Current Affairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here and Now (Under Erasure)

The most recent issue of Social Text, “Here and Now (Under Erasure),” co-written by the After Globalism Writing group, is now available.

m_stx_36_1_coverIn both traditional and experimental prose, this special issue interrogates and reflects on the here and now—our present and new political moment. Collective thinking and writing is one method through which leftist intellectuals have operated in reactionary times and the issue uses such methodology to explore extraction, privatization, data-mining, and other workings of global capital. Turning experimentally away from the authorial and agential subject of modernity, and towards a poly-vocal exposition of water as a protagonist, this issue develops a heuristic for writing the deep history of the global present without centering either capitalism or the developmentalist state.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction now, freely available.

Queers Read This! LGBTQ Literature Now

The most recent special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, “Queers Read This! LGBTQ Literature Now,” edited by Ramzi Fawaz and Shanté Paradigm Smalls, is now available.

m_ddglq_24_2-3_coverThis issue asks how LGBTQ literary production has evolved in response to the dramatic transformations in queer life that have taken place since the early 1990s. Taking inspiration from “QUEERS READ THIS!”—a leaflet distributed at the 1990 New York Pride March by activist group Queer Nation—the contributors to this issue theorize what such an impassioned command would look like today: in light of our current social and political realities, what should queers read now and how are they reading and writing texts? The contributors offer innovative and timely approaches to the place, function, and political possibilities of LGBTQ literature in the wake of AIDS, gay marriage, the rise of institutional queer theory, the ascendancy of transgender rights, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the 2016 election. The authors reconsider camp aesthetics in the Trump era, uncover long-ignored histories of lesbian literary labor, reconceptualize contemporary black queer literary responses to institutional violence and racism, and query the methods by which we might forge a queer-of-color literary canon. This issue frames LGBTQ literature as not only a growing list of texts but also a vast range of reading attitudes, affects, contexts, and archives that support queer ways of life.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, freely available now.

Readings for World Refugee Day

The United Nations World Refugee Day, marked every year on June 20, commemorates the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees. With thousands of families displaced around the world and with the current humanitarian crisis at the US border, it seems especially crucial to understand what is behind these issues. We’ve compiled recent scholarship from our journals and books on the refugee crisis and migration studies. 

ddsaq_117_2_coverThe most recent issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, “Rethinking Migration and Autonomy from within the ‘Crises’,” edited by Martina Tazzioli, Glenda Garelli, and Nicholas De Genova, focuses on the “autonomy of migration” in light of the economic crisis. It brings together the most cutting-edge approaches to migration, such as migration and logistics, with reappraisals of categories of political theory, such as “autonomy” and migrant “subjectivity.” Read the introduction to the issue, “Autonomy of Asylum?: The Autonomy of Migration Undoing the Refugee Crisis Script,” made freely available.

978-0-8223-6916-5Nicholas De Genova is also editor of the recent book The Borders of “Europe”, which features Martina Tazzioli and Glenda Garelli as contributors, as well as Stephan Scheel, who is a contributor to the SAQ issue. Addressing the new technologies and technical forms European states use to curb, control, and constrain the autonomy of migration, the contributors show how the continent’s amorphous borders present a premier site for the enactment and disputation of the very idea of Europe. Attending to migrant and refugee supporters as well as those who stoke nativist fears, this timely volume demonstrates how the enforcement of Europe’s borders is an important element of the worldwide regulation of human mobility.

Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, contributors to “Rethinking Migration and Autonomy from within the ‘Crises,'” are also authors of Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor, which charts the proliferation of borders generated by contemporary globalization, investigating their implications for migratory movements, capitalist transformations, and political life. Fellow contributor Verónica Gago is author of the new book Neoliberalism from Below, which examines how Latin American neoliberalism is propelled not just from above by international finance, corporations, and government, but also by the activities of migrant workers, vendors, sweatshop workers, and other marginalized groups.

R2R final logoOur Migration Studies reading list, part of our “Read to Respond” series, encourages thoughtful, educated debate on this pressing issue. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Recent Scholarship on Trans* Surgery

TSQ_5_2_coverThe Surgery Issue,” a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly edited by Eric Plemons and Chris Straayer, explores the vital and contested place of surgical intervention in the making of trans* bodies, theories, and practices. This issue engages “the surgical” in its many forms. Contributors contemplate a wide scope: physical, technical, and social aspects of the body; trans* and transition-related surgeries broadly construed; local and international endeavors; the conceptual, the theoretical, and the practical; the historical and the speculative.

Trans* surgery has been an object of fantasy, derision, refusal, and triumph. For decades after its establishment in the 1950s, clinicians considered a desire for reconstructive genital surgery to be the linchpin of the transsexual diagnosis. Drawing on earlier legacies of sexology and plastic surgery and the emerging specialties of endocrinology and surgical transplant, early emphasis on genital surgery determined clinical legibility, shaped forms of identification, produced institutional capacities, and became the object of criticism by those for whom a desire for body alterations indicated profound pathologies on the parts of patients and their willing surgeons. Subsequent contestations of the medico-surgical framework troubled the place of surgical intervention and helped mark the emergence of “transgender” as an alternative, more inclusive term for gender nonconforming subjects who were sometimes less concerned with surgical intervention.

Beginning in the 1990s, new histories of trans* clinical practice challenged the institutional claim that transsexuals were uniform in their desire for genital surgery, and trans* authors began to advocate relationships to their surgically altered bodies as sites of power rather than capitulation. Still others refused a focus on surgery-centric conceptualizations of trans* on the grounds that it obscures the conditions of how and for whom surgery is available, values Euro-American histories of transsexualism, and obfuscates the reality that trans* subjectivity might be as much about justice and rights as it is about physical transition.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Eric Plemons, coeditor of “The Surgery Issue,” is also author of the recent book The Look of a Woman: Facial Feminization Surgery and the Aims of Trans- Medicine. Developed in the 1980s, facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a set of reconstructive surgical procedures intended to feminize the faces of trans- women. Plemons foregrounds the narratives of FFS patients and their surgeons, showing how the increasing popularity of FFS represents a shift away from genital-based conceptions of trans- selfhood. He demonstrates how FFS is changing the project of surgical sex reassignment by reconfiguring the kind of sex that surgery aims to change.

An Interview with Jessica Loudis, editor of World Policy Journal

Jessica Loudis recently became editor of World Policy Journal (WPJ), the flagship publication of the World Policy Institute. We sat down with her to discuss the new editorship, the direction of the journal, and upcoming issue themes.

m_ddwpj_35_1_coverWhat are your plans for the journal during your tenure as editor?
I want to cover policy in unexpected ways, and to draw in readers who don’t yet know they’re interested in the subject. Part of this involves taking a more multidisciplinary approach. For instance, our current issue has a piece about Dubai’s efforts to send a manned mission to Mars, and another about how Britain’s public space laws were shaped by music festivals in the 80s and 90s. Basically, WPJ will be the place to read the kinds of pieces you wouldn’t initially expect to find in a policy magazine.

How do you see the journal developing in the next few years?
I’m interested in discovering new, talented writers from all over the world, and in giving them the opportunity to tell stories that wouldn’t work for other magazines. We want to cultivate a sensibility that is incisive, offbeat, and multidisciplinary, and to do so by putting journalists and scholars and thinkers in conversation with one another. Ultimately, I want to create an intellectual community around the magazine, and to start meaningful conversations that have a broader impact.

How have you selected issue topics for the journal?
I’m interested in topics that are open-ended and allow for different avenues of access. For instance, the theme of our summer issue is “Megalomania,” and it will include a piece on a rising female fascist politician in Italy, another on a failed attempt to abolish time zones, and one on former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s overambitious architectural initiatives. I like topics that can speak to people in different ways, and which allow for a bit of fun.

WPJ34_4_cover

Oh, on a related note, we’ve also brought on a cocktail historian, Eben Klemm, to create original cocktails based on our themes. For “Megalomania,” Eben has designed a cocktail that is a combination of Mussolini and Saddam Hussein’s favorite drinks, with an Idi Amin flourish thrown in for good measure.

Are there certain topics or fields you’re interested in focusing on?
I come from a literary background, and I’m very interested in having people from literature and the arts think about policy and politics in new ways. I’m also interested in anthropology and sociology, and I’ve really enjoyed working with specialists in those fields. In general, I want to surprise readers by drawing connections they hadn’t previously considered.

Can you tell us more about upcoming issues?
Our upcoming issues are “Megalomania,” “The Limits of Big Data,” and “Tourism.”

I already told you a little about megalomania, and for “The Limits of Big Data,” we have a piece I’m excited about on facial recognition software and programmable empathy. Another piece I’m looking forward to is  on the Vatican’s big data initiative. As for the rest, you’ll have to wait and see…

For the tourism issue, we’re looking at a lot of different kinds of tourism: medical, adoption, dental, retail, to name a few.

WPJ34_3One of the interesting things about the journal is its work recruiting journalists from around the world, can you shed more light on how you find new voices and stories?
I was fortunate to work at Al Jazeera and Bookforum before WPJ, which allowed me to cultivate an international network of writers and critics. Beyond that, I just read constantly, and try to do so as widely as possible. I follow the book publishing catalogs (especially Duke’s, which is consistently excellent), I read magazines, I pay attention to what’s happening in journalism, and I do a bit of Twitter stalking to see who the people I respect are reading and talking to. Finally, I’ll often ask colleagues or friends in my field for recommendations or advice on particular topics.

Tell us more about any other World Policy programs you’d like us to know about.
World Policy Journal and World Policy Institute are about to launch a very cool new program called “Renegotiating the Social Contract.” There will be a few parts to this, including conferences, publications, and multimedia projects. The idea is that the classic social contract as we’ve known it has broken down, and in a lot of ways, changed. While keeping in mind how the social contract used to be structured between citizens and the government, we’re looking how it’s currently structured, and what’s been lost or gained.

Colonialism, Imperialism, and War

MEW-logoAs part of our month-long series highlighting the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, we’re excited to share a “Colonialism, Imperialism, and War” mock syllabus from the JMEWS, curated by the editors. JMEWS is the official journal of the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies. This interdisciplinary journal advances the fields of Middle East gender, sexuality, and women’s studies through the contributions of academics, artists, and activists from around the globe working in the interpretive social sciences and humanities.

Colonialism, Imperialism, and War

 

New article looks at the rise and fall of Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board

ddjhppl_42_3“Technocratic Dreams, Political Realities: The Rise and Demise of Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board,” an article by Jonathan Oberlander and Steven B. Spivack in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law (volume 43, issue 3), offers a groundbreaking, in-depth look at the troubled history of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), enacted as part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and repealed in February 2018 when President Donald Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

This article addresses technocracy and healthcare through IPAB, a board of healthcare experts hailed for its innovation and designed to formulate Medicare policy recommendations based on evidence and reason rather than politics. Authors Oberlander and Spivack explore why Congress initially enacted IPAB, how we understand its broad appeal to the health policy community, and why IPAB failed to live up to its original hype and remained in political purgatory, paralyzed by controversy and partisanship.

Most health policy experts supported IPAB. The board was an ambitious way to combat the influence of interest groups and the health care industry on Medicare policy. It was also seen as an antidote to legislative inertia and Congress’s inability to manage Medicare. Experts, as well as some members of Congress, agreed that lawmakers could not make difficult decisions about Medicare and envisioned the board as an instrument of health services research and congressional self control. After the board’s establishment, industry groups attacked it, while many Republicans and some Democrats criticized IPAB and supported its repeal. Instead of realizing its aspirations, the board was mired in irrelevance. Prior to its repeal, IPAB existed as a shell under a presidential administration opposed to its existence.

“IPAB’s brief, troubled history offers a cautionary tale about the role of evidence, expertise, and independent panels in US health policy making,” Oberlander and Spivack write. “IPAB’s establishment reflected good intentions: to restructure Medicare governance so that program policy making was driven more by evidence and less by interest group pressures; to compel policy makers to consider and ultimately make difficult choices in Medicare reform; to prevent Congress from micromanaging and mismanaging Medicare; to ensure that, if Congress did not act, steps were still taken to restrain Medicare spending; and to create safeguards against excessive spending. Yet the aspirations to rationalize Medicare through IPAB have floundered against political realities.”

For more information regarding the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, please visit dukeupress.edu/jhppl.

Read the full article here.

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, we’re excited to celebrate the achievements of women globally and energized to continue pressing for gender equality. If you’re looking to learn the latest in women’s studies, consider exploring a few of our newest works in this impactful and progressive field.

978-0-8223-7086-4From experimental shorts and web series to Hollywood blockbusters and feminist porn, the work of African American lesbian filmmakers has made a powerful contribution to film history. But despite its importance, this work has gone largely unacknowledged by cinema historians and cultural critics. Assembling a range of interviews, essays, and conversations, Sisters in the Life, edited by Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz, tells a full story of out African American lesbian media-making spanning three decades.

Trump-WomensMarch_2017-top-1510075_(32409710246)On January 21, 2017, over 5 million people marched all over the world in support of women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, environmental policy reform, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and worker’s rights, among other causes. A few weeks ago we shared recent scholarship on the 2017 Women’s March itself, as well as continued journal scholarship on feminism and women’s rights. Check out “Positions in Solidarity: Voices and Images from the US Women’s Marches” by Deborah Frizzell in Cultural Politics and “The Women’s March: New York, January 21, 2017” by Caroline Walker Bynum in Common Knowledge.

978-0-87273-184-4A landmark exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of color during the emergence of second-wave feminism. The Brooklyn Museum published two volumes related to the exhibition. The first, the Sourcebook, republishes an array of rare and little-known documents from the period by artists, writers, cultural critics, and art historians such as Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, bell hooks, Lucy R. Lippard, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Lowery Stokes Sims, Alice Walker, and Michelle Wallace. The second volume, New Perspectives, includes original essays and perspectives by Aruna D’Souza, Uri McMillan, Kellie Jones, and Lisa Jones that place the exhibition’s works in both historical and contemporary contexts, and also includes two new poems by Alice Walker. The exhibition is currently on display at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, through May 27.

readtorespondOur Read to Respond: Feminism and Women’s Rights reading list features journal articles and books tackling topics from abortion laws, maternity leave, Islamic feminism, and more. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

978-0-8223-6257-9In the spring of 1994, the tiny African nation of Rwanda was ripped apart by a genocide that left nearly a million dead.  After the violence subsided, Rwanda’s women—drawn by the necessity of protecting their families—carved out unlikely new roles for themselves as visionary pioneers creating stability and reconciliation in genocide’s wake. In Rwandan Women Rising, Swanee Hunt shares the stories of some seventy women—heralded activists and unsung heroes alike—who overcame unfathomable brutality, unrecoverable loss, and unending challenges to rebuild Rwandan society.

In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized by Girlfriend Tours International, the women construct notions of racial, sexual, and emotional belonging by forming relationships with Jamaican men and other “girlfriends.”

wpj33_4_23_frontcover_fppWorld Policy Journal (WPJ) is the flagship publication of the World Policy Institute. For over thirty years the journal has been home to both distinguished and emerging thinkers from around the globe. Articles inject new ideas into international debates on the world’s most pressing issues. Essays and reported pieces cover global security, regional conflict, political controversy, and cultural and social change. The journal is known for lively, intelligent writing that challenges conventional wisdom and offers fresh perspectives on underreported issues. We’re highlighting three important articles from WPJ for International Women’s Day, made freely available until the end of the month:

978-0-8223-7003-1In Considering Emma Goldman Clare Hemmings examines the significance of the anarchist activist and thinker for contemporary feminist politics. Rather than attempting to resolve the tensions and problems that Goldman’s thinking about race, gender, and sexuality pose for feminist thought, Hemmings embraces them, finding them to be helpful in formulating a new queer feminist praxis. She shows how serious engagement with Goldman’s political ambivalences opens up larger questions surrounding feminist historiography, affect, fantasy, and knowledge production.

Sara R. Farris, in In the Name of Women’s Rights, examines the demands for women’s rights from an unlikely collection of right-wing nationalist political parties, neoliberals, and some feminist theorists and policy makers. Focusing on contemporary France, Italy, and the Netherlands, Farris labels this exploitation and co-optation of feminist themes by anti-Islam and xenophobic campaigns as “femonationalism.” She shows that by characterizing Muslim males as dangerous to western societies and as oppressors of women, and by emphasizing the need to rescue Muslim and migrant women, these groups use gender equality to justify their racist rhetoric and policies.

978-0-8223-7004-8In Passionate and Pious Monique Moultrie explores the impact of faith-based sexual ministries on black women’s sexual agency to trace how these women navigate sexuality, religious authority, and their spiritual walk with God. These popular ministries exist largely beyond the traditional church, with dialogues about sex taking place in chat rooms and through text messages, social media, email, and other media. Moultrie reframes biblical interpretations and conceptions of what constitutes a healthy relationship to provide a basis for sexual decision making that does not privilege monogamy or deny female pleasure.

ddmew_13_3_coverWe’re spotlighting the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies this month to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Follow the blog or sign up for email alerts to read more of the JMEWS blog series featuring the most widely read articles, a theme on war and empire, a special feature on co-editor miriam cooke, and more.

In seventeenth-century Lima, pious Catholic women gained profound theological understanding and enacted expressions of spiritual devotion by engaging with a wide range of sacred texts and objects, as well as with one another, their families, and ecclesiastical authorities. In Embodying the Sacred, Nancy E. van Deusen considers how women created and navigated a spiritual existence within the colonial city’s complex social milieu, transforming early modern Catholicism.

978-0-8223-7002-4In Domestic Economies, Susanna Rosenbaum examines how two groups of women—Mexican and Central American domestic workers and the predominantly white, middle-class women who employ them—seek to achieve the “American Dream.” By juxtaposing their understandings and experiences, she illustrates how immigrant and native-born women strive to reach that ideal, how each group is indispensable to the other’s quest, and what a vital role reproductive labor plays in this pursuit.

Want to show your feminism to the world? We now offer Feminist Killjoy t-shirts, inspired by Sara Ahmed’s book Living a Feminist Life, in both adult and children’s sizes! You can pick one up (or grab one for a friend) here.

Feminist Killjoy Groupkids front and back

Top Ten Most Read Articles from JMEWS

MEW-logoWe’re excited to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, as well as Women’s History Month, by spotlighting the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS) throughout March. JMEWS is the official journal of the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies. This interdisciplinary journal advances the fields of Middle East gender, sexuality, and women’s studies through the contributions of academics, artists, and activists from around the globe working in the interpretive social sciences and humanities.

Interested in reading more? Here are the top ten most frequently read articles from JMEWS from the past year: