African American Studies

New Books in April

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Curling up on the couch with a great book is an excellent way to practice social distancing this month. All these titles will deliver before our sale ends on May 1, so check our website regularly. You can save 50% on all in-stock titles with coupon SPRING50

Tyler Bickford traces the dramatic rise of the “tween” pop music industry in Tween Pop, showing how it marshaled childishness as a key element in legitimizing children’s participation in public culture.

The contributors to Playing for Keeps examine the ways in which musical improvisation can serve as a way to negotiate violence, trauma, systemic inequality, and the aftermaths of war and colonialism. This volume is edited by Daniel Fischlin and Eric Porter.

John F. Szwed’s Space is the Place is the definitive biography of Sun Ra—composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, entrepreneur, poet, self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, and a founder of Afrofuturism. We are pleased to be bringing this classic back into print with a new preface.

In Vital Decomposition, Kristina M. Lyons presents an ethnography of human-soil relations in which she follows state soil scientists and peasant farmers in Colombia’s Putumayo region, showing how their relationship with soil is key to caring for the forest and growing non-illicit crops in the face of violence, militarism, and environmental destruction.

Micha Rahder explores how multiple ways of knowing the forest of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve shape conservation practice, local livelihoods, and landscapes in An Ecology of Knowledges.

In Relations, Marilyn Strathern provides a critical account of anthropology’s key concept of relation and its usage and significance in the English-speaking world, showing how its evolving use over the last three centuries reflects changing thinking about knowledge-making and kin-making.

In Virtual Pedophilia, Gillian Harkins traces the genealogy of the transformation of cultural construction of the pedophile as a social outcast into the image of normative white masculinity from the 1980s to the present, showing how his “normalcy” makes him hard to identify and stop.

In A People’s History of Detroit, Mark Jay and Philip Conklin use a Marxist framework to tell a sweeping story of Detroit from 1913 to the present, outlining the complex socio-political dynamics underlying major events in Detroit’s past, from the rise of Fordism and the formation of labor unions to deindustrialization and the city’s recent bankruptcy.

In Revolution and Disenchantment, Fadi A. Bardawil explores the hopes for and disenchantments with Marxism-Leninism in the writings and actions of revolutionary intellectuals within the 1960s Arab New Left.

In Tehrangeles Dreaming, Farzaneh Hemmasi draws on ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles and musical and textual analysis to examine how the pop music, music videos, and television made by Iranian expatriates express modes of Iranianness not possible in Iran.

The Lonely Letters is an epistolary blackqueer critique of the normative world in which Ashon T. Crawley meditates on the interrelation of blackqueer life, sounds of the black church, theology, mysticism, and the potential for platonic and erotic connection in a world that conspires against blackqueer life.

Drawing on Whitman and Adorno, Morton Schoolman proposes aesthetic education through film as a way to redress the political violence inflicted on difference society constructs as its racialized, gendered, Semitic, and sexualized other in A Democratic Enlightenment.

In Kwaito Bodies, Xavier Livermon examines the cultural politics of the youthful black body in South Africa through the performance, representation, and consumption of Kwaito—a style of electronic dance music that emerged following the end of apartheid.

Reflecting on the experience, philosophy, and practice of Latin American indigenous and Afro-descendant activist-intellectuals who mobilize to defend their territories from large-scale extraction, Arturo Escobar shows in Pluriversal Politics how the key to addressing planetary crises is the creation of the pluriverse—a world of many epistemological and ontological worlds.

The contributors to AIDS and the Distribution of Crises outline the myriad ways that the AIDS pandemic exists within a network of varied historical, overlapping, and ongoing crises borne of global capitalism and colonial, racialized, and gendered violence. This collection is edited by Jih-Fei Cheng, Alexandra Juhasz, and Nishant Shahani. It is currently available to read free online as part of our Navigating the Threat of Pandemic syllabus.

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Black History Month Reads

To celebrate Black History Month, we are featuring some of our recent books and journals that explore Black and African-American history, issues, and culture.

Honeypot

In Honeypot, E. Patrick Johnson combines magical realism, poetry, and performative writing to bear witness to the real-life stories of black southern queer women in ways that reveal the complexity of identity and the challenges these women face.

The concluding volume in a poetic triptych that began with Spill, and continued with M Archive, Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony takes inspiration from theorist Sylvia Wynter, dub poetry, and ocean life to offer a catalog of possible methods for remembering, healing, listening, and living otherwise.

In Everything Man, Shana L. Redmond traces Paul Robeson’s continuing cultural resonances in popular culture and politics, showing how he remains a vital force and presence for all those he inspired.

afterlife ofIn The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery, Alys Eve Weinbaum investigates the continuing resonances of Atlantic slavery in the cultures and politics of human reproduction that characterize contemporary capitalism, showing how black feminist thought offers the best means through which to understand the myriad ways slavery continues to haunt the present.

Allyson Nadia Field and Marsha Gordon examine the place and role of race in educational films, home movies, industry and government films, anthropological films, church films, and other forms of noncommercial filmmaking throughout the twentieth century in Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film.

Peoples History of DetroitMark Jay and Philip Conklin use a Marxist framework to tell a sweeping story of Detroit from 1913 to the present in A People’s History of Detroit, which comes out in May. It outlines the complex socio-political dynamics underlying major events in Detroit’s past, from the rise of Fordism and the formation of labor unions to deindustrialization and the city’s recent bankruptcy. 

In Art for People’s Sake, Rebecca Zorach traces the little-told story of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, showing how its artistic innovations, institution building, and community engagement helped the residents of Chicago’s South and West Sides respond to social, political, and economic marginalization.

In Black Madness :: Mad Blackness, Therí Alyce Pickens examines the speculative and science fiction of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Tananarive Due to rethink the relationship between race and disability, thereby unsettling the common theorization that they are mutually constitutive.

UnfixedJennifer Bajorek traces the relationship between photography and decolonial politics in Francophone west Africa in the years immediately leading up to and following independence from French colonial rule in 1960 in Unfixed. She shows how photography both reflected and actively contributed to social and political change. 

In Beneath the Surface, Lynn M. Thomas constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies.

Beyond countering the brutalizing omission of black British artists in both the art scene and art history chronicles, “Black British Art Histories,” an issue of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, presents perceptive, probing, and illuminating considerations of a range of artists whose practices are fascinating, complex, and of great art-historical importance.

The essays in “Trajectories in Race and Diaspora: Entangled Histories and Affinities of Transgression,” an issue of Qui Parle edited by Donna Honarpisheh, unfold at the dynamic intersections of race and diaspora in a global context. Each essay is preoccupied with how race—as an ontological category born of violence—produces edges, wounds, or incisions that nurture opportunities for further ontological transgressions with possible liberatory potentials.

New Books in February

This month, we’re releasing an array of new reads in all of the subjects you love. Take a look at these new books coming this February!

The concluding volume in a poetic triptych, Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony takes inspiration from theorist Sylvia Wynter, dub poetry, and ocean life to offer a catalog of possible methods for remembering, healing, listening, and living otherwise.

In Wild Blue Media, Melody Jue destabilizes terrestrial-based media theory frameworks and reorients the perception of the world by considering the ocean itself as a media environment—a place where the weight and opacity of seawater transforms how information is created, stored, transmitted, and perceived.

In The Ocean in the School, Rick Bonus tells the stories of Pacific Islander students at the University of Washington as they and their allies struggled to transform a university they believed did not value their presence into a space based on meaningfulness, respect, and multiple notions of student success.

In Orozco’s American Epic, Mary K. Coffey examines José Clemente Orozco’s mural cycle Epic of American Civilization, which indicts history as complicit in colonial violence and questions the claims of Manifest Destiny in the United States and the Mexican desire to mend the wounds of conquest in pursuit of a postcolonial national project.

Nandita Sharma traces the development of the categories of migrants and natives from the nineteenth century to the present in Home Rule to theorize how the idea of people’s rights being tied to geographical notions of belonging came to be.

In Unfixed, Jennifer Bajorek traces the relationship between photography and decolonial politics in Francophone west Africa in the years immediately leading up to and following independence from French colonial rule in 1960, showing how photography both reflected and actively contributed to social and political change.

In Are You Entertained?, a collection of essays, interviews, visual art, and artist statements on topics ranging from music and dance to Black Twitter and the NBA’s dress code, the contributors consider what culture and Blackness mean in the twenty-first century’s digital consumer economy. This volume is edited by Simone C. Drake and Dwan K. Henderson.

In Musicophilia in Mumbai, Tejaswini Niranjana traces the place of Hindustani classical music in Mumbai throughout the long twentieth century, showing how the widespread love of music throughout the city created a culture of collective listening and social subjects who embodied new forms of modernity.

Focusing on the work of a Marxist anticolonial literary group active in India between the 1930s and 1950s, Neetu Khanna rethinks the project of decolonization in The Visceral Logics of Decolonization by showing how embodied and affective responses to colonial subjugation provide the catalyst for developing revolutionary consciousness.

Contributors to Queer Korea, edited by Todd A. Henry, offer interdisciplinary analyses of non-normative sexuality and gender nonconformity in Korea, extending individualized notions of queer neoliberalism beyond those set in Western queer theory.

Drawing on Marxist phenomenology, geography, and aesthetics and film from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan made between the 1990s and the present, Erin Y. Huang theorizes the economic, cultural, and political conditions of neoliberal postsocialist China in Urban Horror.

The contributors to Affective Trajectories examine the mutual and highly complex entwinements between religion and affect in urban Africa in the early twenty-first century, tracing the myriad ways religious ideas, practices, and materialities interact with affect to configure life in urban African spaces. This collection is edited by Hansjörg Dilger, Astrid Bochow, Marian Burchardt, and Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon.

In Naked Agency, Naminata Diabate explores how the deployment of defiant nakedness by mature women in Africa challenges longstanding assumptions about women’s political agency.

From The Guiding Light to Passions, Elana Levine traces the history of daytime television soap operas as an innovative and highly gendered mass cultural form in Her Stories.

In Seeing by Electricity, Doron Galili traces television’s early history, from the fantastical devices initially imagined fifty years before the first television prototypes to the emergence of broadcast television in the 1930s, showing how television was always discussed and treated in relation to cinema.

Jeremy Packer and Joshua Reeves provide a critical account of the history and future of automation in warfare in Killer Apps by highlighting the threats posed by the latest advances in media technology and artificial intelligence.

Originally published in German in 1978 and appearing here in English for the first time, the second volume of Peter Weiss’s three-volume novel The Aesthetics of Resistance depicts anti-fascist resistance, radical proletarian political movements, and the relationship between art and resistance from the late 1930s to World War II.

Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop by Sarah Eckhardt accompanies the exhibition of the photography of Virginia artist Louis Draper and other members of the Kamoinge Workshop that opens at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in February 2020. We are distributing it for the museum.

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New Subject Collections: Anthropology; African American, African, and Black Diaspora Studies

We’re pleased to announce the addition of two new e-book subject collections to our library offerings: the African American, African, and Black Diaspora Studies collection and the Anthropology collection.

The African American, African, and Black Diaspora Studies e-book collection includes more than 350 titles that span the humanities and social sciences, covering history, religion, literature, art, music, anthropology, sociology, and other areas of study. Reflecting the global black experience, titles explore regions including Africa, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and North and South America. The collection includes work by essential thinkers including C. Eric Lincoln, Deborah Thomas, Fred Moten, Houston Baker, Achille Mbembe, Jennifer Nash, Karla Holloway, and others.

The Anthropology e-book collection presents over 550 titles in a discipline for which Duke University Press is well-known. Through traditional fieldwork and ethnography, cutting-edge theoretical approaches, and innovative reinventions of anthropological writing, the authors in this collection represent the best scholarship in the field. From analyses of the living history offered at Colonial Williamsburg to the complex interweavings of television and gender in postcolonial India, from Islam and political power in a village in Niger to the forms of performative public protest in Cochabamba, Bolivia, this collection shows the possibilities of anthropological research.

These new additions join our existing collections in Art and Art History, Asian Studies, Gender Studies, Latin American Studies, Music and Sound Studies, and Religious Studies. Ask your librarian to learn more here.


New Books in January

If one of your resolutions for 2020 is to read more books, we’ve got you covered. Ring in the new year with these captivating new releases!

In Beneath the Surface, Lynn M. Thomas constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond, theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies.

Weaving U.S. history into the larger fabric of world history, the contributors to Crossing Empires de-exceptionalize the American empire, placing it in a global transimperial context as a way to grasp the power relations that shape imperial formations. This collection is edited by Kristin L. Hoganson and Jay Sexton.

Engaging contemporary photography by Sally Mann, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and others, Shawn Michelle Smith traces how historical moments come to be known photographically and the ways in which the past continues to inhabit, punctuate, and transform the present through the photographic medium in Photographic Returns.

Spanning the centuries between pre-contact indigenous Haiti to the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the selections in The Haiti Reader introduce readers to Haiti’s dynamic history and culture from the viewpoint of Haitians from all walks of life. This volume is edited by Laurent Dubois, Kaiama L. Glover, Nadève Ménard, Millery Polyné, and Chantalle F. Verna.

The contributors to Futureproof (edited by D. Asher Ghertner, Hudson McFann, and Daniel M. Goldstein) examine the affective and aesthetic dimensions of security infrastructures and technology with studies ranging from Jamaica and Jakarta to Colombia and the US-Mexico border.

Examining abjection in a range of visual and material culture, the contributors to Abjection Incorporated move beyond critiques of abjection as a punitive form of social death to theorizing how it has become a means to acquire political and cultural capital in the twenty-first century. This volume is edited by Maggie Hennefeld and Nicholas Sammond.

Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-Barriga argue that border wall construction along the U.S.–Mexico border manifests transformations in citizenship practices that are aimed not only at keeping migrants out but also enmeshing citizens into a wider politics of exclusion in Fencing in Democracy.

In Politics of Rightful Killing, Sima Shakhsari analyzes the growth of Weblogistan—the online and real-life transnational network of Iranian bloggers in the early 2000s—and the ways in which despite being an effective venue for Iranians to pursue their political agendas, it was the site for surveillance, cooptation, and self-governance.

In Invisibility by Design, Gabriella Lukács traces how young Japanese women’s unpaid labor as bloggers, net idols, “girly” photographers, online traders, and cell phone novelists was central to the development of Japan’s digital economy in the 1990s and 2000s.

Presented in the context of the nonprofit arts collective More Art’s fifteen-year history, and featuring first-person testimony, critical essays, and in-depth documentary materials, More Art in the Public Eye is an essential, experiential guide to the field of socially engaged public art and its increasing relevance. This volume is edited by Micaela Martegani, Jeff Kasper, and Emma Drew, and we are distributing it for More Art.

Shana L. Redmond traces Paul Robeson’s continuing cultural resonances in popular culture and politics in Everything Man, showing how he remains a vital force and presence for all those he inspired.

In The Complete Lives of Camp People, Rudolf Mrázek presents a sweeping study of the material and cultural lives of internees of two twentieth-century concentration camps and the multiple ways in which their experiences speak to and reveal the fundamental logics of modernity.

In Avian Reservoirs, Frédéric Keck traces how the anticipation of bird flu pandemics has changed relations between birds and humans in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, showing that humans’ reliance on birds is key to mitigating future pandemics.

Collecting texts from all corners of the world that span antiquity to the present, The Ocean Reader (edited by Eric Paul Roorda) charts humans’ relationship to the ocean, treating it as a dynamic site of history, culture, and politics.

The contributors to Blue Legalities attend to the seas as a legally and politically conflicted space to analyze the conflicts that emerge where systems of governance interact with complex geophysical, ecological, economic, biological, and technological processes. This collection is edited by Irus Braverman and Elizabeth R. Johnson.

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The Most Read Articles of 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on the most read articles across all our journals. Check out the top 10 articles that made the list, all freely available until the end of January.

Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy” by Alice E. Marwick
Public Culture volume 27, issue 1 (75)

Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin” by Donna Haraway
Environmental Humanities volume 6, issue 1

Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” by Cathy J. Cohen
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies volume 3, issue 4

After Trans Studies” by Andrea Long Chu and Emmett Harsin Drager
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly volume 6, issue 1

Necropolitics” by Achille Mbembe
Public Culture volume 15, issue 1

Markup Bodies: Black [Life] Studies and Slavery [Death] Studies at the Digital Crossroads” by Jessica Marie Johnson
Social Text volume 36, issue 4 (137)

Twin-Spirited Woman: Sts’iyóye smestíyexw slhá:li” by Saylesh Wesley
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly volume 1, issue 3

Gender and Nation Building in Qatar: Qatari Women Negotiate Modernity” by Alainna Liloia
Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies volume 15, issue 3

All Power to All People?: Black LGBTTI2QQ Activism, Remembrance, and Archiving in Toronto” by Syrus Marcus Ware
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly volume 4, issue 2

Unruly Edges: Mushrooms as Companion Species: For Donna Haraway” by Anna Tsing
Environmental Humanities volume 1, issue 1

Our Editors Pick Their Books of the Decade

As we come to the end of a decade, our editors look back at some of the most influential books we’ve published since 2010.

Ken Wissoker, Editorial Director

In the WakeI’m proud to have worked on a great number of field-changing and prize-winning books this decade, many of which had sway far beyond the academy. The one title that stands out for me is Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake. I’d worked with Christina on her exceptional first book Monstrous Intimacies so knew there was more brilliance to come. I can still picture the room at MLA in Vancouver where I first heard her present In the Wake’s powerful poetic text, compelling at so many layers at once. We were awed by her ability to move from the deeply familial and personal to the scale of world history without losing either the tone or the theory; by the stark realism of her account of Black death; and by the call to live on despite the weather. The book came out in November of 2016, by mid-March of the following year, artist Cauleen Smith had adopted the book’s title for her contribution to the 2017 Whitney Biennial.  I’ve since seen Sharpe’s work deeply engaged by Torkwase Dyson and other artists. Her narrating of the wake, the ship, the hold, and the weather — along with the idea of wakework itself — has been taken up by writers, critics, activists and readers, who felt Sharpe had named something for their lives. This quick recognition —the sense of being recognized, seen, or heard — is unusual and deeply special.  The book is an extraordinary gift to our ongoing political moment, one that will resonate for many years to come.

Courtney Berger, Executive Editor

Vibrant MatterIt’s been 10 years since we published Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (January 2010).  When I first read the manuscript, I knew it would be important. I knew that Bennett’s generous and reflective way of thinking and her engaging writing style would widen its audience beyond political theory (Bennett’s home discipline). But I had no idea how influential the book would be, setting the stage for a decade of conversation and debate about “thing-power” and the agential capacities of the nonhuman. Bennett’s plea to recognize the influence of nonhuman forces and things in the political realm and to decenter the human resonated with me and many others seeking new ways of thinking about our relationship to our environment. Influential books often provoke debate and this one certainly has done that. But, for me, the books that matter in the long run are the ones that invite me to think with them. Vibrant Matter is that kind of book. Bennett’s ideas have generated critique, disagreement, and reflection, all of which has pushed scholarship in new and important directions.  Notably, Mel Chen’s Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (2012) builds upon Bennett’s attention to the affective dimensions of the nonhuman material world, but shows us how race, sexuality, and disability have shaped our notions of liveliness and of who and what matters in this world.  In The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century (2017) Kyla Schuller extends this critique, illustrating how the 19th century sciences of “impressibility” and animacy helped to solidify ontologies of racial difference, ideas that have had an often unacknowledged afterlife in new materialist philosophies.  Moreover, Bennett’s work has helped to lay the ground work for innovative book series like ANIMA, edited by Mel Chen and Jasbir Puar, which brings queer, race, and disability theory to bear on our understanding of life and matter, and Elements, edited by Stacy Alaimo and Nicole Starosielski, which foregrounds the material elements as lively forces that shape politics and culture.

My task was to name one book of the decade, and as you see, instead I named one book, and two more, and then two book series. Maybe that’s my way of dodging the task. But it also speaks to the expansive and generative quality of books, as they travel, intersect, and influence one another, as well as the vibrancy of the scholarly conversations I’m so privileged to be a part of. I can’t wait to see which books make their mark in the coming decade. . . .

Gisela Fosado, Editor

Light in the DarkGloria Anzaldúa’s brilliant book Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro is a work that is decades ahead of its time.  Published in 2015, but written before Anzaldúa’s untimely death in 2004, the book engages feminist and queer aesthetics, ontologies, epistemologies, and ethics, offering a new decolonial vision for our world.  It’s a must-read for all feminist scholars.

Elizabeth Ault, Editor

My book of the decade is Kristin Peterson’s Speculative Markets. I arrived at Duke Press in 2012, mere weeks after Speculative Marketsdefending my dissertation in American studies (focused on Black-cast sitcoms of the 1970s). I was pretty burnt out after 6 years of grad school, and feeling a little distant and alienated from the political passion and the joy of intellectual inquiry that had put me on an academic path in the first place. Speculative Markets was one of the first books I got to work on at the Press. Peterson’s book, an ethnography of pharmaceuticals in Nigeria, wasn’t an obvious fit with my areas of expertise. But the book begins with a blistering account of structural adjustment in the global 1970s and 80s, providing African perspectives on the global rise of neoliberalism, which had loomed large in my previous work. Thinking neoliberalism, the durability of colonial forms, speculation, and global anti-Blackness from Nigeria with Peterson introduced me to what cultural and medical anthropology and African studies can do. The book reoriented my perspective, introduced me to new conversations, and reminded me of the power of scholarship. It’s helped me chart the course that has comprised my career here at the Press over the past 7 years, which is why it’s my book of the decade.

Miriam Angress, Associate Editor

RemnantsOne of the books I’m joyful to have worked on is Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering, written by Rosemarie Freeney Harding with her daughter Rachel Elizabeth Harding. The author—an influential civil-rights activist—believed in the unity of all great spiritual teachings, and practiced multiple religions herself; she looked for the compassionate underpinnings of these traditions, such as the link she saw between Tibetan Buddhist teachings and lessons she learned from her mother as they visited dying relatives. Remnants incorporates stories of her civil rights leadership, co-founding an early integrated community center in Atlanta with her husband Dr. Vincent Harding, and working with friends and colleagues including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Anne Braden, Dr. Howard Thurman and Sue Bailey Thurman, and Sweet Honey in the Rock singer Bernice Reagon.

Rachel Harding (Associate Professor of Indigenous Spiritual Traditions at University of Colorado) worked with her mother on the memoir for a decade before Freeney Harding’s death in 2004. After that, she excavated her mother’s voice from journals, previously published material, recordings, and her own memories.

Sandra Korn, Assistant Editor

Normal Life2011 was the year I realized that I was queer, and the year that I officially scrapped my parents’ dreams that I would become a scientist, when I switched my undergraduate major to Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies. It’s also the year that Dean Spade first published Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law with South End Press. Same-sex marriage legalization and hate crime laws covering gender identity were slowly sweeping the U.S. state by state. Yet Dean Spade taught me that waiting for the courts to grant legal equality (the model adopted by the gay and lesbian rights movement) would never be sufficient to address the root causes of violence against trans people across the planet. Instead, Spade argues that trans liberation requires a grassroots movement, led by trans people most impacted by criminalization, surveillance, and detention and deportation. Duke Press published the second edition of Normal Life in 2015, and this book feels just as necessary as we head into 2020.

 

 

2019 Foerster Prize Winner Announced

We’re pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Norman Foerster Prize, awarded to the best essay of the year in American Literature: “Reconstructing Revenge: Race and Justice after the Civil War” by Gregory Laski, published in volume 91, issue 4. Read the essay, freely available through the end of March, here.

The prize committee had this to say about the winning essay:

“Gregory Laski presents an ambitious, thorough, and wide-ranging discussion of the vexed rhetoric of revenge and forgiveness in the postbellum South. His reading of diverse historical and legal documents concerned with vengeance demonstrates both the risks and utility of vengeance during this period; it also deftly sets up his persuasive reading of Pauline Hopkins’s understudied 1902 novel Winona. Laski dismantles the false distinction between justice and revenge through the notion of “righteous revenge” in paradigm-shifting ways. That this idea engages with larger ethical questions about the redress of (ongoing) wrongs perpetrated against African Americans is made explicit in the elegant coda.”

There were two runners-up for this year’s Foerster Prize: Sara Marcus’s “‘Time Enough, but None to Spare’: The Indispensable Temporalities of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition” (volume 91, issue 1) and Julius B. Fleming Jr.’s “Transforming Geographies of Black Time: How the Free Southern Theater Used the Plantation for Civil Rights Activism” (volume 91, issue 3). Both essays are freely available through March. The committee had these comments to share about the two runners-up:

“Sara Marcus’s essay challenges the prevailing tendency to associate linear time with heteronormativity, capital, racism, and imperialism and—correspondingly—nonlinear time with queerness, resistance, refusal, and escape.  Although this association has been useful in some ways, Marcus argues that it sets up a simplistic binary. In an insightful reading of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition, Marcus shows that both normative and nonnormative temporalities are utilized by white supremacists to maintain and assert power. Conversely, teleological concepts for time can be embraced by black characters in the name of progress, while blackness can also interrupt the violence of racism by suspending time. Marcus strongly and convincingly makes the case that neither linear nor nonlinear temporalities are inherently oppressive or liberatory and therefore that scholars working on time abandon these cut-and-dried associations.

“Julius B. Fleming Jr. assembles a wide-ranging and unique archive to theorize what he terms ‘black patience,’ a concept whose contours, uses, and misuses he traces with meticulous care and bold insight. In the process, he advances a methodological approach to black patience (and to other useful notions, including time and timing more generally) that should deeply inform scholarship in African American culture, political organizing, and performance. This essay is a feat of original research, syncretic analysis, and inventive theorization.”

Congratulations to Gregory Laski, Sara Marcus, and Julius B. Fleming Jr.!

Diving Deep into Black Sacred Music

In today’s post, Dan Ruccia, Marketing Designer at Duke University Press and PhD in music composition, digs deep into our journal Black Sacred Music: A Journal of Theomusicology (published 1987–1995), outlining its highlights and contributions. Access to Black Sacred Music’s full archive is now available via individual subscription or library purchase.

coverimageIn the preface to “The Theology of American Popular Music” (3:2, 1989), Black Sacred Music editor Yahya Jongintaba (then known as Jon Michael Spencer) described theomusicology as “a musicological method for theologizing about the sacred (the religious/churched), the secular (the theistic unreligious/un-churched), and the profane (the atheistic/irreligious) . . . principally incorporating methods borrowed from anthropology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy.” Jongintaba saw theomusicology as a distinct branch of musicological study akin to ethnomusicology. He further envisioned it as a way to drive scholarly interest in popular music, which was then still largely ignored by musicology (popular music studies was still very much in its infancy) and religious studies. 

During its nine years of publication (1987–1995), the journal took a broad approach to its subject area, publishing scholarly essays on spirituals, the blues, rock, hip hop, and musical practices of the African and African-American church alongside a rich collection of archival documents recounting Black musical life from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Below are a few highlights.

coverimageIn “Musicology as a Theologically Informed Discipline” (8:1, 1994), journal editor Yahya Jongintaba lays out what he sees as the parameters of theomusicology as distinct from ethnomusicology. As he re-articulates the points about the interdisciplinary influences mentioned above, he also makes pointed critiques about the colonialist, eurocentric, and racist roots of those disciplines. He suggests that “theology can, in turn, liberate the social sciences by its willingness to confront oppressive scholarly methods, constructs, and intents on ethical grounds.” 

On Afro-American Popular Music: From Bebop to Rap” (6:1, 1992), part of the special issue “Sacred Music of the Secular City: From Blues to Rap,” is a reprint of a 1983 article in which Cornel West “provide[s] a cognitive mapping of the major breaks and ruptures in Afro-American popular music in light of their changing socioeconomic and political contexts from bebop to rap, from Charlie Parker to the Sugarhill Gang.” He gives special attention to Motown, the “technofunk” of Parliament/Funkadelic, and rap as dynamic expressions of Black identity and norm-breaking.

coverimageThe journal also featured some of the earliest scholarly discourse around hip hop, contained in the issue “The Emergency of Black and the Emergence of Rap” (5:1, 1991). Contributors to the issue chart the distinct phases of rap’s first decade, analyze the way Nation of Islam ideology weaves its way through Public Enemy’s music and performance, and investigate the African spirituality of MC Hammers “U Can’t Touch This.” Perhaps the most provocative article in the issue is Sonja Peterson-Lewis’s “A Feminist Analysis of the Defenses of Obscene Rap Lyrics,” which responds to the 2 Live Crew obscenity trial in 1990. Peterson-Lewis critiques 2 Live Crew’s lyrics, particularly the way their depictions of violence against women reinforce sexist tropes.

coverimageAnother key contribution from the journal was its publication of important archival materials. Most of its regular issues feature some kind of historical reprint: antislavery songs; accounts of the use of spirituals in various contexts; and articles by figures such as Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes. In the issue Unsung Hymns by Black and Unknown Bards (4:1, 1990), Jongintaba collected 100 hymns—some are just lyrics, others include sheet music—written by 14 hymnists over nearly two centuries. While none of the authors are anonymous (like the authors/composers of many spirituals), most had been forgotten to history.

Finally, the journal published two invaluable readers of the prominent African-American composers William Grant Still (6:2, 1992) and R. Nathaniel Dett (5:2, 1991). The Dett Reader compiles 20 essays written between 1918 and 1938, documenting his research into the origins and history of spirituals. The Still Reader features 35 essays spanning 40 years discussing his views on classical music, race, and the role of the composer in the 20th century. These issues represent the most comprehensive collections of primary documents by these men.

Black Sacred Music provided a trove of innovative research and significant historical documents that cannot be found anywhere else. Today, scholars on four continents are involved in producing an array of theomusicology-focused books, articles, dissertations, theses, papers, lectures, blogs, and courses.

Black Sacred Music Archive Now Available

We are excited to announce the digitization of Black Sacred Music: A Journal of Theomusicology, published semiannually from 1987 to 1995 and now available online for the first time.

Subscribe now for access, or ask your library to purchase the archive.

Black Sacred Music, under the editorship of Yahya Jontingaba (formerly known as Jon Michael Spencer), sought to establish theomusicology—a theologically informed musicology—as a distinct discipline, incorporating methods from anthropology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy to examine the full range of black sacred music. Topics included the theology of American pop, the early days of rap, the African church, spirituals, gospel music, civil rights songs, and much more.

The journal consisted of scholarly articles, essays, hymns and folk songs, sermons, historical reprints, and reviews of books, hymn books, and recordings. It also published volumes of archival writings by R. Nathaniel Dett, William Grant Still, and Willis Laurence James.

Notable contributors include Philip V. Bohlman, Michael Eric Dyson, Andrew Greeley, Mark Sumner Harvey, Willie James Jennings, D. Soyini Madison, Sonja Peterson-Lewis, Harold Dean Trulear, William C. Turner Jr., Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, Cornel West, and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.