Art

New Books in June

Looking for some summer reading? Check out the great new titles we have coming out in June!

Jennifer L. Morgan draws on the lived experiences of enslaved African women in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries in Reckoning with Slavery to reveal the contours of early modern notions of trade, race, and commodification in the Black Atlantic.

In Decolonizing Memory, Jill Jarvis examines the crucial role that writers and artists have played in cultivating historical memory and nurturing political resistance in Algeria, showing how literature offers the unique ability to reckon with colonial violence and to render the experiences of those marginalized by the state.

The contributors to Beyond Man, edited by An Yountae and Eleanor Craig, reckon with the colonial and racial implications of the philosophy of religion’s history by staging a conversation between it and Black, Indigenous, and decolonial studies.

In Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, Martin Savransky draws on the pragmatic pluralism of William James and the ontological turn in anthropology to propose a “pluralistic realism”—an understanding of ontology in which at any given time the world is both one and many, ongoing and unfinished.

In How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind, La Marr Jurelle Bruce ponders the presence of “madness” in black literature, music, and performance since the early twentieth century, showing how artist ranging from Kendrick Lamar and Lauryn Hill to Nina Simone and Dave Chappelle activate madness as content, form, aesthetic, strategy, philosophy, and energy in an enduring black radical tradition.

Việt Lê examines contemporary art in Cambodia and Việt Nam in Return Engagements to trace the entwinement of militarization, trauma, diaspora, and modernity in Southeast Asian art.

In Images of Beirut, Hatim El-Hibri explores how the creation and circulation of images has shaped the urban spaces and cultural imaginaries of Beirut, showing how images can be used to consolidate or destabilize regimes of power.

Editors Diana Paton and Matthew J. Smith combine more than one hundred classic and lesser-known texts in The Jamaica Reader to present a panoramic history of the country—from its pre-contact Indigenous origins to the present—and provide an unparalleled look at Jamaica’s history, culture, and politics.

In Colonial Debts, Rocío Zambrana uses the current political-economic moment in Puerto Rico to outline how debt functions as both an apparatus that strengthens neoliberalism and the island’s colonial relation to the United States.

Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández challenges the stereotypes of machismo in Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora with nuanced portraits of Mexican men and masculinities along and across the US-Mexico border.

The contributors to Words and Worlds, edited by Veena Das and Didier Fassin, examine the state of politics and the political imaginary within contemporary societies by taking up the everyday words such as democracy, revolution, and populism that we use to understand the political present.

A concise, easy-to-understand reference book, the revised and updated second edition of the bestselling All about Your Eyes tells you what you need to know to care for your eyes, various eye diseases and treatments, and what to expect from your eye doctor. The editors, Sharon Fekrat, Tanya S. Glaser, and Henry L. Feng are all physicians at the world-renown Duke Eye Center.

In an indispensable guide for all ethnographers, the editors of Experimenting with Ethnography, Andrea Ballestero and Brit Ross Winthereik, collect twenty-one essays that offer concrete suggestions for thinking about and doing ethnographic research and writing.

The contributors to Sound Alignments, edited by Michael K. Bourdaghs, Paola Iovene, and Kaley Mason, explore the myriad forms of popular music in Asia during the Cold War, showing how it took on new meanings and significance as it traveled across the region and forged and challenged alliances, revolutions, and countercultures.

Shaoling Ma examines late Qing China’s political upheavals and modernizing energies through the problem of the dynamics between new media technologies such as the telegraph the discursive representations of them in The Stone and the Wireless.

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Welcoming liquid blackness to Duke University Press

We are excited to announce that “liquidity,” the first issue of the open-access journal liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies published by Duke University Press, is now available. Start reading “liquidity” here.

In this inaugural Duke University Press issue—the first of three on the journal’s foundational concepts of “liquidity,” “blackness,” and “aesthetics”—leading voices in Black studies and beyond reflect on the conceptual and practical possibilities and shortcomings of Black liquidity. Conceived as a musical ensemble and framed by a lyrical history of the liquid blackness research group’s method, practice, and praxis, the issue gathers the work of theorists and practitioners spanning different modes of intellectual inquiry and champions experimentalism as a theoretical and artistic practice. In doing so, the issue unflinchingly addresses the entanglement between race, capital, and the constitution of the modern subject as well as the jurisgenerativity of liquid aesthetic practices and their unruly archives—all within the context of what Toni Morrison described as the liquidity of the Black arts.

liquid blackness, edited by Alessandra Raengo and Lauren McLeod Cramer, seeks to carve out a place for aesthetic theory and the most radical agenda of Black studies to come together in productive ways, with the goal of attending to the aesthetic work of Blackness and the political work of form. In this way, the journal develops innovative approaches to address points of convergence between the exigencies of Black life and the many slippery ways in which Blackness is encountered in contemporary sonic and visual culture. The journal showcases a variety of scholarly modes, including audio-visual work and experimental and traditional essays. It aims to explore who can do theory (scholars, artists, activists, individuals, and ensembles), how theory can be done (in image, writing, archiving, curating, social activism), and what a Black aesthetic object is (“high”/“low” art, sound and image, practice and praxis).

Sign up to receive email alerts when a new issue of liquid blackness is published.

New Books in April

Check out the great new titles we have coming out in April!

Right Here Right NowIn Right Here, Right Now, Lynden Harris collects the powerful first-person stories of dozens of men who are living on death row in the United States, offering a glimpse into the lives of some of the most marginalized people in America. Watch the trailer.

Rafico Ruiz uses the Grenfell Mission in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, to theorize how settler colonialism establishes itself through the building, maintenance, and mediation of site-specific infrastructure in Slow Disturbance.

Analyzing a range of Chicano/a and Native American novels, films, short stories and other cultural artifacts from the eighteenth century to the present, Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita in Spatial and Discursive Violence in the US Southwest examine literary representations of settler colonial land enclosure and dispossession in the US Southwest.

Hentyle Yapp analyzes contemporary Chinese art as it circulates on the global art market to outline the limitations of the predominant narratives that currently frame understandings of non-Western art in Minor China. Join an online book launch for Minor China on April 15.

We are excited to be bringing out two new volumes in the Stuart Hall: Selected Writings series. Selected Writings on Marxism, edited by Gregor McLennan, collects Stuart Hall’s key writings on Marxism surveys the formative questions central to his interpretations of and investments in Marxist theory and practice.

Race and DifferenceAnd in Selected Writings on Race and Difference, Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Paul Gilroy gather more than twenty essays by Stuart Hall that highlight his extensive and groundbreaking engagement with race, representation, identity, difference, and diaspora.

The contributors to Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging, edited by Leerom Medovoi and Elizabeth Bentley, examine how the new political worlds that are emerging—from Trump’s America to the post-Arab-Spring Middle East—intersect with locally specific articulations of religion and secularism.

Todne Thomas explores the internal dynamics of community life among black evangelicals and the ways they create spiritual relationships through the practice of Kincraft—the construction of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, partners in prayer, and spiritual mothers, fathers, and children.

Edited and translated by Ilinca Iurascu, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, and Michael Wutz, Operation Valhalla collects eighteen texts by German media theorist Friedrich Kittler on the close connections between war and media technology.

Eating in TheoryAnnmarie Mol reassess notions of human being and becoming by thinking through the activity of eating, showing how eating is a lively practice bound up with our identities, actions, politics, and senses of belonging in the world in Eating in Theory.

Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu examines the legacies of the Vietnam War on contemporary ideas about race and beauty, in Experiments in Skin, showing how US wartime efforts to alleviate the environmental and chemical risks to soldiers’ skin has impacted how contemporary Vietnamese women use pharmaceutical cosmetics to repair the damage from the war’s lingering toxicity.

The Long EmancipationRinaldo Walcott posits that Black people globally live in the time of emancipation and that emancipation is definitely not freedom in The Long Emancipation, showing that wherever Black people have been emancipated from slavery and colonization, a potential freedom became thwarted.

Drawing on Black feminism, Afro-pessimism, and critical race theory, the contributors to Antiblackness, Moon-Kie Jung and João H. Costa-Vargas,trace the forms of antiblackness across time and space, showing how the dehumanization of Black people has been foundational to the establishment of modernity.

Thomas Aiello traces the complicated and fascinating life of pioneering journalist, television host, bestselling author, and important yet overlooked civil rights figure in The Life and Times of Louis Lomax. Lomax became one of the most influential voices of the civil rights movement despite his past as an ex-con, serial liar, and publicity-seeking provocateur.

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.

Q&A with Elizabeth Povinelli, Author of The Inheritance

Elizabeth A. Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University and a founding member of the Karrabing Film Collective. She is the author of five books from Duke University Press, including Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (2016). Her newest book is a graphic memoir called The Inheritance, in which she explores her family’s history and the events, traumas, and social structures that define our individual and collective pasts and futures.

This book is a major departure for you in two ways: it is a memoir, and it is a graphic memoir. How do you see The Inheritance fitting in with or diverging from your body of scholarly work? Do you consider The Inheritance to be a scholarly text?

I think any way I answer this question of whether The Inheritance is a scholarly text will come across as a dodge. On the one hand, my scholarly life cannot be excised from my work in other genres—in this text or the films and installations I do with other members of the Karrabing Film Collective. And, in the case of The Inheritance, several specific scholarly debates animate and influence the text including debates in critical race and indigenous theory, in affect theory and the nature of subjectivity, and, of course, history and memory. On the other hand, I don’t intend it to be a scholarly history, but rather a memoir of accumulated affects and memories as these have hardened and cracked across the infrastructures of a socially formed life. Even as I believe that theory always works best when understood as a drama of thought, I let a certain meandering of being in the world take charge of The Inheritance in a way I wouldn’t in my scholarly work.

The combination of COVID-19 isolation and the increased attention to Black Lives Matter and the racial divide in America made 2020 a year of introspection for many Americans, both in terms of encouraging renewed appreciation for the importance of their communities, and demanding a recognition of their complicity in the racist structures that have shaped our world. The Inheritance feels timely for the way it captures your own process of grappling with these questions. How long have you been working out this story for yourself, and why was it important for you to tell it now?

I began concentrating on this project in 2015. One of the initial impetuses was to respond to the weird way I saw white Americans using DNA testing to give themselves an ethnicity while nevertheless  retaining their racial superiority. I thought, what were these people trying to dodge ethically while they socially maintained their position in an American racial and colonial structure? Having a culture became a way of being something other than just white as white became more marked within anticolonial and antiracism movements. As I fiddled with the form and movement of the story across the years, White Nationalism and White Pride seized this discourse of White Culture. From Proud Boys to many Trump supporters, we hear explicitly what I thought I was hearing in the background of the DNA commercials, “Why can’t white people have pride in their culture?” For me, this is another way of saying, “Europeans are the creators and owners of civilization.”

In other words, The Inheritance is an invitation for readers to reflect on their motivations for looking to the past to find their truth as well as to  understand that the racial and colonial infrastructures that convey us in the present find their roots there. I guess the last bit of text in Act II sums this up for me: “As Mother held her hand to my face and we looked into the mirror, I wondered who I was becoming in the unbridgeable rift between Carisolo and Karezol. I should have been thinking about what was happening to me as this fault line opened up in America.”

If the book feels timely, no matter that it started in 2015, I think this is because the Black Lives Matter protests are building on a problem that is lodged in the origins of the so-called American Experiment. It is part of the American grammar, as Hortense Spillers put it. A large part of the story I tell is located in the deep South but, as James Baldwin noted, racism was never just a Southern problem. I grew up in the racial and colonial grammar of the US, no matter that my family drama was focused on a tiny village across the Atlantic, nestled in the foothills of what are now the Italian Alps. I thought it was important to show that even if you know exactly where you come from—I mean exactly and for hundreds of years—if you are absorbed into the racial and colonial structure of the US, your life is implicated in this structure. It’s for this reason, I end the book with the assertion that inheritance doesn’t merely come from the past, but is a place in the ongoing present in a world structured to care for the existence of some and not of others. The point is to think about how we wish to alter these infrastructures of inheritance.

Maps and schematics feature prominently in your illustrations, as do old family photos. Why was the visual element of this story so important to convey? How, if at all, does your work on film with the Karrabing Collective prepare you to transition to graphic storytelling?

Yes, another impetus for the project was to give a sort of backstory to my long relationship with Indigenous Belyuen families and then with the Karrabing Film Collective. When I arrived at Belyuen in 1984 fresh out of St John’s College, I felt such an uncanny kinship with people living there. I think The Inheritance gives a sense why—our shared love of hunting in the bush/woods; our shared relationship to a nonnational kinship-based mode of belonging to country, and our shared history of personal and social violence. But as I said above, these shared affiliations are located within and apprehended by structures of social discrimination that exist no matter how one’s deep love and regard. These racial and colonial infrastructures are not melted because one loves others, although love can provide a motive force for unworking them.. I use affiliation in the way Edward Said suggested, as distinct from filiation. Filiation for him refers to a set of inherited locations while affiliation refers to networks of relationships that people consciously create. 

My Povinelli family never made a huge distinction between artistic and scholarly practices—science experiments went side-by-side with short story writing, drawing, painting, and song performance. Exuberance and melancholia were always side-kicks in these endeavors. My father had wanted to be an artist, but it was hard enough for him to convince his father to let him become an engineer. He hid his drawings in the bottom drawer of his desk at home—and told us that engineering was at its heart a form of truthful creation. My mother wanted to be a singer but had us instead. I guess, as a kind of compromise formation, she made up songs for us to sing along to. We were that kind of family–everyone assumed that everyone could move across expressive, creative genres and that science, art, and thought were all inventive and all oriented to uncovering truth. This Povinelli attitude toward thought and expression is very much conversant with the Karrabing.

As for the visual element, The Inheritance initially had almost no written text. My first idea was that the reader should feel the force of the images with very little by way of writing in order to simulate the experience of looking at an image (the map) one cannot make sense of as one is hearing it passionately described in a language one does not know. I was curious how much a reader would comprehend, how deeply they might be affected, whether it would suggest to them the inseparable but irreducible difference between affect and sense. 

Has putting together The Inheritance at all changed how you think about writing? Are there more graphic or personal works ahead for you?

I think it has helped hone my writing in this genre—a nonfiction story-telling form. But I remain committed to maintaining, where necessary, thick distinctions between genres of writing. My academic work is doing something different from what I am doing in The Inheritance and what we are doing in our Karrabing films. I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which there was only one mode of voicing across all the genres of thought, writing, and image work. For me at least, the way my mind works in my academic books is different to how it works drawing and painting, writing goofy poems and songs, telling tall tales and recounting more serious histories. 

The short answer to whether more graphically oriented works are coming is, yes! How I answer the question of the personal is trickier. All my work is deeply personal. On the one hand, I always tell students that the best intellectual work comes from placing critical thought at the root of a personal passion. I know the personal conditions that drive my academic writing. On the other hand, I don’t think of The Inheritance as personal. I think of it as using me (little Elizabeth) as a case study of the ancestral present. I hope there are other installments, but no one has invented that time expansion/compression machine yet, so it all depends on how much time I can sequester for these and Karrabing projects. 

Read a selection of The Inheritance for free and save 30% on the book using the coupon code E21PVNLI. And stay tuned for Elizabeth Povinellli’s next book, Between Gaia and Ground, out in September 2021.

Tyler Denmead, Author of The Creative Underclass, Announces Online Tour

795842BA-02E5-4E99-8F7B-2779D8EB5ECETyler Denmead is author of The Creative Underclass: Youth, Race, and the Gentrifying City (2019). He teaches in the Faculty of Education and Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge. As the pandemic cut short his planned travel to discuss the book with audiences in both the UK and US, Denmead is now planning an online tour. Below he discusses how the book came to be and announces the tour dates.

The Creative Underclass is not the book I planned to write when I returned to New Urban Arts in 2012 as an educational ethnographer. It had been 5 years since I left the studio in Providence, Rhode Island as its founding director. I wanted to return to the studio, however, because I was still puzzled by the studio’s pedagogic conditions, or “the magic” as so many youth participants and artists put it. It was still unclear to me what this magic was, why this magic mattered, or how this magic might be useful to community arts programs elsewhere.

Creative Underclass_withborderThe Center for Public Humanities at Brown University provided me the opportunity to return to New Urban Arts as a post-doctoral fellow to study this magic. Rather than raising money and facilitating committee meetings, I had the the privilege of hanging out with teenagers and the artists that supported them. I could participate in their collective artmaking and the studio’s vibrant social life. I could talk to them about why their artmaking mattered to them and how they interpreted the studio’s pedagogic conditions.

Several unexpected events happened that prevented me from writing that familiar book. First, in my ethnographic encounters, I confronted a double bind reported by some former youth participants. Some noted the transformational power of New Urban Arts in their own lives, while also expressing their concern that the studio functioned as a gentrifying force in their neighborhood. This insight forced me to consider what role educational institutions (and therefore my educational leadership) play in white gentrification.

As I turned my attention to this analysis, anti-gentrification protests erupted across the United States as a prominent feature of Black Lives Matter protests. These protests targeted the threats that whiteness pose to Black life through policing, mass incarceration, neighborhood displacement, and state-led urban renewal projects.

With these protests, as well as constructive criticism of readers and friends, I started to write a reflexive book that begins from my position as the urban problem. I thus situated the magic of New Urban Arts in relation to racializing discourses that positioned me as a good white creative and youth of color as urban problems in need of transformation through creativity. I formulated the concept of the creative underclass to not only illuminate this problematic discourse and its role in mobilising white gentrification, but also how young people contested it through their creative disobedience, through the magic of New Urban Arts.

The concept of the creative underclass is clearly in conversation with Richard Florida’s creative class. Florida’s influential ideas were discussed and critiqued exhaustively in and beyond the academy in the 1990s and 2000s. Not surprisingly, the perspectives, experiences, and practices of young people of color were largely absent from those debates. Since then, attention on this topic have ebbed. After the 2007 financial crisis and Ferguson, vague commitments to creativity as a panacea for social and economic problems can no longer succeed like it used to in mobilizing a political bloc with diverging ideological interests.

Nonetheless, the troubling nexus of urban property development, arts and culture, and educational institutions was not new in the 1990s and it continues today. In the United States, this nexus is central to the expansive and possessive logics of whiteness itself. I hope The Creative Underclass accounts for the creative and critical practices of young people at New Urban Arts in ways that make us better equipped to engage directly with, and potentially transform, ongoing racial and economic injustices in the city.

Read the introduction to The Creative Underclass and save 30% on the paperback with coupon E19DENMD. Denmead has launched a virtual book tour beginning in March 2021, presenting ethnographic snapshots from The Creative Underclass in public lectures and student seminars. If you are interested in hosting a private class talk or public lecture, please contact the author at td287@cam.ac.uk.

Upcoming public events:

24 March 2021, 5pm EDT
Hosted by the Centre for Study of Learning and Performance at Concordia University
Register in advance: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-creative-underclass-youth-race-and-the-gentrifying-city-tickets-145093591839 

25th March 2021, 12:30 pm GMT
Hosted by the Critical Childhood Studies Research Group at University College London
Register in advance for this talk: https://ucl.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYlcOCsqDkrEtxjyOwn3Tlyd_qzHW1SVsRg

16 April 2021, 11 am EDT
Hosted by the Barnett Symposium Virtual Speaker Series at the Department of Arts Education, Administration, and Policy at Ohio State University
See www.tylerdenmead.org for registration details.

April 21, 2021 12:30 pm EDT
Hosted by Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia
Register in advance for this talk: https://art.uga.edu/events/tyler-denmead-book-talk-creative-underclass-youth-race-and-gentrifying-city

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gedney original design

Original book cover design by William Gedney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wow

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

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

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

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

journal entry

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

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

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

spread 1

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

 

spread 2

The same spread in the finished book.

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

New Books in February

Winter is a great time to curl up with a good book. In February we have notable titles in media studies, critical race studies, and more!

Universal Tonality Jazz critic and historian Cisco Bradley tells the story of the life and music of bassist and composer William Parker in Universal Tonality, which documents fifty years of the monumental figure’s life in free jazz. Be sure to join us for a live online event featuring Bradley, Parker, Anthony Reed, and Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker on February 19.

Drawing on interviews with industry workers from MTV programs such as The Real World and Teen Mom, Amanda Ann Klein in Millennials Killed the Video Star examines the historical, cultural, and industrial factors leading to MTV’s shift away from music videos to reality programming in the early 2000s and 2010s.

Lauren Steimer’s Experts in Action examines how Hong Kong-influenced action movie aesthetics and stunt techniques have been taken up, imitated, and reinvented in other locations and production contexts around the globe.

Marina Peterson traces entanglements of environmental noise, atmosphere, sense, and matter that cohere in and through encounters with airport noise at Los Angeles International Airport since the 1960s, in Atmospheric Noise, showing how noise is central to how we know, feel, and think atmospherically.

Point of ReckoningTheodore D. Segal’s Point of Reckoning narrates the fraught and contested fight for racial justice at Duke University—which accepted its first black undergraduates in 1963—to tell both a local and national story about the challenges that historically white colleges and universities throughout the country continue to face. Catch Segal at two online events this month: on February 10, sponsored by the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, and on February 24, sponsored by the Duke Alumni Association.

Kevin Quashie in Black Aliveness, or a Poetics of Being analyzes texts by of Lucille Clifton, June Jordan, Toni Morrison, Evie Shockley, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others to argue for a black aliveness that is disarticulated from antiblackness and which provides the basis for the imagination and creation of a black world.

Throughout The Powers of Dignity Nick Bromell examines how Frederick Douglass forged a distinctively black political philosophy out of his experiences as an enslaved and later nominally free man in ways that challenge Anglo-Continental traditions of political thought.

Black UtopiasEngaging with the work of Black musicians, writers, and women mystics, Jayna Brown’s Black Utopias takes up the concept of utopia as an occasion to explore new states of being, doing, and imagining in Black culture. You can catch Brown’s first online event this Thursday, February 4.

Samantha A. Noël investigates how Black Caribbean and American artists of the early twentieth century responded to and challenged colonial and other hegemonic regimes through tropicalist representation in Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism.

Candace Fujikane draws upon Hawaiian legends about the land and water and their impact upon Native Hawai‘ian struggles in Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future to argue that Native economies of abundance provide a foundation for collective work against climate change.

A time of YouthA Time of Youth brings together 89 of the more than 2000 photographs William Gedney 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.

In Coed Revolution Chelsea Szendi Schieder examines the campus-based New Left in Japan by exploring the significance of women’s participation in the protest movements of the 1960s.

Ma Vang examines the experiences of Hmong refugees who migrated to the United States following the secret war in Laos (1961–1975) to theorize “History on the Run” as a framework for understanding refugee histories, in particular those of the Hmong.

Empire's MistressVernadette Vicuña Gonzalez follows the life of Filipina vaudeville and film actress Isabel Rosario Cooper to explore the contours of empire as experienced on the scale of personal relationships in Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper, taking us much deeper into her life story than merely her role as the mistress of General Douglas MacArthur.

Jonathan Beller traces the history of the commodification of information and the financialization of everyday life in The World Computer, showing how contemporary capitalism is based in algorithms and the quantification of value that intensify social inequality.

In The Charismatic Gymnasium, Maria José A. de Abreu examines the conservative Charismatic Catholic movement in contemporary urban Brazil to rethink the relationship between theology, the body, and neoliberal governance, showing how it works to produce subjects who are complicit with Brazilian neoliberalism.

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Farewell to Lesley Stern

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

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

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

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

In Conversation: Delinda Collier, Steven Nelson, and Elizabeth Ault

Our newest “In Conversation” video features Delinda Collier, Steven Nelson, co-editor of the Visual Arts of Africa and its Diasporas book series, and Duke University Press editor Elizabeth Ault discussing Collier’s new book Media Primitivism: Technological Art in Africa. They highlight how technologies of art move and are adopted across space and place, how African artists have made media and medium their own, and how African artists have challenged assumptions about African art as unmediated, primal, and natural. Media Primitivism is available now for 30% off with discount code CLLIER30.

New Titles in African Studies

Every year we look forward to meeting authors, editors, and readers in person at the ASA Annual Meeting, and we are sad to be missing out this year, although the meeting has gone virtual. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to extend a discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code AFSA20 until December 31, 2020.

View our African Studies catalog below for a complete list of all our newest titles in African Studies and across disciplines. You can also explore all of our African Studies books and journals on dukeupress.edu.

Editor Elizabeth Ault has a welcome message for participants in this year’s African Studies Association Annual Meeting. See below, as well, for a brief written message.

Closed captioning is available.
Editor Elizabeth Ault

Hello African studies! I’m super looking forward to joining in the virtual panels over the next few days–something I rarely get to do at the in-person conference, so a real luxury. Since we won’t be able to celebrate the release of the new books I mention in my video above in person, I’m particularly excited for the panels devoted to three recent books: Monica Popescu’s At Penpoint, Xavier Livermon’s Kwaito Bodies, and Lynn Thomas’s Beneath the Surface. I’ll be the one with the champagne flute! And of course, as the Association continues to think about the racial politics of the field and the university more broadly, following an extraordinarily painful (if occasionally hopeful!) summer of pandemic and protests, I’m looking forward to President Ato Quayson’s address on Friday evening. 

But of course I’ll miss our in-person conversations and all the generosity that y’all have shown me since I started attending the conference back in 2014. I’m really excited to be in conversation about projects that think from the continent, that consider the relationship between African studies and Black studies, that center queer and trans lives, and that work to reach across disciplinary, regional, and linguistic barriers. Please sign up for office hours to discuss your work with me here

Elizabeth mentions a number of books and series in her video, including Hannah Appel’s The Licit Life of Capitalism, Catherine Besteman’s Militarized Global Apartheid, Leslie Green’s Rock |Water | Life, Stephanie Newell’s Histories of Dirt, and Jennifer Bajorek’s Unfixed. The Theory in Forms series features multiple new books: Naked Agency by Naminata Diabate, The Wombs of Women by Françoise Vergès, Beneath the Surface by Lynn Thomas, Genetic Afterlives by Noah Tamarkin, Revolution and Disenchantment by Fadi A. Bardawil, and At Penpoint by Monica Popescu.

And don’t forget about our outstanding journals in African studies, including Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. All special issues, such as “Rethinking Cosmopolitanism: Africa in Europe ⁄ Europe in Africa,” “Black British Art Histories,” and “Time out of Joint: The Queer and the Customary in Africa,” are eligible for the 50% discount using code AFSA20.

Ian Baucom’s launch event for History 4° Celsius was hosted by Ranjana Khanna and Achille Mbembe and the Forum for Scholar’s and Publics. Check out new titles in the Visual Arts of Africa and Its Diasporas series and the Religious Cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora People series. And look out for a video conversation with Delinda Collier, author of Media Primitivism, very soon!

ASA President Ato Quayson will deliver the ASA Presidential Lecture Friday, November 20, 4:00pm-5:45pm EST.

Join DUP authors for author-meets-critics sessions:
Monica Popescu, At Penpoint, Saturday, November 21, 8:00am-9:45am EST
Xavier Livermon, Kwaito Bodies, Saturday, November 21, 12:00pm-1:45pm EST
Lynn Thomas, Beneath the Surface, Saturday, November 21, 4:00pm-5:45pm EST

The ASA will commemorate the work of the late Tejumola Olaniyan with four sessions on Thursday and Friday:
Thursday, November 19, 8:00am-9:45am EST | Thursday, November 19, 10:00am-11:45am EST | Thursday, November 19, 12:00pm-1:45pm EST | Friday, November 20, 10:00am-11:45am EST