Asian American Studies

Honoring Hawai’i on Statehood Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Books in February

Got the winter blues? Cheer yourself up with one of the great new titles we have coming out in February.

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Chicano and Chicana Artan anthology edited by Jennifer Gonzalez, C. Ondine Chavoya, Chon Noriega, and Terezita Romowhich, includes essays from artists, curators, and critics who provide an overview of the history and theory of Chicano/a art from the 1960s to the present, emphasizing the debates and vocabularies that have played key roles in its conceptualization.

Bloodflowers by W. Ian Bourland is the first book-length examination the photography of  Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955–1989), whose art is a touchstone for cultural debates surrounding questions of gender and queerness, race and diaspora, aesthetics and politics, and the enduring legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Jeffrey Sconce’s The Technical Delusion traces the history and continuing proliferation of psychological delusions that center on suspicions that electronic media seek to control us from the Enlightenment to the present, showing how such delusions illuminate the historical and intrinsic relationship between electronics, power, modernity, and insanity. Read an excerpt from The Technical Delusion in Bookforum.

Thomas Grisaffi’s Coca Yes, Cocaine No traces the political ascent and transformation of the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) from an agricultural union of coca growers into Bolivia’s ruling party, showing how the realities of international politics hindered MAS leader Evo Morales from scaling up the party’s form of grassroots democracy to the national level.

978-1-4780-0181-2In Second World, Second Sex Kristen Ghodsee recuperates the lost history of feminist activism from the so-called Second World, showing how women from state socialist Bulgaria and socialist-leaning Zambia created networks and alliances that challenged American women’s leadership of the global women’s movement.

The contributors to Infrastructure, Environment, and Life in the Anthropocene, edited by Kregg Hetherington, chart the shifting conceptions of environment, infrastructure, and both human and nonhuman life in the face of widespread uncertainty about the planet’s future.

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In Jugaad Time Amit S. Rai shows how urban South Asians employ low-cost technological workarounds and hacks known as jugaad to solve problems, navigate, and resist India’s neoliberal ecologies.

In Surrealism at Play Susan Laxton writes a new history of surrealism in which she traces the centrality of play to the movement and its ongoing legacy, showing how its emphasis on chance provided the means to refashion artistic practice and everyday experience.

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

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

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A View from the Ivy Gates: Christine Yano on Privilege and Affirmative Action

yanoChristine Yano is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i and co-editor (with Neal K. Adolph Akatsuka) of the new book Straight A’s: Asian American College Students in Their Own Words. This guest post offers her reflections on current and recent lawsuits on affirmative action in higher education.

Privilege is an ugly word.  And any pedestal of privilege holds a fraught position that draws critics and wannabes.  Given these elements, the possibilities for manipulation of privilege and its pedestals run high.  In my mind, this is part of the backdrop of the current lawsuit against Harvard University’s admissions policy by the so-called Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) led by conservative activist Edward Blum.  The lawsuit charges that Harvard’s undergraduate admissions policy discriminates against Asian American applicants, by holding them to a higher bar than others, based on their numerical test scores and rates of admission.  The lawsuit on surface carries commonsense momentum, because it feeds upon a history of rumor and innuendo, in part driven by similar lawsuits levelled at other places of privilege, such as University of California, Berkeley.  It feeds upon stereotypes of Asian Americans as a model minority that is high-achieving and low maintenance, ignoring the diversity of national origins, culture, education levels, and social class.  The model minority stereotype thrust upon Asian Americans by white media during the racially volatile 1960s categorized them as the so-called “good minority” in contrast with other persons of color as the “bad minority.”  The lawsuit feeds upon the creation and manipulation of such divisiveness, pitting minority against minority in the most insidious ways.  The lawsuit generates its own hype.

978-1-4780-0024-2I come to these thoughts on the impending lawsuit through perusing related documents in the news media, but also through my experiences as a Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Harvard in 2014-2015, teaching an experimental and temporary undergraduate course entitled Being Asian American: Representations and Realities (Anth1606).  My students were primarily Asian American undergraduates, who were excited and enthusiastic to find a class that dealt with their own experiences.  The students’ energies coalesced as Straight A’s:  Asian American College Students in Their Own Words.  Straight A’s consists of first-person narratives of Harvard Asian American undergraduates, gathered by the students (dubbed “Asian American Collective”) through personal writings and interviews.  As their instructor and fellow Asian American, I was moved by their tales, which were direct, unblinking, and intimate.  They helped me learn the pitfalls of the public pedestal of Harvard and the constant scrutiny that such a position entails, which includes families (sometimes arcing back to extended families in Asia), friends, high schools, communities, and more.  These students live under tremendous pressure, and a lawsuit such as Blum’s only adds to the confusion and complexity of their college years.

I admit that I, too, did not know exactly what to make of the lawsuit without having done some background reading.  Because the lawsuit feeds into so many pre-existing assumptions, stereotypes, and histories, those who hear news of it may find themselves hard put to examine its context more closely.  After all, prejudice against Asian Americans is a very real thing.  Shutting out minorities (here Asian Americans; in the past, Jews) from institutions of privilege is well documented and an ugly part of history, including that of Harvard.  These kinds of historical encounters with the allegations set forth by the lawsuit give a kind of common-sense, superficial acceptance of its premises. This is a dangerous thing, especially given an age of right-wing conservatism with calls for dismantling affirmative action programs.  The lawsuit implies that the admissions process at a place of privilege such as Harvard follows affirmative action practices—that is, racial and ethnic quotas—that in this case have worked against one minority that has proven too successful for their own good.  Proponents of the lawsuit suggest that the answer is to abandon all affirmative action that might give any particular group an advantage (or here, disadvantage) over any other group.  Thus Blum and his followers (including some recruited Asian Americans, such as Yukong Zhao, president of the Asian American Coalition for Education) have found a circuitous means to argue against affirmative action in general.  It’s a neat and cynical trick.

But in fact, the trick is not quite so neat.  For example, the lawsuit mischaracterizes Harvard’s current admissions process.  In fact, many institutions, including Harvard, utilize holistic review—that is, a widespread, multi-factored review process that aims to assess the context of the whole person, rather than simply relying on test scores.  That context includes family background, life circumstances, and unusual achievement, assessed through letters of recommendation, personal essays, and interviews.  Holistic review allows institutions to deliberately and purposefully look beyond numerical test scores to recognize future value to careers and communities.  This is not about a “positive personality” score to which Asian Americans have been ranked lower—what Blum labels the “Asian Penalty.”  Rather, holistic review provides admissions offices with a range of factors that might predict fit and function, including in some cases recognition of educational barriers that certain Asian American applicants may face, such as low-income families, refugee status, or lack of English as a primary language.  The lawsuit, in fact, relies upon disaggregated data that takes Asian Americans as a monolithic group, ignoring those who might fall outside the model minority category.  Blum’s trick only works if we uncritically accept the methods of his fact-gathering and the ideological basis of his argument.  The key element to understanding the issues involved lies in contextualizing Blum and the motivations behind SFFA.

And a number of groups have done just that.  Foremost among these is the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance (H4A), an organization of 7000 Asian American and Asian alumni around the globe and founded in 2008.  If anything, their voice should be heard as persons directly concerned with the lawsuit issues.  In an extensive June 29, 2018 message to members, the H4A Board and Executive Committee emphasized two main points:  1) they support the inclusive, whole-person admissions process that Harvard uses; and 2) they oppose any form of racial discrimination in the process.  The message also notes Blum’s history of conservative activism, of which this lawsuit is only one.  Blum, for example, was at the forefront in bringing down civil rights protections in the Voting Rights Act.  He twice went unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court on behalf of a white plaintiff in Fisher vs University of Texas to end the consideration of race in admissions.  Realizing that he needed Asian American plaintiffs to further his generalized case to dismantle affirmative action, he sought and found them in his newly created “Students for Fair Admissions.”  The Harvard lawsuit is the result.

One of the most comprehensive documents that I have read is that issued by the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard of June 26, 2018, entitled “Admissions Lawsuit Update: A Look Behind the Hype.”  The Coalition, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic organization of nearly 1100 Harvard and Radcliffe alumni and students, includes more than 200 Asian Americans and was founded in 2016.  Its steering committee spent hundreds of hours reviewing the lawsuit documents, and comparing the statistical evaluations in a “battle of the experts”—Dr. Peter Arcidiacono (Professor of Economics, Duke University) representing SFFA versus Dr. David Card (Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley) representing Harvard.  Because the lawsuit is ongoing, its conclusions are as well.  However, the Coalition importantly identifies the overarching aim of Blum and SFFA as seeking to ban holistic review admissions processes nationwide through a court ruling that any use of race or ethnicity in an evaluative educational setting is unconstitutional.  If successful, the injunction would prevent all educational institutions from conducting their screening with knowledge of the applicant’s race, including surnames, mention of family background in personal essays, or in-person interviews.  SFFA seeks an admissions process that elevates (or returns) the importance of numerical test scores, while disregarding, among other things, life histories, special skills and talents, and individual passions.  This flies in the face of longstanding acknowledgment of the very limitations and biases of standardized testing.

The key here is not only that the Blum-SFFA position on admissions is wrong-headed.  It is, of course.  But there is more to it than that.  Rather, Blum-SFFA seeks to dismantle the very goals of diversity in access to higher education by “fracturing communities of color” (the words of the Coalition).  And he is using Asian Americans as his bulwark.  Those goals of diversity have been long served by affirmative action, widespread programs that recognize that students do not arrive from the same starting line.  Harvard’s admissions process may not be considered strictly “affirmative action,” but in prioritizing the whole person over a test score, and by upholding a goal of a diverse student body not because of a statistical mandate, but because of the richness to be gained and curated and advanced by difference, the ipso facto result takes race as one part of the context of all students.  The experience of race says something about the student, not as an assumption, but as one element in a particularized context of culture, family, educational expectations, stereotypes, and more.

Because the lawsuit plays so easily into sneering comments about privilege, as well as widespread rumors about access to pedestals of privilege, such as Harvard, the general public may too easily fail to look beyond the accusations.  They’ve heard this before; they’ve felt this before.  Asian Americans as almost-whites, subject to the same kinds of reverse discrimination that whites might face.  Model-minority privilege.  Focused on the easy predictability of the accusation, the general public may too easily ignore the goals of the accusers, and rely too easily on their own intentional and unintentional stereotypes of Asian Americans and other domestic communities of color.

Thus it is important to re-focus and re-calibrate our attention.  In this case, the true news story lies in the accusers’ ideology of exclusion and political conservatism.  The accusers’ world view has no room for affirmative action.  Ultimately targeting and dismantling those practices that seek to rectify social conditions of inequality, the accusers would have us believe in the holy grail of test-score objectivity.  This is why Blum advocates eliminating any and all references to race in the admissions evaluation.  The accusers would have us rush to the defense of poor Asian Americans, whose only crime was doing too well.  They would have us ignore the educational richness of a diverse campus, as well as the steps that an institution might take to achieve that balance. They would have us ignore the many ways that an individual might excel and contribute to a variety greater goods.  Using the public spotlight upon privilege and its pedestal, the accusers manipulate a quasi-minority position to do battle in the courts.  In many ways, it is a battle of world views.  But that characterization sounds far too neutral.  Indeed, this is a human rights issue.  The Harvard lawsuit represents a struggle for the very concept of what higher education and its access in the United States might mean.  The stakes run high as Blum threatens the ongoing work of affirmative action aimed at extending privilege and pedestal to a broader swath.  Asian Americans are but a pawn in his game.  This fall the courts will decide whose world view prevails.

Read more about the Asian American experience at Harvard in Straight A’s: Asian American College Students in Their Own Words. Check out the introduction, and save 30% when you purchase a copy from Duke University Press by using coupon code E18STRA at checkout.

Historian Dawn Bohulano Mabalon Has Died

Dawn+photoWe were deeply saddened to learn of the death of historian Dawn Bohulano Mabalon on August 10. 2018. Mabalon was the author of Little Manila Is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California, published in 2013.

Mabalon saw her work as an act of community building. In an interview with The Margins in 2013, she said: “Filipinos in Stockton are on a journey towards realizing our memories and stories are history. We have been taught that it’s the growers and business owners and elite in Stockton who make history, and we only have our memories and those don’t mean as much. But realizing how we are a part of the American story is so empowering and so important. And that’s what I wanted to do with this book.”

littlemanilaShe toured tirelessly to share her research with Filipino-American communities, often sharing homemade treats with her enthusiastic audiences.  She was a co-founder and board member of the Little Manila Foundation, and in 2013 she was named to the list of the Filipina Women’s Network 100 Most Influential Filipinas in the World.

The Stockton Record reports that the local Filipino community is deeply mourning Mabalon’s loss, casting a shadow over the annual Barrio Fiesta. Dawn Mabalon’s family has set up a memorial fund to help with her funeral costs.

 

New Books in April

 April brings a fresh crop of great new books. Check out what we’re releasing this month.

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In Biblical Porn Jessica Johnson draws on a decade of fieldwork at Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle to show how congregants became entangled in a process of religious conviction through which they embodied Driscoll’s teaching on gender and sexuality in ways that supported the church’s growth.

In Abject Performances Leticia Alvarado explores how Latino artists and cultural producers have developed and deployed an irreverent aesthetics of abjection to resist assimilation and disrupt respectability politics.

Matthew Vitz’s A City on a Lake outlines the environmental history and politics of Mexico City as it transformed its original forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity, showing how the scientific and political disputes over water policy, housing, forestry, and sanitary engineering led to the city’s unequal urbanization and environmental decline.

In Domesticating Democracy Susan Helen Ellison offers an ethnography of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) organizations in El Alto, Bolivia, showing that by helping residents cope with their interpersonal disputes and economic troubles how they change the ways Bolivians interact with the state and global capitalism, making them into self-reliant citizens.

978-0-8223-7081-9.jpgKatherine Verdery’s My Life as a Spy analyzes the 2,781 page surveillance file the Romanian secret police compiled on her during her research trips to Transylvania in the 1970s and 1980s. Reading it led her to question her identity and also revealed how deeply the secret police was embedded in everyday life.

 In Edges of Exposure, following Senegalese toxicologists as they struggle to keep equipment, labs, and projects operating, Noémi Tousignant explores the impact of insufficient investments in scientific capacity in postcolonial Africa.

 

Examining human rights discourse from the French Revolution to the present, in Human Rights and the Care of the Self Alexandre Lefebvre turns common assumptions about human rights—that its main purpose is to enable, protect, and care for those in need—on their heads, showing how the value of human rights lies in its support of ethical self-care.

Gay PrioriLibby Adler’s Gay Priori offers a comprehensive critique of the mainstream LGBT legal agenda in the United States, showing how LGBT equal rights discourse drives legal advocates toward a narrow array of reform objectives that do little to help the lives of the most marginalized members of the LGBT community.

In From the Tricontinental to the Global South Anne Garland Mahler traces the history and intellectual legacy of the understudied global justice movement called the Tricontinental and calls for a revival of the Tricontinental’s politics as a means to strengthen racial justice and anti-neoliberal struggles in the twenty-first-century.

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

A Primer for Teaching Environmental History, by Emily Wakild and Michelle K. Berry, is a guide for college and high school teachers who are teaching environmental history for the first time, for experienced teachers who want to reinvigorate their courses, for those who are training future teachers to prepare their own syllabi, and for teachers who want to incorporate environmental history into their world history courses. The book is part of a new series, Design Principles for Teaching History.

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Recent Scholarship on the 2017 Women’s March

On January 21, 2017, over 5 million people marched all over the world in support of women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, environmental policy reform, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and worker’s rights, among other causes. We are excited to share this recent scholarship that analyzes the Women’s March itself, as well as continued scholarship on feminism and women’s rights.

“Positions in Solidarity: Voices and Images from the US Women’s Marches” by Deborah Frizzell in Cultural Politics

Trump-WomensMarch_2017-top-1510075_(32409710246)In this article featured in Cultural Politics, Frizzell features photographs and remembrances of the Women’s Marches in New York City and Washington, D.C. The article addresses the efficacy of mass marches and similar forms of protest and poses questions about the nature of the March, what it achieved, and questions if solidarity can be sustained in an environment of ongoing divisiveness.
An excerpt from the article:
On the morning of January 21, 2017, I reviewed a PDF file from the National Lawyers Guild and the Black Movement Law Project to prepare for participation in the Women’s March in New York City. As I dressed for a mild winter’s day, I wrote with a Sharpie pen on my forearm the guild’s legal support hotline number in case of arrest. My good friend and colleague Sharon Vatsky and I decided to attend the march together. Although we had experience protesting in a number of marches over the years, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, we were not sure what to expect in 2017 with militarized police forces and escalating violence deployed by Trump supporters as a tactic against Muslims, Latinos, people of color, Jews, and LGBTQ communities.
Read the full article, made freely available.

“The Women’s March: New York, January 21, 2017” by Caroline Walker Bynum in Common Knowledge

Women's_March_2017-01_(04)Bynum wrote this article, featured in Common Knowledge, two days after the Women’s March in New York City. It describes the event while focusing on two specific aspects: the March’s multi-issue focus and its response to the denigration of women’s expertise represented in much of the hostility to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Bynum argues that “a pernicious and often unrecognized denigration of female voices and female expertise forms an undercurrent of contemporary political debate that needs to be much more widely resisted.”

An excerpt from the article:

Indeed, the staggering diversity of issues was one of the most obvious aspects of Saturday’s march. Even among those in my little group, there were many reasons for turning out. Our signs spoke of defending Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, gun control, the inner cities, the environment. If there was no clear agenda, why does it seem so important that my friends and I marched?

Above all, it is important because it was a women’s march—a fact that the commentators have not fully noted and understood.

Read the full article, made freely available.

 

Additional Scholarship on Feminism and Women’s Rights

Read to Respond: Feminism and Women’s Rights

readtorespondOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This blog post on Feminism and Women’s Rights features journal articles and books tackling topics from abortion laws, maternity leave, Islamic feminism, and more. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

“Borders and Margins,” a special issue of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies

ddmew_13_3_coverThis special issue of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, “Borders and Margins,” approaches borders and margins through the lens of gender and sexuality.  Borders and margins are productive spaces to examine both the power and contingency of normative gender and sexual ideals and how gendered and sexual bodies participate in the production and reconfiguration of the nation-state. Essays in this issue analyze how women on the margins of society expose the exclusionary and gendered logics of nation-state formation and then generate new engagements with embodied politics and religious practice. This examination of borders and margins continues the feminist and gender-based analyses of material and discursive spaces and mobilities examined in previous issues.

The issue also features a special forum on Trump’s Presidency and Middle East Women’s Studies, examining topics such as the Muslim ban and the gendered side of Islamophobia. This special forum is freely available until May 2018.

Start reading with Sara Smith’s preface to the issue, freely available now.

“1970s Feminisms,” a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly

ddsaq_114_4For more than a decade, feminist historians and historiographers have engaged in challenging the “third wave” portrait of 1970s feminism as essentialist, white, middle-class, uninterested in racism, and theoretically naive. This task has involved setting the record straight about women’s liberation by interrogating how that image took hold in the public imagination and among academic feminists. This issue invites feminist theorists to return to women’s liberation—to the texts, genres, and cultural productions to which the movement gave rise—for a more nuanced look at its conceptual and political consequences. The essays in this issue explore such topics as the ambivalent legacies of women’s liberation; the production of feminist subjectivity in mass culture and abortion documentaries; the political effects of archiving Chicana feminism; and conceptual and generic innovations in the work of Gayle Rubin, Christine Delphy, and Shulamith Firestone.

Start reading now.

“Trans/Feminisms,” a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly

ddtsq_3_1-2Feminism and trans activism don’t have to be mutually exclusive, argue the contributors to “Trans/Feminisms,” the most recent issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly.

This special double issue, edited by Susan Stryker and Talia M. Bettcher, goes beyond the simplistic dichotomy between an exclusionary transphobic feminism and an inclusive trans-affirming feminism. Exploring the ways in which trans issues are addressed within feminist and women’s organizations and social movements around the world, contributors ask how trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary issues are related to feminist movements today, what kind of work is currently undertaken in the name of trans/feminism, what new paradigms and visions are emerging, and what questions still need to be taken up.

Central to this issue is the recognition that oppressions intersect, converge, overlap, and sometimes diverge in complex ways, and that trans/feminist politics cannot restrict itself to the domain of gender alone.

This issue features numerous shorter works that represent the diversity of trans/feminist practices and problematics and, in addition to original research articles, includes theory, reports, manifestos, opinion pieces, reviews, and creative/artistic productions, as well as republished key documents of trans/feminist history and international scholarship.

Start reading now.

“World Policy Interrupted,” a special issue of World Policy Journal
wpj33_4_23_frontcover_fppIn “World Policy Interrupted,” a special issue of World Policy Journal penned entirely by female foreign policy experts and journalists, contributors imagine a world where the majority of foreign policy experts quoted, bylined, and miked are not men.

The issue challenges the perception that women are not policymakers by showcasing the voices of female experts and leaders. Contributors to this issue address topics such as feminism in Chinaabortion laws across the Americascombating violent extremism by working with religious leaders, and women in media. The issue also features a conversation with Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritus.

Start reading now.

American Studies Association 2016

1We had such a wonderful time selling books and journals at the American Studies Association last week in Denver, Colorado.

On Friday we had a reception celebrating Small Axe‘s fiftieth issue and twentieth anniversary. The wine and cheese were great, but the Small Axe swag was an even bigger hit!

The reception was fun way to celebrate with editor David Scott, managing editor Vanessa Pérez-Rosario, editorial board members, and readers of the journal. Keep the celebration going by reading Small Axe #50.

Friday night also included a reception for GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. It was great to see so many scholars and contributors to the journal, as well as co-editors Beth Freeman and Marcia Ochoa, celebrating the journal.

Several of our authors won awards for their books. Simone Browne won the 2016 Lora Romero Prize for her book, Dark Matters, and Lisa Lowe’s Intimacies of Four Continents was a finalist for the 2016 John Hope Franklin Prize, both from ASA.

It was wonderful to see so many authors and editors stop by our booth. We loved seeing them with their books, and especially enjoyed E. Patrick Johnson and Kai Green’s reenactment of the No Tea, No Shade cover!

Not able to make it out this year? Are there a few more books or journal issues you wish you would have grabbed? Don’t worry—you can use the coupon code ASA16 on our website through the end of the year to stock up on our great American studies titles for 30% off.

Q & A with Elizabeth Chin

Chin S16 author photo (Credit Charles Chessler)

Elizabeth Chin is Professor of Media Design Practices at Art Center College of Design and the author of Purchasing Power: Black Kids and American Consumer Culture. Her new book, My Life with Things, is a meditation on her relationship with consumer goods and a critical statement on the politics and method of anthropology in which she uses everyday items to intimately examine the ways consumption resonates with personal and social meaning.

Where did the idea for this project come from and how did it evolve?

Chin.jpgThe idea for the diary part initially began as a series of emails I sent out to a small group of friends.
This was in the early 2000s before blogs were even much of a thing. If I had started the project a few years later, it might just have been a blog, and the book might never have happened. Along the way, though, I became fascinated with thinking about Karl Marx and his relationship to consumption. I wondered what his personal relationship to things might have been, and this spurred me into exploring all kinds of things from the economy in secondhand clothes to lace-making and the ins and outs of carbuncles. I was interested in Marx and his family as people, not icons or two-dimensional figures. It was when I was exploring the world of pawn in Marx’s time that I also realized pawn had been so important for Native people in the U.S., and that sent me on a whole new exploration. The evolution of the book overall was never straightforward, and certainly was not the result of some sort of well-laid plan. It was a series of explorations and journeys that then had do be cobbled together into the book.

Was there a particular writer or scholar who inspired you to experiment with writing voice and the limits of ethnography?

Actually I think the main inspiration for experimenting with the writing was my father. My dad, Frank Chin, is a writer – all he does is to write. He’s written plays, novels, nonfiction. He writes every single day. Even after a devastating stroke he’s written several books. I grew up around writing, and I’ve always written and taken it seriously as a craft. I like to joke that in my family you don’t really grow up until you publish your first book. So because of that, my orientation toward writing has always had what I suppose might be called a writerly orientation that is concerned with the writing itself as a form of practice and expression.

In My Life with Things you are remarkably candid – almost shockingly so – about your personal life. Did you have any reservations about revealing that level of detail, or was it just a necessity of the project?

Early on I decided this project had to be done wholeheartedly and without self-censoring. Part of this was because that is really how I think the best work gets done, you just have to dive in and not worry while you’re doing the work whether or not it can be declared “good” or “acceptable” or “embarrassing.” I knew I had no hope of producing good work if I was actually trying to do good work. My goal was to be as honest as possible in producing the material; I knew I could always worry afterward whether anybody else should ever see it. In the book itself, there were some people who had to be edited out after the fact, and some events that had to be re-framed, as well. I made the choice to do this because to include them would have exposed very private moments without their consent. In this way I still stuck to the ethical code we use in any kind of ethnographic work: I did not have their permission to reveal a particular event, so including them was not ethical. I never felt I had the right to publish things about people in my life, even true things, which would be hurtful to them. Some of the most painful material does deal with my mother and her struggles with mental illness. She read the manuscript before it was published, and if she had asked me to remove those entries I would have.

How did you choose which of your things to write about? Are there any items that didn’t make the cut?

With the entries, I just would sit down and write about whatever came to mind. This meant that there were plenty of entries that were boring, or just never really went anywhere. Sometimes I was sure that some item I was writing about was just an amazing journey, but later it would be excruciating to read myself obsessing of some minute consumer decision or other. At other times I could see in the writing that I was trying to hard to make a workable entry. This is partly why it was so important to write and write and write. I knew there was no guarantee that every entry was going to have a life.

You close the book with the fictional account of Dr. ——, a hoarder/collector/consumer and anthropologist whose house—stuffed to the gills with things—explodes. Is there any overlap between yourself and Dr. ——?

Writing that section was a ball. I loved making fun of myself and making fun of anthropology. Like so many academics I tend to take myself so very seriously and every single tiny slight or ego poke can keep me boiling for weeks. I absolutely think that I could become a hoarder. My husband thinks I already am. For my part, I see many surfaces in my house that remain undecorated and under-occupied. Part of me would love to continue that piece of writing, turn it into a whole crazy novel.

What do you hope readers take away from this book, both in terms of your arguments and in the methodology and your writing voice?

For me this book has been about embracing a kind of fearlessness, and in a way that is the thing I hope people respond to most, the notion that fearlessness is possible, even in the midst of terrible depression, even while struggle to keep going is endless. As an undergraduate I attended NYU in the drama program, and I’ve danced very seriously all my life. In the performing arts, you have to be fearless as well, even in the midst of profound insecurity. When you are on stage and performing, you never reach the heights if you are working at being good. You have to get out there with all your training behind you and then throw it away and trust that somehow you’ll fly. This is my attempt at flying in my writing. Most of me is utterly terrified, but there was this other part of me that had to make the attempt, so I’m trusting that part while also planning to crawl into a hole for a while.

You can order My Life with Things from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or order directly from Duke University Press. From now until June 20, this title and all other in-stock books and journal issues are 50% off using coupon code STOCKUP.

Save 50% on Asian American Studies Titles

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We are excited to announce a Spring sale on our Asian American studies titles. Save 50% on all in-stock books and special journal issues in that subject until May 2nd. Simply use coupon code ASAM50 during checkout after selecting any of our Asian American studies books.

Here are just a few of the great titles you can order with these great savings.

Tropical Renditions“In this stunningly refreshing take on the musicological and performative dimensions of Filipino American historical and cultural experiences, Christine Bacareza Balance makes intricate and superb sonic connections between seemingly separate realms such as colonialism, migration, youth culture, leisure, and labor. Standing alone in its incisive cultural critique and superb interpretive readings of a culture and a people spanning thousands of miles, Tropical Renditions makes a pioneering contribution to Asian American studies and performance studies.”— Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora
Asians Wear ClothesAsians Wear Clothes on the Internet is a fiercely imaginative and inspiring book. Minh-Ha T. Pham’s discussion of the garment industry’s racialization and the details she provides about bloggers’ lives and the conditions of their labor is impressive. She acknowledges and debunks the writing on overly utopian and breathless views of digital media as ‘participatory culture’ while giving full credit and agency to the bloggers she writes about. Stunning!”— Lisa Nakamura, author of Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet

Nguyen Tan Hoang’s exciting book is a compelling accountA View from the Bottom of the aesthetic, political, and queer possibilities of racialized forms of ‘bottomhood.’ As someone who has been writing about masochism and passivity in relation to queer feminisms for a while, I realize that this is the book I have needed in sorting through the complex forms of personhood, pleasure, and power that bottomhood braids into the meanings of race, nation, and sexuality.”— Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure

Animacies“This ambitious transdisciplinary analysis of the relations between humans, nonhuman animals, and matter charts a compelling and innovative rethinking of the biopolitics of ‘animacy.’ Mel Y. Chen animates animacy, a concept of sentience hierarchy derived in linguistics, to offer a far-ranging critique that implicates disability studies, queer of color critique, and postcolonial theory. The generative result is a timely and crucial intervention that foregrounds the oft-occluded import of race and sex in the rapidly growing fields of posthumanist theory, new materialisms, and animal studies.”— Jasbir K. Puar, author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times

Details of the Sale:
To save 50% visit www.dukeupress.edu and enter coupon code ASAM50 during checkout.
Sale applies to all Asian American studies print books and journal issues (instock).
Sale is not valid for journal subscriptions or society membership fees.
Regular shipping rates apply.
All sales final; no returns.
Discount applies to orders placed through our website.
Sale valid from April 25 to May 2, 2016.