American Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Farewell to Annette Kolodny

Kolodny F12 Author Photo color Photograph by Susanna Corcoran

Photo by Susanna Corcoran

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Annette Kolodny on September 11 after a long illness. Kolodny was College of Humanities Professor Emerita of American Literature and Culture at the University of Arizona. Kolodny published several books with us.

From 1988 to 1993, Kolodny served as Dean of the College of Humanities at the University of Arizona. Following her tenure, she wrote Failing the Future: A Dean Looks at Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century (1998). The book explored the changing structure of the American family and its impact on both curriculum and university benefits policies, offered recommendations for overhauling the culture of decision making on campus, explored the present state of higher education and offered a sobering view of what lies ahead.

Kolodny also edited a highly-praised edition of The Life and Traditions of the Red Man  (2007) by Joseph Nicolar. The Maine Sunday Telegram said the book’s publication was, “a cause for multicultural celebration and a benchmark event in local, regional and even North American scholarship.”

978-0-8223-5286-0_prIn 2012, Kolodny published the capstone to her long and distinguished career, In Search of First Contact: The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland, and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery. The book offers a radically new interpretation of two medieval Icelandic tales, known as the Vinland sagas. Indian Country Today called it “groundbreaking,” and novelist Margaret Atwood shared her enthusiasm for the book on Twitter, calling it “fascinating.”

Read more about Annette Kolodny’s many achievements in her obituary.

We offer our condolences to Professor Kolodny’s colleagues, friends, and family.

 

New Books in September

Summer’s almost over, which means it’s time to start to replenishing your reading list! Celebrate the start of a new academic year with us by checking out this diverse array of books arriving in September.

Acknowledging the impending worldwide catastrophe of rising seas in the twenty-first century, Orrin H. Pilkey and Keith C. Pilkey outline the impacts on the United States’ shoreline and argue that the only feasible response along much of the U.S. shoreline is an immediate and managed retreat in Sea Level Rise.

Brenda R. Weber’s Latter-day Screens examines the ways in which the mediation of Mormonism through film, TV, blogs, YouTube videos, and memoirs functions as a means through which to understand conversations surrounding gender, sexuality, spirituality, capitalism, justice, and individualism in the United States.

Self-Devouring Growth by Julie Livingston shows how the global pursuit of economic and resource-driven growth comes at the expense of catastrophic destruction, thereby upending popular notions that economic growth and development is necessary for improving a community’s wellbeing.

In Under Construction, Daniel Mains explores the intersection of infrastructural development and governance in contemporary Ethiopia by examining the conflicts surrounding the construction of specific infrastructural technologies and how that construction impacts the daily lives of Ethiopians.

Elizabeth Freeman’s Beside You in Time expands bipolitical and queer theory by outlining a temporal view of the long nineteenth century and showing how time became a social and sensory means by which people resisted disciplinary regimes and assembled into groups in ways that created new forms of sociality.

Terry Smith—who is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading historians and theorists of contemporary art—traces the emergence of contemporary art and further develops his concept of contemporaneity in Art to Come through analyses of topics ranging from Chinese and Australian Indigenous art to architecture.

Henry Cow by Benjamin Piekut tells the story of the English experimental rock band Henry Cow and how it linked its improvisational musical aesthetic with a collectivist, progressive politics.

Davina Cooper’s Feeling Like a State explores the unexpected contribution a legal drama of withdrawal—as exemplified by some conservative Christians who deny people inclusion, goods, and services to LGBTQ individuals—might make to conceptualizing a more socially just, participative state.

In Making The Black Jacobins, Rachel Douglas traces the genesis, transformation, and afterlives of the different versions of C. L. R. James’s landmark The Black Jacobins across the decades from the 1930s onwards, showing how James revised it in light of his evolving politics.

William E. Connolly links climate change, fascism, and the nature of truth to demonstrate the profound implications of the deep imbrication between planetary nonhuman processes and cultural developments in Climate Machines, Fascist Drives, and Truth.

Cara New Daggett’s The Birth of Energy traces the genealogy of the idea of energy from the Industrial Revolution to the present, showing how it has informed fossil fuel imperialism, the governance of work, and our relationship to the Earth.

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Honoring Hawai’i on Statehood Day

Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of Hawai‘i’s official admission into the U.S. as a state. While many tourists visiting Hawai‘i may commemorate Statehood Day by experiencing the astounding natural beauty and rich cultural traditions of the islands firsthand, anyone can devote some time to honoring Hawai‘i on this holiday by learning more about the archipelago’s complicated path to statehood.

We’ve highlighted several of our related titles below. By delving into historical issues of native sovereignty and popular protest against annexation, these books not only challenge wholly celebratory narratives of Hawaiian statehood but also illuminate the complex legacy of settler colonialism in contemporary Hawai‘i.

In the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) of 1921, the U.S. Congress defined “native Hawaiians” as those people “with at least one-half blood quantum of individuals inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778.” In Hawaiian Blood, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui provides an impassioned assessment of how the arbitrary correlation of ancestry and race imposed by the U.S. government on the indigenous people of Hawai‘i has had far-reaching legal and cultural effects.

Kauanui is also the author of Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty, which examines contradictions of indigeneity and self-determination in U.S. domestic policy and international law. In this book, Kauanui shows how Hawaiian elites’ approaches to reforming land, gender, and sexual regulation in the early nineteenth century that paved the way for sovereign recognition of the kingdom complicate contemporary nationalist activism, which too often includes disavowing the indigeneity of indigenous Hawaiians.

In Unsustainable Empire Dean Itsuji Saranillio offers a bold challenge to conventional understandings of Hawai‘i’s admission as a U.S. state, showing that statehood was neither the expansion of U.S. democracy nor a strong nation swallowing a weak and feeble island nation, but the result of a U.S. nation whose economy was unsustainable without enacting a more aggressive policy of imperialism.

A powerful critique of colonial historiography, Noenoe K. Silva’s Aloha Betrayed provides a much-needed history of native Hawaiian resistance to American imperialism. Drawing on Hawaiian-language texts, primarily newspapers produced in the nineteenth century and early twentieth, Silva demonstrates that print media was central to social communication, political organizing, and the perpetuation of Hawaiian language and culture.

Nation Within by Tom Coffman details the complex history of the events between the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1893 and its annexation to the United States in 1898. Highlighting the native Hawaiians’ resistance during that five-year span, Coffman shows why occupying Hawaiʻi was crucial to American imperial ambitions.

A Nation Rising, edited by Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua, Ikaika Hussey, and Erin Kahunawaika′ala Wright, chronicles the political struggles and grassroots initiatives collectively known as the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, raising issues that resonate far beyond the Hawaiian archipelago such as Indigenous cultural revitalization, environmental justice, and demilitarization.

Are you planning a trip to Hawai‘i? If you’re interested in learning more about how to practice forms of socially conscious tourism during your visit, we recommend checking out our forthcoming book, Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai‘i, edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez. In this brilliant reinvention of the travel guide, artists, activists, and scholars redirect readers from the fantasy of Hawai‘i as a tropical paradise and tourist destination toward a multilayered and holistic engagement with Hawai‘i’s culture and complex history. The essays, stories, artworks, maps, and tour itineraries in Detours create decolonial narratives in ways that will forever change how readers think about and move throughout Hawai‘i. Detours will be available in November.

New Books in August

Our Fall 2019 season is off to a phenomenal start with a diverse range of titles in Theory and Philosophy, African American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, and more. Take a look at all of these great new books coming in August!

Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory by Patricia Hill Collins

Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory by Patricia Hill Collins offers a set of analytical tools for those wishing to develop intersectionality’s capability to theorize social inequality in ways that would facilitate social change.

In Animate Literacies, Nathan Snaza proposes a new theory of literature and literacy in which he outlines how literacy operates at the interface of humans, nonhuman animals, and objects and has been used as a means to define the human in ways that marginalize others.

Fictions of Land and Flesh by Mark Rifkin

Mark Rifkin’s Fictions of Land and Flesh turns to black and indigenous speculative fiction to show how it offers a site to better understand black and indigenous political movements’ differing orientations in ways that can foster forms of mutual engagement and cooperation without subsuming them into a single political framework in the name of solidarity.

In The Black Shoals Tiffany Lethabo King uses the shoal—an offshore geologic formation that is neither land nor sea—as metaphor, mode of critique, and methodology to theorize the encounter between Black studies and Native studies and its potential to create new epistemologies, forms of practice, and lines of critical inquiry.

Savage Ecology by Jairus Victor Grove

Jairus Victor Grove’s Savage Ecology offers an ecological theorization of geopolitics in which he contends that contemporary global crises are better understood when considered within the larger history of geopolitical practice, showing how political violence is the principal force behind climate change, mass extinction, slavery, genocide, extractive capitalism, and other catastrophes. Watch the trailer for the book here.

In How to Make Art at the End of the World Natalie Loveless examines the institutionalization of artistic research-creation—a scholarly activity that considers art practices as research methods in their own right—and its significance to North American higher education.

Wages Against Artwork Leigh Claire La Berge’s Wages Against Artwork shows how socially engaged art responds to and critiques what she calls decommodified labor—the slow diminishment of wages alongside an increase of demands of work—as a way to work toward social justice and economic equality.

In Sounds of Vacation, edited by Jocelyne Guilbault and Timothy Rommen, the contributors examine the commodification of music and sound at popular vacation destinations throughout the Caribbean in order to tease out the relationships between political economy, hospitality, and the legacies of slavery and colonialism. 

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LGBTQ History

As we remember the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we’re highlighting some LGBTQ history and memoirs of activists and scholars that we’ve published over the years.

My Butch CareerIn My Butch Career, anthropologist Esther Newton tells the compelling and disarming story of her struggle to write, teach, and find love, all while coming to terms with her lesbian identity during one of the worst periods of homophobic persecution in the twentieth century. Writing in Curve magazine, Victoria A. Brownworth says, “What makes My Butch Career so compelling is that while writing about herself, Newton is also examining her milieu with the eye of the cultural anthropologist she became. The story she tells is as much our story as it is hers.” Newton also wrote an essay collection about her academic life, Margaret Mead Made Me Gay, and a history of Cherry Grove, Fire Island, a gay and lesbian resort community near New York City.

The Rest of ItHistorian Martin Duberman has written several memoirs. The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some, 1976–1988 tells the previously untold and revealing story of a twelve-year period in his life filled with despair, drug addiction, and debauchery, yet also a particularly productive time in his professional life. In Lambda Literary Review, D. Gilson wrote,We queers are better off, better informed and better empowered, for Duberman’s astute, engaged lifetime of work. We are also better off for reading The Rest of It, for understanding the beautifully written history of one man, yes, but in effect, a part of the history of us all.”

In her memoir My Dangerous Desires, Amber Hollibaugh fiercely and fearlessly analyzes her own political development as a response to her unique personal history. She explores the concept of labeling and the associated issues of categories such as butch or femme, transgender, bisexual, top or bottom, drag queen, b-girl, or drag king and examines the relationship between activism and desire, as well as how sexuality can be intimately tied to one’s class identity.

DepressionIn Depression: A Public Feeling, Ann Cvetkovich combines memoir and critical essay in search of ways of writing about depression as a cultural and political phenomenon that offer alternatives to medical models. “Depression succeeds at opening up a public discussion on certain kinds of depression that are often dismissed as trivial, like the stress of academic labour,” said William Burton in Lambda Literary Review. Cvetkovich’s book has become a must-read for many stressed-out graduate students.

Exile and Pride is Eli Clare’s revelatory writing about his experiences as a white disabled genderqueer activist/writer established him as one of the leading writers on the intersections of queerness and disability and permanently changed the landscape of disability politics and queer liberation. Jewelle Gomez says, “Eli Clare writes with the spirit of a poet and the toughness of a construction worker.”

Exile within ExilesTurning from memoir to biography, check out Exile within Exiles: Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary by James N. Green. Herbert Daniel was a significant and complex figure in Brazilian leftist revolutionary politics and social activism from the mid-1960s until his death in 1992. Writing in HIV Plus magazine, Donald Padgett says, “Exile Within Exiles speaks to Daniel’s personal struggle not just against the Brazilian dictatorship but also the left’s construction of revolutionary masculinity — as well as his ultimate losing battle against AIDS.”

Hold On to Your Dreams is Tim Lawrence’s biography of the musician and composer Arthur Russell, one of the most important but least known contributors to New York’s downtown music scene during the 1970s and 1980s. Lawrence traces Russell’s odyssey from his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, to countercultural San Francisco, and eventually to New York, where he lived from 1973 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1992. In Bookforum, John Rockwell wrote, “Russell has inspired a book that helps us understand a thrilling twenty-five years of American cultural history.”

Be sure to check out all our LGBTQ Studies titles. They include Kristen Hogan’s history of the feminist bookstore movement; Me and My House, in which Magdalena J. Zaborowska explores James Baldwin’s final decade living in exile in France; Arresting Dress, Clare Sears’s book on cross-dressing in nineteenth-century San Francisco; and Safe Space, in which Christina B. Hanhardt examines how LGBTQ citizens’ desire for a “safe space” is tied up with the gentrification of cities.

And check out “Gay Power circa 1970: Visual Strategies for Sexual Revolution,” an article by Richard Meyer in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, which explores the role of visual images in the gay liberation movement, including the Stonewall Riots.

New Books in June

Looking for some compelling reads this summer? Check out these new titles coming out in June!

Presenting ethnographic case studies from across the globe, the contributors to Anthropos and the Material, edited by Penny Harvey, Christian Krohn-Hansen and Knut G. Nustad, question and complicate long-held understandings of the divide between humans and things by examining encounters between the human and the nonhuman in numerous social, cultural, technological, and geographical contexts.

In Anti-Japan Leo T. S. Ching traces the complex dynamics that shape persisting negative attitudes toward Japan throughout East Asia, showing how anti-Japanism stems from the failed efforts at decolonization and reconciliation, the U.S. military presence, and shifting geopolitical and economic conditions in the region.

The contributors to Captivating Technology, edited by Ruha Benjamin, examine how carceral technologies such as electronic ankle monitors and predictive-policing algorithms are being deployed to classify and coerce specific populations and whether these innovations can be appropriated and reimagined for more liberatory ends.

Focusing on Costa Rica and Brazil, Andrea Ballestero’s A Future History of Water examines the legal, political, economic, and bureaucratic history of water in the context of the efforts to classify it as a human right, showing how seemingly small scale devices such as formulas and lists play large role in determining water’s status.

In Making the World Global, Isaac A. Komola examines how the relationships between universities, the American state, philanthropic organizations, and international financial institutions inform the academic understanding of the world as global in ways that frame higher education as a commodity, private good, and source of human capital.

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

In Entre Nous, Grant Farred examines the careers of international soccer stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, along with his own experience playing for an amateur township team in apartheid South Africa, to theorize the relationship between sports and the intertwined experiences of relation, separation, and belonging.

In The Fixer, Charles Piot follows Kodjo Nicolas Batema, a visa broker in the West African nation of Togo as he helps his clients apply for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery program. The lively stories shed light on current immigration debates.

In The African Roots of Marijuana, an authoritative history of cannabis in Africa, Chris S. Duvall challenges what readers thought they knew about cannabis by correcting widespread myths, outlining its relationship to slavery and colonialism, and highlighting Africa’s centrality to knowledge about and the consumption of one of the world’s most ubiquitous plants.

In Experiments with Empire, Justin Izzo examines how twentieth-century writers, artists, and anthropologists from France, West Africa, and the Caribbean experimented with ethnography and fiction in order to explore new ways of making sense of the complicated legacy of imperialism and to imagine new democratic futures.

Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey traces how indigenous and postcolonial peoples in the Caribbean and Pacific Islands grapple with the enormity of colonialism and anthropogenic climate change through art, poetry, and literature by using allegorical narratives in Allegories of the Anthropocene.

The Romare Bearden Reader, edited by Robert G. O’Meally, brings together a collection of newly written essays and canonical writings by novelists, poets, historians, critics, and playwrights, as well as Bearden’s most important writing, making it an indispensable volume on one of the giants of twentieth-century American art.

Terry Adkins: Infinity is Less Than One, which we are distributing for ICA Miami, accompanies the first institutional posthumous exhibition of the sculptural work of Terry Adkins (1953–2014), one of the great conceptual artists of the twenty-first century renowned for his pioneering work across numerous mediums. The catalogue is edited by Gean Moreno and Alex Gartenfeld.

The contributors to Racism Postrace, edited by Roopali Mukherjee, Sarah Banet-Weiser, and Herman Gray, theorize and examine the persistent concept of post-race in examples ranging from Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” to public policy debates, showing how proclamations of a post-racial society can normalize modes of racism and obscure structural antiblackness.

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Trans Studies en las Américas

coverimageIn honor of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, we’re proud to spotlight “Trans Studies en las Américas,” the newest issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly.

Trans and travesti studies take many forms throughout the Americas: as scholarly work, interventions into state practices, activist actions, and eruptions of creative energies. These approaches are regionally inflected by flows of people, ideas, technologies, and resources.

Trans Studies en las Américas,” edited by Claudia Sofía Garriga-López, Denilson Lopes, Cole Rizki, and Juana María Rodríguez, offers a hemispheric perspective on trans and travesti issues. Contributors explore how shifts in cultural epistemologies, aesthetics, geographies, and languages enliven theorizations of politics, subjectivity, and embodiment.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, freely available.

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Reads

In honor of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month or Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are featuring some of our recent books and journals that explore Asian American and Pacific Islander studies.

racial melancholiaDavid L. Eng and Shinhee Han draws on psychoanalytic case histories from the mid-1990s to the present to explore how first- and second-generation Asian American young adults deal with difficulties such as depression, suicide, and coming out within the larger social context of race, immigration, and sexuality in Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation.

Also looking at the lives of young Asian Americans,  Straight A’s, edited by Christine R. Yano, Neal K. Adolph Akatsuka, features personal narratives of undergraduate students at Harvard University in which they reflect on their shared experiences with discrimination, stereotypes, immigrant communities, their relationship to their Asian heritage, and the difficulties that come with being expected to reach high levels of achievement.

In Paradoxes of Hawaiian SovereigntyJ. Kēhaulani Kauanui examines contradictions of indigeneity and self-determination in U.S. domestic policy and international law, showing how Hawaiian elites’ approaches to reforming land, gender, and sexual regulation in the early nineteenth century that paved the way for sovereign recognition of the kingdom complicate contemporary nationalist activism, which too often includes disavowing the indigeneity of indigenous Hawaiians.

Dean Itsuji Saranillio’s Unsustainable Empire offers a bold challenge to conventional understandings of Hawai‘i’s admission as a U.S. state. Saranillio shows that statehood was neither the expansion of U.S. democracy nor a strong nation swallowing a weak and feeble island nation, but the result of a U.S. nation whose economy was unsustainable without enacting a more aggressive policy of imperialism. With clarity and persuasive force about historically and ethically complex issues, Unsustainable Empire provides a more complicated understanding of Hawai‘i’s admission as the fiftieth state and why Native Hawaiian place-based alternatives to U.S. empire are urgently needed.

postcolonial griefIn Postcolonial Grief, Jinah Kim explores Asian and Asian American texts from 1945 to the present that mourn the loss of those killed by U.S. empire building and militarism in the Pacific, showing how the refusal to heal from imperial violence may help generate a transformative antiracist and decolonial politics.

In Migrant Futures, Aimee Bahng traces the cultural production of futurity by juxtaposing the practices of speculative finance against those of speculative fiction, showing how speculative novels, films, and narratives create alternative futures that envision the potential for new political economies, social structures, and subjectivities that exceed the framework of capitalism.

worldmakingDorinne Kondo draws on critical ethnographic work and over twenty years of experience as a dramaturge and playwright to theorize how racialized labor, aesthetics, affect, genre, and social inequity operate in contemporary theater in Worldmaking.

Jan M. Padios examines the massive call center industry in the Philippines in the context of globalization, race, gender, transnationalism, and postcolonialism in A Nation on the Line. She outlines how it has become a significant site of efforts to redefine Filipino identity and culture, the Philippine nation-state, and the value of Filipino labor.

Migrant Returns  by Eric J. Pido also takes a transnational look at the Filipino experience. His award-winning book examines the complicated relationship between the Philippine economy, Manila’s urban development, and Filipino migrants visiting or returning to their homeland, showing migration to be a multidirectional, layered, and continuous process with varied and often fraught outcomes.

New Books in May

Jump-start your summer reading with one of our new titles this May!

In Coral Empire Ann Elias traces the history of two explorers whose photographs and films of tropical reefs in the 1920s cast corals and the sea as an unexplored territory to be exploited in ways that tied the tropics and reefs to colonialism, racism, and the human domination of nature.

The contributors to Remaking New Orleans, edited by Thomas Jessen Adams and Matt Sakakeeny, challenge the uncritical acceptance of New Orleans-as-exceptional narratives, showing how they flatten the diversity, experience, and culture of the city’s residents and obscure other possible understandings.

The ChasersRenato Rosaldo’s new prose poetry collection, The Chasers, shares his experiences and those of his group of twelve Mexican-American Tucson High School friends known as the Chasers as they grew up, graduated, and fell out of touch, conveying the realities of Chicano life on the borderlands from the 1950s to the present.

In Queering Black Atlantic Religions Roberto Strongman examines three Afro-diasporic religions—Hatian Vodou, Cuban Lucumí/Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé—to demonstrate how the commingling of humans and the divine during trance possession produce subjectivities whose genders are unconstrained by biological sex.

Written in 1937, published in Spanish in 1973, and appearing here in English for the first time, Freddy Prestol Castillo’s novel You Can Cross the Massacre on Foot is one of the few accounts of the 1937 massacre of tens of thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.

Book Reports

In Book Reports, a generous collection of book reviews and literary essays, rock critic Robert Christgau shows readers a different side to his esteemed career with reviews of books ranging from musical autobiographies, criticism, and histories to novels, literary memoirs, and cultural theory.

The contributors to From Russia with Code, edited by Mario Biagioli and Vincent Antonin Lépinay, examine Russian computer scientists, programmers, and hackers in and outside of Russia within the context of new international labor markets and the economic, technological, and political changes in post-Soviet Russia.

In Camp TV Quinlan Miller reframes American television history by tracing a camp aesthetic and the common appearance of trans queer gender characters in both iconic and lesser known sitcoms throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The coauthors of Decolonizing Ethnography integrate ethnography with activist work in a New Jersey center for undocumented workers, showing how anthropology can function as a vehicle for activism and as a tool for marginalized people to theorize their own experiences.

In Work! Elspeth H. Brown traces modeling’s history from the advent of photographic modeling in the early twentieth century to the rise of the supermodel in the 1980s, showing how it is both the quintessential occupation of a modern consumer economy and a practice that has been shaped by queer sensibilities.

In Figures of Time Toni Pape examines contemporary television that often presents a conflict-laden conclusion first before relaying the events that led up to that inevitable ending, showing how this narrative structure attunes audiences to the fear-based political doctrine of preemption—a logic that justifies preemptive action to nullify a perceived future threat.

In Anti-Japan Leo T. S. Ching traces the complex dynamics that shape persisting negative attitudes toward Japan throughout East Asia, showing how anti-Japanism stems from the failed efforts at decolonization and reconciliation, the U.S. military presence, and shifting geopolitical and economic conditions in the region.

The Cuba Reader

Tracking Cuban history from 1492 to the present, this revised and expanded second edition of The Cuba Reader presents myriad perspectives on Cuba’s history, culture, and politics, including a new section that explores the changes and continuities in Cuba since Fidel Castro stepped down from power in 2006.

The Fernando Coronil Reader, a posthumously published collection of anthropologist Fernando Coronil’s most important work, highlights his deep concern with the global South, Latin American state formation, theories of nature, empire and postcolonialism, and anthrohistory as an intellectual and ethical approach.

The extensively updated and revised third edition of the bestselling Social Medicine Reader (Volume I and Volume II) provides a survey of the challenging issues facing today’s health care providers, patients, and caregivers with writings by scholars in medicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. It will be a great addition to courses in public health, medicine, nursing, and more.

Catherine Waldby traces how the history of the valuing of human oocytes—the reproductive cells specific to women—intersects with the biological and social life of women in her new book The Oocyte Economy.

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