Current Affairs

Cabin Fever: Trapped Onboard the Last Ships at Sea: A Guest Post by Eric Paul Roorda

Near the end of his own stormy passage through life, Mark Twain began an untitled story that he never finished. Its setting was an endless voyage on a sea teeming with terrors, such as the “spider-squid,” which surfaced to snatch the captain’s little boy from the deck of the ship. As it turns out, the vessel is microscopic, plowing through an ocean-like drop of liquid on a slide, under a microscope. The sea monsters that menace it are such miniscule horrors as bacteria and viruses.

Today, a version of that nightmare has come to life onboard ships—containerships, oil tankers, cruise ships—among crew members and passengers alike, who find themselves virtually imprisoned.

Merchant ships continue to circulate around the globe, maintaining the tenuous international supply lines. From one port of call to another, cranes unload thousands of truck-sized boxes full of products from containerships, and pumps fill-up and empty-out tankers, but the mariners working on those ships are not permitted to disembark. The March 26 New York Times cited a single example: an oil tanker manned by eight sailors, plying from China to Singapore to Sri Lanka, due to go on to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with each destination having in common a prohibition against anyone coming ashore.

That means that workers on merchant ships, even those who have fulfilled their contractual terms of labor, are forced to continue doing their duty indefinitely. An estimated 150,000 individuals, mainly from the Philippines, China, India, Indonesia, Ukraine and Russia, find themselves in a nether-region of un-free employment. They have no options other than to toil on, seven days a week, for monthly pay ranging from $400 to $1,000 for ordinary seamen. Officers make more, up to $10,000 per month, but they have the same chance of going home as the greenest oil wiper: zero.

How long can that last? The situation resembles the customary abuse of maritime labor that prevailed in the 19th century, which the Supreme Court approved in its 1897 ruling in Robertson v. Baldwin, known as the Arago decision, after the name of a ship from which four sailors deserted due to brutal treatment. In that case, the justices found that the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, did not apply to mariners! This form of legalized exploitation of workers endured until the Merchant Marine Act of 1915, which afforded American sailors some basic protections. But many countries have never promulgated such a measure, leaving their seagoing citizens prey to conditions of pseudo-slavery, in particular in the outlaw world of commercial fishing in international waters.

Now, the international community is collectively shrugging and acquiescing to this backward leap in workers’ rights. Global demand for the goods the ships deliver outweighs the world’s regard for the people who deliver them.

Cruise ships have had to return to port and stay put, but there are stragglers still out there. One of them has become a disaster zone—Holland America Line’s Zaandam. The ship inexplicably left for a cruise from Argentina to Chile on March 7, more than a month after Princess Line’s Diamond Princess imported COVID-19 to Yokohama, Japan, and at the same time the Grand Princess was bobbing about fifty miles off the Golden Gate, trying to deal with an outbreak of the disease. The Zaandam left Buenos Aires just the day before the State Department’s tardy warning against such herding onto artificial islands (which cruise ships are). It got as far as the Strait of Magellan, where those among the 1,243 guests who were ambulatory went ashore to see the faded grandeur of Punta Arenas, while most of the 586 crew members cleaned their rooms, prepared their food, and maintained the manifold operations of the ship. That was their last port of call. That was March 14. The cruise was supposed to end on March 21.

Since then, Zaandam has made its way up the west coast of South America, from one potential refuge to another, denied entry to all of them, while the deadly novel coronavirus has spread throughout the ship, without discrimination, from roomy penthouses to kennel-like crew quarters. Zaandam reached the Panama Canal with four corpses in a walk-in refrigerator. Another 138 people had reported feeling sick—53 paying “guests” and 85 employees. Two of them had tested positive for the coronavirus in the brief interim since test kits arrived on the ship.

After an initial delay, Zaandam gained permission to transit the isthmian passage, but now has been denied entry into any port in Florida.

Holland America Line is a cruise industry cliché—it caters to the most elderly segment of the market. It is the Geriatric American Line. Anyone a few years short of qualifying for Medicare will feel like a young whipper-snapper on a HAL cruise.

HAL’s Zaandam is a huge ark of wealthy, vulnerable elderly, and relatively penniless, vulnerable servants.

Micky Arison is the Chairman of Carnival Corporation, which his father founded and ran for decades, before expatriating himself, along with his vast, virtually untaxed wealth. Carnival includes a dozen brands, including Princess and HAL.

Micky Arison failed to bring his fleets to port before the inevitable nightmare scenario came to pass—that COVID-19 would hijack a cruise ship like a legion of invisible pirates. While that was happening, Arison offered the idled vessels of Carnival Corp. to the federal government, for use as hospitals—charging a rental fee to cover costs. The president has praised Arison’s proposal as a patriotic, selfless gesture.

In truth, the audacity of Arison’s gambit to salvage revenue at this moment of crisis defies description, if not divine judgment.

In the meantime, Holland America Line’s Zaandam has reached Miami, with nine people onboard having tested positive for COVID, and another 200 showing symptoms, and those four corpses still onboard, maybe in the freezer by now. The Carnival Corp. COO has called Florida its “port of last resort.” At this writing, Governor Ron DeSantis is denying Zaandam’s bid to find shelter in this viral storm. In the interim, the chorus of coughing along its narrow corridors grows louder, coming from behind more and more closed doors, with every passing hour…

Eric Paul Roorda is the editor of The Ocean Reader: History, Culture, Politics. He is a Professor of History at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he specializes in the diplomatic and naval history of  the Caribbean Sea. During the summer, he directs the Munson Institute graduate program in Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. He regularly lectures on cruises on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager. He is the author of The Dictator Next Door and co-editor of The Dominican Republic Reader, both also published by Duke University Press.

 Read the introduction to The Ocean Reader free online and save 50% on all in-stock titles during our special sale using the coupon code SPRING50.

The Plague, A Guest Post by Amy Laura Hall

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Amy Laura Hall is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke University Divinity School. She is the author of Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich.

I am writing from Texas. It is Lent, and I am surrounded by Christmas decorations that need to be sorted. My mom, the amazing Carol Hall, teacher of generations of West Texas teens, had her heart cut open and her brain rudely interrupted as the great plague of 2020 began. She suffered a heart-attack and stroke the last week of January.

My dad, the amazing Reverend Robert Hall, has been married to my mom for more decades than I’ve been alive. I do not understand them. Their love confuses me. They have developed a means of communicating that I imagine as a geriatric version of the cant that twins are rumored to have. I’ve been intruding on them regularly since the crisis. Today, I just wanted to go to the grocery store.

Cedar Park, Texas was a small town a half hour from Austin. Now it is Nordstrom Rack, Hobby Lobby, local barbecue, old-timers remembering before Lakeline Mall, and multi-generational families speaking another language. We all exist outside AUSTIN, TEXAS, travel destination of the stars. South by Southwest, now an international phenomenon, was cancelled this year, due to the plague of 2020, and people who were already working three jobs for a living are driving through Cedar Park trying to figure out how to make ends meet. And everyone is converging on their H.E.B.

If you are reading this from North Carolina, H.E.B. is the Piggly Wiggly of Texas. People are loyal to their local H.E.B., and, even if there are other spots to shop, I swear that Cedar Park people are going there for a sense of normalcy. Maybe that is projection. I have shopped there almost daily every visit. Back in North Carolina, I carry H.E.B. reusable shopping bags from each season as if they were Prada.

My mother’s car has a radio function that allows me to shift from the 1940s to the 1980s. I’ve been doing the Charleston to the Hustle between stop lights. Two refrains have stuck in my head. “The things we do for love.” And “Freak Out!”

Laughing at the Devil

I have rarely walked in the rain or the snow, but “the things we do for love” makes for good prayer. When dealing with depends and diapers and tampons and anything else that is “down there,” including all the dog poop I pick up when I am home with mutts, I sing, to myself, “The things we do for love . . .” Here in Cedar Park, this week, looking at all the people standing in line around the corner at the H.E.B., because the store management is doing their best, I thought, yes. The things we do for love.

Yesterday, facing the line around the corner, I gave up and went to buy barbecue at a place that shares the parking lot and has the name Moe. (I am afraid I will get the name wrong, but I recommend everything they serve.) I promised my dad I would not come within 4 feet of anyone. A man about my dad’s age saw me trying gently to avoid him and said “Don’t worry! I don’t have it!” No worries! I am also trying not to scare anyone by my mere presence! Then, over the radio, “Freak Out!”

The barbecue spot is small, and less than a dozen people were there. But we decided, awkwardly – from old Cedar Park and tattooed new Cedar Park, and with at least a few couples venturing to the Hill Country – that “Freak Out” could be a theme song for the great plague of 2020. At least a few of us danced. Mr. Moe, who I have never caught off-guard, cracked a smile.

Here is what I know for sure. It is Lent. I am trying to remember how to eat, not to fast. The birds in Cedar Park are singing their hearts out. The plague of 2020 reminds me that we matter, each of us. Every sparrow. Every mockingbird. Every grackle. Everyone. Each one of us matters. Call me what you will. I am clear that God’s omniamity (yes, I coined that word) does not fit within a primary or an election year or a nation. And . . . and, Julian of Norwich saw all of this. She was a visionary during what is indisputably known as the Great Plague. She lived through proclamations of God’s wrath. She saw people declared as mere peasants rise up together bravely. They were mowed down like mice. I have not forgotten. I will continue to see.

Save 50% on Amy Laura Hall’s Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich and all in-stock titles during our special sale using the coupon code SPRING50.

La Grippe à Paris: How Paris Responded to the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, A Guest Post by Eric Smoodin

Smoodin PhotoEric Smoodin is the author of Paris in the Dark: Going to the Movies in the City of Light, 1930–1950, just published this month. He is Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis, and author of Regarding Frank Capra: Audience, Celebrity, and American Film Studies, 1930–1960, and coeditor of Looking Past the Screen: Case Studies in American Film History and Method, both also published by Duke University Press. This guest post is reblogged from his own blog, The Paris Cinema Project.

On March 14th, 2020, the French government announced the closing of all restaurants, museums, theatres, and cinemas, a response to the novel coronavirus, possibly the worst global public health crisis since the flu epidemic of 1918-19. But as a comparison, what exactly was the government’s response just over 100 years ago to la grippe espagnole, which killed as many as a quarter of a million people in France? More to the point of my interests here, how did the flu affect the cinema in France, and especially in Paris?

Information can be difficult to come by, largely because the press in France covered the disease only very slowly, perhaps because the government insisted so as not to cause any alarm, or perhaps because journalists simply didn’t understand the severity of the outbreak. Françoise Bouron has provided the most exhaustive analysis of the general attitudes of the press at the time. While the flu seems to have come to France in April, 1918, most newspapers and journals at first avoided it altogether, then reported that France, unlike other European countries, seemed to have been spared, and then only began to cover the national outbreak in the late-summer and early-fall.

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Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announcing the closure of all non-essential public places in France, including cinemas, on March 14th, 2020

In any case, and far different from the response of 2020, the governmental actions in 1918-19 seem to have been regional rather than national, and might vary significantly from place to place, with Paris, apparently, always doing less rather than more. In mid-October, 1918, Le Figaro reported that 700 Parisians had died from the flu during the past week, an increase of 300 from the week before. The newspaper indicated that more hospital beds were coming to the city and that schools would be disinfected but would not close. Hinting at the dense Parisian bureaucracy that may have made any decisive action difficult, Le Figaro continued that, anyway, schools could only be closed in Paris by the local government, at the suggestion of the Seine Prefect and in consultation with the Hygiene Council.

That same report in Figaro, however, let readers know that Édouard Herriot, the mayor of Lyon, had acted more decisively. Herriot, of course, was the radical socialist who would later be in and out of office as Prime Minister during multiple revolving-door governments in France during the 1920’s and ‘30’s. In Lyon, Herriot insisted that all corpses be buried immediately, demanded the daily disinfection of post offices, banks, cafés, restaurants, and train stations, and completely closed all theatres and cinemas.

Other locations did the same thing. In Périgueux, in southwestern France, schools were closed and so too were all theatres and cinemas. The Communist newspaper L’Humanité reported on those closings, and added that the ongoing Parisian response involved, yet again, more hospital beds and, in addition, thirteen thousand gallons of rum to be distributed to the city’s pharmacies and sold as a partial cure for flu.

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Édouard Herriot, who as the mayor of Lyon closed all the cinemas there during the epidemic

Assertions of official Parisian inactivity went across ideological lines. In late-October 1918, the far-rightwing newspaper L’Intransigeant wrote, “One thinks…of closing the cinemas, the theatres and even churches, as has been done in Switzerland and some French cities.” Then L’Intransigeant added that, “rather than facing anything that extreme, Parisians have been told to refrain from going anywhere they might be exposed to influenza.”

At least according to the press, aggressive actions by Herriot and others worked. In early-November, Le Journal reported that closing theatres—and it’s unclear whether this included cinemas—in Limoges, Dijon, Cherbourg, Orléans, and elsewhere had stopped the spread of flu. Le Temps wrote that “the efforts in Lyon had had their effect,” and theatres and cinemas would now reopen.

But Paris still did nothing comparable, and there was even some debate in the city about the usefulness of closures and the severity of the epidemic. On November 11th, 1918, the day that World War One ended, La Presse, a Parisian daily, devoted its front page to the Armistice. On page two, however, La Presse ran two stories about the flu. One of them insisted that the illness had declined considerably in the Parisian population (La Grippe décroit). In the other, a reporter for the paper, Lucile Laurence, wrote that city officials had given some thought to closing all cinemas and other public places, including schools. She went on, though, that even if they did, “public health would still be menaced” because of all the men who spit on streets, their germs then going into the air and onto the food that Parisians ate. On the same page, La Presse announced the opening of one of the most anticipated films of the season, Bouclette, at the very fashionable Palace-Aubert cinema in the ninth arrondissement. Bouclette featured one of the great French stars of the era, Gaby Deslys, who would die of influenza in February, 1920.

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An undated publicity photograph of the great French star Gaby Deslys, the star of Bouclette and a victim of the flu epidemic

Deslys’ film, which had a scenario by Marcel L’Herbier, was one of the great cultural events in the city just after the war. But there were also many, many others, in cinemas and in the city’s theatres. Reporting on the flu on February 23rd, 1919, Le Matin put the grim numbers next to the masthead at the top of the front page. La grippe à Paris had claimed 900 lives in the last week, an increase of 350 from the week before. Le Matin never listed the movies in Paris, but it did offer information for plays, music halls, and café-concerts, and the list is astonishing, both in terms of how much was going on and how little the city’s entertainment industry seemed to have been touched by the epidemic. Had they wanted to, Parisians could have seen Les Noces de Figaro at the Opéra-Comique, where it alternated with Carmen, or Cyrano de Begerac at the Porte-St. Martin, or Sacha Guitry’s Pasteur at the Vaudeville. The Folies-Bergère featured a lion tamer for its family matinee and then more adult entertainment in the evening. The great music hall stars Mistinguett and Max Dearly appeared at the Casino de Paris, along with 200 Jolies Femmes, and Raimu, the stage actor soon to become a great movie star, performed in Le Cochon qui sommeille at the Théâtre Michel. There was also much, much more.

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On the upper right, on the masthead from February 23rd, 1919, Le Matin announces that week’s death toll of La Grippe à Paris

Parisian entertainment continued as usual for the duration of the epidemic, as the death toll mounted and city leaders kept all venues open while supplying pharmacies with more and more rum for the afflicted. A century later, French officials were slow to react to the coronavirus, as were governments in Italy, Spain, the United States, and elsewhere. They had, however, apparently learned something from the earlier public health crisis. Spitting on streets may still be a difficult problem and still a means of spreading disease. But Mayor Herriot’s example in Lyon, closing theatres, restaurants, and other public spaces, including cinemas, has now become the French model for containing the epidemic, even in Paris.

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“Cruise Ships, Containerships, and the COVID-19 Crisis: Harbinger of a Great Stillness on the Ocean?” A Guest Post by Eric Paul Roorda

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Visitors to San Francisco who arrive by sea experience a spectacle. Their ship approaches the Marin Headlands, glides through the narrow passage called the Golden Gate, passes beneath the iconic bridge, and enters San Francisco Bay. More than eighty cruise ships visit the Port of San Francisco annually, carrying upwards of 300,000 passengers and an untold number of crew members.

But cruise ship traffic into San Francisco—and for that matter, every U.S. port—may come to a halt, due to a single vessel, the Grand Princess. The ship arrived at the Golden Gate with the novel Coronavirus virus onboard, which causes the potentially lethal disease designated as COVID-19. The highly contagious pathogen had apparently gained a foothold on the ship during its previous voyage in Mexican waters, infecting a passenger who died of COVID-19 after returning home. The virus endured onboard the Grand Princess, only to re-emerge on the ship’s next voyage. Dozens of people exhibited symptoms as the ship neared the end of another voyage to Mexico.

First came the Diamond Princess, which introduced the disease to Japan on February 4, when it docked at the port of Yokohama, where it became a micro-cluster of contagion. After weeks of improvised, ineffective quarantine measures, the ship released about 3,600 passengers and crew back to their countries of origin, many of them potential carriers of Coronavirus, because few of them had been tested conclusively for the malady.

A month later came the Grand Princess, carrying 3,533 passengers—2,422 guests and 1,111 crewmembers—from 54 nations. News reached the ship on 2 March, that a prior passenger had tested positive for COVID-19 before dying. Princess Cruises canceled the remainder of the vessel’s itinerary, and ordered the Grand Princess to steam straight back to San Francisco, its port of embarkation. Along the way, on 5 March, Coast Guard helicopters dropped test kits to the ship’s deck. The following night, Vice President Mike Pence reported that 46 passengers who showed symptoms had been “swabbed,” and 21 of them had tested positive. That total included two “guests” (who stay in private suites), and nineteen members of the crew (who live, work and breathe, sometimes cough and sneeze, and occasionally vomit, in very close quarters, below the vessel’s waterline).

The positive tests halted the ship’s progress, just short of its destination. The Grand Princess bobbed around fifty miles outside the Golden Gate, awaiting its fate, suffering the claustrophobic inconveniences of belatedly instituted quarantine measures. After a public debate over the fate of the Grand Princess, which included the President expressing his preference that the ship stay at sea indefinitely, it was allowed to dock on 9 March.

But the Grand Princess did not end its ill-starred voyage at the historic Pier on San Francisco’s lovely waterfront adapted as a “cruise ship terminal,” with all of its amenities. Instead, it headed for a “container terminal” across the bay, on the barren industrial waterfront of Oakland/Alameda. The guests disembarked into quarantine at military bases in California, Texas, and Georgia, while Canadians were allowed to fly home for their 2-week period of preventative isolation. The crewmembers, however, must remain onboard.

The cable news networks followed the Grand Princess on its sunrise passage through the spectacular Golden Gate. The ship itself seemed riveted together from sheets of pure gold, illuminated in the low rays of eastern light. But then the scene became unusual, possibly unprecedented. The Grand Princess, a “mega-ship” of the new breed, symbolic of the spectacular rise of cruise travel, was mooring at a vast dockyard that utterly lacked the infrastructure to accommodate it. Weirder still, the dockyard itself, the sprawling Oakland/Alameda complex, one of the busiest in the hemisphere, was vacant!

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What next? There are 314 cruise ships loose upon the world’s waves, all of them bound for some port of call, each of them a potential vector of the invisible scourge of COVID-19. The potential carnage is akin to that of 1918, when 675,000 Americans succumbed to The Great Influenza—among 50 million worldwide, by conservative estimates. It seems possible that the imminent spread of the novel coronavirus will mothball the pleasure fleet for an indefinite period of time, while the world weathers the virus crisis. As I write, Princess Cruises and Viking Cruise Line have both announced that they are suspending operations. More are sure to follow…

And yet, the size of the global merchant marine dwarfs the number of cruise ships. There were 53,732 merchant vessels out there as of January 2018. About 5,500 of them are enormous containerships. The ratio is 171 merchant ships to every cruise ship.

As the rate of production of manufactured goods and extraction of raw materials in China declines, while the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak increases, there is less and less cargo for these hulls to carry around the world. Already, the docks of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland/Alameda, usually hyperactively busy with the disgorging of cargo from Asia, have become weirdly sleepy. Soon, there will be vast flotillas of empty ships—bulk carriers for wheat and ore, tankers, car carriers, containerships—anchored off the major ports of the world, riding high in the water, with nothing to haul, and nowhere to go.

All of this adds up to a rare occurrence in recorded history. The Ocean may be virtually free of human activity for a while, and there is no way of telling how long that could last. There is also little way to forecast what effects such a strange event might have. From the perspective of global capitalism, the damage could be devastating and enduring.

But other contrasting priorities could be well served by this ongoing twist of fate. In particular, the disruptions brought by Coronavirus could be a boon for the movements to buy locally made products, to eat regional food sources, and to reduce the giant, greasy carbon footprint of global trade and globe-trotting tourism. An empty Ocean could not only stall the pandemic, it could help humanity to hit the reset button on the dangerously unsustainable status quo of the international economy.

Eric Paul Roorda is the editor of The Ocean Reader: History, Culture, Politics. He is a Professor of History at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he specializes in the diplomatic and naval history of  the Caribbean Sea. During the summer, he directs the Munson Institute graduate program in Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. He regularly lectures on cruises on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager. He is the author of The Dictator Next Door and co-editor of The Dominican Republic Reader, both also published by Duke University Press.

 Read the introduction to The Ocean Reader free online and save 30% on the paperback edition with coupon code E20RORDA.

Joshua Neves on the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Anti-Chinese Racism, and the Politics of Underglobalization

Neves, Joshua photoJoshua Neves, author of Underglobalization:
Beijing’s Media Urbanism and the Chimera of Legitimacy
, is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Film Studies at Concordia University and coeditor of Asian Video Cultures, also published by Duke University Press. He wrote this post on February 21, 2020 and updated the statistics today, March 11.

In the 2018-19 flu season, the United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 16.5 million Americans saw a health care provider for their illness, 490,600 people were hospitalized, and 34,200 people died from influenza. Such data helps us to temper recent panic about the coronavirus, contagion narratives, and the repressive Chinese state. 

To be sure, the strict management of information and party-state bureaucracy have plagued China’s response to the virus. My aim here is not to downplay what are very grave challenges to public health, but rather to turn attention to the ways the viral outbreak has also been swollen by frenzied news and social media around the world. Among the many responses in North America and Europe, for example, is a resurgent anti-Chinese racism. This includes suspicions about exotic animals and racialized ideas about sickness and disease, as well as alarm about surgical mask shortages, government cover ups, and entire cities under quarantine. As a recent US headline puts it, “First the media sold you overblown fears. Now it’s selling false comfort.”

But there is little new in this hysteria over China as a breeding ground for pandemics. From counterfeit medicine to authoritarian capitalism, China plays a complicated role in stories about the world system. On the one hand, it’s laboring population serves as factory to the world and has sustained the global economy through stagnation and crisis. It both produces the world’s best known things and is derided as a menial laborer or copycat—and not, that is, a designer. A major theme in recent news coverage centers on profits lost to factory closures. In many such stories, concerns about the well-being of migrant workers, among others, seems limited to their inability to get to work. On the other hand, even while China co-creates what we have come to know as globalization, its ambition and the challenges it poses to the Washington Consensus have led many to see the country as a global villain. Alongside Russia, Iran, etc., the PRC increasingly fills an imaginary void in post-Cold War geopolitics. It is the “other” that “we” organize our anger or fear around. 

What interests me about the tensions framing the COVID-19 outbreak is that China is at once understood to be inside and outside of the world or proper society of nations. It is both a prime mover and sickly underminer. This contradiction—including mistrust, intolerance, fear—must be tied to a history of anti-Chinese racism in North America and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, the current “yellow peril” is once again linked to the exploitation of Chinese workers, as well as a deep suspicion of these same people’s motives and lifeworlds. It highlights the inequality of global supply chains—a current logic of racialized capitalism—which seek to move things in specific directions and keep everyone in their place. It is this sense of global order that the virus ignores with its potential to spread where it should not. Contagion thus not only refers to the unruliness of new flu strains, but to the new mobilities of Chinese people, products, and technologies. The latter includes US attempts to block the Chinese company, Huawei, from building 5G infrastructure around the world. Officials claim that Chinese built networks will allow Beijing to infiltrate critical telecom infrastructure, making them insecure and threatening. These same reports rely on language that could just as well describe panic about the infectivity of influenza. Per Vice President Mike Pence, “We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”

The point of highlighting such tensions is not to bracket the very real problems posed by the People’s Republic of China or its vision of the future. But it is to refuse sweeping and prejudicial assessments of China and the Chinese, which inform insidious racisms by tethering ideas about counterfeits, censorship, exotic animals, the flu, and much more, to particular bodies. Put simply, these critiques are widespread, confused, epidemic—and demand more nuanced attention from journalists, scholars, and publics. What remains undigested by routine critiques of China, and is once again brought into relief by the recent outbreak of the outbreak narrative, is how smug dismissals buttress troubling ideas about the munificent “West” and the “free world.” This is one of the most menacing and normalized aspects of anti-Chinese racism in the North Atlantic. It locates viral contagion in Asian cities and populations, naming them as external threats, thereby consolidating a violent clash of civilization understanding of the earth. Here is safe; there is toxic.

It is important to add that, contrary to Euro-American assumptions about Chinese repression and citizen compliance, political dissent is endemic and visible across the PRC. For example, in Social Protests and Contentious Authoritarianism in China, political scientist Xi Chen describes both the dramatic rise and routinization of social protest in China and also how, “beneath the surface of noise and anxiety,” China’s political system remains stable. This is a complex political formation and no doubt differs from the imagination of protest in places like the US. But these differences notwithstanding, it is important to understand that protest and dissensus are frequent responses to life in contemporary China—and many Chinese citizens are “more than ready to blame the Communist Party for suppressing public health information and closing ranks against the people.” What is distinct, and marks an increasingly global condition, is that such protests are not made within formal civil society. Instead they are quasi- or il-legal, and suggest new modes of political society. Consider the January 2020 essay, “When Fury Becomes Fear,” from the outspoken former academic and critic, Xu Zhangrun. In searing prose, Xu argues that the current epidemic sounds a “viral alarm” and “has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance.” See Geremie R. Barmé’s translation of Xu’s essay here, a Wuhan diary here, a typical report about netizen responses here, or the Sinophobia tracker here. What matters about such examples, is that they refuse the self-righteous politics of pity—where, for example, Americans are free and Chinese are controlled—and instead demands that we re-examine the workings of popular politics under globalization, which includes China and the so-called “West.”

Screen Shot 2020-02-21 at 12.42.46 PMAs I write, 4,379 people have died from the coronavirus and nearly 119,108 cases have been confirmed. Currently over 1000 deaths have been reported outside of China, with Wuhan, Hubei Province, still the most affected area. While details vary, reports indicate that lockdowns and curfews affect hundreds of millions Chinese citizens. The strictest rules, per the South China Morning Post, keep 60 million Hubei residents from leaving their homes. Further coverage suggests that the epidemic may now have peaked, as its spread slows in China, though others note that Japan is now a hotbed for the virus, with new cases also confirmed in the Philippines, South Korea, Iran, Egypt, and others. I linger on the current flu epidemic, stories about its (mis)management, and its Asian hosts and itineraries because they bring into relief a range of issues that are critical to what I call underglobalization

978-1-4780-0805-7When writing Underglobalization, I struggled to make sense of the contradictory and often racist understandings of China that co-exist in much official and popular discourse. As above, I was struck by the way that China is both dismissed as a fake, parasite or outlier nation and, at the same time, is critical to both the global economy and institutions, and to the everyday experience of the world. This paradox brings into relief deep structural conflicts over what constitutes political, economic, and social legitimacy in the present and future. Against such antagonisms, Underglobalization charts how a wide range of social actors underperform or refuse to implement the specific procedures and protocols required by globalization at different scales. Put differently, what international law (like the TRIPS Agreement) identifies as illegal must also be understood, in many contexts, to be locally valid. One important ramification of this claim is the recognition that contemporary global dynamics are shaped by increasing tensions between (il)legality and (il)legitimacy. Most simply the book asks: what happens when legal contracts around the world—including rights, civil society and citizenship—fail or become dangerous, and on what ground are political relationships reclaimed and sustained? 

Save 30% on the paperback edition of Joshua Neves’ Underglobalization using the coupon code E20NEVES and download the introduction here.

 

Cruise Ships Confront Coronavirus: Passing Panic or Depressing Portent? A Guest Post by Eric Paul Roorda

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The Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama

There is a talented band named Wookie Foot, whose lyrics are quirky and insightful. Their song “Cruise,” from 2003, skewers the cruise ship experience with deft sarcasm. The closing words were prophetic:

“And in the end, you’re just a virus wearing shoes,
on a cruise.
A virus!”

(The whole hilarious tune can be heard here.)

Passenger ships have always had to contend with the danger of a disease breaking out onboard. Vessels packed with people on the high seas are like powder kegs for spark-like contagions, and potential vectors for pandemics, such as the plague known as The Black Death, which arrived in Europe from Asia by ship in 1347, then spread rapidly around the Mediterranean. In the 19th century, a single incipient case of typhus or cholera among the immigrants crowded on a ship could grievously sicken and kill hundreds of them during the voyage. For this reason, quarantine regulations are among the oldest laws in human history.

In recent years, the cruise industry has had to fight Noro-virus, a highly contagious malady that causes a week of awful symptoms. But while Noro-virus is rarely fatal, the newest bug, Coronavirus, is a killer; about 2% of those who contract it succumb to its severe pneumonia. For cruise ships, and perhaps the entire industry, Coronavirus is a lethal threat.

The plight of two mega-vessels owned by Carnival Cruises is causing worldwide worry. Holland America Line’s Westerdam became a 21st century Flying Dutchman for two weeks, turned away from one port after another because the Coronavirus has stowed away, until Cambodia welcomed the ship, allowing a thousand possible carriers to disperse across the globe. Worse, Princess Cruise Line’s Diamond Princess arrived in Yokohama with the Coronavirus raging among the ship’s company of some 3,600 passengers and crew, where Japanese authorities subjected them to a badly botched quarantine. According to a full-page exposé in the New York Times on February 23, Diamond Princess has become a “Petri dish” for the pathogen. While passengers gained egress one way or another, the crew remained in their densely packed quarters below the waterline, without meaningful efforts to segregate those who exhibited symptoms, working merciless hours to succor the paying guests, who were isolated in their suites. Only two cruise ships out of the 314 in the worldwide pleasure fleet have made the headlines—so far. But the dangers that Coronavirus present to the cruise ship could be general.

An observer may draw two tentative conclusions.

978-1-4780-0696-1First, when transformational phenomena reach and disperse onto the Ocean, the Ocean exponentially amplifies the range of the changes. Examples of this include the spread of the new species H. sapiens after they learned to build boats; the impact of the new religion of Islam, which Arab traders brought to Indonesia and the Philippines, and which drew worshippers by sea to Mecca; the imposition of the culture of violent conquest that the new nation-state of Spain exported to the Western Hemisphere beginning in 1492; invasive organisms, which degrade the environments and damage the economies of the places they go; and viruses.

Second, cruise ships are like crowded pods of change. They impact the infrastructures, economies, environments, and cultures of ports of call, big and small, wherever they wander. The Coronavirus moment provides a lethal example.

The question remains, will the unfolding Coronavirus pandemic kindle suspicions about the whole cruise ship industry, which generates an estimated $126 billion in global economic activity and employs about a million people? Could it complicate the sans souci atmosphere that veteran cruisers expect and demand? Will it cause potential passengers to spend their vacation dollars some other way? Moreover, will the terrifying spread of Coronavirus, which is dragging down stock markets around the world as I write, trigger a series of agonizing re-evaluations of the cost/benefit ratio of the cruise industry’s impact on destinations around the world?

Eric Paul Roorda is the editor of The Ocean Reader: History, Culture, Politics. He is a Professor of History at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he specializes in the diplomatic and naval history of  the Caribbean Sea. During the summer, he directs the Munson Institute graduate program in Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. He regularly lectures on cruises on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager.

Save 30% on The Ocean Reader on our website with coupon code E20RORDA.

University Press Week: How to Be an Environmental Steward

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Welcome to Day 3 of the University Press Week blog tour. Today’s theme is How to Be an Environmental Steward. We asked some of our authors to answer the question,“What is one thing that more people need to understand about the current global climate crisis?”

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Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Geology at Duke University and co-author of Sea-Level Rise: A Slow Tsunami on America’s Shores

Much of the CO2 we are putting in the air now will be with us for many years. If we don’t control and lower CO2 emissions within the next 2 decades, climate change will be become a runaway event causing massive global migration, wars over water and migration patterns, critical sea level rise impacts and important, perhaps devastating changes in food sources. The time for action is now.

0Shawna Ross, Assistant Professor of Modern British Literature and the Digital Humanities at Texas A&M University and author of “Teaching in Stormy Weather” (Pedagogy, vol. 19, issue 3)

“Climate change” is a loose and baggy monster of a word, as Henry James might put it. It should not be understood as a single phenomenon, but as a multifaceted problem that manifests in ways that differ profoundly depending on where you are on the globe. We all experience climate change in a local way, and our efforts to combat it must include careful attention to these local conditions.

Bethany Allen, studio portraitsTeena Gabrielson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Wyoming and author of “The Visual Politics of Environmental Justice” (Environmental Humanities vol. 11, issue 1)

In a visually saturated global culture, images are powerful means of communication. Today, there is growing awareness that those hit first and hardest by the escalating climate emergency disproportionately come from the world’s most marginalized communities. To envision a more just and green future and create a more inclusive climate justice movement, we need a better understanding of the visual politics that shape the depiction of environmental injustice and visual strategies that disrupt and resist ways of seeing entrenched in dominant power hierarchies.

cymene-howeCymene Howe, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rice University and author of Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene

We need to understand that it is imperative to immediately transition away from fossil fuels and create a new, global energy infrastructure for a sustainable future. This is an incredible opportunity because we can learn from our past mistakes—where hydrocarbon extraction has led to both environmental destruction and social inequalities. We now have a chance to do it right. What if we were to see new energy sources—such as solar, wind and biofuels—as not only fuels but as the foundation for new political forms that are committed to environmental justice rather than the petrologics of endless growth and resource exploitation?

0Nicole Welk-Joerger, PhD candidate in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Restoring Eden in the Amish Anthropocene” (Environmental Humanities vol. 11, issue 1)

As we approach this global dilemma, many of us place unreasonably high expectations on farmers and farm workers. They need to adapt to our changing tastes and continue to provide us with cheap and convenient food, all while mitigating their own contributions to the climate crisis. Our chance for a sustainable future relies on the recognition that food production and consumption are only one part of a much larger, interdependent system of questionable practices. The transportation and energy industries need to feel the same weight of blame and the necessity to adapt that many of the world’s farmers currently experience.

dominc-boyerDominic Boyer, Professor of Anthropoogy at Rice University and author of Energopolitics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene.

There is no way to bend our current ecocidal trajectory through individual actions. If you want to fly less or recycle more, those are great choices, but they won’t impact climate change. Individual consumption is simply the wrong scale of intervention. And the petrocultural powers that be want you to feel guilty and complicit. The fact is that all that matters where we are now in the neo-Pliocene is coordinated governmental initiatives aimed at developing the infrastructure of a post-growth global civilization committed to values of sustainability, peace and justice. If you want to help, my advice would be to take your guilt and fear and redirect those emotions toward principled passionate work to develop responsible and effective government. Maybe that’s government of a liberal-democratic nature or maybe it’s in the form of a non-state collective. If you can’t find political leadership worthy of your support, become that leader yourself. The world will thank you for it.

CallisonCandis Callison is Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Journalism and in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts.

How we define and think about climate change has changed immensely in the last 30 years, and we’re currently in the midst of a window of time (until 2030) defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to act (i.e. change infrastructure to decrease emissions) in order to limit long term impacts and the increase in global temperature. This is what defines climate change as a global crisis, but that shouldn’t also foreclose on questions about what kind of crisis it is, for whom, and who has a seat at the table where decisions about how to act (and when) are being made.  Many Indigenous communities, globally are already dealing with climate change impacts, yet diverse Indigenous knowledges, experiences, and histories that could offer profound insight into the climate crisis are often not at the table where decisions are being made—limiting the frameworks within which the climate crisis is considered and addressed.

Please continue on the blog tour by visiting the other university presses participating today. At University of Pittsburgh Press, author Patricia Demarco writes about global and local sustainability. Columbia University Press features a guest post from the author of Live Sustainably Now with tips to decreasing your carbon footprint. University of California Press offers a post by the author of forthcoming book A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet. Head to Yale University Press for a post with actionable steps on helping the environment and to University of South Carolina Press for photos from the authors of Carolina Bays about preservation of these unique ecological systems. Bucknell University Press offers a post by Tim Wenzell, editor of Woven Shades of Green: An Anthology of Irish Nature Writing on why ecocriticism makes us better stewards of nature. At Oregon State University Press, Marcy Cottrell Houle discusses her new book, A Generous Nature: Lives Transformed by Oregon. University of Minnesota Press shares a post by Jennifer Telesca on the managed extinction of the giant bluefin tuna. University of Mississippi Press features author Jessica H. Schexnayder, whose work documents the dying histories of coastal communities. And University of Toronto Press has a post by sales rep Alex Keys, discussing the ways in which he is able to merge his job with his desire to be a better steward for the environment.

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

trafficking-logoToday is World Day against Trafficking in Persons, a day to bring awareness to and encourage action against human trafficking. In honor of this international day, we’re featuring some of our recent journal articles (all available free for six months) and books that explore this global issue.

In the Trail of the Ship: Narrating the Archives of Illegal Slavery,” featured in the March 2019 issue of Social Text, delves into the strange, contradictory archives of the illegal transatlantic slave trade that flourished between Angola and Brazil in the mid-nineteenth century. The article’s author, Yuko Miki, follows the documentary trail of notorious slave ship Mary E. Smith, focusing on the list of the ship’s Africans who were “liberated” from captivity, most of whom were already deceased.

m_ddpos_25_4.coverAuthor Elena Shih explores why and how Thailand functions as a pivotal destination for US human-trafficking rescue projects in “Freedom Markets: Consumption and Commerce across Human-Trafficking Rescue in Thailand,” featured in the November 2017 issue of positions: asia critique. Basing her research on the global anti-trafficking movement in Thailand, China, and the United States between 2008 and 2014, Shih juxtaposes two distinct tourist encounters: a human-trafficking reality tour hosted by a US nonprofit organization, and a separate study-abroad gathering of US university students hosted at the office of a Thai sex worker rights organization.

m_ddglq_22_3_coverIn the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government engaged in a militarized campaign to clean up favelas, blighted areas, and red-light districts so that it could “develop” them. In his article “Evangelical Ecstasy Meets Feminist Fury: Sex Trafficking, Moral Panics, and Homonationalism during Global Sporting Events,” featured in the June 2016 issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Gregory Mitchell argues that by destroying safe and legal venues for sex work, host cities of such events create the very exploitation they purport to prevent.

You may also be interested in these books about human trafficking:

Street Corner Secrets

Street Corner Secrets is an ethnography of women in the city of Mumbai who look for  work at nakas, street corners where day laborers congregate and wait to be hired for construction jobs. Often chosen last, after male workers, or not at all, some women turn to sex work in order to make money, at the nakas, on the street, or in brothels. Svati P. Shah argues that sex work should be seen in relation to other structural inequities affecting these women’s lives, such as threats from the police and lack of access to clean water.

Having spent nearly a decade following the lives of formerly trafficked men and women, Denise Brennan recounts in close detail their flight from their abusers and their courageous efforts to rebuild their lives. Life Interrupted is a riveting account of life in and after trafficking and a forceful call for meaningful immigration and labor reform.

Q&A with Charles Piot, author of The Fixer

153417_piot_charles001Charles Piot is Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University where he does research on the political economy and history of rural West Africa. His new book The Fixer: Visa Lottery Chronicles, 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.

Briefly, what is the Diversity Visa lottery and why does it attract so many Togolese applicants annually? What drew you to tell this story of borders and migration?

The US Diversity Visa (DV) lottery, also referred to as the green card lottery, allocates 50,000 visas annually to those from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US. Up to twenty million people from around the world apply each year, with winners selected by raffle. The DV program came into being in the mid-1990s, thanks to a powerful Irish lobby in Congress led by Teddy Kennedy—but that’s another (albeit fascinating and bizarre) story. Today, in a sweetly ironic postcolonial twist, Africans have become the DV’s main beneficiaries.

The FixerTogo’s unusually high number of annual applicants owes to its ongoing political and economic crisis, a crisis which dates to the 1990s when privation at home pushed many to search for a better life abroad. When the visa lottery—referred to locally as loto visa—first appeared and word of it spread to the streets of Lomé, Togo’s capital, it became all the rage and Togo quickly shot to the top of the list of per capita applications for the African continent.

I first became aware of Togolese enthusiasm for the DV during the early 2000s, when large banners began appearing outside cyber cafés in Lomé (where applicants went to complete the online registration), urging them to “get your USA visas here.” When I asked a friend about the DV’s infectious spread, he announced that he too was an enthusiast and yearly applicant, and that since he had never been selected he had begun signing up female friends, hoping that one might win and enable him to acquire a visa as trailing spouse. The following year, one of his enlistees was selected and he spent weeks chasing down the required documents (birth/marriage/work certificates) and preparing her for the embassy interview. Sadly, she failed the interview but along the way Kodjo became well-versed in the nuances of DV protocol and decided to go into the business—helping others apply online, assemble their documents, prepare for the embassy interview, and arrange financing. I was impressed not only with his success in getting visas for clients but also his ingenuity—and that of the street more generally—in gaming the process, and asked Kodjo if he would mind if I wrote about the DV, using stories he had shared with me. Surprisingly, he accepted and opened his archive to me. That article has now morphed into this co-authored book.

Kodjo Nicolas Batema is what the US embassy identifies as a “Fixer.” What does this term mean for those in the embassy and for the Togolese?

In Lomé, they call visa brokers like Kodjo traiteurs (those who “treat” identity documents); in Ghana they refer to them as connection men (hustlers who have the connections to get anything done); at the US embassy in Lomé, they refer to such brokers as fixers, because they operate in the shadows of the law, sometimes engaging in identity games to get visas for clients. Togolese, not only those on the street but also those in high places, see traiteurs like Kodjo quite differently from those at the embassy. They celebrate them as clever business men and entrepreneurs, even Robin Hood figures, engaged in making life better for compatriots overseas in a moment of privation at home.

What did you find was the biggest source of contention between the embassy and visa lottery hopefuls?

The embassy assumes that many who come for the interview are engaging in fraud, especially when a spouse appears on the dossier after winners have been announced. Consuls refer to such add-ons as “pop-ups” and seek to ferret out real from fake by separating spouses and putting them through the paces— “When were you married?” “Who attended?” “What were the marriage gifts?” “When did you first meet?” “What side of the bed do you sleep on?” “What’s your spouse’s favorite color?” —with inconsistent responses dooming a couple. But interviewees are coached by fixers before the interview – a Kodjo specialty—and usually know what questions to anticipate. Couples who marry for the visa also spend time together in the months leading up to the embassy interview—to better present as legitimate spouses—and sometimes fall for each other. I’m fascinated with such cases (and track several of them in the book), as they rebut consular assumptions that visa marriages are strictly expedient. As Kodjo once put it, “What’s the difference between meeting your spouse at the beach, at the shopping mall, or through the lottery?”

You compare Kodjo to familiar trickster gods, such as Anansi. What is it about Kodjo’s role that makes this comparison meaningful for you?

In West African folklore, the trickster is often an animal or insect who plays tricks on and outwits his enemies, usually someone more powerful—a chief, a deity, a colonial master. Kodjo strikes me as exemplifying many characteristics of the trickster – of someone using his smarts to get the best of those in authority—here, embassy gatekeepers who would block the movement of Togolese to greener pastures abroad. A trickster for postcolonial times.

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The Fixer is full of Kodjo’s cases, and his clients’ successes and failures. Which cases did you find the most exciting or interesting?

Always the ones that surprise, those with unexpected outcomes: the ones in which arranged marriages become real, or when consular suspicions go awry. Here’s one of the latter. A DV couple in the US petitioned to bring over their three children, but DNA tests (standard protocol in such cases) revealed that only two were positive for both parents while the third was positive for the wife alone. The consul assumed this indicated the couple was trying to cheat—to smuggle the child of another onto the dossier – and denied their petition. After a flurry of follow-up emails with the petitioning couple, however, he discovered that it was the woman’s infidelity (of which the husband was apparently unaware), not the couple’s deliberate attempt to add someone else’s child, that explained the discrepancy—and, in a nice gesture, he asked the woman to reapply alone for all three children. Salutary news for the couple, of course, but how they weathered the revelation that the wife had engaged in an extra-marital liaison, I do not know.

Here’s another case that caused a stir on the streets of Lomé. A male interviewee’s doctor’s report—it is mandatory to have a physical exam before the interview—noted that there was a scar on one of his legs. When the consular official conducting the interview read the report, he asked the man’s “wife” which leg her husband’s scar was on. When she guessed incorrectly, they failed the interview. The next day, all on the street knew why they had failed and began exploring the intimacies of their visa-spouses’ bodies.

And another, also with a disappointing outcome. During the interview, a pop-up couple was separated and aggressively interrogated by a Togolese member of the embassy’s fraud unit who had a reputation as a bully and fierce embassy loyalist. This questioner told the man—the “husband” —that when they turned up the heat on his wife, she spilled the beans and admitted that theirs was not a real marriage. “But,” the interrogator continued, “since you were the winner, we’ll give you a visa [while denying her] —if you tell the truth.” The man fell into the trap, and when the couple was called before the consul, they were confronted with their differing accounts—the woman had stuck to the story that they were real spouses—and both were denied. When the young man visited Kodjo the next day to complain, he was met with little sympathy. Kodjo told him he’d warned him of exactly this possibility and that he had no one to blame but himself.

Here’s a similar case with a more upbeat outcome. During the embassy interview, the consul challenged a DV selectee by telling her that she didn’t believe she was really married to the man on her dossier—but that she would give her the visa while denying him. Without missing a beat, the woman responded that the man was indeed her husband (though in fact he was not) and that if he was not granted a visa, she would refuse hers. This seemed proof enough for the consul, and both were granted visas. Kodjo’s commentary: “It takes this type of courage to pass the interview.”

In The Fixer you highlight laughter and its presence in the face of precarity as important threads throughout your book. WHY? Were there any particularly funny moments for you? Were there any moments of laughter that particularly surprised you?

A first impression of many who visit West Africa is the pervasiveness of laughter—on city streets, in the markets and villages. Togolese love repartee and banter, and relish making fun of those who misstep or are dim-witted, while the vernacular comedian who comes with the quick one-liner is the envy of all. And yet this is the poorest, most economically-deprived region in the world today. How to make sense of this antinomy, the side-by-side presence/entanglement of humor and precarious life? I wanted to write a book that would acknowledge this conjuncture and unsettle the commonplace view that poverty and a dour everyday disposition necessarily accompany one another. But more, critical theory in anthropology today, with its preoccupation with suffering and trauma— “suffering slot” anthropology, Joel Robbins has called it—inhabits an often-dismal, humorless space of critique. I wanted to use the Togolese material to disturb that goes-without-saying reflex and make room for pleasure alongside precarity in my analysis.

Do you see The Fixer shifting existing conversations about migration and immigration practices? How so?

With seventy million migrant-refugees on the move today worldwide, mobility has become the issue of our time. As have mobility’s travails—especially at a moment when border walls and biometric tracking have become the order of the day. Today’s world is one of enclosures and fences, one in which security has replaced freedom as core value.

Neither celebratory nor tragic, my account aims to humanize the West African migrant by giving agency and voice to migrant experience, and by situating these sojourners within precarious West African times, while also putting border practice and consular decision-making under the microscope.

One of the grave injustices in today’s world is that metropolitan border policy means that most on the African continent will never be able to travel and will remain enclaved/incarcerated at home. As such, they are denied access to a world they helped create—through the wealth produced by the Atlantic slave economies, through colonial systems that accumulated raw materials for European industry, through the contemporary extraction of oil and minerals—including the coltan that powers the world’s cell phones and laptops. Why should this continent be denied its due, especially when its denizens are the best of workers and citizens wherever they land?

Read the introduction to The Fixer free online and save 30% on the paperback edition using coupon code E19PIOT.

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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