Author: Laura Sell

Publicity and Advertising Manager, Duke University Press

Save 40% During Our Fall Sale


Make some room on your bookshelves, because you’re going to want to check out our Fall Sale. Head to our website and save 40% on all in-stock books and journal issues by entering coupon code FALL40.

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

The sale ends in one week, on Monday, October 2 at 11:59 Eastern Time. Start shopping now!

Editorial Director Ken Wissoker on Why He Loves Peer Review

Wissoker, KenIt’s Peer Review Week. In this guest post, our Editorial Director Ken Wissoker shares what he loves about this crucial, and sometimes misunderstood, element of academic publishing.

I love peer review. Many authors fear it, or see it as a necessary evil, perhaps good for others less accomplished than themselves. Many hope for it to be as quick and minimal as possible, or as with some commercial academic presses, done in a cursory and non-binding way. Enough of a review that the scholar can count their work as a peer-reviewed publication, but not so much that they would actually have to change their manuscript in light of what the reviewers say.

Those who fear peer review often think of its gate-keeping function, perhaps imagining a process like a job search or an award committee where the judges work to eliminate as many contenders as possible. There might still be journals somewhere that peer review everything that is submitted in that way, but I doubt there are many, at least in the humanities and social sciences. For book manuscripts, that would never be a plausible model. It’s a lot of work to read a three or five hundred page draft manuscript. It is even more work if it is a frustrating experience. A press that consistently sent out a lot of mediocre manuscripts or manuscripts that they know at the outset would not work in their list would soon have trouble getting reviewers to agree to read.

At Duke University Press, when we send a manuscript out for peer review, it usually means we would like to publish the manuscript, at least if it is as great as we think it is. We don’t expect it to be publishable right away, but we see the promise. I may have recognized something in an author’s idea or approach to a topic that seems smart and original. I want the reviewers to tell me if that’s genuinely new, or just new to me. Perhaps I’ve let my hopes for what the manuscript will accomplish get in the way of seeing how it actually reads. Other times, the reviewers’ knowledgeable assessment of the manuscript exceeds my own. Most of the time, the truth—and the manuscript—is somewhere in between. That’s where peer review makes all the difference.

I think of peer review as like a mini-test-screening for a film, where the viewers give honest feedback about what they saw. Where were they bored? Where were they confused? Which scenes seemed to go on forever and which rushed past? Did the plot make sense and unfold in a way that kept them attentive? Was it so predictable that the viewers knew what was going to happen the whole time? When did they look at their watch to see how much longer it went on?

In our peer review process, there are generally two such viewers. From them, we ask similar things. Was the argument convincing? Does the manuscript know its own argument and organize the evidence around that argument? Or, conversely, are there big generalizations sitting uneasily astride a detailed account of the object under study? Does it seem like there is enough evidence to support the points, or far more than was needed? Where was the reader bored or confused? Did the arc of the narrative make sense, or were there sections where the story was lost? Are all the chapters each contributing something to making the book a more convincing whole?

Some of these questions could be answered by any attentive reader, others require a knowledge of the topic or field. I like to choose readers whose interests will be complementary, who will see the manuscript from different angles. We want our books to be read by as wide as audience as possible. If the book is interdisciplinary, how does it look from the different interdisciplinary perspectives? One person might be an expert on the approach and the other on the object—or one person on the method and the other on the place. I want to hear what one or the other sees and misses in the book. Does it work equally well for the film scholar and the anthropologist? The Southeast Asianist and the feminist theorist? What would be needed to make the manuscript more legible and credible in each direction? What hits or misses for each? Surprisingly often, people chosen to represent different perspectives will see the same things working and not working in a manuscript, even if they might describe or frame those things in a different way.

Just as it wouldn’t makes sense to send someone who had never seen a Star Wars film to report on the latest one, or someone who hated musicals to comment on a new production, we want readers who can see the manuscripts and recognize their aspirations and methods. I look for readers who will hope that the book will succeed—but who will be honest about whether it does or does not. The reviewers might be invested in the intellectual project or the field and want new work to make a real contribution. They might be invested in the scholar themselves, perhaps having seen promising earlier work from a junior scholar, or admiring the project of a senior person in the field. The readers might be our authors, or otherwise attached to what qualities make a book seem like a Duke book. Whatever it is, I want that commitment to take the form of wanting the work to be better, to help improve it now, rather than letting it slip by with vague praise, only to seem half-baked when the book is published. The last thing I would want in a reader is someone who would be competitive, or more obviously, thought no work like the author’s could be worthwhile, no matter how smart or carefully done.

The readers are writing these reports for the Press. Often they may address the author directly in going over minor details, but the overall assessment is usually directed to us. The readers understand that the process is single blind. That means they know whose work they are reading, but that the author will not know who wrote the reports. I don’t reveal the identity of readers even when a reader says it is okay to do so. As soon as an author knows who wrote a report, the difference between how the reviewer thinks and the way the author thinks (or how the author understands that difference) too easily becomes the lens for viewing the reports. In our own reading, we all like books that go about their projects differently than we would had we written them. But, in the context of a report, the issues identified by the readers in the manuscript are attributed to differences in method between the author and reviewer.  As long as the readers stay Reader #1 and Reader #2 they function better as a test audience—two people in a reasonable inner circle of possible readers for the book, who didn’t understand a particular turn in the manuscript. In this way I sometimes compare the review process to therapy. You can go out and talk about your problems with friends over a beer all you want, and wake up the next day with the same issues. Talking about them with a disinterested but attentive therapist is more likely to open up the possibility of change, even if in some ways one’s friends know you better.

Readers usually suggest fixes for parts of the manuscript that aren’t working. That help is offered with generous intentions, but it sometimes ends up distracting the author. The reviewer is trying to help the author solve a problem. Since the reader would probably approach the topic in a different way themselves, they try to imagine solutions that fit with their understanding of the author’s goals and methods. It’s brainstorming about potential solutions. “Did you try that?” Authors easily get stuck on bad guesses, suggestions that hit a wrong note. They become sure that the person who suggested such a course could not understand the book. I always urge a symptomatic approach. Why would someone suggest that something needed to be done at all? What wasn’t working that required a solution? It’s the author’s manuscript! They ought to be able to think of a better approach. If the readers’ ideas are helpful, great. If not, what’s a better way of ameliorating the problem?

This approach to peer review sees it as part of the writing process. It’s a valuable opportunity to take a manuscript that is the result of years of research and writing and be given a chance to see what is working and what isn’t before it is published. To improve it and make it better. While scholars are researching, they want to find all the evidence they can. When we are reading, if we are convinced by the first example, we rarely need to see three more. Writing—and even sharing one’s writing in a writing group or with a writing partner—is very local, focused on a chapter or section at a time. It’s hard to have a sense of rhythm and pacing and flow; hard to see the whole. The review process is the moment to step back and benefit from generous and invested colleagues willing to read with and for you, to give you the feedback that makes the path more intuitive and well-paced for future readers.

I’m not saying the process is always perfect all the time—nothing is. I can remember books that went through several rounds of peer review, only to be stuck with an intractable problem. Other authors might be frustrated by a tough review process only to end up with a book that goes on to win prizes. There are many paths to publication but, in itself, the review process helps an author write the best possible book. The process is a gift to the writer, not something to be dodged. It’s a gift to the Press and to our readers as well.

Ken Wissoker is the Editorial Director at Duke University Press, acquiring books in the humanities and narrative social sciences. He works out of an office at The Graduate Center CUNY in New York, where in addition to his duties at the Press, he is Director of  Intellectual Publics. Learn more about our peer review process, and how to submit a manuscript, here.

Lynn Comella’s Fall Tour for Vibrator Nation

art1Lynn Comella will be touring the country this fall, discussing her new book Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure. It’s the first book to tell the story of feminist sex-toy stores and how they and the women who pioneered them changed the adult industry. Comella will be doing some traditional bookstore events but we’re also excited that she will be speaking at a number of sex-toy stores, a first for one of our books! Hope you can catch her at one of these great events.

Opening Plenary Keynote Address and Panel Discussion
Lynn gives the keynote address at CatalystCon West and then participates in a panel discussion on her book.
September 15 – 17
Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

Reading and Discussion
September 22, 8:30 pm
Self Serve Toys
3904B Central Avenue, SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108

Reading and Discussion
September 28, 7:00 pm
The Writer’s Block
1020 Fremont St #100, Las Vegas, NV 89101

Reading and Discussion
October 5, 8:00 pm
The Pleasure Chest
7733 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046

Reading and Discussion
With special guest Susie Bright
October 8, 6:00 pm
San Francisco Litquake Festival
The Center for Sex and Culture
1349 Mission, SF CA 94103

Reading and Discussion
October 21, 7:00 pm
Babeland Seattle
707 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122

Reading and Discussion
October 26, 6:30 pm
Gallery Bookshop
319 Kasten Street, Mendocino, CA 95460

Reading and Discussion
With special guest Dr. Carol Queen
October 28, 4:00 pm
Good Vibrations, Palo Alto
534 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

Meet the Author
November 3, 6:00 pm
Luxe Rust
1300 Main Street, Las Vegas, NV

November 13, 4:30 pm
University of Michigan

Reading and Discussion
November 14, 7:00 pm
Literati Bookstore
124 E Washington, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Reading and Discussion
November 16, 6:30 pm
927 W. 36th Street, Baltimore, MD 21211

Reading and Discussion
November 17, 6:30 pm
Potter’s House
1658 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009

Reading and Discussion
November 18
Lotus Blooms
1017 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314

Reading and Discussion
December 7
Tool Shed Toys
2427 N. Murray Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53211

Reading and Discussion
December 10, 7:00 pm
Smitten Kitten
3010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55408

Reading and Discussion
December 12, 7:00 pm
Early to Bed
5044 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

Lynn Comella’s tour continues in 2018 with stops in New York City, Oakland, Cambridge, and Pawtucket, with new dates being added. We’ll update you here with her spring schedule.

Q&A with Lynn Comella, author of Vibrator Nation

lynn_comella_by_krystal_ramirez_smallLynn Comella is Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. An award-winning researcher, she has written extensively about sexuality and culture for numerous academic publications and popular media outlets. She is coeditor of the comprehensive New Views on Pornography: Sexuality, Politics, and the Law, and a frequent media contributor. In Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure—the first book to tell the story of feminist sex-toy stores and the women who pioneered them—she takes a deep dive into the making of the consumer market for sex toys, tracing its emergence from the early 1970s to today. Drawing on more than eighty in-depth interviews with retailers and industry insiders, including a stint working as a vibrator clerk, she brings readers onto the sex-shop floor and into the world of sex-positive capitalism and cultural production. Lynn Comella is on a national tour this fall and winter; check back here next week for a full tour schedule.

art1Why did you decide to research feminist sex-toy businesses and how did you conduct your research?

I’ve long been interested in the politics of sexual representation, from the feminist sex wars of the 1980s to debates over school-based sex education. When I started this project, which began as a seminar paper in graduate school, I was really interested in the various ways in which female sexuality assumed a public presence as opposed to being relegated to the privacy of the home. As luck would have it, a feminist sex-toy shop, Intimacies, had just opened in the college town where I lived. I decided to make the store the focus of a small pilot study in an effort to better understand what made this female-friendly vibrator business different from more conventional adult stores ostensibly geared toward men. I quickly realized that Intimacies was part of a larger network of women-run, educationally oriented vibrator shops located in cities across the country that had all adopted a similar way of selling sex toys and talking about sex. I wanted to know more about what united these businesses together and how they attempted to practice feminist politics through the marketplace. What were the sexual vernaculars, retail strategies, philosophies, challenges and paradoxes that had shaped these businesses?

Researching the history of feminist sex-toy stores sent me down a rabbit hole. It took years and multiple methods of data collection—ethnographic fieldwork, in-depth interviews, and archival research—to weave together the various historical threads that shaped these businesses and the larger women’s market for sex toys and pornography. Writing the book I wanted to write, one that took a deep dive into the making of a market, required a kind of methodological promiscuity: I worked as a vibrator clerk at Babeland in New York City where I sold my fair share of sex toys, answered customer questions, and crossed my fingers that my cash register balanced at the end of the night. I interviewed more than eighty feminist retailers, employees, and industry insiders. I toured dildo manufacturing companies and lube factories, and attended more than a dozen adult industry trade shows where I sat in on business seminars that discussed marketing sex toys to women, retail-based sex education, and the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. I poured through dusty boxes filled with corporate documents, internal memos, customer letters, advertisements, news clippings, and more, and amassed a research archive teeming with sex-toy ephemera (which I’m having a lot of fun sharing on the vibrator_nation Instagram account).

What was it like for women to purchase sex toys before the mid-1970s? What were feminist entrepreneurs trying to change?

There weren’t a lot of opportunities for the average woman to comfortably buy vibrators in the early 1970s. Conventional adult stores weren’t designed with female shoppers in mind; reputable mail-order businesses that sold so-called marital aids were few and far between; and women walking into a department store—or any store, really—to buy a vibrating massager risked encountering a male clerk who might say, “Boy, you must really need it bad, sweetie pie.” What made the situation all the more frustrating for many women was that they were being told by feminist sex educators and therapists that they should masturbate and take control of their orgasms. Vibrators were being framed as tools of liberation, but getting one wasn’t easy. Early feminist retailers, such as Dell Williams, who founded Eve’s Garden in 1974, and Joani Blank who opened Good Vibrations several years later, stepped into this breach. They turned the traditional model of an adult store, with its “seamy” aura and X-rated style, on its head in an effort to appeal to female shoppers. What made these early feminist vibrator businesses so revolutionary, and what set them apart from their more conventional counterparts geared toward men, wasn’t just their focus on women, but their entire way of doing business. They led with sex education not titillation, and worked to advance a social mission that included putting a vibrator on the bedside table of every woman, everywhere, because they believed that access to accurate sexual information and quality products had the potential to make everyone’s lives better.

In the book you describe a “sex-positive diaspora” of feminist retailers. What do you mean by that?

One of the things that I found so interesting during the early stages of my research was the degree to which feminist business owners tipped their hats to Good Vibrations. Many of them credited the company’s founder, Joani Blank, a sex therapist with a master’s degree in public health, with helping them start their businesses. Blank had a very non-competitive approach to running a company and strongly believed that the more businesses that were doing what Good Vibrations was doing—selling vibrators and talking openly about sex—the better. Blank freely shared information and vendor lists with aspiring entrepreneurs, and in the early 1990s she started a short-lived internship program to train people how to run a business like Good Vibrations. The first, and only, two people to complete the internship program were Claire Cavanah, who along with Rachel Venning would go on to found Babeland in 1993, and Kim Airs who started Grand Opening in Boston that same year. Blank’s communitarian, non-competitive ethos created a ripple effect and by the early 1990s, Good Vibrations’ DNA had begun to spread to cities across the country. In time, people who worked at Babeland and Grand Opening branched out and started their own feminist vibrator shops and Good Vibrations’ sex-positive mission continued to replicate. I wanted a phrase that captured this movement and dispersal, and the description “sex-positive diaspora” seemed to do that.

What role have lesbians and queer-identified retailers and people of color played in the history of feminist sex-toy business?

Lesbians and queer-identified retailers, along with queer and transgender employees, have played a major role in shaping the history of feminist sex-toy businesses. They opened stores, worked on the sales floor, started sex-toy manufacturing companies, wrote “how to” guides, and made pornography. In these different ways they’ve been important nodes of transmission and sources of queer sexual knowledge, including for straight people. In fact, I’d argue that the history of feminist sex-toy stores is also, and very much so, a story about queer entrepreneurship and cultural production. For many of the businesses that I write about in Vibrator Nation, their identities as queer and trans-inclusive companies are as important, if not more so, than their feminist identities. And yet, it’s also the case that these businesses have historically been very white. If you look at photos of Good Vibrations staff from the 1980s, for example, everyone is white and female. So it’s perhaps not surprising that some customers got the impression that Good Vibrations was a white women’s store—even as the company worked hard to change that perception and diversity its staff. This was certainly how Oakland-based retailer Nenna Joiner, the founder of Feelmore, experienced Good Vibrations when she first discovered the company in the late 1990s. Although she loved what the store offered, she didn’t see any images that represented her. She realized there was a need in the African American community for more diverse sexual images and resources, and decided to start a business that could deliver what she felt was missing from other women-run sex-toy stores.

How have feminist sex toy stores remained true to their mission while also turning a profit?

The ongoing tension between profitability and social change is a thread that runs throughout Vibrator Nation. Many of the retailers I write about started their businesses because they saw their stores as a feminist way to empower women (and eventually everyone). They led with a mission of social change rather than capitalist aspirations. Good Vibrations’ Joani Blank once told me that profits were secondary to everything that was important to her about running a successful business. And if you read the mission statements of many of the businesses that followed in Good Vibrations’ footsteps, they’re all about promoting sex education and personal transformation and creating a more passionate world. There’s almost no mention of making money. As one of my interviewees pointed out, if you don’t put profitability in your mission statement, it’s easy to forget about it. In some cases, it took a severe financial crisis for retailers to realize they needed to cultivate new forms of business expertise and foster attitudes in which money was seen as friend instead of foe, something that not only greased the wheels of social change but kept those wheels spinning.

How did feminists end up changing the adult industry?

Perhaps the most dramatic shift over the past forty years is the acknowledgment on the part of mainstream adult retailers, manufacturers, and porn producers that the sex industry is no longer a world of men. In a post Sex and the City and Fifty Shades of Grey era, this statement might seem glaringly obvious, but it wasn’t that long ago that women found themselves marginalized in an industry largely dominated by men and steeped in sexism. I heard stories during my research of female product buyers with budgets of upwards of $3,000,000 annually who couldn’t get the time of day at adult novelty trade shows. Men would look right past them. And that was in the early 2000s. Feminists played an absolutely central role in creating a market that is now widely regarded as one of the hottest growth segments of the adult industry. Today, women are trusted authorities who routinely hold the microphone in seminar rooms filled with wholesalers, distributors, retailers, and content producers eager to mine their expertise. There have been other important changes, too, most notably in regard to sex-toy manufacturing and marketing. By the early 1990s women were placing new demands on the adult novelty sector. Good Vibrations began offering warranties and started sending defective merchandise back to manufacturers, letting them know they weren’t going to settle for cheaply made products that conked out after one use. Manufacturers started making products that looked prettier, had better motors, and used non-toxic and body safe materials. Sex-toy packaging with images of sultry porn starlets has been replaced with softer, more colorful, and sanitized imagery. Messages about sexual health and education, rather than titillation, are regularly used as marketing platforms. Art school grads and mechanical engineers are bringing elements of sleek design and quality manufacturing to an industry that used to revolve around the idea of planned obsolescence where nothing was made to last. It’s a far cry from what the adult industry looked like in the early 1970s when Dell Williams and Joani Blank took a bold leap of faith and started their small, women-friendly vibrator businesses.

What are some of the challenges of doing scholarly work on the sex industry?

What it means to do scholarly work on the sex industry has changed quite a bit over the past 15 years. When I was completing my Ph.D. in the early 2000s, academic research on the adult industry was hardly typical and it wasn’t unusual for someone to raise an eyebrow when I told them that I was researching feminist sex-toy stores. They were intrigued but often skeptical about the scholarly merits of such research. Although academic research on the adult industry is still not the norm, there’s a growing, international network of sexuality scholars—historians, sociologists, media studies practitioners, and others—who study pornography and other facets of the adult entertainment industry in an effort to better understand this extremely profitable yet under-examined segment of popular culture. This scholarship is increasingly finding institutional support not only in the form of tenure-track academic appointments, but in academic journals and professional organizations, too. Additionally, more and more academic presses are realizing that there’s a market for well-researched books about pornography and the sex industry, and are building their lists according. As for the nitty-gritty of researching the sex industry, it’s really no different than studying any other cultural phenomenon: you approach it ethically, rigorously, and systematically. The less we exoticize sexuality research, and the more we treat it with the seriousness that we might approach other scholarly topics, the better this research will be.

You can order Vibrator Nation from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E17COMEL to save 30%.


An Excerpt from The Look of a Woman by Eric Plemons

The Look of a WomanIn The Look of a Woman: Facial Feminization Surgery and the Aims of Trans- Medicine, Eric Plemons explores the ways in which facial feminization surgery is changing the ways in which trans- women are not only perceived of as women, but in the ways it is altering the project of surgical sex reassignment and the understandings of what sex means. In this excerpt he describes attending the annual Celebrate! conference.

Celebrate! is an annual conference for cross-dressers and trans-women that has been held in the same rural town  since 1990. There are only a small handful of these conferences in the United States each year, and many people attended as many of them as they could. In addition to informative presentations, conferences were important places for folks to build community, to feel accepted and seen as they were.

Throughout the weekend as I attended workshops, talks, and social events, shopping excursions and fashion shows, I chatted with people about FFS and surgical interventions more generally. With the exception of Rene, who was attending her first trans-conference and was generally blown away by everything she saw, everyone I spoke with had an opinion about facial feminization surgery.

I met Molly before the “Cross-Dressing 101” workshop. When I asked her about FFS she responded quickly, “I like everything I’ve got, just how it is.” Molly was consistently recognized as male, but that didn’t bother her. Cross-dressing was an occasional practice that she really enjoyed, but she had no interest in transitioning or changing her body in any permanent way. She compromised with her wife about little changes: Molly shaved her chest and body hair during the winter months and let it grow out for the summer swimsuit season.

Just because people knew about FFS did not necessarily mean they were interested in undergoing the procedure. During the second night of the conference I joined the official evening event at a town bar hosting a locally famous cover band that specialized in pop songs from the 1980s and 1990s. Their big conference draw, though, was that all the band members were cross-dressers. The small bar was packed with an amiable mix of town
residents and conference attendees, making it a people-watching event for all tastes. In between beers and sweaty dances I struck up conversations with trans-women who were leaning against the wall or seated at the bar, watching the scene. “Yeah, sure, faces are a big deal,” Gina told me, shouting against the thrum of the music. “But the real tell is the hairline. You can have a beautiful face, but if you’re bald, no one is buying you as a woman.” I heard these kinds of rejoinders a lot. Another person told me the voice is the real key. What good is a pretty face with a baritone voice? Another said hands were most important. Another said shoulders. For these trans-women FFS might have been desirable, but facial surgery alone would not have made the difference between being recognized as women or not. For them that line was located somewhere else on the body. Even beautiful faces would not have been enough.

Sophia knew two people who had had FFS. She said “they really do look much more feminine” and that her friends considered FFS to be the most important thing they’d done in their entire lives. While she acknowledged the transformative power of ffs, there were two reasons she was not interested in it for herself. “I’m six foot three,” she said, “and there is nothing I can do about that.” Like the women I met at the bar, Sophia understood other characteristics of her body — in her case, her height — were more determinative of her perceived sex than was her face. Changing her face on top of her tall frame would have been ineffectual. “More important,” she said, “I have this.” She picked up the silver walker she used to help her get around. “Once people see the walker, they really don’t look at anything else about me.” Dressed in a skirt and blouse, wearing a shag-cut gray wig, and leaning against a walker, Sophia was recognized as a woman most of the time. In part, she explained, because people don’t look so closely at old women or disabled women. These characteristics of her body already deflected the scrutinizing and sexualizing gaze that subject many other women to viewers’ judgment. Other folks sharing our conversation considered Sophia’s walker to be an ingenious strategy. They joked that she had a great prop and that a walker was far cheaper than an operation. Sophia played along. “Oh yeah, I’ve got it all worked out,” she said with a smile.

Femininity is an ongoing achievement. For some people facial surgery was the first and most important thing to do in order to achieve the femininity they desired. For others it was learning to move differently, or returning over and over again for electrolysis to remove beard and chest hair, or finding an elusive strappy sandal in the right size. Some other challenge comes next for everyone and becomes the thing that is standing in the way of the embodiment they desire. This is the way of sex and gender.

For many folks at the conference the first necessary step in pursuing femininity was learning to see it. Ousterhout and Beck offered two among many forms of expertise on that subject as they explained to attendees what made their face masculine and what must be done in order to achieve the femininity they desired. The surgeons’ talks were well attended by hopeful viewers who wanted the characteristics of their face explained as plainly as the presenter for “Cross-Dressing 101” had explained how to hold a handbag. And while some audience members listened intently, scribbled in their notebooks, and booked individual consultations for later in the day, other rooms at the conference were teeming with people whose future would not include FFS. Elese said she was too old. Mona was happy just as she was, thank you very much. Jackie couldn’t afford it. Shana just didn’t have the stomach for it. These folks wanted something else from medicine or wanted nothing at all.

Eric Plemons is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Save 30% on The Look of a Woman now with coupon code E17LOOK.

A Vinyl Freak Playlist by John Corbett

Today’s post is a playlist by John Corbett, author of Vinyl Freak:  Love Letters to a Dying Medium. Corbett is a music critic, record producer, and curator. He is the author of Microgroove: Forays into Other Music and Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein, both also published by Duke University Press, and A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation. His writing has appeared in DownBeat, Bomb, Nka, and numerous other publications. He is the co-owner of Corbett vs. Dempsey, an art gallery in Chicago.

978-0-8223-6366-8_prOne of my preoccupations in writing about music and curating visual art has been the dialogue between material culture and cultural history. When artifacts move from being available to being unavailable, passing into a phase of having previously been available, their status as part of the historical record shifts. Notice of their existence becomes tenuous. Sometimes things are actively excluded, sometimes they’re rediscovered, or maybe they are lost forever. Just try to find tenor saxophonist Tommy Madman Jones’s LP Madman Speaks—virtually impossible! Susan Hiller’s beautiful, bittersweet video installation The Last Silent Movie (2007-08), which strings together a series of fragments of people telling stories in extinct or nearly extinct languages, brings such an idea to a visceral conclusion, suggesting the loss of entire lexicons and syntaxes and speech patterns. As a world, we are proportionately poorer for such vanishings.

In Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium, I assembled most of the monthly (and later bi-monthly) columns that I composed for DownBeat magazine over a dozen years starting at the outset of the new millennium. These were dedicated to LPs, singles, and a few acetates or 78 rpm shellacs, all of which had fallen out of print and had never been reissued on CD. My aim, more than fluffing my record collector feathers, was to suggest the ways in which musical culture is written and rewritten in concert with its material self. Along the way, certain subthemes emerged, often unintentionally. For this playlist, I’ve extracted one of them: soul-jazz. In working on the column I was (and I continue to be) quite surprised how many wonderful records in this mode—funky, bluesy, organ-oriented, mostly recorded in the ‘50s and ‘60s, many of them for Chicago’s prolific Argo label—were impossible to find on disc. Indeed some of them are even now inaccessible on YouTube, where so much musical esoterica has resurfaced over the last decade.

Get in the good groove!

The Three Sounds, “Fannie Mae,” from Dangerous Dan Express

Thornel Schwartz with Bill Leslie, “Blue and Dues” from Soul Cookin’

 Gloria Coleman Quartet with Pola Roberts, “Funky Rob,” from Soul Sisters

Melvin Jackson, “Bold and Black,” from Funky Skull

Tommy Madman Jones, “Hi Fi Apartment,” 7-inch single

Bill Leslie, “Angel Eyes,” from Diggin’ the Chicks

A.K. Salim, “Salute to Zulu,” from Afro-Soul/Drum Orgy

Jack Wilson featuring Roy Ayers, from Ramblin’

Johnny Shacklett Trio, from Live at The Hoffman House

Cozy Eggleston, “Sweet Merri Dee,” from Grand Slam

Johnny Lytle Trio, “Blue Vibes,” from Blue Vibes

 To purchase Vinyl Freak at a 30% discount, use coupon code E17VINYL when ordering from our website.

Introducing Our Fall 2017 Catalog

Our Fall 2017 catalog is here! We’re excited to give you a preview of all the great books that will be available in the next few months.

Test of FaithEvery two years we publish the winner of the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize. The 2017 winner is Lauren Pond and her photos of Pentecostal serpent handlers in Appalachia. Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation features 100 color photographs and provides a deeply nuanced, personal look at serpent handling that invites greater understanding of a religious practice that has long faced derision and criticism. It will be available in November.

Louise Thompson PattersonWe have a great cluster of general interest titles on the struggle for social and racial justice. Keith Gilyard has written the first biography of Louise Thompson Patterson, a leading and transformative figure in the radical African American politics of the twentieth century. In Why the Vote Wasn’t Enough for Selma, Karlyn Forner rewrites the heralded history of Selma to show why gaining the right to vote did not lead to economic justice for African Americans in the Alabama Black Belt. Jane Lazarre tells the story of her father Bill Lazarre in The Communist and the Communist’s Daughter. He was a radical activist who, as part of his tireless efforts to create a better world for his family, held leadership positions in the American Communist Party, fought in the Spanish Civil War, and organized labor unions. And bringing the story of activism into the twenty-first century, Howard E. Covington Jr.’s Lending Power looks at the compelling story of the nonprofit Center for Community Self-Help, a community-oriented and civil rights-based financial institution that has helped provide loans to those who lacked access to traditional financing while fighting for consumer protection for all Americans.

Moten, Fred author photo

Fred Moten

We’re excited to feature a number of returning authors with major new theoretical interventions into contemporary politics and cultural studies. Black and Blur is the first book in Fred Moten’s trilogy consent not to be a single being. Moten engages in a capacious consideration of the place and force of blackness in African diaspora arts, politics, and life. Jasbir Puar returns to our list both with a tenth-anniversary edition of her classic Terrorist Assemblages and with The Right to Maim, which continues her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to theorize the production of disability, using Israel’s occupation of Palestine as an example of how settler colonial states rely on liberal frameworks of disability to maintain control of bodies and populations.

In Saving the Security State, Inderpal Grewal traces the changing relations between the US state and its citizens in an era she calls advanced neoliberalism, under which everyday life is militarized, humanitarianism serves imperial aims, and white Christian men become exceptional citizens tasked with protecting the nation from racialized others. Also looking at life in the modern security state is the collection Life in the Age of Drone Warfare, edited by Lisa Parks and Caren Kaplan. We are also publishing Kaplan’s book Aerial Aftermaths, which looks at the cultural history of aerial imagery—from the first vistas provided by balloons in the eighteenth century to the sensing operations of military drones. In Attachments to War, Jennifer Terry traces how biomedical logics entangle Americans in a perpetual state of war, in which new forms of wounding necessitate the continual development of treatment and prosthetic technologies while the military justifies violence and military occupation as necessary conditions for advancing medical knowledge. And reckoning with one’s role in perpetuating systematic inequality is the theme of Bruce Robbins’s The Beneficiary, in which he examines the implications of a humanitarianism in which the prosperous are the both the cause and the beneficiaries of the abhorrent conditions they seek to remedy.

art1New books in gender studies and queer studies include Lynn Comella’s Vibrator Nation, which tells the fascinating history of how feminist sex-toy stores such as Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations and Babeland raised sexual consciousness, redefined the adult industry, provided educational and community resources, and changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. We’ve also got Eric Plemons’s ethnography of trans-medicine; Melanie Yergeau’s Authoring Autism, which shows how autistics both embrace and reject the rhetorical, thereby queering the lines of rhetoric, humanity, agency, and the very essence of rhetoric itself; and Lori Jo Marso’s Politics with Beauvoir, which treats Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist theory and practice as part of her political theory.

We’ve got many terrific anthropology titles, including Richard Price and Sally Price Saamaka Dreamingrevisiting their early careers in Suriname in Saamaka Dreaming; Kristen Ghodsee continuing her reflections on the legacies of communism in Eastern Europe; Edward LiPuma’s The Social Life of Financial Derivatives; Paul Rabinow thinking about Gerhard Richter and the idea of the contemporary; Dana Powell‘s look at the politics of energy in the Navajo Nation; and many more.

We also have titles in music, political theory, Asian Studies, religious studies, Latin American studies, history, science studies, and literary studies. We are also pleased to welcome Qui Parle to our collection of journals. Check out the full catalog to see all the new titles, preview special issues, and learn about all our journals. And sign up for our email alerts so you’ll know when all these great new books are published this fall.

Final Days of the Spring Sale


We are down to the final two days of our big Spring Sale. It ends at 11:59 pm Eastern time tomorrow, Wednesday, May 11. So head to our website now to stock up and save on all in-stock books and journal issues.

During this sale, the more you buy, the more you save. Buy one or two titles and save 30%, buy three or four titles and save 40%, and buy five or more and get the best discount of 50%. Please note that journal subscriptions and society memberships are not included in the sale. See all the fine print here.

978-0-8223-6224-1_borderWe regret that one of our most popular titles, Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway, went out of stock at the beginning of the sale. A reprint is at the printer now and we hope to have it in stock again the week of May 15th. For those who were unable to order the book, we are pleased to offer a special 50% discount code on Staying with the Trouble once it is back in stock. Please return to the site next week and use coupon code STAY50 to take advantage of it. This special offer will expire May 31, 2017.

Okay, now get shopping. Only two days left!

Our Spring Sale Continues until May 10


Have you shopped our spring sale yet? It continues until May 10. The more you buy, the more you save, with discounts of up to 50% when you buy five or more titles. The sale includes all in-stock books and journal issues but not subscriptions or society memberships. Just use coupon code SUMMER17 at checkout. Want recommendations? Check out Editorial Director Ken Wissoker’s top picks on Facebook. See all the fine print here.

Stock up and Save on Latin American Studies Titles


The annual meeting of the Latin American Studies Association begins tomorrow in Lima, Peru. Because of the distance, this year we will have books and journals on display at the congress but attendees will not be able to purchase them there. Fortunately, we are having a great sale that includes all our in-stock Latin American studies titles and we encourage both attendees and those who weren’t able to make it this year to take advantage of the discounts.

Head to our website and save 30% (our regular conference discount) on one or two books or journal issues, 40% on three or four titles, and 50% on five or more copies. Just enter coupon code SUMMER17 at checkout.

978-0-8223-6348-4_prNew Latin American studies titles include The Lima Reader: History, Culture, Politics, the latest in our Latin America Readers series. Covering more than 500 years of history, culture, and politics, The Lima Reader seeks to capture the many worlds and many peoples of Peru’s capital city, featuring a selection of primary sources that consider the social tensions and cultural heritages of the “City of Kings.” If you fall in love with Lima during LASA, pick up The Lima Reader to learn more about it’s past and present.

decolonizing-dialectics-coverOther titles we’ll be featuring at LASA that you can pick up during our online sale include Decolonizing Dialectics by George Ciccariello-Maher, which brings the work of Georges Sorel, Frantz Fanon, and Enrique Dussel together with contemporary Venezuelan politics to formulate a decolonized dialectics that is suited to the struggle against the legacies of slavery and colonialism while also breaking the impasse between dialectics and postcolonial theory. And An Aqueous Territory: Sailor Geographies and New Granada’s Transimperial Greater Caribbean World by Ernesto Bassi, which examines the lives of those who resided in the Caribbean between 1760 and 1860 to trace the configuration of a dynamic geographic space he calls the transimperial Greater Caribbean, where residents made their own geographies and futures while trade, information, and people circulated freely across borders.

Punk and RevolutionWe are also featuring some music titles including The Great Woman Singer: Gender and Voice in Puerto Rican Music by Licia Fiol-Matta, which traces the careers of four iconic Puerto Rican singers; Musicians in Transit: Argentina and the Globalization of Popular Music by Matthew B. Karush, which examines the transnational careers of seven of the most influential Argentine musicians of the twentieth century; and Shane Greene’s Punk in Revolution: Seven More Interpretations of Peruvian Reality, which radically uproots punk from its iconic place in First World urban culture, Anglo popular music, and the Euro-American avant-garde, situating it instead as a crucial element in Peru’s culture of subversive militancy and political violence.

ddhahr_95_1If you’ve missed any special issues of Hispanic American Historical Review (HAHR), you can order them at the discount, too (but subscriptions are not eligible). Check out recent issues of HAHR including “New Directions in Colonial Latin American History” and “The New Drug History of the Americas.” Special issues of Labor, Public Culture, Radical History Review, and all our other journal issues are also on sale.

This special sale runs through May 10. See the rest of the fine print here. After May 10 you can still order the above titles and other Latin American studies works at a flat 30% discount using coupon code LASA17. Happy shopping!