Art

A Teachable Book: Integrating Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics into your Syllabus

In this guest post, Lisa E. Bloom shares a teaching guide for her new book Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics. We hope you’ll consider adding it to your 2023 syllabus!

Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics: Artists Reimagine the Arctic and Antarctic is a teachable book, clear enough for undergraduates and challenging enough to use with graduate students. The book engages feminist, Black, Indigenous, and non-Western perspectives to address the exigencies of the experience of the Anthropocene and its attendant ecosystem failures brought on by the burning of oil, gas, and coal that has led to polar ice and glacial melt, rising sea levels, deadly floods, fires, and climate-led migrations. The book addresses the way contemporary artists, activists, and filmmakers are devising a new polar aesthetics that challenges the dominant narrative of mainstream media, which equates climate change with apocalyptic spectacles of melting ice and desperate polar bears, and green capitalism with masculinist imagery of sublime wilderness and imperial heroics.

In what follows I present many different threads that you can use to connect the book to an already existing syllabi in a diverse range of courses. For those who have already taught my earlier books or articles but especially Gender on Ice: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions (1993), you might also be interested in teaching this one as some of the artists were influenced by my earlier writings.

For feminist art history, visual culture or design classes, teachers might be interested in teaching Chapters 1 and 2. Though at first glance climate art and film on the polar region and the Circumpolar North might seem gender and race neutral, the feminist intersectional analysis of representation of the Arctic and Antarctic in these chapters suggests that this welcome reemergence of interest in polar narratives and art often comes wrapped in a colonial nostalgia for white male heroism.  Chapter 1 on Antarctica focuses on four contemporary women artists — Anne Noble, Judit Hersko, Connie Samaras, and Joyce Campbell — whose work collectively creates a specifically feminist critical aesthetics that counters such an approach, since their art  addresses the historic exclusion of women altogether from the continent until the 1960s and 1970s and the way the visual tropes of Antarctica as the last great wilderness on earth contribute to maintaining the perception that Antarctica is still an all-male continent or a living memorial to this earlier moment when only men could populate the continent.

Chapter 2 might also be of interest since it  complicates official polar exploration art by creating plausible, yet fictional, accounts based on the historical record to address the climate crisis. Isaac Julien’s reformulation of the African American polar explorer Matthew Henson (1866 – 1955) not only makes Henson’s accomplishments part of northern polar exploration but creates a new fictional persona for him that challenges mainstream homophobic narratives of imperial heroics. Swedish artist Katja Aglert, in her conceptual project Winter Event — Antifreeze, uses a variety of media and aesthetic techniques to unsettle colonialist and nationalist masculinist history as the major mode of engagement in the Arctic till this day.

In Chapter 3 there is work on the new polar aesthetics that addresses questions of memory and what it means to make art and film about a warming Arctic without sentimentalizing or spectacularizing Indigenous suffering. Film and media studies scholars might be interested in my discussion of three innovative short films on the Arctic that call forth new representations of the climate crisis that focus on a world beset by uncertainty. An online documentary by Zacharias Kunuk and Ian Munro, titled Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change (2010), takes the perspective of an Igloolik community highly affected by climate change. It puts front and center communities from Canada’s Circumpolar North, who craft a decolonial method of knowledge production through filmmaking.

Chapters 4 and 5, cowritten with Elena Glasberg, suggests that the category of art continues to change as artists create new aesthetic arrangements of visibility capable of comprehending the material and representational aspects of climate breakdown (Roni Horn, Amy Balkin, Lillian Ball, Andrea Bowers and Annie Pootoogook). Artists and art historians might be interested in teaching these chapters as artists discussed in this section focus on some of these new aesthetic practices and the way they sensitize us to the unfolding process of climate breakdown. They also might be adopted in more general classes that include the iconic photography of Yosemite by Ansel Adams and Carleton Watkins and coverage of the pieces of land art or environmental art from the 1960s or 1970s. Teachers could juxtapose these earlier works with those emerging from Indigenous, feminist and non-western contexts in the Circumpolar North (Subhankar Banerjee, Andrea Bowers, Amy Balkin, amongst others) to consider a wider range of new directions in art, photography, and conceptual art that engages landscape, environment and ecology. Such approaches contest older romantic views of pristine nature in the Arctic that continues to be used to justify Indigenous absence rather than presence.

Again scholars of visual culture, film and media studies might be interested in Chapter 6  that focuses on innovative new-media films that take into account increased development by the oil industry, local knowledge, and the resilience of Indigenous communities. Combining strategies from documentary and speculative fiction genres, while incorporating scientific fact, these films demonstrate the challenges of representing the built-in invisibilities of climate change as well as the corporate obfuscations of the damage caused by extractivism. The chapter discusses experimental projects by the Swiss video artist Ursula Biemann and the Canadian filmmaker Brenda Longfellow to bring awareness to what is not otherwise fully visible by creating new forms of perception and representational framings that capture the intricacies of visibility.

Chapter 7 focuses on more collaborative and participatory forms of art and film  to move students past the psychic numbing of being overwhelmed by climate change while demonstrating their own political agency as central to imagining and constructing a better world. Activist artists such as Liberate Tate, the British Platform collective, Not an Alternative, and the Yes Men express a desire for change within the museum system of sponsorship, governance, and finance. Their work aims at holding Western art, natural history, and science museums to account for their complicity through the solicitation and acceptance of corporate sponsorship, in enabling climate change and perpetuating the colonial narratives that underlie it.

The later chapters might be taught in a wider range of courses since they show how historically under-represented groups are also pioneering new forms of environmental justice work in their resistance, and this, too, applies to Arctic Inuit women activists discussed in this book, such as Sheila Watt-Cloutier who movingly demanded “the right to be cold.” Watt-Cloutier has been instrumental in shaping an environmental justice campaign and has been widely recognized for suggesting that climate change is a matter of both Indigenous and multispecies survival (chapters 6, 7 and epilogue). For her “if we don’t have our environment, we cannot survive. “ Artists, writers, activists, and filmmakers in Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics share her vision in creating an alternative voice for the future, one opposed to the seemingly inevitable colonial imaginary for which the environment is a means that supports the ends of unregulated capitalism and hyperextractivism.

Lisa E. Bloom is Scholar-in-Residence at the Beatrice Bain Research Group in the Department of Gender and Women’s studies, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Gender On Ice: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions. We invite you to request an exam copy on our website, and your students can save 30% on Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics with coupon E22BLOOM.

Q&A with Jean-Thomas Tremblay

Tremblay_headshot_2022_1Jean-Thomas Tremblay is Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities in the Department of Humanities at York University and coeditor of Avant-Gardes in Crisis: Art and Politics in the Long 1970s. Their new book Breathing Aesthetics examines the prominence of breathing in responses to contemporary crises within literature, film, and performance cultures, showing how breathing has emerged as a medium through which biopolitical and necropolitical forces are increasingly exercised and experienced.

For those unfamiliar with theory and philosophy around air and breathing, how might you explain this body of work and your book’s addition to it?

Breathing and air have long been objects of philosophical and scientific interest. Respiratory and aerial philosophers—from the Stoics to Gaston Bachelard, to Luce Irigaray—have tended to describe a life force, the movement of which enables us to understand something of the interaction between the self and the not-self. One turns to breath, or more accurately returns to breath, because it carries the promise of restoring a balance one might have lost; we hear echoes of this reasoning in New Age’s appropriation of pranayama practices.

Scholars such as Elizabeth Povinelli, Tobias Menely, Lenart Škof, and Petri Berndtson have, before me, mapped the trajectories of philosophical engagements with breathing and air. One way to grasp these trajectories is that they record the gradual particularization and deidealization of the respiratory and the aerial: breathing can no longer stand in for universal experience, and air no longer registers as (strictly) a source of vitality or purity. That breathing and air call attention to themselves when a glitch appears in the ongoing exchange between individuals and milieus is as much a mundane observation as a historical and geographical statement.

This insight is most forcefully conveyed by minoritarian traditions, including a prominent Black intellectual genealogy linking Frantz Fanon to contemporary theorists like Ashon Crawley and Christina Sharpe. This genealogy thinks Black life from the uneven distribution of breathable air and the various systems, such as policing and segregation, that perpetuate anti-Black asphyxiation. Fanon’s ideas have gained tragic pertinence in the wake of the police murders of Eric Garner, Elijah McClain, George Floyd, and others, as “I can’t breathe” has become an omnipresent protest chant.

Breathing Aesthetics builds on the premise that breathing names the enmeshment of vitality and morbidity. I track the emergence, in the past five or six decades, of distinct “respiratory subjectivities” and “respiratory politics,” which is to say, models of the individual and the collective that derive from breathing a vernacular for expressing the contradictions of contemporary life. It is almost intuitive, in the era of COVID-19, to declare breathing a site of political antagonisms—much more intuitive, in fact, than it was when I began working on this project, almost a decade ago. I hope that readers will find in the book tools for decrypting a present moment when breathing constitutes a hyper-saturated signifier.


978-1-4780-1886-5_prHow does Breathing Aesthetics interact with or draw upon art and literature? What types of art and literature is it most interested in?

The book collects case studies from literary, screen, performance, visual, and media cultures. One thing I found especially interesting when I started researching breathing in earnest is that scholars of poetry, fiction, film, theater, and video game all claim that theirs is the respiratory medium par excellence. Those who endorse Charles Olson’s “projectivism” claim that poetry enjoys a privileged intimacy with respiration, for breath converts the energy animating the poet into the poem’s rhythm. For Davina Quinlivan, it is the cinema that enjoys such a privileged intimacy; breathing’s mimetic or contagious attribute makes it an important circuit for the transmission of affect between on- and off-screen subjects. I don’t believe that one art form or artistic medium is any more or less respiratory than others. I’m too promiscuous a reader and spectator to sustain an attention to a single one, anyway. What I do believe is that the pairing of “breathing” and “aesthetics” yields different effects across media. The aesthetics of respiration therefore calls for a medium-specific analysis and a comparative disposition.

Take the works by Dodie Bellamy, CAConrad, and Bob Flanagan and Sheree Rose that I gather under the umbrella of “broadly experimental and broadly queer life writing.” In one chapter, I examine the notation of breathing for therapeutic purposes in these figures’ blends, with varying dosages, of memoir, poetry, and performance. That the notations are therapeutic doesn’t mean that they save the notators. The psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, my favorite humorist, writes in a recent book that “people aren’t cured, they just lose interest in their symptoms.” This is true of the figures I discuss, for whom notations afford, at most, a palliative: the relief of minimal psychic coherence in crisis situations. For example, journals that repetitively record the symptomatology of cystic fibrosis instill in Bob Flanagan a boredom that leads nowhere but “holds the mood.” Because breathing’s vitality can never be detached entirely from its morbidity, the “payoff” of aestheticizing respiration remains provisional and contingent.

You have said in conversation that this book owes a great deal to the field of environmental humanities and appeals to those researchers. How so?

Yes, the book is invested in the project of the environmental humanities. I participate in the field’s critique of the pastoral—specifically, in this case, the pastoral discourses wherein breathing fulfills the role of the “natural beyond” by guaranteeing an infinitely replenishable, and infinitely replenishing, reserve of vitality. One chapter zooms in on the experimental films of Ana Mendieta and Amy Greenfield. Their corpuses have often been dismissed as pastoral for sanctioning a naïve vision of natural plenitude and surrendering to an essentialism that equates women with nature. Granted, pastoral iconography shows up everywhere in Mendieta’s and Greenfield’s works: natural wonders and great expanses aren’t in short supply. Yet there is nothing revitalizing about the experience of watching their films. The experience is rather unsettling. These are, after all, artists who have many times depicted or evoked sexual violence. This discomfort is worth dwelling on and thinking with. By activating uneasy breathing as a mode of spectatorship in the same class as seeing and listening, Mendieta and Greenfield propose a “postpastoral” anti-pedagogy. Spectators unlearn the historical processes through which a colonial and imperial ideology like the pastoral comes into social coherence.

The vast environmental humanities scholarship, by Lawrence Buell and others, on the legacies of Rachel Carson represents one, but not the only, anti-pastoral tradition informing my thinking. I’m also indebted to scholars of environmental inequalities, or the reproduction of racial and class disparities by environmental means, such as proximity to toxic hazards and health care inaccessibility. Dorceta E. Taylor, Hsuan L. Hsu, and Lindsey Dillon and Julie Sze, to name a few, frequently appear in the section of Breathing Aesthetics devoted to respiratory politics, where I operate on the basis that we are all breathers, but none of the same kind.

Breathing Aesthetics also launches a critique of certain habits within the environmental humanities. I plan to expand on this critique in a future project on “environmental inaction” that seeks to rid ecocriticism of its incipient liberalism. Environmental humanists generally want their objects to be “good” and do “good”—to galvanize readers and spectators into political action, regardless of the objects’ affective content. I don’t think we should overestimate the ability of readers and spectators exposed to the inextricability of vitality and morbidity relayed by the aesthetics of breathing to step out into the world and transform it through sheer force of will. It would require a leap of faith to believe that all reactions to this aesthetics—from exhaustion to disorientation, to panic, to titillation—fulfill a civic purpose. I follow Alexis Shotwell’s and Nicole Seymour’s critiques of the environmental humanities’ purism and puritanism in refusing the narrow range of emotions and actions to which the field typically grants validity. To figure out what the aesthetics of breathing does, we must leave behind our rigid expectations as to what environmental art ought to do.

Doing so radically expands the archive of the environmental humanities to include works that are not so obviously didactic. For instance, it baffles me that Renee Gladman’s novels, to which I devote a chapter, are routinely ignored by environmental humanists in favor of more sensationalist examples of speculative fiction. Novels by Gladman that are set in the smog-filled city-state of Ravicka might not accommodate a pedagogy of coming into environmental “awareness” or “consciousness,” but they allegorize the emergence of coalitional politics in environments where toxicity mediates our encounters. This, to me, is immensely valuable.

While drawing from theory, what are some of the “real-world” implications of Breathing Aesthetics?

I hope the book relays my conviction that the world of theory is the real world. Our daily existence is organized by abstractions disguised as something else. My colleague David Cecchetto describes this problem as “one of the great inversions of our time[,] that between abstraction and reality,” in his recent book, Listening in the Afterlife of Data: “This inversion is evidenced by the fact that somehow one daily encounters folks who think that business-related disciplines like marketing are part of a real world that theoretically informed arts and humanities disciplines are not; we’re in a cultural moment when claiming something like having a ‘passion for real estate’ sounds coherent.”

The pressure to disavow theory isn’t only external to the humanities. Consider the subfield of “empirical ecocriticism,” which claims itself capable of measuring the actual impact of, say, climate fiction. There’s something cynical, amid austerity, in abiding by “data-driven” paradigms and exiling the majority of ecocritics from the category of empiricism, such that they are caught between renouncing their theoretical proclivities or sustaining a pursuit deemed frivolous. More to the point, what empirical ecocriticism really sells is abstraction, all the way down. It collects data (one abstraction) on a reader or spectator figured as rational and reasonable (another abstraction), one who, once exposed to climate crisis-related content, adopts liberal or conservative attitudes (yet another abstraction) and behaviors considered sound in a democratic society (one more, still)… You get the point.

Even in the corners of the humanities that don’t traffic in data, it is customary to curtail theoretical ambitions by asking, for instance, “But what about The Body?” Annabel L. Kim offers a brilliant account of the gesture in the introduction to Unbecoming Language, a book that played a key role in the genesis of Breathing Aesthetics. References to The Body, as a shorthand for the lower-case-r real, presume, as Kim notes, something that everyone knows and to which everyone has access. The Body may be an abstraction for unmediated, non-abstractable experiences, but it is an abstraction nonetheless.

I’m weary of the idea that breathing somehow concretizes queer or environmental theory because so many promises to bypass abstraction—whether through the cold hard facts of data or through The Body as locus of the sensuous and the erotic—end up turning the volume up on abstraction. So, I don’t think we need to come up with excuses for theory. It’s not a vacation from reality, a flight of fancy, or a luxury. Theory, as I try to wield it in Breathing Aesthetics, is an encounter with the world with significant implications in terms of what and how we feel, think, are.

Read the introduction to Breathing Aesthetics for free and save 30% on the paperback with coupon E22TRMBL.

World Photography Day

Today is World Photography Day—an international celebration and recognition of photography’s history, art, craft, and science. Join in the festivities by checking out some of our new, upcoming, and recent titles on photography.

Cover of A Time of Youth: San Francisco, 1966-1967 by William Gedney and edited by Lisa McCarty. Cover features horizontal black and white picture of a group of young boys standing together. Title in white above picture. Subtitle and author name below title and separated by dot. Editor and contributor name below picture in white.

A Time of Youth by William Gedney brings together 89 of the more than 200 photographs he took in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood between October 1966 and January 1967, documenting the restless and intertwined lives of the disenchanted youth who flocked to what became the epicenter of 1960s counterculture. Edited by Lisa McCarty, the book also features an essay by Philip Gefter.

Nicole Erin Morse’s new book Selfie Aesthetics blends trans studies and visual culture by examining how women feminine artists use selfies and self-representational art to explore how selfies produce politically meaningful encounters between creators and viewers in ways that envision trans feminist futures.

Cover of Warring Visions: Photography and Vietnam byThy Phu. Cover features a historical color photo of a woman in a bathing suit with a camera, two men looking on and 2 in the background, on a beach.

Warring Visions by Thy Phu explores photographs produced by dispersed communities throughout Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora, both during and after the Vietnam War, to understandings of how war is waged, experienced, and resolved.

Showing how empire continues to haunt South Asian American visual cultures, Bakirathi Mani examines the visual and affective relationships between South Asian diasporic viewers, artists, and photographic representations of immigrant subjects in Unseeing Empire.

Cover of Wake Up, This is Joburg. The entire cover is a photograph of a Black woman on a street. She stands next to a red traffic light and behind her are a skyscraper and other people. The title is in bright yellow on top of the photo and in the upper left corner is the text Photographs by Mark Lewis, Words by Tanya Zack.

In the forthcoming title Wake Up, This is Joburg, writer Tanya Zack and photographer Mark Lewis offer a stunning portrait of Johannesburg and personal stories of its residents, showing how its urban transformation occurs not in a series of dramatic, wide-scale changes but in the everyday lives, actions, and dreams of individuals.

Allison Moore’s recent book Embodying Relation examines the tensions between the local and the global in the art photography movement that blossomed in Bamko, Mali, in the 1990s, showing contemporary Malian photography to be a rich example of Western notions of art meeting traditional cultural precepts to forge new artistic forms, practices, and communities.

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

Cover of Journeys through the Russian Empire. Cover features two sepearate images of the Nilov Monastery, which features a Muscovite style of architecture.

Those interested in European studies and architecture may enjoy William Craft Brumfield’s recent book Journeys through the Russian Empire. The lavishly illustrated volume documents Russia’s architectural, artistic, and cultural heritage while juxtaposing the hundreds of full-color images of Russian architecture and landscapes taken by early-twentieth-century photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky with those of contemporary photographer and scholar William Craft Brumfield.

Photographic Returns by Shawn Michelle Smith engages with photography by Sally Mann, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and others to trace 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.

Sarah Eckhart’s Working Together, which accompanies an exhibition of the photography of Virginia artist Louis Draper and other members of the Kamoinge Workshop, now at the Getty Museum, includes more than 140 photographs by fourteen of the early members of the Workshop.

Also, check out Trans Asia Photography, an open-access journal devoted to the interdisciplinary exploration of historic and contemporary photography from Asia and across the Asian diaspora.

Be sure to learn about our new titles in photography.  Sign up for our e-mail newsletters, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

New Books in June

Summer is almost here! Kick off the new season with some of the great new titles we have coming out in June.

Perfect for vacation reading, Shola von Reinhold’s decadent queer literary debut LOTE immerses readers in the pursuit of aesthetics and beauty, while interrogating the removal and obscuring of Black figures from history.

Examining the reception of evolutionary biology, the 1925 Scopes Trial, and the New Atheist movement of the 2000s, Donovan O. Schaefer theorizes the relationship between thinking and feeling by challenging the conventional wisdom that they are separate in Wild Experiment.

In Gridiron Capital, Lisa Uperesa charts the cultural, historical, and social dynamics that have made American football so central to Samoan culture.

Thulani Davis provides a sweeping rethinking of Reconstruction in The Emancipation Circuit, tracing how the four million people newly freed from bondage created political organizations and connections that mobilized communities across the South.

In The Small Matter of Suing Chevron, Suzana Sawyer traces Ecuador’s lawsuit against the Chevron corporation for the environmental devastation resulting from its oil drilling practices, showing how distinct legal truths were relationally composed of, with, and through crude oil.

In Discovering Fiction, eminent Chinese novelist Yan Lianke offers insights into his views on literature and realism, the major works that inspired him, and his theories of writing.

The contributors to Grammars of the Urban Ground, edited by Ash Amin and Michele Lancione, develop a new conceptual framework and vocabulary for capturing the complex, ever-shifting, and interactive processes that shape contemporary cities.

In Myriad Intimacies, Lata Mani oscillates between poetry and prose, genre and form, register and voice, and secular and sacred to meditate on the ways in which everyone and everything exists in mutually constitutive interrelations.

Working at the intersection of urban theory, Black studies, and decolonial and Islamic thought, AbdouMaliq Simone offers a new theorization of the interface of the urban and the political in The Surrounds.

Sophie Chao examines the multispecies entanglements of oil palm plantations in West Papua, Indonesia in her new book In the Shadow of the Palms, showing how Indigenous Marind communities understand and navigate the social, political, and environmental demands of the oil palm plant.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for our e-mail newsletters, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

Ken Wissoker’s Sale Recommendations

Image reads: use code SPRING22, Spring Sale, 50% off all in-stock books and journal issues through May 27
A white man with short, graying dark hair, wearing rectangular glasses, a black and white collared print shirt, and a black jacket.
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Our Spring Sale is rapidly coming to a close. You only have three days to save 50% on in-stock books and journal issues. If you’re still not sure what to purchase, here are Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker’s suggestions.

I don’t need to tell most DUP readers that this moment requires transformative thinking. The pandemic and the racist agenda of the last US administration are not over in the least. Rarely a day goes by where rights and conditions central to our well-being are not under attack. Thank you, SCOTUS. What can we as thinkers, readers, and publishers do to make a difference? I would start my sale recommendations there. I’m thinking about books that will help all of us get through: Sara Ahmed’s Complaint!, Max Liboiron’s Pollution Is Colonialism, Katherine McKittrick’s Dear Science and Other Stories. Tools for thinking differently.

My own thinking has been transformed this spring by Jennifer L. Morgan’s Reckoning with Slavery, which centers Black women in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, giving them agency, not merely footnoted presence. Morgan points a way for historians to restore the power and feelings of those who were of no account in the archives, while putting the numeracy of the slave trade at the core of capitalism.
 
Morgan’s friend and colleague Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu has shown exactly how this can be done, similarly working between disciplines and archives, but across the Pacific rather than the Atlantic. Her book Experiments in Skin won the publishing equivalent of March Madness this year, the Prose awards from the Association of American Publishers. They choose 106 finalists in categories from Mathematics to Philosophy; then 39 category winners, 4 area winners for humanities, social sciences, bio sciences, and physical sciences—and one overall winner, Thuy’s incredible book, which combines a history of imperialism and chemical warfare with that of dermatology and concepts of beauty showing how they all come together in present-day Vietnam.

Cover of Planetary Longings by Mary Louise Pratt. Cover features a brown landscape with a muddy orange river running through it.

Mary Louise Pratt is one of the theorists who made the intellectual and political work of the last decades possible. Her long-awaited Planetary Longings is just out, as is Jonathan Sterne’s Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment, a brilliant and personally driven account of impairment. 
 
The presence and care of a writer’s personal voice feels especially necessary at this moment, given the wearing politics of our time. Rather than being separate from scholarship and theorizing, the voice is central part to it. We see that in Jafari S. Allen’s gorgeous There’s a Discoball Between Us—his account of Black gay male life from the 80s and after and what it owes to Black feminism—and in Kevin Quashie’s similarly inspiring Black Aliveness, or a Poetics of Being. You hear it in La Marr Jurelle Bruce’s stunning How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind and in McKenzie Wark’s pathbreaking Philosophy for Spiders.
 
In this vein, one book I can’t recommend enough is Mercy Romero’s Toward Camden, a memoir and a way of understanding raced geography at once, where the two are inseparable, and written with intense beauty and insight.

Finally, in other political registers, I would strongly recommend Tania Murray Li and Pujo Semedi’s Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone, an analysis of emergent forms of capitalism based on the massive expansion of plantations in the present. You should also check out Vicente Rafael book on Duterte, The Sovereign Trickster; Jodi Kim’s long-awaited and incisive Settler Garrison; and Leslie Bow’s superb Racist Love: Asian Abstraction and the Pleasure of Fantasy.
 
I could easily come up with another list this long (where is Beth Povinelli’s new book or Joshua Clover’s Roadrunner??) so get over to the website and look around yourself. Just do it quickly!

Use coupon SPRING22 to save on all these titles and more. If you’re located outside North and South America, we suggest you order from our partner Combined Academic Publishers using the same coupon. You’ll get faster and cheaper shipping. See the fine print here.

Elizabeth Ault’s Sale Recommendations

Image reads: use code SPRING22, Spring Sale, 50% off all in-stock books and journal issues through May 27
You have until May 27 to save 50% on in-stock books and journal issues during our Spring Sale. Still pondering what to buy? Check out Editor Elizabeth Ault’s suggestions. Use coupon SPRING22 to save.
A smiling white woman with strawberry blonde hair piled in a bun on top of her head. She is wearing red oval shaped glasses, gold hoop earrings, and a green scoop necked top with a blue neckline and a black jacket.

The most wonderful time of the year–the Spring sale! There’s something about this time of year that makes so many things, including making a meaningful dent in the TBR, seem possible. I’m thrilled to suggest some new books that themselves open up that spirit of ambitious potential as tonics for times when things may not feel so promising.

A book I know I’ll never stop recommending is Trouillot Remixed, edited by Yarimar Bonilla, Greg Beckett, and Mayanthi L. Fernandoa, a gathering of writings from across the Haitian historian and theorist Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s career that makes it easy to see how Trouillot’s influence spanned diverse fields and conversations, centering the Black Caribbean and the ongoingness of coloniality in thinking about anthropology, world history, capitalism, and more. There isn’t a political or intellectual project I can imagine that wouldn’t benefit from Trouillot’s insights.

Cover of Poetic Operations: Trans of Color Art in Digital Media by micha cárdenas. Cover is blue with 7 people on it, and a center person is pointing.

It’s also a fantastic time for feminist media studies! We’ve got so many new books, including two amazing coedited collections that reconsider canonical male figures from feminist perspectives–Re-Understanding Media, edited by Sarah Sharma and Rianka Singh, shows what McLuhanite media theory has to learn from feminism, while Reframing Todd Haynes, edited Theresa L. Geller and Julia Leyda, shows what the filmmaker has learned from (and contributed to) feminist theory. We’ve also got micha cardenas’s Poetic Operations, a trans feminist theory of the liberatory potential of algorithms, Rox Samer’s Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s, which finds the speculative play in feminist science fiction and activist film. Nicole Erin Morse’s Selfie Aesthetics centers trans women artists like Tourmaline, whose work is featured in the Venice Biennale, to enrich the discussion around self-portraiture.

If you’re looking for a good summer read, I am really excited about Guillaume Lachenal’s The Doctor Who Would Be King, a postcolonial detective story, with an incredibly dynamic translation by Cheryl Smeall. And I can’t say enough about the amazing work Jeanne Garane has done to translate Amkoullel, the Fula Boy, the first memoir by African intellectual Amadou Hampâté Bâ about his life in colonial French West Africa, a story with many surprising turns and moving reflections.

New Journals in 2022: Agricultural History & Trans Asia Photography

This coming year, we’re thrilled to welcome two journals to our publishing program: Agricultural History and Trans Asia Photography. Both journals will begin publication with Duke University Press in the spring.

Agricultural History, edited by Albert Way, is the journal of record in its field. As such, it publishes articles that explore agriculture and rural life over time, in all geographies and among all people. Articles in Agricultural History use a wide range of methodologies to illuminate the history of farming, food, agricultural science and technology, the environment, rural life, and beyond. The journal includes innovative research, timely book and film reviews, and special features that unite diverse historical approaches under agriculture-related themes.

Trans Asia Photography, edited by Deepali Dewan, Yi Gu, and Thy Phu, is the first and only open-access international peer-reviewed journal devoted to the interdisciplinary exploration of historic and contemporary photography from Asia and across the Asian diaspora. The journal examines all aspects of photographic history, theory, and practice by centering images in or of Asia, conceived here as a territory, network, and cultural imaginary. Bridging photography and area studies, the journal rethinks transnational and transcultural approaches and methodologies. By centering photographic practices of Asia and its diasporas, the journal foregrounds multiple ways of seeing, knowing, and being, which are distinct yet inseparable from other regional formations. The journal brings together the perspectives of scholars, critics, and artists across the humanities and social sciences to advance original and innovative research on photography and Asia, and to reflect and encourage quality, depth, and breadth in the field’s development.

Check out our full list of journals here.

Best Books of 2021

We’re always pleased to see our books land on various best of the year lists. Check out some of the great titles that were featured in 2021’s lists.

Pitchfork named Joshua Clover’s Roadrunner to their Best Music Books of 2021 list, calling it “as ecstatic as the music it celebrates.” 

On the International Center of Photography blog, Vince Aletti included A Time of Youth by William Gedney in his list of the top ten photobooks of the year, writing that Gedney’s “queer eye never misses the shaggy-haired beauties and the tender, erotic undercurrent here is Gedney’s signature.” 

The New York Times’s Holland Cotter put the Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s The Dirty South on his list of the best art exhibitions of the year, and the catalog, which we distribute, on his list of the best art books of the year. He says, “The book vividly illustrates and deepens the show’s powerful argument.” Cotter also named Lorraine O’Grady’s Brooklyn Museum retrospective, Both/And as one of the year’s best exhibitions, and said her 2020 book Writing in Space, 1973-2019 was “a vital supplement to the show.” You can catch The Dirty South at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston through February 6 and Both/And at Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum from January 4-April 30, 2022.

Writing in Bookforum’s Best Books of 2021 feature, Elias Rodriques said The Long Emancipation by Rinaldo Walcott “gave [him] new tools to think with in Black studies.”

Smithsonian Magazine asked contributors to name their best books of 2021 and Joshua Bell, curator of globalization recommended Max Liboiron’s Pollution Is Colonialism, calling it “a beautifully written text that is both a handbook on method and a call to rethink how we live our lives on occupied land.”

Entropy put Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony on its list of 2020 and 2021’s best poetry books. And Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, told The Art Newspaper that her trilogy, including Spill, M Archive, and Dub, was his best read of the year. He said, “This trilogy, as well as Gumbs’s most recent work, Undrowned, offers fascinating insights into new forms of togetherness—among ourselves and our environment.”

Christianity Today selected Chosen Peoples by Christopher Tounsel as a finalist for its best History and Biography book of the year.

On the Verso books blog, Mark Neocleous selected Christopher Chitty’s Sexual Hegemony as his best book of the year, saying it was “a nuanced rethinking of Foucault’s relation to Marx and Marxism.”

Writing in The Millions about the best books she read this year, Arianna Rebolini said Magical Habits by Monica Huerta was “much-needed reminder that there are countless ways to tell a story, and that a book can be whatever you want it to be.”

If you haven’t already, we hope you will seek out some of these highly recommended books!

Open Access Week: Trans Asia Photography joins Duke University Press

To kick off Open Access Week this year, we’re proud to announce that Trans Asia Photography, an open-access journal, is joining the Duke University Press publishing program beginning with its 2022 volume. We’re thrilled to have TAP on board!

TAP, a biannual journal edited by Deepali Dewan, Yi Gu, and Thy Phu, is the first and only open-access international peer-reviewed journal devoted to the interdisciplinary exploration of historic and contemporary photography from Asia and across the Asian diaspora. The journal examines all aspects of photographic history, theory, and practice by centering images in or of Asia, conceived here as a territory, network, and cultural imaginary. Bridging photography and area studies, the journal rethinks transnational and transcultural approaches and methodologies. The journal brings together the perspectives of scholars, critics, and creatives across the humanities and social sciences to advance original and innovative research on photography and Asia, and to reflect and encourage quality, depth, and breadth in the field’s development. 

“The editorial team of Trans Asia Photography is thrilled to join Duke University Press,” wrote the editors. “Since its founding more than a decade ago, TAP has maintained its commitment to be at the forefront of scholarship on Asia and photography, both nurturing and reflecting this emerging field. Central to its success has been a commitment to open-access publication, which has allowed us to move beyond a western academic audience to scholars, curators, artists, and professionals in Asia and beyond. We are excited that Duke University Press shares our commitment to open-access principles. Indeed, we can think of no better home than Duke for carrying out the journal’s vision for transforming the history of photography by centering Asia and for re-thinking Asia through the study of photography.”

From the beginning, the journal was conceived as an online resource where readers from anywhere could read about previously unknown histories of photography, engage with new ways of thinking about past and present photographic work, see photographs that otherwise would be unavailable to them, and learn about relevant books, archives, exhibitions, and symposia. By centering photographic practices of Asia and its diasporas, the journal foregrounds multiple ways of seeing, knowing, and being, which are distinct yet inseparable from other regional formations.

“The addition of TAP adds another exciting publication to DUP’s growing list of outstanding open-access titles,” wrote Erich Staib, Associate Journals Director. “We are delighted to be working together with the editors to further develop the journal and increase its global profile. TAP joins DUP’s broad presence in Asian studies and will be a strong complement to the publishing we do across the field and beyond it.”

Recent issues of the journal have centered on the title’s keywords “trans” and “Asia,” and readers can look forward to TAP’s spring issue examining “photography” to close out this series. Future issues of the journal will focus on themes of amateurism, photobooks, and digitalities.

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New Books in September

Start off the semester strong by perusing our new September releases!

Drawing on oral and written testimonies from academics and students who have made complaints about harassment, bullying, and unequal working conditions at universities, Sara Ahmed examines what we can learn about power from those who complain about abuses of power in Complaint! Angela Y. Davis says, “Complaint! is precisely the text we need at this moment as we seek to understand and transform the institutional structures promoting racism and heteropatriarchy.”

Mark Rifkin examines nineteenth-century Native writings by William Apess, Elias Boudinot, Sarah Winnemucca, and and Zitkala-Ša to rethink and reframe contemporary debates around recognition, refusal, and resurgence for Indigenous peoples in Speaking for the People: Native Writing and the Question of Political Form.

In The Nature of Space, pioneering Afro-Brazilian geographer Milton Santos attends to globalization writ large and how local and global orders intersect in the construction of space.

In Hawaiʻi is my Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific, Nitasha Tamar Sharma maps the context and contours of Black life in Hawaiʻi, showing how despite the presence of anti-Black racism, the state’s Black residents consider it to be their haven from racism.

The contributors to Assembly Codes: The Logistics of Media, edited by Matthew Hockenberry, Nicole Starosielski, and Susan Zieger, document how media and logistics—the techniques of organizing and coordinating the movement of materials, bodies, and information—are co-constitutive and key to the circulation of information and culture.

In Philosophy for Spiders: On the Low Theory of Kathy Acker, McKenzie Wark combines an autobiographical account of her relationship with Kathy Acker with her transgender reading of Acker’s writing to outline Acker’s philosophy of embodiment and its importance for theorizing the trans experience.

In A Mass Conspiracy to Feed People: Food Not Bombs and the World-Class Waste of Global Cities David Boarder Giles traces the work of Food Not Bombs—a global movement of grassroots soup kitchens that recover wasted grocery surpluses and redistribute them to those in need—to examine the relationship between waste and scarcity in global cities under late capitalism and the fight for food justice

Patricia Stuelke traces the hidden history of the reparative turn, showing how it emerged out of the failed struggle against US empire and neoliberal capitalism in the 1970s and 1980s and unintentionally supported new forms of neoliberal and imperial governance in The Ruse of Repair: US Neoliberal Empire and the Turn from Critique.

Michael K. Bourdaghs, in A Fictional Commons: Natsume Sōseki and the Properties of Modern Literature, presents a radical reframing of the works of Natsume Sōseki—widely considered to be Japan’s greatest modern novelist—as critical and creative responses to the emergence of new forms of property ownership in nineteenth-century Japan.

The contributors to Embodying Black Religions in Africa and Its Diasporas, edited by Yolanda Covington-Ward and Jeanette S. Jouili, investigate the complex intersections between the body, religious expression, and the construction and negotiation of social relationships and collective identities throughout the Black diaspora.

Sarah Jane Cervenak traces how Black artists and writers who create alternative spaces for Black people to gather free from those Enlightenment philosophies that presume Black people and land as given to enclosure and ownership in Black Gathering: Art, Ecology, Ungiven Life.

The exhibition catalog to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse, by curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, chronicles the pervasive visual and sonic parallels in the work of Black artists from the southern United States.

Andil Gosine revises understandings of queer desire in the Caribbean in Nature’s Wild, Love, Sex and the Law in the Caribbean, showing how the very concept of homosexuality in the Caribbean (and in the Americas more broadly) has been overdetermined by a colonially-influenced human/animal divide.

In Between Gaia and Ground: Four Axioms of Existence and the Ancestral Catastrophe of Late Liberalism, Elizabeth A. Povinelli theorizes how legacies of colonial violence and the ways dispossession and extraction that destroyed indigenous and colonized peoples’ lives now poses an existential threat to the West.

In Roadrunner, cultural theorist and poet Joshua Clover examines Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ 1972 song “Roadrunner,” charting its place in rock & roll history and American culture.

Drawing on close readings of 1960s American art, Jason A. Hoelscher offers an information theory of art and an aesthetic theory of information in which he shows how art operates as information wherein art’s meaning cannot be determined in Art as Information Ecology: Artworks, Artworlds, and Complex Systems Aesthetics.