee lectures on “Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence,” sponsored by the University of Kansas Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity and Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies.

March 11, 3 pm EST: Katina Rogers, author of Putting the Humanities PhD to Work, gives a talk sponsored by Syracuse University entitled “Scholarship for the Public Good: Expanding Definitions of Academic Success.”

March 12, 3 pm EST: Join our Editorial Director Gisela Fosado for a panel discussion entitled “Getting Your Boricua Book Published,” sponsored by the Puerto Rican Studies Association & LASA Puerto Rico Section Workshop Series.

March 16, 3 pm EDT: The Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation at UCL sponsors a book launch for Katherine McKittrick’s Dear Science and Other Stories. There will be a presentation from McKittrick, responses from Xine Yao and Luke de Noronha, and discussion.

March 16, 6 pm EDT: Anthony Reed, author of Soundworks, joins Vijay Iyer for a conversation that is part of the Popular Music Books in Progress series

March 17, 6:30 pm EDT: Join Michael Gillespie, author of Film Blackness and Racquel Gates, author of Double Negative, for a conversation about the historical continuum of black visual and expressive culture, sponsored by Intellectual Publics.

March 18, 1 pm EDT: Sara Ahmed gives a lecture entitled “Knocking on the Door: Complaints and Other Stories about Institutions,” sponsored by Stony Brook University.

March 18, 4 pm PDT: The USC Department of Gender & Sexuality Studies sponsors a book talk with Gillian Harkins, author of Virtual Pedophilia, followed by a response from Jennifer Doyle, a conversation about the mutual themes in their work, and an audience Q&A.

March 22, 12 pm MDT: Sara Ahmed gives a lecture entitled “Complaint, Diversity and Other Hostile Environments,” sponsored by University of Calgary.

March 24, 7 pm EDT: Arlene Dávila, author of Latinx Art, joins artists Glendalys Medina, Mary Valverde, and Sarah Zapata for a discussion about the strategies Latinx artists have pursued to create platforms for their work. Sponsored by BRIC.

March 25, 12 pm PDT: Kadji Amin, author of Disturbing Attachments, gives a talk sponsored by USC’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program entitled “‘Native Tales’: Human-Simian Sex and Ontologies of Race and Species.”

March 25, 6:30 pm EDT: The African American Museum in Philadelphia sponsors an event centered on Black Diamond Queens by Maureen Mahon, also featuring Dr. Deborah Thomas and Dr. Guthrie Ramsey of the University of Pennsylvania as panelists, and Dejay Duckett, Director of Curatorial Services at AAMP as moderator.

March 26, 2pm EDT: Todne Thomas, author of Kincraft, joins Tony Tian-Ren Lin for a discussion about the Black church, which is part of the Virginia Festival of the Book.

March 30, 7pm EDT: Print Bookstore in Portland, Maine, sponsors a conversation between Erica Rand and Cole Rizki about Rand’s new book The Small Book of Hip Checks.

 

Q&A with Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez, author of Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper

Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez is Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, author of Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines, and coeditor of Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai‘i. Her latest book is Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper, which follows the life of Filipina vaudeville and film actress Isabel Rosario Cooper, who was the mistress of General Douglas MacArthur, to explore the contours of empire as experienced on the scale of personal relationships.

If most people know anything about Isabel Rosario Cooper, it’s that she was General Douglas MacArthur’s mistress. In footnotes to most histories, she is portrayed as a tragic figure, “a beautiful woman who died of heartbreak.” What made you want to tell her story more fully?

This kind of feminine figuration has always served as camouflage for complexity, a shorthand that feeds into and is fed by a colonial fantasy of brown women longing for white men, as well as narrative desire for familiar tropes. This version of Isabel Cooper’s story is not in the footnotes: it is front and center because it’s the comfortable and typical characterization of “women like her.” When I started to dig into the footnotes of MacArthur biographies, I discovered a kind of recursive pattern that boiled down to a reliance on repeated citations of sources that had somehow become authoritative evidence for her story. What became clear was that these sources that were more hearsay or even outright inaccurate had circulated enough times that they had hardened into truth—in particular the version that revolved around the General as her object of yearning and heartbreak had become the standard. The work of postcolonial feminist scholars has taught us that of course there’s something more operating beneath the flattened image of dead, beautiful, heartbroken women, something more than “MacArthur’s mistress.” The short interludes that bothered to portray Isabel Cooper in MacArthur biographies and their suspect footnotes that were cited as evidence didn’t match up to this work.

Empire's MistressThere’s also a way in which stories like hers are dismissed as unworthy in the sense that her biggest known “accomplishment” is sleeping with MacArthur—often read as betrayal at worst, or venal at most—another way to marginalize women’s stories. At the same time, I did not want to dismiss her sexual agency, because to some degree, that was crucial to the kind of power and identity she wielded. From the great work that has been done on the early colonial period in the Philippines, particularly on the “woman question,” we know that the lives of Filipinas were complex, cosmopolitan, and often grappled with the contradictions engendered by the shifts in colonial society. I wanted to tell her story more fully because it deserved to be told with the same kind of effort in terms of research and writing as stories of men like MacArthur, and I felt that it would be a good vehicle to also interweave a parallel account about archives and genres, and the ways in which both open and up and foreclose how we learn to narrate ourselves.

You choose not to structure your book chronologically like a traditional biography. Instead you begin with her relationship with MacArthur and then jump around in time. You also feature documents, pictures and imagined letters and conversations in between your chapters. Why did you choose this structure? How does it help tell Cooper’s story more fully?

It took me a while to figure out how to tell her story. I knew I needed to include elements of biography—because so little of her life is actually known, and the broader historical context of her story is unfamiliar to most readers—so some part of this had to be fleshed out. But I also knew that I didn’t want to present an account that was somehow whole or authoritative or forthright, like an exhumation or an explanation, because I didn’t want to repeat the pattern of how she has been narrated in such an overdetermined way. I did begin with a chronological draft, but this structure felt like it didn’t make room for the ways in which patterns repeated themselves in her life, or how a particular part of her story (the MacArthur interlude) pre-empts others. It felt inert—and so I began with her death, because so much of what is written about her pivots on the suicide of this beautiful woman, and the half-truths or outright lies that adhered to it. I also foregrounded her time with MacArthur in the narrative, a bit perversely, because I wanted to arrest the desire to center MacArthur and frame him as the “reveal” of the story later on in the book. I felt like that the strange enticement of that infamous scandal was not something I wanted the reader to be invested in. The few years of her life during which she associated with MacArthur has come to define her and how she’s narrated: it’s the hook that draws most people to her story, but I didn’t want it operate as the climax of the narrative. It is certainly not the main driving force of her life, even as it is often characterized this way. I try to make the case that this moment is more an effect, rather than a cause.

The overall structure of the book also pulls from the protracted, piecemeal, and interrupted process of my research into her life, and from the sometimes-unexpected and last-minute way that new sources would shift a whole arc I had neatly mapped out. The sparseness and inaccuracy of the existing writing and archival materials on Isabel Cooper resists that neat and orderly biographical narrative: there are so many moments that are lost to history because of lack of documentation, and in her case, contradiction, inconsistency, absence, or outright error in whatever records can be pieced together. So that’s another story in itself: the colonial archive’s promises and secrets. I was struck by how so much of the narrative about her is fictional (in the sense of repeated inaccuracies), and as I dug deeper, how much of this fiction she also perpetrated. It gave me permission to speculate about moments that might not have documentation, or to invent, as she did, stories about herself.

Cooper goes by many different names in her life, from Dimples as a child performer, to Chabing Cooper, Elizabeth Cooper, and Belle Cooper, to a married name of Isabel Kennamer. Why does Cooper constantly rename herself and shift her identity?

To me, this was a strategy that was tied to moments in her life where she was reinventing herself, or starting over. She was someone who had, at a very young age, entered the world of the stage and screen, so taking on roles was a habit she never dropped. It was something she also learned from her mother, to some extent. But she also had really distinct periods in her life: she crossed the Pacific several times, experienced very diverse living conditions, married twice, had affairs, and made big choices about her career. I think renaming herself gave her some modicum of control over conditions that were far beyond her power to manage, and later on, allowed for her to have a clean slate when so much of her past tended to creep up on her unexpectedly due the lingering effects of US imperialism. As a researcher, this made tracking her occasionally tricky: it felt sometimes that these past decisions on her part were also about refusing an easy narration on mine. It forced me to pause and think about what went into her decisions to go by a particular name at different points in her life.

You say that “sex, and lots of it, defined the colonial encounter.” How does focusing on intimate relationships like that of Cooper and MacArthur change the way we view colonial history?

I owe so much of this work to postcolonial feminists who understand the intimate as a site of colonial power, and to work by Philippine Studies and Filipinx diaspora studies scholars in particular who have explored how sex and sexuality operated in the US-Philippine colonial world. My ability to tell Isabel Cooper’s story is built on that foundational research, and my claim is not new. What I try to shed a bit of light on is how the contradictions of American claims to benevolence and discourses of superiority break down when you look at how empire played out through relationships between people. So many of the colonial encounters turned on sex—the archives are filled with both overt confessions, allusions, or outright mentions of sexually transmitted diseases or decisions about the management of sex work. It’s dirty reading at times. I was interested in the messiness of transactions that revolved around sex or were defined through sexual exchange, as well as how the racial carnal desires at the heart of empire shaped relations well after the actual arrangement or encounter occurred. Who had the upper hand in these kinds of arrangements or coercions was not always clear, and that made for a fascinating dynamic to explore. Isabel Cooper operated within this colonial milieu and the ways she understood, navigated, and leveraged it gives us a sense of the push and pull, and the possibilities and limits of human agency and creativity at a more intimate scale of empire.

What can we learn about Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s from Cooper’s story? How does centering the experiences of non-white actors change the way we think about this era and its films?

I don’t know that we learn much more than we already know about how the Hollywood gambit was a story about deep disappointment for non-white actors in the 1940s and 1950s. For all the Anna May Wongs and Philip Ahns who carved out some kind of a career against and alongside the deep racism and sexism that defined Hollywood culture, there were hundreds of aspirants like Isabel Cooper whose willing and strategic self-exoticizations fell far short of any kind of living. It is probably safer to say that Cooper supplemented her income with her film acting roles but supported herself mainly from nightclub work. The casual mention of casting couch culture, or the matter-of-fact ways she tried to position herself for “Oriental” roles or parts for which she could make a racial stretch was evident in the letters that she wrote during that time, as well as in the industry literature itself. In some ways, her experience was more the rule, rather than the exception that gets written about.

How have artists and people of Filipino descent remembered and reimagined Isabel Rosario Cooper? What does her legacy mean to people today?

For most Filipinos, Isabel Cooper first registers as MacArthur’s mistress, with all the titillation and scandal that entails. This is why interest around her endures. In so many ways, this bit of her story feeds into the melodramatic habits that characterizes some of Hollywood/Manila cinema of her time, as well the theater of everyday politics in the Filipino diaspora. She is also known to some extent as a performer on stage and screen. Filipino cinema is just a bit over a century old, so there has been renewed interest in its pioneers—and as a crossover vaudeville star who made a big early impression in the first “modern” Filipino silent films, Isabel Cooper (she went by Elizabeth Cooper in film) is noteworthy.

Over the course of my research and writing, I also encountered visual artists (one of whom I write about), and writers (both fiction and non-fiction) who grapple with the kinds of narratives that adhere to Isabel Cooper. I think she continues to attract this kind of interest because when you dig deep enough, there’s a lot more to her story beyond the superficiality of MacArthur’s mistress that is typically the first draw. I look to these interpretations as retellings that reveal the inadequacy of the “mistress” framework. My purpose in the book is not to supplant or supersede any of these creative encounters with her, but rather to shake up the assumptions that produce a particular narrative account that is a habit of imperial culture, and one that clearly is not enough to contain her.

Read the introduction to Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper and save 30% on the paperback with coupon E21GNZLZ.

 

A Conversation between the Editor and Designer of William Gedney’s A Time of Youth

A Time of Youth: San Francisco, 1966-1967 by William Gedney 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 while on a Guggenheim Fellowship. In these photographs Gedney documents the restless and intertwined lives of the disenchanted youth who flocked to what became the epicenter of 1960s counterculture.
William Gedney intended to publish the series as a book and completed a draft design in 1969. Gedney also wrote a formal statement about the project and notes on his preferred scale and dimensions for the book. Sadly Gedney was never able to publish A Time of Youth in his lifetime. However, his original design, notes, and prints are preserved and accessible at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, which is where Lisa McCarty first encountered A Time of Youth in 2014.
More than fifty years after Gedney completed the design, A Time of Youth has finally been published. We’re pleased to share a conversation between McCarty, the book’s editor, and the designer, Amy Ruth Buchanan, about how they realized Gedney’s vision for the publication.

gedney booksLisa: I remember the first time I visited the Press and presented the photographs from A Time of Youth and Gedney’s notes on the book design. There were audible ooh’s and ahh’s as I moved through my slideshow. Was there something specific about the San Francisco photographs that captured your attention? Or was it the knowledge of a dormant publication and Gedney’s struggle to publish them that you found compelling?

Amy: Absolutely both! I had known and loved Gedney’s work for a while, a love likely rooted in my long-ago subscription to DoubleTake magazine, as well as my familiarity with the earlier book What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney, edited by Geoff Dyer and Margaret Sartor. But the show you mounted at Perkins Library and the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in the fall of 2015 was a big deal. Before seeing that exhibit, I didn’t really know about his work as a designer, his meticulous notebooks and his carefully planned maquettes for proposed books. As a lover of photography and book design, it was poignant and inspiring to see these items from the collection. When I heard you were in discussions with the Press to bring us one or more of these never-realized books, I was thrilled.

And then, yes, the photos themselves are completely captivating. So intimate and textured. Some of the young people appear again and again so they are like characters in a novella. He mentions this himself in one of the notebook pages you reproduce: “I am attempting a literary form in visual terms I am telling a story with characters that reappear and scenes that are repeated.”

Do you know if any of these people have been tracked down as Gedney’s work has garnered more and more attention? I wonder what they thought of Gedney.

Lisa: I’m so glad you remember the exhibition I organized of Gedney’s book designs and that it made an impact on you. Intimate Gestures: Handmade Books by William Gedney, was the first exhibit to highlight Gedney’s work as a designer and book artist. So many artists and curators came to know Gedney through Dyer and Sartor’s book, and later the book that the photographer Alec Soth edited. But very few people know about Gedney’s commitment to books or that there are seven complete book designs in his archive. I hope A Time of Youth begins to reveal this other side of Gedney’s artistic practice.

But in terms of the people depicted in A Time of Youth, during my time as curator of Gedney’s archive from 2014-2019 unfortunately I never encountered any of his subjects/collaborators from San Francisco. There are many names of Gedney’s contacts in his journals and notebooks, but these names were not correlated with the images themselves. However, Gedney did met and spent a significant amount of time with the philosopher Eric Hoffer and his companion Lili Osborne while he was in San Francisco. Gedney actually corresponded with them for many years afterwards.

You’ve been able to work on several photography books for the Press, but A Time of Youth presented specific challenges and rewards. This is a posthumous publication, which precluded direct collaboration with the artist. And as editor, my concept was to preserve as many of William Gedney’s decisions as possible. Was this a daunting or exciting prospect for you as a designer?

Amy: Very daunting but I also felt confident that between the two of us, we could do the project justice. The question for each decision along the way was: how prescriptive was his choice here? How closely must we follow it? The starting place was the trim size: the maquettes are 8.5 inches square. We agreed from the very start that maintaining the square trim was important, but did it need to be exactly 8.5 inches? I knew a book that small would be lovely and unusual, but in the end we decided to go just a little bigger, 9” square, to give us room for the photos sized generously with handsome white margins.

Translating Gedney’s cover sketch into the final jacket was another challenge. His sketch includes hand-drawn type, as would have been the norm for a book designer at that time. The italic letterforms reminded me of a Bodoni typeface, with the exaggerated contrast of thick & thin strokes and the distinctive, jaunty little upstrokes on the italics. I chose another typeface, Kepler, from the same family as Bodoni, the Didones. Kepler is named for the German mathematician Johannes Kepler—I think Gedney, the meticulous planner, might have liked that (I’m thinking of his notebook pages on Japanese bookbinding styles).

Gedney original design

Original book cover design by William Gedney

Throughout, of course, I relied on you, Lisa, as the Gedney expert to give feedback on many choices, big and small. You are also an artist and photographer yourself, so I knew you’d have helpful feedback on the image reproductions.

Did you find it hard to know where to draw the line when deciding how (and how much) to adjust his images for printing?

Lisa: In my mind, this was a HUGE responsibility and something I took very seriously. It was easy to establish that we shouldn’t crop ANYTHING and that we needed to preserve the sequence of the images. We also agreed that the documents and ephemera from Gedney’s journals shouldn’t be “cleaned up” or made to appear like fresh new paper.

But admittedly there were moments in the editing of the photographs themselves where I studied a dust spot (to make sure it was a dust spot) much longer than was probably necessary or I when I toggled changes in the tonal range repeatedly to make sure I wasn’t losing any information. But, this kind of meticulous work is something I do in the editing of my own photographs as well. So it was a familiar process with just a bit more weight to it. As an artist I know how important each of these decisions are and how they can affect the interpretation of the image.

We both agreed pretty quickly that the project ephemera should be featured prominently in the book. Were Gedney’s notes and journals inspiring? And is it difficult to work with ephemera in the design and printing process?

Amy: Oh I love working with ephemera. It’s such a gift to have this look into his life as a working artist. I love nothing more than hearing someone else’s shoptalk and these notebooks are very shoptalky! I am glad we were able to keep those images in full color. We had them carefully silhouetted so that the papers would sort of float on the white page—they have such presence. I can’t remember who pointed it out to me—you, or one of our designers, or both, but I love how the book ends with the word, “Wow,” in Gedney’s hand.

Lisa: Yes! Concluding the book with the “Wow” entry from Gedney’s handwritten list of “words used in San Francisco” was definitely intentional. I wanted Gedney to have the first and last words in the book, and the “Wow” entry seemed like a perfect ending.

wow

Page from William Gedney’s list of words used in San Francisco

Amy: I am always fascinated by writers and researchers who get to immerse themselves in an archive. I imagine it is by turns overwhelming, intoxicating, emotional, and tedious. Do you remember moments from your early encounters with the Gedney archive?

 Lisa: Oh, yes! I remember the first time I saw the book projects and A Time of Youth particularly. It was during my first month, maybe even the first few weeks, on the job as curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts in the Rubenstein Library back in 2014. I was getting a tour of the Technical Services department where archives are housed and cataloged. Before I started the job, the Library had decided to prioritize the Gedney’s archive for re-housing (getting new boxes, folders, ect.) and the boxes lined a long row of 8-foot-tall library shelves. I was familiar with Gedney’s work from studying with Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris, and had used the Gedney collection in the reading room of the Library. But I hadn’t seen the archive laid out all together at once until that moment. It was overwhelming at first, but also so inspiring.

At first, I didn’t know where to begin. What box do you open when presented with a wall of nearly 60,000 items made by one person over the course of a lifetime? I scanned the labels on the MANY boxes and saw one labeled “Book Projects.” I was working on my own first book of photographs at the time, and the prospect of a Gedney book piqued my curiosity. I pulled the box off the shelf and was treated to a treasure trove. I think I stayed the rest of the afternoon to look at everything. This first encounter was really one of those magical and revelatory research moments. I felt lucky, inspired, surprised, and a little melancholy all at once; these beautiful books had been completed and dormant for so long. I knew on the spot that the finished book should be published.

journal entry

Gedney Journal entry, March 22-23, 1969 (has the quote Amy mentions)

Amy: There’s an intriguing note in one of the journal pages about the difficulty of working in spreads, that the need to have two images on a spread that are “congenial” with one another might occasionally mean you put in “a lot of pictures that are only half as good.” I can’t really imagine which ones he is talking about. Do you have a favorite pairing from his sequence?

 Lisa: I love that note too! Gedney was perhaps his own toughest critic, but I think this made him an extraordinary editor of his own work. There’s so many interesting and sensitive pairings, but my personal favorite is the spread with the two different couples entwined on opposite pages.

spread 1

Spread from Gedney’s 1969 book design for A Time of Youth.

 

spread 2

The same spread in the finished book.

Lisa McCarty is Assistant Professor of Photography at Southern Methodist University, author of Transcendental Concord, and coauthor of William Gedney: Only the Lonely 1955–1984. Amy Ruth Buchanan is the Design Manager for Books and Journals at Duke University Press. You can read McCarty’s introduction to A Time of Youth free on our website. And save 30% on the book with coupon E21YOUTH.

Q&A with Theodore D. Segal, Author of Point of Reckoning

 

Photo of Theodore D. Segal

Photo by Eli Turner

Theodore D. Segal is a lawyer and member of the board of directors for the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He received his undergraduate degree from Duke in 1977. His new book is Point of Reckoning: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University which narrates the fraught and contested fight for racial justice at Duke University—which accepted its first black undergraduates in 1963—to tell both a local and national story about the challenges that historically white colleges and universities throughout the country continue to face.

You were a corporate lawyer for many years and then turned to writing. Why did you write this book in particular?

I wanted to understand how we ended up here. How is it possible that 50 years after the end of the tumultuous Sixties, our schools, workplaces, and society continue to grapple with so many of the same issues of race and racism that were the focus of activism years ago. I believed that by looking closely at the years immediately following desegregation at Duke, I could expose the entrenched attitudes and narrow, reflexive responses to desegregation that sparked protest and served to stifle racial change at the university. 

Point of ReckoningThis was happening at universities across the country, why Duke?

I was a student at Duke in the 1970s and had the opportunity to study Black and white student activism at the school in the Sixties. More broadly, Duke is an ideal setting to study the racial issues that are the focus of my book. Called “the plantation” by many Black workers, members of the Durham Black community, and students, Duke has a long history of segregation and racial exclusion. The school is among a group of prominent southern historically white colleges and universities (HWCUs) that desegregated only when forced to do so in the early Sixties. In the late Sixties, Duke had significant white and Black student protests only ten months apart. This juxtaposition provides a unique opportunity to examine how racial attitudes informed the ways that white trustees, administrators, and faculty perceived, and responded to, white and Black student protest.  

Why do you consider the arrival of Black students at Duke a “historic encounter”?

The arrival of Black students marked a profound change for Duke and other HWCUs. For decades, Jim Crow and segregation had defined the organization and daily operations of these schools. Desegregation created immense challenges for all parties. White administrators, faculty, and students, most of whom had never interacted with a Black person other than in a service capacity, were forced to learn—for the first time—how to relate to Black students. Likewise, Black students, the vast majority of whom had never interacted with white individuals as equals, faced their own challenge: how to deal with white administrators and faculty, and white students as peers. How would they live and work together at Duke? Under Jim Crow, the academic and social opportunities offered by Duke were for whites only. The “Duke Experience” was a training ground for advancement in white America. Theoretically at least, desegregation meant that Black students now would have the chance to share in these opportunities. But how that worked depended on whether Duke was prepared to invest the political capital, as well as the economic and human resources, necessary for Black students to realize their full potential. How Duke administrators and professors and the Black students responded to one another in this initial encounter set the pattern for race relations at the university for decades to come. 

How did the University prepare for the arrival of Black students?

Duke did little to prepare itself for the challenges desegregation would present. The university did not study the experience of other schools that had recently desegregated. Duke made no changes to anticipate or address Black students’ distinctive cultural, academic, and social needs. It did not monitor how the new Black students were managing and what challenges they were facing. Administrators and faculty made only modest attempts to get to know the Black students personally once on campus. As one administrator described, Duke looked at desegregation “from a white perspective.” The chance to attend Duke was seen as a great opportunity for the new Black students, and school leaders believed that the Black students would adjust to campus life through what one described as a natural kind of “amalgamation.” The Duke president in the Sixties commented later that, in essence, the university said to these students, “come in, be white.” This is not what these students wanted or needed.

How did Black students experience Duke during the early years of desegregation?

Duke’s first classes of Black students grew up, for the most part, in protective, segregated Black communities in the South where family, school, and church worked in concert to foster achievement and self-respect. Arriving in the midst of Duke’s “sea of white” was, according to one Black student, “almost as complete a shock as you can encounter.” Highly accomplished and initially “grateful” for the chance to attend Duke, almost all of the school’s Black students encountered racism: academic deans who assumed the students were weak academically; discriminatory grading (especially in writing courses); physical and verbal intimidation; hostility from campus security; racist symbols such as display of the Confederate Flag and the singing of Dixie at athletic events; exclusionary fraternity and sorority admissions policies; and offensive comments in the dorm. In addition, some Jim Crow policies and practices remained in place at Duke even after desegregation. These experiences, coupled with the small number of Black students on campus, led to profound feelings of loneliness and isolation.

 You write that the Black students who came to Duke in the early years following desegregation were the “good kids” in their communities whose families, churches, and schools raised them to be high-achieving “rule followers.” How did these young people become so deeply engaged in campus activism and direct protest?

Multiple factors converged to make this transformation possible. Loneliness and isolation prompted students to form the Afro American Society (AAS)—at first a social outlet that allowed Black students to get to know one another and remain in contact.  As AAS meetings were held, feelings of isolation ebbed and Black students became a very close—and very separate—community within Duke. Black students came to see that the university had failed totally to provide them with the academic, social and cultural resources necessary for them to thrive at Duke. With Black Power and Black campus activism emerging throughout the country, the students found a political and cultural framework for understanding their situation at Duke, as well as a protest strategy for addressing common concerns.

Duke had a large white student protest in April 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., followed by a takeover of Duke’s administration building by Black students in February 1969. How did the response of trustees, administrators, and faculty to these two protests differ?   

In April 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., over 250 predominantly white students marched in the rain to the home of the Duke president to present him with a list of four demands. The president invited them inside out of the weather and called them “guests” when they refused to leave. After 36 hours, the group moved to Duke’s main quadrangle. Over a four-day protest that came to be known as the “Silent Vigil,” over 1,500 protestors joined the sit-in. A simultaneous dining hall and class boycott, as well as a worker strike, effectively shut down the school. Still, trustees and administrators treated protestors with deference. After four days, the chairman of the board of trustees addressed the Silent Vigil (offering minimal concessions) and joined the group in singing “We Shall Overcome.”    

Ten months later, approximately 50 members of the Duke AAS occupied the registrar’s and bursar’s office on the first floor of Duke’s main administration building, presenting the university with a list of 10 demands. Within an hour, senior leaders decided that the protestors would be given one hour to vacate. If they failed to do so, they would be declared “trespassers” and the police would be summoned to campus to eject them, using force if necessary. Durham County and State Police assembled in Duke Gardens and were brought on to campus around 5:30 p.m. Although the Black students subsequently departed the administration building voluntarily, the police could not be withdrawn and a police riot on the main quadrangle ensued.

 How did university administrators resist change, even while claiming to support many of the issues and demands raised by the students?

Most fundamental was the belief that Black students should be grateful for the chance to attend Duke and that they should simply aspire to “fit in.” Among the arguments “progressive” administrators used to resist change was “gradualism” (change takes time),  pragmatism (donors will stop donating), and “reverse discrimination” (accommodations to address the distinctive needs of Black students represent discrimination against white people). Once activism emerged, students were seen as controlled by outside forces. Throughout, administrators insisted that change could only come through the “proper channels.” This meant dealing with a layered committee process unable to cut through red tape.

 What lessons are there today for students, faculty and others seeking racial change at HWCUs, and what lessons are there for administrators, trustees and faculty who profess support for these anti-racism efforts?     

Because of the persistence of historic racial attitudes, a multi-layered and decentralized decision-making process, reflexive deference to alumni and donors, and limited resources, it is exceedingly difficult for HWCUs to change from within. Systemic racial change is possible only where there is sustained external pressure and when leaders possess a moral commitment to racial justice and a willingness to reallocate resources to support new priorities. While each institution will need to find its own pathway to racial change, all will need to expend the same amount of time, energy, money and other finite resources that they currently deployed to address other “existential” objectives. Duke, like other schools, reinvented itself in a matter of weeks to face the Covid crisis. A similar level of focus and investment over a substantial period of time is needed to dismantle systemic racism at the school.

Read the introduction to Point of Reckoning for free and save 30% on the book using coupon code E21SEGAL.

Virtual Events in February

There are lots of great opportunities to join our authors online for lectures, panels, and other book events this month. Please note the local time zone for each event.

The Whites Are Enemies of HeavenFebruary 3, 12:00 pm EST: Mark Driscoll, author of The Whites Are Enemies of Heaven, gives an online talk entitled “Extra-acting and Extracting Whiteness: Why Asians called Euro-Americans ‘Enemies of Heaven’ in the 19th Century,” sponsored by Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Center.

February 3, 5:30 pm GMT: Jairus Grove gives a talk based on his book Savage Ecology. The event is sponsored by The Unit of Play at Goldsmiths University of London.

February 3, 7 pm EST: Mary Coffey, author of Orozco’s American Epic, speaks about Orozco’s murals on Dartmouth College’s campus in an event sponsored by St. Johnsbury Athenaeum.

February 4, 5:30 pm EST: Jayna Brown, author of Black Utopias, joins artist Cauleen Smith for a conversation sponsored by the Global South Center at Pratt.

February 4, 6 pm CST: Arlene Dávila, author of Latinx Art, joins Ed Morales and moderator Bill Johnson González for a conversation entitled “Latinx Inclusivity.” It is sponsored by the DePaul Art Museum.

February 5, 12 pm PST: Christina Schwenkel, author of Building Socialism joins Abidin Kusno for a conversation sponsored by several University of California San Diego departments.

February 8, 10 am PST: Maura Finkelstein, author of The Archive of Loss, gives a talk entitled “Stories from Mumbai’s Archive of Loss,” sponsored by the UCLA Center for India and South Asia.

Point of ReckoningFebruary 10, 6 pm EST: Theodore D. Segal, author of Point of Reckoning, speaks about his book with Wesley Hogan, Director of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, and historian Bill Chafe.

February 11, 12 pm EST: Abigail Dumes, author of Divided Bodies, is joined by Rachel Kahn Best and Yi-Li Wu for a conversation about her book sponsored by the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Women & Gender.

February 11, 4:30 pm EST: Eunjung Kim, author of Curative Violence, gives a talk entitled “Continuing Presence of Discarded Bodies: Occupational Harm, Necro-Activism, and Living Justice,” sponsored by Syracuse University. Julia Chang will respond to the talk and Andrew Campana will moderate.

February 11, 6 pm EST: R.A. Judy talks about his new book Sentient Flesh with Corey D. B. Walker, in an event sponsored by Wake Forest University.

February 12, 3:30 pm EST: Maya Stovall discusses her book Liquor Store Theatre in a talk sponsored by McMaster University.

February 12, 5 pm EST: David L. Eng and Jasbir K. Puar, editors of the Social Text issue “Left of Queer,” join the issue’s contributors for a launch event sponsored by the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration and the University of Pennsylvania’s Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality, and Women.

February 16, 5:30 pm GMT: Sara Ahmed gives a lecture based on her forthcoming book Complaint!, sponsored by the Glasgow School of Art.

February 18-19: Katina L. Rogers, author of Putting the Humanities PhD to Work, participates in the free online conference Graduate Education at Work in the World

Universal TonalityFebruary 19, 12 pm EST: We are thrilled to host a book launch for Universal Tonality, Cisco Bradley’s biography of jazz bassist William Parker. The launch will feature a conversation between Bradley, Parker himself, Anthony Reed (author of Soundworks), and Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker.

February 24, 12 pm EST: Sa’ed Atshan and Katharina Galor, authors of The Moral Triangle, participate in a discussion of issues of diaspora, conflict, immigration, sponsored by Brandeis University’s Schusterman Center for Israel Studies.

February 24, 7 pm EST: Theodore D. Segal speaks to the Duke University Alumni Association about his new book Point of Reckoning. Joining him will be Wesley Hogan of Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, Duke history professor Adriane Lentz-Smith, and Duke alums Bertie Howard and Janice Gill Williams.

February 26, 1 pm EST: Cornell University’s Jewish Studies department sponsors a roundtable on Noah Tamarkin’s recent book Genetic Afterlives

Farewell to Lesley Stern

lesley-stern-200x200We are sorry to learn of the death of Lesley Stern, author, most recently, of Diary of a Detour. Her editor, Ken Wissoker, says, “Lesley Stern was a singular intellectual presence, brilliant and funny.  That wit and insight came through in every literary genre. It was a huge privilege to work with her on this last book, Diary of a Detour, where her spirit will live on.”

Stern taught in a number of universities around the globe (including at the University of Zimbabwe; Glasgow University; La Trobe and Murdoch Universities; The University of New South Wales; and University of California, Irvine) before moving to University of California, San Diego in 2000, where she was Professor of Visual Arts until 2013. She was the author of Dead and Alive: The Body as Cinematic Thing, The Smoking Book and The Scorsese Connection, and co-editor of Falling For You: Essays on Cinema and Performance.

Diary of a DetourDiary of a Detour is Stern’s memoir of living with the chronic lymphocytic leukemia that eventually led to her death. She chronicles the fears and daily experience of coming to grips with an incurable form of cancer by describing the dramas and delving into the science. Poet Eileen Myles called it “the most pleasurable cancer book imaginable.”

We invite you to watch the online celebration of Lesley Stern’s book as a way to remember her life and work. It features readings by Stern, Donna Haraway and Eileen Myles, and a Q&A moderated by Lisa Cartwright.

Writing through Political Despair: A Case for Ethnographic Fiction, A Guest Post by Kristen Ghodsee

Five years ago, I began writing a series of essays and short stories to reflect on the upcoming centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution. I wanted to better understand the contemporary legacies of 20th century state socialism in Eastern Europe. At the time, I was living in the city of Jena where the long, dark days of the Eastern German winter kept me huddled indoors listening to David Bowie’s Blackstar on autorepeat.

I’d been reading about the post-WWII denazification process and comparing it to the later de-communization programs that allowed government officials of newly reunified Germany to purge thousands of former members of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) from their jobs after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. These state-organized lustration efforts targeted professors in East German universities, and even mathematicians and natural scientists found themselves summarily dismissed and replaced by West German academics considered untainted by the Marxist politics of the previous regime.

At stake was the moral standing of professors who had either actively or passively collaborated with totalitarianism and whether they could be trusted to educate the next generation of East Germans into the habits of mind necessary for liberal democracy and free market capitalism. Many East German scholars had only joined the SED because they had no choice; professors and academic researchers were expected to be party members in good standing. But during the lustration process, West German leaders insisted that no educators tainted by the previous ideology should have an opportunity to corrupt the minds of the young.

At the same time, I watched the American presidential primaries from afar. An ever-sinking premonition had me convinced that Donald Trump would win the Republication nomination. My German colleagues chastised me for being paranoid and opined that Americans would never be so reckless as to elected someone like Trump to the White House. But by March 2016, when only Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich remained in the race, I had recurrent nightmares about my country under a Trump presidency even as my German and American peers continued to roll their eyes at my alarmist predictions.

I began writing “Interview with a Former Member of the United States Democratic Party” as a way of working through my political despondency. I imagined myself as someone being judged for their lack of resistance to (and thereby tacit collaboration with) a political regime which had been subsequently deemed “evil.” I set the story in 2029, make-believing that someone named Daniel Drumph, Jr. had passed a constitutional amendment allowing him to remain president indefinitely. National Guardsman massacred peaceful demonstrators in Washington and a wave of American intellectuals and anti-Drumph dissidents were seeking political asylum in Germany.

I sat in judgment on myself the way I imagined so many East European intellectuals might have been judged after 1989. The story takes the form of a letter written by a representative of the “Federal Ministry of Immigration and Resettlement” who is reviewing my case. Based on two interviews with me, he works up a recommendation about whether I should be allowed to hold an academic post in a German university even though I was a “former member of the United States Democratic Party.”

I included the story in the manuscript submitted to Duke University Press in May after Trump had clinched the nomination but most observers still believed that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency. The reactions to the story by the anonymous reviewers were mixed. One reviewer felt that the story painted a dystopian and apocalyptic scenario. Although this reader shared my “dark, neurotic forebodings” and “the same creepy Weimaresque feeling” about current political events, they also felt that the story would be “very controversial.”

The second reviewer felt the piece did not fit well into the overall collection. Although they agreed that the story provided “a useful tool for revealing how easy it is for a citizenry to be complicit with state actions,” they felt it also ran “the risk of apologism” for state socialism.

After a thoughtful conversation with my editor, Courtney Berger, I decided to cut the story.  We agreed that it was perhaps too controversial and that no one would remember that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee by the time the book came out in October 2017. Scholarly prudence demanded that I keep my “dark, neurotic forebodings” to myself.

Then on November 10, 2016, I emailed Courtney this note: “So as I crawl out from under the mountain of despair, I am thinking about my “Interview” story.  I know the book is already in production, but is there any possible way to reinsert the story, even as an afterword?  Just feeling like this nightmare is going to get a whole hell of a lot worse before it gets better.”

“I know, Kristen, I know,” Courtney replied. Luckily, the manuscript had not yet been sent out for copyediting; she gave me twenty-four hours to deliver the final version of the story which appeared as chapter thirteen of Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism.

978-0-8223-6949-3_prLast week, almost exactly five years after I began writing Red Hangover, I watched live footage of a pro-Trump mob storming the Capitol building in what felt eerily reminiscent of the colored revolutions that once brought regime change to Eastern Europe. When I look back at the “Interview” story today, I think we are even closer to regime change in the United States than we were then. My forebodings remain decidedly dark and neurotic. For those of us who study the histories and societies of state socialism in Eastern Europe, we know that superpowers can collapse without warning and that the human costs of these collapses are severe.  

Lately, I’ve been listening to Pete Seeger’s “My name is Lisa Kalvelage” on autorepeat, still struggling with that “creepy Weimaresque feeling.” If our democracy collapses and these United States of America cease to exist as a unified and functioning country, I will be forever grateful to Courtney for letting me slip the “Interview” story into the book at the last minute.

I think it highlights the importance of ethnographic fiction, a genre that allows us to enrich our critical imaginations by conjuring potential futures through the creative interplay of history, politics, and cultural interpretation as a supplement to theoretically driven empirical analyses. Duke University Press has kindly agreed to make this story freely available on its website. I hope it inspires other ethnographers to write more experimentally (and that we’ll all be granted political asylum somewhere when the time comes).

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a number of books including Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women’s Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War (2019), Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism (2017), The Left Side of History: World War II and the Unfulfilled Promise of Communism in Eastern Europe (2015), Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life after Communism (2011), and The Red Riviera: Gender, Tourism, and Postsocialism on the Black Sea (2005). She is also a contributor to the volume Writing Anthropology: Essays on Craft and Commitment (2020), which features fifty-two essays on anthropological writing.

Virtual Events in January

Start your new year off right with some great virtual events featuring our authors.

PostmodernismJanuary 9-February 26: Fans of Jane Bennett’s work may want to check out a new art exhibit inspired by her most recent book Influx and Efflux. Artist Taney Roniger’s drawings will be on display at the SVA Flatiron Project Space in New York City, where they can be viewed from outside while social distancing.

January 10, 10:15 am EST: Attendees at the virtual MLA conference won’t want to miss the panel on the thirtieth anniversary of Fredric Jameson’s classic book Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Many of our other authors are also appearing on panels at the virtual MLA, including Fred Moten, Lisa Lowe, Katina Rogers, and Kandace Chuh. There’s also a panel centered on Ronak Kapadia’s recent book Insurgent Aesthetics.

January 20, 12:00 pm CST: Kaiama L. Glover, author of A Regarded Self, joins five other authors for a conversation about global race studies, Black diaspora studies, and transnational feminism, sponsored by Transnational Feminist Scholars.

January 21, 12:00 pm EST: Daisuke Miyao talks about his book Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema in an event sponsored by the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan.

January 21, 5:30pm EST: The Phillips Collection hosts a book club discussion about Latinx Art by Arlene Dávila. The discussion will be led by Fabiola R. Delgado.

January 29, 6:00 pm GMT: Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan celebrates the launch of his book The Globally Familiar with commentary and discussion by eleven scholars.

New Books in January

If you made a New Year’s resolution to read more, this month we have some great new books to help achieve your goals. Happy New Year!

The future of FalloutJoseph Masco examines the psychosocial, material, and affective consequences of the advent of nuclear weapons, the Cold War security state, climate change on contemporary US democratic practices and public imaginaries in The Future of Fallout, and Other Episodes in Radioactive World-Making.

Andrew Bickford analyzes the US military’s attempts to design performance enhancement technologies and create pharmacological “supersoldiers” capable of becoming ever more lethal while withstanding various forms of extreme trauma in Chemical Heroes.

Drawing on ethnographic research in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Christopher Harker in Spacing Debt examines how Israel’s use of debt to keep Palestinians economically unstable is a form of slow colonial violence embedded into the everyday lives of citizens.

Whites are the Enemies of Heaven With The Whites are the Enemies of Heaven, Mark W. Driscoll examines Western imperialism in East Asia throughout the nineteenth century and the devastating effects of what he calls climate caucasianism—the West’s racialized pursuit of capital at the expense of people of color, women, and the environment.

In Dear Science and Other Stories Katherine McKittrick presents a creative and rigorous study of black and anticolonial methodologies, exploring how narratives of imprecision and relationality interrupt knowledge systems that seek to observe, index, know, and discipline blackness.

Christopher Freeburg’s Counterlife challenges the imperative to study black social life and slavery and its aftereffects through the lenses of freedom, agency, and domination and instead examines how enslaved Africans created meaning through spirituality, thought, and artistic creativity separate and alongside concerns about freedom.

emancipations daughtersRiché Richardson in Emancipation’s Daughters examines how five iconic black women—Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Condoleezza Rice, Michelle Obama, and Beyoncé—defy racial stereotypes and construct new national narratives of black womanhood in the United States.

Lingzhen Wang examines the work of Chinese women filmmakers of the Mao and post-Mao eras in Revisiting Women’s Cinema to theorize socialist and postsocialist feminism, mainstream culture, and women’s cinema in modern China.

Kaiama L. Glover examines Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean literature whose female protagonists enact practices of freedom that privilege the self, challenge the prioritization of the community over the individual, and refuse masculinist discourses of postcolonial nation building in A Regarded Self.

The Small Book of Hip ChecksErica Rand uses multiple meanings of hip check—an athlete using their hip to throw an opponent off balance and the inspection of racialized gender—to consider the workings of queer gender, race, and writing in the The Small Book of Hip Checks.

Drawing from ethnographic work with queer activist groups in contemporary Turkey, Evren Savcı’s Queer in Translation explores how Western LGBT politics are translated and reworked there in ways that generate new spaces for resistance and solidarity.

Anthony Reed 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 and the ways in which intellectuals, poets, and musicians define black sound as a radical aesthetic practice in Soundworks.

The Bruce B. Lawrence Reader assembles over two dozen selections of writing by leading scholar of Islam Bruce B. Lawrence which range from analyses of premodern and modern Islamic discourses, practices, and institutions to methodological and theoretical reflections on the study of religion.

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120th Anniversary of the Birth of C. L. R. James

c-l-r-james-3C. L. R. James was born on January 4, 1901, 120 years ago today. James’s work has been a huge influence on many of our other authors, and we are proud to be the home for the book series The C. L. R. James Archives, which both recovers works of James himself and offers new scholarship on his work. Christian Høgsbjerg, editor or author of many of the books in the series, says, “The C. L. R. James Archives series under the editorship of Professor Robert A. Hill has played a critical role in helping to ensure that the intellectual legacy of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable Caribbean revolutionary writers and thinkers has continued to inspire new generations of scholars and activists in the twenty-first century.”

Editorial Director Gisela Fosado says, “C. L. R. James was brilliant, prolific, and influential in wide ranging social movements and scholarly areas. I’ve always loved the way the series forms a backbone for so much of our list. To name the fields that he influenced or that emerged through his influence is basically to name the major areas of strength of our publications.”   

Beyond a BoundaryBeyond a Boundary, which mixes memoir, history, and social commentary through the prism of cricket, is one of James’s best-known and most popular books. Sports Illustrated named it one of the best sports books of all times. Our fiftieth anniversary edition features a new foreword by Paget Henry. Marxism, Colonialism, and Cricket, edited by David Featherstone, Christopher Gair, Christian Høgsbjerg, and Andrew Smith features essays about the classic book.

James’s other best known work is The Black Jacobins, and we have two books in the series that examine that text. The Black Jacobins Reader, edited by Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg, features ten essays on the The Black Jacobins by a wide range of scholars. The contributors discuss its production, context, and enduring importance in relation to debates about decolonization, globalization, postcolonialism, and the emergence of neocolonial Making the Black Jacobinsmodernity. Making the Black Jacobins, by Rachel Douglas, examines the 1938 and 1963 editions of The Black Jacobins, the 1967 play of the same name, and James’s 1936 play, Toussaint Louverture—as well as manuscripts, notes, interviews, and other texts—to show how James continuously rewrote and revised his history of the Haitian Revolution as his politics and engagement with Marxism evolved. James’s play Toussaint Louverture was once thought lost until Christian Høgsbjerg located a draft copy in an archive in 2005. Our edition of the play includes the program, photographs, and reviews from that production, a contextual introduction and editorial notes on the play by Høgsbjerg, and selected essays and letters by James and others.

Høgsbjerg remarks, “Recent works of scholarship on C. L. R. James in the series such as these clearly remind us of the relevance of James’s classic history of the Haitian Revolution for the global Black Lives Matter movement today.” James and The Black Jacobins are regularly referenced in popular culture as well as by academics. The recent Steve McQueen film Small Axe features James as a character (played by Derek Griffiths) and another major character is seen reading The Black Jacobins.

CLR James in Imperial BritainChristian Høgsbjerg is also the author of C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain, which chronicles James’s life and work during his first extended stay in Britain, from 1932 to 1938. It reveals the radicalizing effect of this critical period on James’s intellectual and political trajectory. 

One of the goals of the series is to bring lesser known works by C. L. R. James back into print. Thus far, along with Toussaint Louverture, we have republished World Revolution, 1917–1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International, originally published in 1937, and The Life of Captain Cipriani, James’s earliest full-length work of nonfiction, originally published in 1932. Bridget Brereton edited and introduces The Life of Captain Cipriani, which also includes the pamphlet “The Case for West-Indian Self Government.” Christian Høgsbjerg is the editor of World Revolution, 1917-1936.

Høgsbjerg says, “For much of his own life, so many of even the most essential and foundational of  James’s works were sadly out of print, while much else by him never even found its way into print.  It is therefore tremendous that, thanks to Duke University Press, admirers of James are now able to read some of his very earliest political writings on black and colonial liberation, in works such as The Life of Captain Cipriani and his legendary play Toussaint Louverture, something which would have been almost unthinkable before the series began. Long may the series continue!”