Cultural Studies

New Books in June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interrogating “Diversity”

pcl_31_2_coverThe newest issue of Public Culture, “Interrogating ‘Diversity,’” edited by Damani J. Partridge and Matthew Chin, is available now.

Since the 1970s, the global practice of diversity has sparked a number of inclusion initiatives, such as affirmative action in universities, implemented to redress historical inequality. Contributors to this special issue argue that, in recent years, these initiatives have shifted away from their original intent toward a concept of “diversity” in which inclusion systematically denies access to minoritized populations.

“At elite institutions and in high-paying jobs in various global contexts, diversity has come to mean a sprinkling of color or the contingent presence of the ‘disadvantaged’ in otherwise majoritarian ‘White’ or upper-class/high-caste institutions,” write the editors in their introduction.

“Our call to interrogate diversity has also led us to collectively think beyond, outside, and in spite of diversity,” the editors continue. “It is not that we are against inclusion, but we cannot justify forms of inclusion that necessarily (even systematically) limit access. This includes forms that do very little to create possibilities for those who have systematically faced barriers that deny entrance. Interrogating diversity cannot mean sustaining existing institutions as we already know them. This process must be engaged in an activist, collective, and participatory project of social transformation.”

Read the introduction, freely available, or browse the table of contents.

New Books in May

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cuba Reader

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

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

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

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

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New Books in April

We’ve got great new reads in April in anthropology, religious studies, sociology, feminism and women’s studies, and much more.

978-1-4780-0390-8_prIn Deported Americans legal scholar and former public defender Beth C. Caldwell tells the story of dozens of immigrants who were deported from the United States—the only country they have ever known—to Mexico, tracking the harmful consequences of deportation for those on both sides of the border.

In Makers of Democracy A. Ricardo López-Pedreros traces the ways in which a thriving middle class was understood to be a foundational marker of democracy in Colombia in the second half of the twentieth century, showing democracy to be a historically unstable and contentious practice.

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Maura Finkelstein examines what it means for textile mill workers in Mumbai—who are assumed to not exist—to live during a period of deindustrialization, showing in The Archive of Loss how mills and workers’ bodies constitute an archive of Mumbai’s history that challenge common thinking about the city’s past, present, and future.

Hester Blum examines the rich, offbeat collection of printed ephemera created by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century polar explorers, showing in The News at the Ends of the Earth how ship newspapers and other writing shows how explores wrestled with questions of time, space, and community while providing them with habits to survive the extreme polar climate.

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In Autonomy Nicholas Brown theorizes the historical and theoretical conditions for the persistence of art’s autonomy from the realm of the commodity by showing how an artist’s commitment to form and by demanding interpretive attention elude the logic of capital.

In a revised and expanded edition of Medicine Stories, Aurora Levins Morales weaves together the insights and lessons learned over a lifetime of activism to offer a new theory of social justice, bringing clarity and hope to tangled, emotionally charged social issues in beautiful and accessible language.

Exploring a wide range of sonic practices, from birdsong in the Marshall Islands to Zulu ululation, the contributors to Remapping Sound Studies, edited by Gavin Steingo and Jim Sykes, reorient the field of sound studies toward the global South in order to rethink and decolonize modes of understanding and listening to sound.

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In Dance for Me When I Die—first published in Argentina in 2004 and appearing here in English for the first time—Cristian Alarcón tells the story and legacy of seventeen year old Víctor Manuel Vital, aka Frente, who was killed by police in the slums of Buenos Aires.

The contributors to Spirit on the Move, edited by Judith Casselberry and Elizabeth A. Pritchard, examine Pentecostalism’s appeal to black women worldwide and the ways it provides them with a source of community, access to power, and way to challenge social inequalities.

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 Mack Hagood, Author of Hush

hagood, mack author photo

Mack Hagood is Robert H. and Nancy J. Blayney Assistant Professor of Comparative Media Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His work on digital media, sound technologies, and popular music can be found in such publications as American Quarterly and Cinema Journal, and he co-produces and hosts the podcast Phantom Power: Sounds about Sound. In his new book, Hush: Media and Sonic Self Control, Hagood explores what he calles “orphic media”: noise-cancelling headphones, tinnitus maskers, white noise machines, nature-sound mobile apps, and other forms of media that give users the ability to create sonic safe spaces for themselves, showing how the desire to block certain sounds are informed by ideologies of race, gender, and class.

Explain what you mean by “sonic self-control”? What kind of sound are you investigating?

I study activities as simple as using a white-noise machine to sleep better at night or using noise-canceling headphones to work or enjoy a movie on an airplane. I am interested in how we use personal media technologies to change sensory experience, thereby managing how we feel and controlling our connection to our surroundings and others. These acts of sonic self-control are among our most common everyday media practices—millions of apps that generate nature sounds have been downloaded, for example, and headphones are now a multi-billion-dollar industry. These technologies’ prevalence alone makes them worthy of research; yet aside from a body of cultural studies work on personal music technologies like the Walkman and the iPod, very little research has been done on them. The kind of practice I’m describing here can involve music, but it can also be completely non-musical. I’m really focusing less on media content and more on how we use our devices to remediate how—and how much—the world affects us. I call these devices “orphic media,” named after the mythical Orpheus, who counteracted the fatal song of the Sirens by playing a song of his own, fighting sound with sound to create a safe space.

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In the book, I’m bringing together a diverse array of technologies that are used for this kind of sonic self-control: white noise machines, LPs of natural sounds, mobile apps, noise-canceling headphones, wearable devices that suppress tinnitus, and the evolving category of in-ear wearable computer technology, or “hearables.” Most of these orphic technologies have been ignored by my academic field of media studies, so I’m providing a history and asking why these practices have evolved over the past sixty years. Why do they feel so necessary today? And what can we learn about sensory experience and our cultural moment from them? Is our new ability to (in the words of a Beats headphones slogan) “Hear What You Want,” providing us new levels of freedom or is it making us ever more sensitive to what we don’t want to hear? In this way, I’m using the material and physiological experience of sound as a different way to think through contemporary debates about media echo chambers, filter bubbles, safe spaces, fake news, “snowflakes,” and so on.

Why do you think media studies has overlooked these technologies?

I think there are certain habits and ideas around media that affect scholars and laypeople alike, making some kinds of media practices harder to identify and analyze. For one thing, we tend to think about media in terms of discrete genres and technologies. In the academic world, the attainment of disciplinary expertise demands that you drill down on a specific medium, so you become a film scholar or a radio scholar or a social media scholar, despite the fact that we all know that these different media are converging in our iPhones. I wanted to approach things from the opposite direction, saying, “Here’s something interesting I see people doing on one device—are they also doing similar things with other devices?” So, I’m trying to think across media rather than within these categories that ultimately derive from the industries we are supposed to analyze and critique. This approach has led me to study audio technologies that are marketed as “sensory therapy devices” at the Home and Housewares Show, or prescription devices at the American Academy of Audiology conference—not just the familiar devices you’d find at the consumer electronics tradeshow, CES. My line of inquiry pushed me into some strange and interesting spaces where media scholars don’t often venture.

Then there are two common-sense definitions of media that exclude the technologies I study: First, media are information-transmitting devices. Second, media are communication devices. These are both partial truths that obscure some of what we really use media for—and even though a number of great media theorists have challenged these notions from different angles, they continue to dominate. In my view, media studies, like American culture, lives under the thumb of cybernetics and information theory, which were developed over seventy years ago—now more than ever, in fact! In the book, I argue that the pressures of living in an “information economy” are some of the main reasons we hate and fear noise so much today. What I call “infocentrism” places impossible demands on our attention and makes orphic media feel like necessities. Trying to analyze this dynamic as a scholar while using an informatic notion of media would be like using the Invisible Hand to critique neoliberalism.

My alternative definition, which is inspired by the Spinozan lineage of affect theory, is that media are devices used to control how we affect and are affected by the world. Information technology can facilitate this process, but the embodied, material, and affective aspects of media use just can’t be reduced to immaterial patterns of information or the transmission of messages. Take, for example, a mobile app like White Noise. Say you work in an open-plan office and your co-worker’s sales calls are distracting you from writing a memo, so you use your smartphone to generate noise and block out their voice. Noise is literally the opposite of information, right? You’re using your phone not to communicate, but rather to render communication impossible. In practice, you have contradicted the notion that media are solely technologies for the transmission of information and the facilitation of communication. Sure, your phone is constructed on an information architecture, but we shouldn’t confuse the architecture with the nature of the human practice, which is to remediate the external environment and thereby reorganize our interior experience.

What sparked your interest in sonic self-control? How did your experiences with tinnitus influence this project?

I lived in Taiwan for several years and there I encountered these little boxes that looked like transistor radios and played audio loops of chanted Buddhist sutras. I was completely fascinated by these things and started collecting them. (Years later, a pair of musicians in China commissioned their own version of the device filled with ambient music loops and branded it as The Buddha Machine—it became something of an underground music hit.) My imagination was captivated by the idea that a sound machine could create a sacred space and I recalled how, as a child who had trouble sleeping, I used a radio to make my bedroom feel safer. Years later, in graduate school, I read the passage in A Thousand Plateaus where a frightened child in the dark sings a song to create what Deleuze and Guattari call a milieu, a temporarily pacified space—a little wall of sound to keep the monsters out. I immediately thought back to the sutra boxes and my childhood radio and that’s when I began to wonder if there were other media technologies that sonically pacified space in this way. And yes, it turns out there are a lot of them!

As for tinnitus, I have had it for as long as I can remember—perhaps resulting from a bout of scarlet fever I had as a child. Tinnitus became part of the project when I realized that people who suffered a lot from it were the most avid—and sometimes, desperate—users of orphic media. In fact, audiologists prescribe wearable sound-generators as part of tinnitus therapies. This is because tinnitus grows louder in quiet spaces. Just as the pupils dilate in low light, the auditory system “turns up the volume” in silence, revealing or exacerbating tinnitus. The chapter on tinnitus shows how high the stakes of orphic mediation can get. In my ethnographic research, I met people who couldn’t work and even attempted suicide. A combination of sound enrichment and counseling is the main tinnitus treatment today.

And in fact, the stakes became very high for me as well. By a strange twist of fate, a bike tire burst right next to my ear right before I started my fieldwork, creating tinnitus to a degree I’d never experienced before. So, I was struggling with my own fear and dismay about tinnitus as I was going to clinics and support groups to observe and do interviews. I could deeply empathize with tinnitus sufferers whose bosses or families thought they were flakes or neurotics or malingerers. The tinnitus research soon became the centerpiece of the project. It provided me with a neurophysiological model of how an affect of fear can attach to sound, reshaping sensory experience and social life. It also forced me to study humanistic theories of disability, something that really wasn’t on my radar before. In the end, disability theory helped me resolve my own fear and aversion to tinnitus, which actually may be the only “cure” at this point. I realized that my own ideology of ability—Tobin Siebers’ term for the belief that the body should be perfect—was fueling my flight-or-flight reaction to tinnitus, making it worse. This helped me turn a corner. In time, I came to embrace my tinnitus as a part of myself. In fact, I came to realize that every sound we hate or fear is really part of ourselves, because we are the ones who experiences it. No matter what noise we are fighting, literal or figurative, embracing our experience is the secret to transcending it. Ironically, a lot of human suffering comes from our self-defeating attempts at self-control.

You use the image of Orpheus fending off the sirens’ deadly song with his own as the basis for your concept of “orphic media.” Why Orpheus? How does this myth let you touch upon other themes in your book?

Orpheus fascinates me, especially the Orpheus of the epic poem Argonautica. Here we have an adventure with a boatload of burly heroes, but this sensitive poet-musician-priest guy is an essential member of the crew. This should be not only an inspiration to nerds everywhere, but also a reminder of the power of sound and music. Orpheus keeps the brutish Argonauts from fighting by playing his lyre and singing. He sets the rhythm for the rowers, allowing them to travel with speed. He performs important religious rituals. And, of course, he saves the Argonauts lives by musically fabricating a safe space in the Siren Strait. So, Orpheus allows me to talk about how sound can be instrumentalized as a powerful vibrational force. This is what we see today in all orphic media.

However, Orpheus also exhibits something we have somewhat lost our ear for today. His power comes from the fact that he is exquisitely sensitive to the sacred and unifying power of sound. He is the son of a Muse, and he can hear even the vibrations of spiders spinning their webs. His music can change the course of rivers and move the Earth because he understands that sound is a medium that interconnects us all. So, sound can be utilized to separate and defend, but it also reminds us that we can never truly be separate from one another. Musical rituals are spaces where people give up individuality to sing and move as one. This is the opposite of the instrumentalized and individualized use of music that is so common in the streaming era with its mood- and productivity-focused playlists. Or the utilitarian use of white noise as a protective wall of sound.

In your discussion of different kinds of orphic media, advertisements serve as important examples of how companies have defined sound in terms of race, class, gender, and disability. What are some of the most unexpected ways in which capitalism shapes sound and orphic media?

Well, my broad-stroke answer is that neoliberal capitalism functions sonically the same way it operates generally: structural problems are personalized and made the responsibility of the individual to solve, using products conveniently supplied by the market. Going back to the open office plan, it’s a highly cost-efficient architectural strategy that just happens to drive workers to distraction because of noise. But when a worker has spent a lifetime in spaces like these, they probably aren’t going to blame the economic and built structures of capitalism for their misery, right? They’re going to blame their neighbor with the “annoying voice” or “braying laugh” or whatever. And those personalized perceptions of noise are going to emerge within our culture’s familiar hierarchies of race, class, gender, and ability.

I learned of this dynamic by studying the advertising strategies of the companies that sell orphic media, as well as by reading reviews and news articles in the popular press. These products are marketed around certain identity types: we’ve seen attempts to domesticate and feminize white noise for use in the home through the use of images of sleeping women, while Bose noise-canceling headphones were first marketed to white, male business travelers, and Beats uses a younger, African American perspective to market its headphones. These products are very similar—or, in some cases, basically identical—yet the identities they are portrayed to protect from noise are very different. I mean, there’s often a No Exit, “Hell is other people” discourse at work in the promotion of these media practices. Hell is other people who are different from you. That’s something that surprised me and it predates the “filter bubbles” of the internet by many years.

Hush includes the histories of many sonic technologies, from Beats by Dre headphones to white noise machines. What was the most interesting piece of technology to research and write about?

It’s hard to choose but one stands out from the others because it presented orphic media’s potentials in a different way from all the others. A series of records called environments was quite popular in the 1970s and early 80s and its album sides were dedicated to sonic spaces such as the seashore or a meadow or a country stream. These records are not only beautifully recorded and produced, but their creator, Irv Teibel, also heard a potential in these sounds that Orpheus would recognize. He thought his records could bring people together to go on mental trips, enhance sex, and commune with nature. These are the same kinds of sounds that are marketed today in a very utilitarian and isolating way: you use these sounds to relax alone, fall asleep, or be more productive at work or in your studies. But Teibel heard them as a sonic force of countercultural communalism and resistance to the alienation of modern life. And people agreed with him: his sounds were played on independent radio stations, in “encounter groups” like est, and in the offices of psychotherapists. Sadly, this communitarian usage of orphic media fell away, and today the marketing revolves around an efficiency-enhancing sleep/work binary, as well as individual escape from an anxiety-causing world.

How do you see orphic media evolving in the present moment? What do you think are the implications for our lives in the future?

Through the miniaturization of computer technology, orphic media are becoming increasingly powerful and refined. Augmented reality had been assumed by many to be a visual phenomenon, as exemplified by Google Glass; but arguably more progress is being made in the sonic domain, as in-ear “hearables” allow one to access the internet via voice assistants and block out sound via noise-cancellation. The dream of many developers seems to be the complete customization of hearing, so that, for example, you can simply eliminate specific sounds that you hate while still hearing others. Perhaps in the future, no one will ever hear a crying baby on a plane again! We’ve also seen the weaponization of orphic media—specialized earplugs that offer soldiers a combination of enhanced hearing and protection from gunfire and explosions. I think the implications of these technologies is that they encourage those with enough wealth and power to treat the sonic world like a database of content to selectively access and manipulate. But the history of control also tells us that there can never be enough it, that the more we customize our world, the more sensitized and in need of control we become. And if we do manage to silence the world, we’ll be stuck listening to the noise of our own tinnitus. Noise never sleeps.

How do you hope Hush will change the way readers think about listening?

You know, John Cage used to say that when he heard a sound he didn’t like, he would listen to it more closely to find out why—and almost always, he would learn that there was no reason. Now, I’m not a complete social constructionist when it comes to noise. There are sounds that damage hearing and sounds that are bad for human health. However, a lot of the sounds we recoil from may deserve a second hearing. If we challenge the auditory defensive crouch we go into and challenge ourselves to breathe in the offending sound and really listen to it, we may find that a lot of our reaction is just a habitual reaction to difference. In fact, the sound might even be interesting and informative. I don’t begrudge anyone their noise-canceling headphones—and I myself use a white noise machine to sleep—but there’s value in noticing when and where and why we use these things—and in exploring what we habitually tune out. Who and what are we leaving unheard? Careful listening can reveal the societal at work in the personal, as well as tuning us into the music of life.

Read the introduction to Hush free online, and purchase the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E19HUSH.

Sample The Hundreds by Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart

The HundredsThe Hundreds—composed of pieces one hundred or multiples of one hundred words long—is theorist Lauren Berlant and ethnographer Kathleen Stewart’s collaborative experimental writing project in which they strive toward sensing and capturing the resonances that operate at the ordinary level of everyday experience. We invite you to sample the book by reading four pieces from it.

First Things

Every day a friend across the ocean wakes up to suicidal thoughts. Another friend takes a drink to eat clean and another eats a candy bar in bed before washing the sheets, doing laundry naked to ensure soft sleeps.
Another friend chants before going out to her analogy lab. Another hires
retired people to walk her dogs so that she can get to her trainer. Others,
desperate, rush harsh. Many people’s kids climb in. Many pets assert the
dominion of their drives. There’s stretching and the taking of medicine.
There’s accounting and anxious text checking. There’s scanning for bossy
emails and preconceptions. Lists get made. For some, there is breakfast.
Once spring rolls around there is running before the heat and catching
the first shift sitting outside the punk bakery to smoke, drink coffee, and
“break each other’s balls” before work does what work does. I asked them
about this phrase once and sparked a debate about whether it is properly
“break” or “bust.” Whatever, Professor, they laughed, yanking your chain,
busting your balls, don’t take it so serious!

Some people sleep in. Other people wake at the sun. Some people walk
into the house and see only the order in it. Some people serve other
people. Some use the quiet time to do the best things quiet time allows.
Some people waste it, which is not the opposite of using it well. When
I was little I had a task: to make coffee for the adults, measuring out the
Maxwell House, setting the breakfast table. Then I’d leave for school and
my early teachers would let me into the teachers’ lounge. A little troll
doll kid overhearing Allende, Planned Parenthood, and MLK. A confused
and sunny face taking in the voices and the concept of concepts, before
the day.

(Davis 2010; Eigen 2004; Hejinian [1980] 2002; Jacobus 1995; Perec [1974] 2008)

Swells

We write to what’s becoming palpable in sidelong looks or a consistency
of rhythm or tone. Not to drag things back to the land of the little judges
but to push the slow-mo button, to wait for what’s starting up, to listen up
for what’s wearing out. We’re tripwired by a tendency dilating. We make
a pass at a swell in realism, and look for the hook. We back up at the hint
of something. We butt in. We try to describe the smell; we trim the fat to
pinpoint what seems to be the matter here.

Words sediment next to something laid low, or they detour on a crazed
thought-cell taking off. I saw a woman standing on a sidewalk, chainsmoking
while she talked to a buff younger man. She was trying to get
him to give someone else a break because he means well or he didn’t
mean it. Maybe her son. “He don’t know no better.” She was hanging in
there, but the whole top half of her black hair was a helmet of white roots.
She was using her fast-thinking superpowers to run a gauntlet of phrases
and get out quick even though we all knew she was just buying time.
A thought hits at an angle. Subjects are surprised by their own acts. But
everyone knows a composition when they see one. A scene can become
a thing after only a few repetitions. At the Walmart in New Hampshire,
scruffy middle-aged men hang back at the register, letting their elderly
mothers pay. The men have a hint of sour and the abject; their mothers
are a worn autopilot. Women talk in the aisles about the local hospital; it’s
incapable; it misreads people, handing out exactly the wrong, killer drug.

(Ericson 2011; Sedgwick 1997; Seigworth and Tiessen 2012; Serres 1997;
Stevens [1957] 1990)

Dilations

The Hundreds is an experiment in keeping up with what’s going on.
Ordinaries appear through encounters with the world, but encounters
are not events of knowing, units of anything, revelations of realness, or
facts. Sometimes they stage a high-intensity tableau of the way things
are or could become; sometimes strangeness raises some dust. This work
induces form without relieving the pressure of form. It pushes and follows
histories out. It takes in signs and scaffolds. If our way is to notice
relations and varieties of impact, we’re neither stuffing our pockets with
ontology nor denying it: attention and riffing sustain our heuristics.
What draws affect into form is a matter of concern. Form, though, is not
the same thing as shape: and a concept extends via the tack words take.
Amplified description gets at some quality that sticks like a primary object,
a bomb or a floater. The image that comes to mind when you read
that (if images come to mind when you read) might not be what we’re
imagining — and we’re likely not imagining the same thing either. Collaboration
is a meeting of minds that don’t match. Circulation disturbs
and creates what’s continuous, anchoring you enough in the scene to pull
in other things as you go.

“Punctum” ought to mean whatever grabs you into an elsewhere of form.
There ought also to be a word like “animum,” meaning what makes an
impact so live that its very action shifts around the qualities of things
that have and haven’t yet been encountered. You can never know what
is forgotten or remembered. Even dormancy is a kind of action in relation.
Think about watching a dead thing, a thing sleeping, or these words.
Think about skimming as a hunger and defense against hunger. Think
about the physiological pressure of itching.

(Barthes [1980] 1981; Deleuze [1988] 1993; Freud [1925] 1961; Goffman 1981;
Massumi 2010; Moten 2013; Nersessian and Kramnick 2017; Posmentier 2017;
Shaviro 2016)

This is vanilla

These prose poems come from a long poetic and noetic collaboration.
The project pays attention to the relation of scenes to form, observation
to implication, encounters to events, and figuration to what sticks in the
mind. To convert an impact into a scene, to prehend objects as movement
and matter, retains a scene’s status as life in suspension, the way an extract
in cooking conveys the active element in a concentrated substance
that comes in a small brown bottle. (This is vanilla. This is almond.) The
elaboration of heuristic form on the move points to pattern, patina, atmosphere:
the object world of vestiges that scatters bumpily across the
plane of what is also a vibrant tableau. But we get it: your eyes want a
place to land on. You want to know what happened when the glances
passed or where the train of a dark sentence will go. At different speeds
we move around the effects, causes, and situational membranes. As we
proceed we sift figurative types and object relations, seeking out the gists
of things. Our styles move in proximity to currents. We get distracted
sometimes. This is a practice of tightening and loosening the object-scene
in hundred-word swatches.

(B. Anderson 2009; Diaconu 2006; Fonagy and Target 2007; Ingold 2015;
Manning 2009; Massumi 2010; Quick 1998)

Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is author of Cruel Optimism and The Female Complaint, both also published by Duke University Press. Kathleen Stewart is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin, and author of Ordinary Affects, also published by Duke University Press.

Order The Hundreds for 30% off on our website using coupon code E19100S.

New Books in January

Black Feminism Reimagined.jpgNew Year, new books! From feminism to cultural studies to history, we’ve got some great new titles being released this month.

In Black Feminism Reimagined Jennifer C. Nash reframes black feminism’s engagement with intersectionality, contending that black feminists should let go of their possession and policing of the concept in order to better unleash black feminist theory’s visionary and world-making possibilities.

Fabricating Transnational Capitalism, edited by Lisa Rofel and Sylvia Yanagisako, is a collaborative ethnography of Italian-Chinese fashion ventures that offers a new methodology for understanding transnational capitalism in a global era.

978-1-4780-0199-7_crop.jpgEssential Essays—a landmark two volume set edited by David Morley—brings together Stuart Hall’s most influential and foundational works. Volume 1: Foundations of Cultural Studies focuses on the first half of Hall’s career, when he wrestled with questions of culture, class, representation, and politics, while Volume 2: Identity and Diaspora draws from Hall’s later essays, in which he investigated questions of colonialism, empire, and race. The volumes are also available for purchase separately.

In Going Stealth Toby Beauchamp positions surveillance as central to the understanding of transgender politics to show how contemporary security practices extend into everyday gendered lives.The Hundreds.jpg

The Hundreds—composed of pieces one hundred or multiples of one hundred words long—is Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart’s collaborative experimental writing project in which they strive toward sensing and capturing the resonances that operate at the ordinary level of everyday experience.

Examining singers Marian Anderson, Billie Holiday, and Jimmy Scott as well as vocal synthesis technology in The Race of Sound, Nina Sun Eidsheim traces the ways in which the voice and its qualities are socially produced and how listeners assign a series of racialized and gendered set of assumptions to a singing voice.

Sexuality Disability and AgingThe contributors to Seeking Rights from the Left, edited by Elisabeth Friedman, evaluate the impact of the Latin American “Pink Tide” of left-leaning governments (2000-2015) on feminist, women’s, and LGBT movements and issues.

In Sexuality, Disability, and Aging Jane Gallop explores how disability and aging are commonly understood to undermine one’s sense of self and challenges narratives that register the decline of bodily potential and ability as nothing but an experience of loss.

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The Most Read Articles of 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on the most read articles across all our journals. Check out the top 10 articles that made the list, all freely available until the end of January.

TSQ_5_1_coverToward the Decipherment of a Set of Mid-Colonial Khipus from the Santa Valley, Coastal Peru” by Manuel Medrano and Gary Urton

Predatory Value Economies of Dispossession and Disturbed Relationalities” by Jodi A. Byrd, Alyosha Goldstein, Jodi Melamed, and Chandan Reddy

Black Aesthetics, Black Value” by Lewis R. Gordon

Rural Voids” by Miriam Driessen

Desiring Blackness: A Queer Orientation to Marvel’s Black Panther, 1998–2016” by André Carrington

Conversational Exculpature” by Daniel Hoek

SMX_22_1(55)_coverThe Anarchy of Colored Girls Assembled in a Riotous Manner” by Saidiya Hartman

Collective Memory and the Transfeminist 1970s: Toward a Less Plausible History” by Finn Enke

Realism and the Absence of Value” Shamik Dasgupta

Partus sequitur ventrem: Law, Race, and Reproduction in Colonial Slavery” by Jennifer L. Morgan

How Partnerships with Museums Help Build a Strong Art List

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Welcome to the University Press Week blog tour! This year’s theme is #TurnItUP, offering posts that show how the university press community amplifies voices, disciplines, and communities. We’re pleased to be a part of Arts & Culture day with a post about how our partnerships with art museums amplify their work and help us build a strong art list. See the other great posts on the tour at the end of this post.

978-0-938989-42-4Duke University Press has long has a strong list in art and art history, and since the mid-2000s, that list has included a number of museum catalogs. Our earliest museum partner is the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Since they opened in 2005, we have distributed many catalogs for them, including Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool (2008), The Record (2010), Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey (2013), Southern Accent (2016), and most recently, Pop América, 1965–1975 (2018). The Nasher Museum’s mission to collect and display works by diverse artists who have been historically underrepresented, or even excluded, by mainstream arts institutions also fits with our own acquisition editors’ focus. “Duke Press has been a wonderful partner since the Nasher Museum opened in 2005,” said Sarah Schroth, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum. “The Duke Press team has provided invaluable help in distributing our exhibition catalogues to art museums, book fairs and book critics around the country.”

Modern Art in the Arab WorldWorking with the Nasher Museum helped us build a reputation as a strong distributor of museum catalogs. In 2010 we began a partnership with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to distribute their Primary Documents series. Although sometimes associated with an exhibition, these titles are not catalogs but instead teaching and researching tools featuring primary documents associated with a particular artist or region, that often have never been available in English. The first volume we distributed was Contemporary Chinese Art (2010), and more recently we have distributed Modern Art in the Arab World (2018) and Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe (2018). These titles are a good fit with our area studies lists as well as our art list, and we can use our expertise in course adoption marketing to help MoMA reach a wider teaching audience.

Michael McCullough, Senior Manager for Books Marketing and Sales, says, “Marketing, selling, and distributing books from major museums is very helpful in raising our profile with museum shops and art buyers. We only distribute books that complement our own books and journals publishing programs; so whether a distributed title came from MoMA or the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, it will look at home in the Duke University Press catalog.”

We Wanted a Revolution 2Recently we have undertaken collaborations with the Museum of Latin American Art  and the Chinese American Museum, with catalogs that were part of the Pacific Standard Time LA/LA collaboration. We were also excited to partner with the Brooklyn Museum on their exhibition We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85. We distributed a Sourcebook for the exhibition that features an array of rare and little-known documents from the period by artists, writers, cultural critics, and art historians as well as a second volume of New Perspectives, containing original essays and perspectives that place the exhibition’s works in both historical and contemporary contexts.

Begin to SeeCurator Julie J. Thomson, author of Begin to See: The Photographers of Black Mountain College, a catalog for her exhibition at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center says, “After spending years researching an exhibition which is up for a limited time, the exhibition catalog reaches beyond who could visit the museum, and is what remains. Duke University Press’s distribution of the catalog for Begin to See allowed museum bookstores and art libraries to know about it and order it. It’s reassuring to know that future scholars will be able to access my research and writing through the catalog held in library collections throughout the world.”

Editorial Director Ken Wissoker agrees that publishing catalogs is useful for acquisitions. “Whether it is the Black feminist show We Wanted a Revolution from the Brooklyn Museum or The Record from the Nasher Museum, museum catalogs are a crucial part of our list, even beyond the areas in the arts where one expects them to contribute.  We have authors writing for the catalogs and others bringing their books to us because they loved the catalogs on our list. This is a great crossover moment between art and critical thinking, and the catalogs could not play a more important role in that exchange.”

Please continue on the University Press Week blog tour by visiting these other great university press offerings: Athabasca University Press offers a playlist by author Mark A. McCutcheon of all the songs featured in his book The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology. Rutgers University Press dedicates a post to our their book Junctures in Women’s Leadership: The Arts by Judith Brodsky and Ferris Olin. Over at Yale University Press, check out a post by author Dominic Bradbury about how immigrants enrich a country’s art and architecture. University of Minnesota Press is running a post about their author Adrienne Kennedy, who will be inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame on Nov. 12th. Hope you enjoy all these great #TurnItUP posts! 

Preview our Spring 2019 Catalog

S19-catalog-front-coverOur Spring 2019 catalog is here! Check out some highlights below and download the complete catalog for a more in-depth look. These titles will be published between January and June 2019.

The cover of the catalog is a photograph by Rotimi Fani-Kayode, the subject of the book Bloodflowers: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Photography, and the 1980s (March) by W. Ian Bourland. Bloodflowers launches a new series, The Visual Arts of Africa and its Diasporas, edited by Kellie Jones and Steven Nelson. And it’s just one of many great new art titles in this catalog. You’ll also want to check out Suzanne Preston Blier’s Picasso’s Demoiselles (June), an examination of the previously unknown origins of a well-known painting. And in Surrealism at Play (February) Susan Laxton writes a new history of Surrealism in which she traces the centrality of play to the movement and its ongoing legacy. We’re especially excited about The Romare Bearden Reader (May) edited by Robert G. O’Meally. It brings together a collection of new essays and canonical writings by novelists, poets, historians, critics, and playwrights. The contributors include Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, August Wilson, Farah Jasmine Griffin, and Kobena Mercer. We’ve also got Rebecca Zorach’s Art for People’s Sake (March), which looks at the Black Arts Movement in Chicago; and Chicano and Chicana Art: A Critical Anthology  (February), which provides an overview of the history and theory of Chicano/a art from the 1960s to the present.

Deported AmericansTimely books on immigration will definitely add context to current debates. In Deported Americans (April), legal scholar and former public defender Beth C. Caldwell tells the story of dozens of immigrants who were deported from the United States—the only country they have ever known—to Mexico, tracking the harmful consequences of deportation for those on both sides of the border. And in The Fixer (June), Charles Piot follows a visa broker—known as a “fixer”—in the West African nation of Togo as he helps his clients apply for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery program. For a look at the immigrant experience through poetry, check out The Chasers (May), in which Renato Rosaldo shares his experiences and those of his group of twelve Mexican-American Tucson High School friends known as the Chasers as they grew up, graduated, and fell out of touch. Rosaldo’s poems present a chorus of distinct voices and perspectives that convey the realities of Chicano life on the borderlands from the 1950s to the present.

The Hundreds by Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart will delight fans of theory, ethnography, and experimental writing alike. The book, composed of pieces one hundred or multiples of one hundred words long—is their collaborative experimental writing project in which they strive toward sensing and capturing the resonances that operate at the ordinary level of everyday experience.

Activists will be excited to learn that we are bringing out a new, revised and expanded edition of Aurora Levins Morales’s Medicine Stories (April). She weaves together the insights and lessons learned over a lifetime of activism to offer a new theory of social justice, bringing clarity and hope to tangled, emotionally charged social issues in beautiful and accessible language.

Book ReportsIf you enjoy critic Robert Christgau’s writing on music (his collection Is It Still Good to Ya? came out this fall), you’ll definitely want to check out his book reviews, collected together in Book Reports (April). Christgau shows readers a different side to his esteemed career with reviews of books ranging from musical autobiographies, criticism, and histories to novels, literary memoirs, and cultural theory.

We’re also pleased to present new books from returning authors Jane Gallop, Elspeth Brown, Jennifer C. Nash, and Kandice Chuh, among others, as well as a new edition of The Cuba Reader, long a bestseller for courses and travelers.

These are just a few of the great titles coming out next spring. We have over seventy titles in cultural studies, art, sound studies, Latin American studies, history, Asian studies, African studies, religion, American studies, and more. You’ll want to read and download the whole thing to see all the great new books and journals. To be notified of new books in your chosen disciplines, sign up for our email alerts, too.