Education

“Thank You for Your Service”

On the day before Veterans Day, Grateful Nation author Ellen Moore offers commentary on a phrase many of us take for granted.

ellen-6470As many of us take the day off work for Veterans Day, we pause to honor former military members and often resort to the familiar phrase “Thank you for your service.”  Yet the simple gesture of thanking soldiers for their service is not so simple.

In the years since 9/11 and the onset of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “thank you for your service” has become a ritualized phrase that is repeated in airports, schools, shopping centers, and movie theaters. On college campuses, for example, veteran support meetings routinely begin with civilian speakers thanking the student veterans for their service. When I began my research with veterans attending college, civilians working for the U.S. Army advised that I should introduce myself to veterans by thanking them for their service because it would facilitate communication. Because the phrase was so ubiquitous, instead of repeating it, I chose to ask veterans to describe how they feel when they hear the phrase “thank you for your service.” I got a range of answers from appreciation to active dislike, but many said that the phrase, coming from strangers who knew nothing about them beside their military status, seemed like a platitude; it seemed like something civilians thought they were supposed to say. Others were concerned that the phrase served as a way to avoid deeper discussions about the wars and about the effects on soldiers who are sent to fight them. As Jordan, a former Marine and veteran of the Iraq War told me: “For me the biggest problem is that the people of this country don’t understand what they’re asking [when they send soldiers into war]. They don’t understand what we’re doing. They want to be appreciative. They want to understand. I really believe that. They want to be thankful. They want to be supportive. But all of these things require being informed, being knowledgeable and not burying our heads in the sand when we get to the ugly truth.”

978-0-8223-6909-7For Jordan the “ugly truth” involved sending young men and women into battle to harm or kill unknown others for reasons not always clear to them. Many suffer from what is now called moral injury resulting from having to carry out actions that conflict with their moral beliefs. During the three years I spent in and around veteran communities researching their experiences on college campuses, I found that when civilians, soldiers, or veterans criticized military policies or actions they were often labeled as not just anti-war, but anti-military or even anti-veteran.  But my research found that dichotomous “pro or anti-war” labels cannot adequately describe diverse beliefs held by military members, veterans, and civilians about the military and the contemporary wars.

Daily life today in the United States is marked by a heightened sense of vulnerability and anxiety about national security. We are warned that enemies at home and abroad threaten U.S. jobs, families, and homes. This national insecurity problem has come with a built-in solution: militarized interventions in the form of expanded and instrumental use of deadly force by police, walled-off militarized border zones, drone warfare, and threats of nuclear strikes. Paradoxically, the heightened rhetoric of war is accompanied by a societal silence about the effects of war on soldiers as both victims and perpetrators of violence.

But we must talk about this—and veterans have a lot to say.

War veterans’ complex positions are often informed by what they call the “ground truth”– the lived reality of combat and military occupation. When someone knows this “ground truth”, they cannot reduce that experience to a simplistic choice between being a hero or a villain. However, in our efforts to honor veterans’ service, we can end up idealizing both war and warrior.

News stories and commercial ad campaigns featuring uniformed soldiers highlight heroism, loyalty to country, and sacrifice, but there are few public representations of the ambivalence and conflict that so many veterans shared with me. I found that some student veterans wanted to be acknowledged for their service while others just wanted to blend in on campus and be seen as ordinary students. Some veterans wanted to engage in conversations about the wars with civilian students, while others wanted to avoid discussions they feared would lead to unwelcome interrogations. This diversity highlights the need for more complex and targeted supports for student veterans. We must provide room for conversations involving political difference on college campuses and in veteran support settings.

We can honor military veterans by engaging in difficult conversations about war and peace, consent and dissent, social conformity and social difference, and about what it takes for a nation to be secure. Yet finding common ground across diverse worldviews is difficult since we live in a highly polarized ideological environment that seeps into discussions about military veterans and the current wars.

“Thank you for your service” and other societal conventions that require veterans and civilians to adopt an uncomplicated view of military service and the wars inhibit discussions that some veterans want and need for their own benefit and for the benefit of their fellow veterans. As I conducted the research for my book, I found that for many veterans, enforced silences and heroic narratives about the wars increased cognitive and emotional dissonance between their lived military experience and their return to civilian society.

Jordan and his fellow veterans deserve more than ritualized phrases, they deserve to be listened to and to have their experience understood. We can and should differentiate between support for veterans and support for the wars in which they fought.

Ellen Moore’s Grateful Nation: Student Veterans and the Rise of the Military-Friendly Campus is out now. Pick up the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E17MOORE on our website.
Supporting thoughtful, deeply researched scholarship like Moore’s is what University Press Week is all about. The final day of University Press Week’s blog tour theme is Libraries and Librarians Helping Us All #LookItUP. University of Missouri Press provides a look into the ways the Special Collections archive and certain librarians helped both the press and the author with Lanford Wilson: Early Stories, Sketches, Poems. At University of Nebraska Press, director of Lincoln City Libraries, Pat Leach, will contribute a post. Next, the University Press of Florida will spotlight the Florida and the Caribbean Open Books Series, a collaboration between the press and and the UF George A. Smathers Libraries. An entry from University of Georgia Press demonstrates how libraries serve as bastions of facts and real information against the onslaught of Fake News.  University of Alabama Press  will also have a post. Read and share with the hashtags #ReadUP and #LookItUP and keep talking about the great work university presses do even after this week ends.

New Books in October

October is upon us, and we have a number of new books to introduce to you this month. Be on the lookout for these exciting titles at bookstores, online, or at academic meetings later this fall.

978-0-8223-6918-9In The Right to Maim, Jasbir K. Puar continues her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to theorize the production of disability, using Israel’s occupation of Palestine as an example of how settler colonial states rely on liberal frameworks of disability to maintain control of bodies and populations.

Jennifer Terry, in Attachments to War, traces how biomedical logics entangle Americans in a perpetual state of war, in which new forms of wounding necessitate the continual development of treatment and prosthetic technologies while the military justifies violence and military occupation as necessary conditions for advancing medical knowledge.

978-0-8223-6973-8Life in the Age of Drone Warfare, edited by Lisa Parks and Caren Kaplan, explores the historical, juridical, geopolitical, and cultural dimensions of drone technology and warfare, showing how drones generate ways of understanding the world, shape the ways lives are lived and ended on the ground, and operate within numerous mechanisms of militarized state power.

 

Tracing the college experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in her new book Grateful Nation, Ellen Moore challenges the popular narratives that explain student veterans’ academic difficulties while showing how these narratives and institutional support for the military lead to suppression of campus debate about the wars, discourage anti-war activism, and encourage a growing militarization.

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The Extractive Zone by Macarena Gómez-Barris extends decolonial theory into greater conversation with race, sexuality, and Indigenous studies; and traces the political, aesthetic, and performative practices of South American indigenous activists, intellectuals, and artists that emerge in opposition to the ruinous effects of extractive capital.

Essays, interviews, and artist statements in Collective Situations —many of which are appearing in English for the first time—present a range of socially engaged art practices in Latin America between 1995 and 2010 that rethink the boundaries between art and activism. The collection is edited by Bill Kelley Jr. and Grant H. Kester.

In Never Alone, Except for Now, juxtaposing contemporary art against familiar features of the Web such as emoticons, Kris Cohen explores how one can be connected to people and places online while simultaneously being alone and isolated. This phenomenon lies in the space between populations built through data collection, and publics created by interacting with others.

Originally published in 1939, Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal is a landmark of modern French poetry and a founding text of the Négritude movement. Journal of a Homecoming, a bilingual edition, features a new authoritative translation, revised introduction, and extensive commentary, making it a magisterial edition of Césaire’s surrealist masterpiece.

978-0-8223-6949-3In Neoliberalism from Below, Verónica Gago provides a new theory of neoliberalism by examining how Latin American neoliberalism is propelled not just from above by international finance, corporations, and government, but by the activities of migrant workers, vendors, sweatshop workers, and other marginalized groups in and around the La Salada market in Buenos Aires.

Kristen Ghodsee, in Red Hangover, examines the legacies of twentieth-century communism on the contemporary political landscape twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall fell, reflecting on the lived experience of postsocialism and how many ordinary men and women across Eastern Europe suffered from the massive social and economic upheavals in their lives after 1989.

978-0-8223-5884-8Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and his experience trading derivatives, in The Social Life of Financial Derivatives, Edward LiPuma theorizes the profound social dimensions of derivatives markets and the processes, rituals, mentalities, and belief systems that drive them.

In Monrovia Modern, Danny Hoffman uses the ruins of four iconic modernist buildings in Monrovia, Liberia as a way to explore the relationship between the built environment and political imagination, showing how these former symbols of modernist nation building transformed into representations of the challenges that Monrovia’s residents face.

Steeped in Heritage, by Sarah Ives, explores the racial and environmental politics behind South Africa’s rooibos tea industry to examine heritage-based claims to the indigenous plant by two groups of contested indigeneity: white Afrikaners and “coloured” South Africans.

In Tropical Freedom, Ikuko Asaka examines emancipation’s intersection with settler colonialism in North America, showing how emancipation efforts in the United States and present-day Canada were accompanied by attempts to relocate freed blacks to tropical regions, thereby conceiving freedom as a racially segregated condition based upon geography and climate.

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Pedagogy: Critical Practices for a Changing World

ddal_89_2_coverWhy we teach what we teach is just as important as why we study what we study but is seldom discussed as a field-defining issue. American Literature’s most recent special issue, “Pedagogy: Critical Practices for a Changing World,” edited by Carol Batker, Eden Osucha, and Augusta Rohrbach, integrates discipline-specific knowledge more fully into a critical discussion of pedagogy. By leveraging the location of pedagogy as developing out of specific scholarly concerns, articles within this issue illustrate the intersection of theory and pedagogical practice while highlighting the diverse disciplinary, institutional, and political contributions of American literature to higher education and community-based teaching and learning.

In turning their attention to pedagogy, the editors of this special issue ask both how scholarly engagement with American literature has produced a distinct set of pedagogical practices and how pedagogical practices raise new questions about the relevance and role of American literature. Rather than focusing on a particular teaching strategy or text, these essays approach the topic from larger philosophical and disciplinary perspectives.

Read the special editors’ introduction to the issue, made freely available now through August 26, 2017.

In the Archives

Several recent books and journal issues from Duke University Press have addressed the topic of archives. Learn more about archives through the lenses of transgender studies, queer studies, pedagogy, photography, and more.

ddtsq_2_4In the most recent issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, titled “Archives and Archiving” (volume 2, issue 4), contributors investigate practical and theoretical dimensions of archiving transgender phenomena and ask what constitutes “trans* archives” or “trans* archival practices.” The humanization of the archival craft is particularly compelling for transgender-related archives and archiving. As attention to transgender phenomena continues to increase, the need for thoughtfully conceived and ethically executed trans archival practices becomes all the more pressing. Yet the very basis of this undertaking relies on a daunting definitional and epistemological challenge: in the context of archives, what counts as transgender? Read the introduction, made freely available.


978-0-8223-3688-4Archive Stories
,
edited by Antoinette Burton, brings together ethnographies of the archival world, most of which are written by historians. Some contributors recount their own experiences. One offers a moving reflection on how the relative wealth and prestige of Western researchers can gain them entry to collections such as Uzbekistan’s newly formed Central State Archive, which severely limits the access of Uzbek researchers. Others explore the genealogies of specific archives, from one of the most influential archival institutions in the modern West, the Archives nationales in Paris, to the significant archives of the Bakunin family in Russia, which were saved largely through the efforts of one family member. Still others explore the impact of current events on the analysis of particular archives. A contributor tells of researching the 1976 Soweto riots in the politically charged atmosphere of the early 1990s, just as apartheid in South Africa was coming to an end. A number of the essays question what counts as an archive—and what counts as history—as they consider oral histories, cyberspace, fiction, and plans for streets and buildings that were never built, for histories that never materialized.

Dean cover image, 5680-6The essays in the collection in Porn Archives,  edited by Tim Dean, Steven Ruszczycky, and David Squires, address the historically and culturally varied interactions between porn and the archive. Topics range from library policies governing access to sexually explicit material to the growing digital archive of “war porn,” or eroticized combat imagery; and from same-sex amputee porn to gay black comic book superhero porn. Together the pieces trace pornography as it crosses borders, transforms technologies, consolidates sexual identities, and challenges notions of what counts as legitimate forms of knowledge. The collection concludes with a valuable resource for scholars: a list of pornography archives held by institutions around the world.

ddrhr_120Two recent issues of Radical History Review, “Historical Unravelings,” #120 and “Intimate Tracings,” #122, explore the ways in which the notion of the “queer archive” is increasingly crucial for scholars working at the intersection of history, sexuality, and gender. Efforts to record and preserve queer experiences determine how scholars account for the past and provide a framework for understanding contemporary queer life. Essays in these issues consider historical materials from queer archives around the world as well as the recent critical practice of “queering” the archive by looking at historical collections for queer content (and its absence).

ddrhr_122The first issue explores the evolution of grassroots LGBT archives, debates over queer migrations, nationalism and the institutionalization of LGBT memory, the archiving of transgender activism, digitization and the classificatory systems of the archive, performances of the colonial archive, museums as archives, and everyday objects as archivable texts. The second issue considers how archives allow historical traces of sexuality and gender to be sought, identified, recorded, and assembled into accumulations of meaning. Learn more about “Historical Unravelings” and “Intimate Tracings” by reading the introductions, made freely available.

978-0-8223-4868-9Kathryn Burns argues that the archive itself must be historicized in Into the Archive. Using the case of colonial Cuzco, she examines the practices that shaped document-making. Notaries were businessmen, selling clients a product that conformed to local “custom” as well as Spanish templates. Clients, for their part, were knowledgeable consumers, with strategies of their own for getting what they wanted. In this inside story of the early modern archive, Burns offers a wealth of possibilities for seeing sources in fresh perspective.

Additional articles of interest on archives:

Hurricane Katrina: 10 Years Later

This week marks the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. In remembrance, we take a look at the books and journal articles we’ve published on that historic event.

Adams cover image, 5449-9

Markets of Sorrow, Labors of Faith is an ethnographic account of long-term recovery in post-Katrina New Orleans. It is also a sobering exploration of the privatization of vital social services under market-driven governance. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, public agencies subcontracted disaster relief to private companies that turned the humanitarian work of recovery into lucrative business. These enterprises profited from the very suffering that they failed to ameliorate, producing a second-order disaster that exacerbated inequalities based on race and class and leaving residents to rebuild almost entirely on their own.

Filled with the often desperate voices of residents who returned to New Orleans, Markets of Sorrow, Labors of Faith describes the human toll of disaster capitalism and the affect economy it has produced. While for-profit companies delayed delivery of federal resources to returning residents, faith-based and nonprofit groups stepped in to rebuild, compelled by the moral pull of charity and the emotional rewards of volunteer labor. Adams traces the success of charity efforts, even while noting an irony of neoliberalism, which encourages the very same for-profit companies to exploit these charities as another market opportunity. In so doing, the companies profit not once but twice on disaster.

Thomas cover image, 5728-5Most of the narratives packaged for New Orleans’s many tourists cultivate a desire for black culture—jazz, cuisine, dance—while simultaneously targeting black people and their communities as sources and sites of political, social, and natural disaster. In Desire and Disaster in New Orleans: Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory, the Americanist and New Orleans native Lynnell L. Thomas delves into the relationship between tourism, cultural production, and racial politics. She carefully interprets the racial narratives embedded in tourism websites, travel guides, business periodicals, and newspapers; the thoughts of tour guides and owners; and the stories told on bus and walking tours as they were conducted both before and after Katrina. She describes how, with varying degrees of success, African American tour guides, tour owners, and tourism industry officials have used their own black heritage tours and tourism-focused businesses to challenge exclusionary tourist representations. Taking readers from the Lower Ninth Ward to the White House, Thomas highlights the ways that popular culture and public policy converge to create a mythology of racial harmony that masks a long history of racial inequality and structural inequity.

ddmnr_84The most recent issue of the minnesota review includes a special section entitled, “Katrina Ten Years Later.” This cluster of essays focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina including the measures that could have been taken to prevent the massive devastation caused by it and the immediate and long-term responses by the government, private industry, and civil society.

Contributors to the section ask how Katrina left a permanent mark on the Gulf South and the larger national imaginary, whether we’ve learned any lessons, and what actions and policies we’ve adopted to mitigate against future disasters. Gaurav Desai argues: “Haunting though the images may be, the flooded homes and emergency rescues from rooftops were not the only impact Katrina had—it altered fundamental social contracts in cities such as New Orleans, from public education to public housing. It also awakened a new activism focused on issues ranging from calls for better levee protection to addressing the loss of wetlands in coastal communities.” Topics include real estate in post-Katrina New Orleans, ghost music in the Ninth Ward, organization and individualization in urban recovery, and Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans.

A forthcoming issue of Public Culture, “Climate Change and the Future of Cities: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Social Change on an Urban Planet,” volume 28 and issue 2, addresses climate change in urban areas. Contributors hypothesize that the best techniques for safeguarding cities and critical infrastructure systems from the threats related to climate change have multiple benefits, strengthening networks that promote health and prosperity during ordinary times as well as mitigating damage during disasters. Sign up for electronic table-of-contents alerts for Public Culture to be notified when the issue is available in Spring 2016.

Further reading on Hurricane Katrina from Duke University Press journals:

ddpcult_21_2“‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp… with… a Whole Lot of Bitches Jumpin’ Ship’: Navigating Black Politics in the Wake of Katrina,” by Michael Ralph in Public Culture, volume 21 and issue 2.

Rebuilding the Past: Health Care Reform in Post-Katrina Louisiana,” by Mary A. Clark in Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, volume 35 and issue 5.

World History according to Katrina,” by Wai Chee Dimock in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, volume 19 and issue 2.

American Literature Call for Papers, Pedagogy: Critical Practices for a Changing World

Call for Papers: Special Issue of American Literature: “Pedagogy: Critical Practices for a Changing World”

ddal_86_3Over the last year, the media’s funereal preoccupation with the death of higher education has thrown into question the relevance and vitality of literary studies. Focusing on student debt, time-to-completion, and job placement, a new version of stripped-down vocational education threatens to take faculty, scholarship, and liberal arts out of the University. In a fury of business efficiencies, for-profit industries and venture capitalists are “unbundling” faculty roles, building self-service models, and advocating the corporate development of standardized assessments or student “competencies.” This special issue proposes pedagogies arising from the field of American literature as a critical response to these alarming trends in higher education.

Historically, literature produced and circulated in the United States has negotiated a range of contradictory demands to “teach” diverse peoples how to inhabit the geopolitical space and cultural terrain of the nation. Indeed, the concept of American literature was forged amid debates about the connections among literacy, citizenship, and pedagogy. In turning our attention to pedagogy, the editors of this special issue of American Literature would like to ask both how our scholarly engagement with American literature has produced a distinct set of pedagogical practices and how our pedagogical practices raise new questions about the relevance and role of American literature. Why we teach what we teach is just as important as why we study what we study but is seldom discussed as a field-defining issue. This special issue presents an opportunity to integrate discipline-specific knowledge more fully into a critical discussion of pedagogy. By leveraging the location of our pedagogy as developing out of specific scholarly concerns, we wish to illustrate the intersection of theory and pedagogical practice while highlighting the diverse disciplinary, institutional, and political contributions of American literature to higher education and community-based teaching and learning.

With this special issue, we offer an opportunity to consider pedagogy as increasingly the site where political and economic pressures are grappled with and addressed, including the widening gap between the sophistication of scholarship and critical practice in the field of American literature and the current direction of institutional politics and practices. Rather than focusing on a particular teaching strategy or text, we seek essays that approach the topic from larger philosophical and disciplinary perspectives. For example, how do border theory and the work of such theorists as Paolo Freire and Gloria Anzaldúa inform pedagogical practice in the field of American literature, broadly construed? What kinds of counterhegemonies and subaltern literacies emerge in our contemporary pedagogy? Why teach literary texts and why teach literary texts in a national context? In addition, essays addressing the effect of cross-sectoral pedagogy on the discipline might look at how American literature moves beyond the academy into alternative learning spaces through online education or service learning. For instance, how does teaching American literature in prisons across the country address issues of canon in relation to long and broad histories of genocide and incarceration?

We hope to gather together scholars, teachers, and cultural activists in different stages of their careers, inside and outside the academy, and from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. From these diverse perspectives, this volume will also consider how the robust efforts of our field in transnational, multicultural, gender/sexualities, and race-based theories have led to the rearticulation of a richer pedagogy/critical practice as well as a more expansive understanding of “American literature” historically, materially, and in the context of globalization. Collectively, the volume’s essays are meant to foster dialogue and critical exchange, productively exploring the relationship between scholarly specialization and what we consider our teaching imperatives, as the transforming landscape of higher education and the broader social and political contexts of our pedagogy bring renewed urgency to these questions.

Submissions of 11,000 words or less (including endnotes and references) should be submitted electronically at www.editorialmanager.com/al/default.asp by August 5, 2015. When choosing a submission type, select “Submission-Special Issue-Pedagogy.” For assistance with the submission process, please contact the office of American Literature at (919) 684–3396 or am-lit[at]duke[dot]edu. For inquiries about the content of the issue, please contact any or all of the coeditors: Carol Batker (cjbatker[at]usfca[dot]edu), Eden Osucha (eosucha[at]bates[dot]edu), and Augusta Rohrbach (augustarohrbach[at]gmail[dot]com).

Pedagogy and the Future of Graduate Studies

In this guest post, Jennifer L. Holberg and Marcy Taylor, editors of Pedagogy, examine the unsustainable realities of graduate education in English studies. The most recent issue of Pedagogy is devoted to the preparation of graduate students in English studies, including much-debated subjects like professionalization, the academic labor system, and an economist’s view of the English PhD market. Contributors ask how we should prepare graduate students for life in this controversial new landscape, and also includes a response by former MLA president Michael Bérubé to the MLA Subconference manifesto.

ddped_15_1For us, the turn into December does not mark the arrival of a season of holiday merriment; instead, it signals the full onslaught of graduate school letters of recommendations (along with all the other end-of-term fun). With each student’s request, we wonder about encouraging our dear, bright students to continue down a road that has been bleak for such a very long time. And yet, as the special cluster of articles in the newest issue of Pedagogy explores, exciting conversations are going on around graduate education in English that go beyond the question of whether the system is “broken” to advancing what to do to fix it.

Graduate education has always been one of the underlying interests of Pedagogy. Indeed, in some ways, this cluster of articles on graduate education in volume 15, issue 1 has been over twenty years in the making. When we had our first thoughts of starting a journal, we were both graduate students, helping to administer our university’s writing program—and we lamented the dearth of attention to the scholarship of teaching, particularly that concerned with graduate preparation. As we were finishing graduate school Pedagogy was born—a product of our experience in the 1990s and an emblem of our desire to see the profession transformed into one where the work of teaching was valued. Though job market in the 1990s was no picnic either, our own experience as writing program administrators—and our focus on preparing ourselves as much as teachers as we had as scholars—gave us, we feel, a measure of competitiveness.  And hope for a way forward for the profession.

Guest editor Leonard Cassuto, who writes a monthly column for The Chronicle of Higher Education called “The Graduate Adviser,” echoes that hope when he argues in his introduction that:

Everything that happens in graduate school is a form of teaching. When a graduate director sets up area reading groups for incoming graduate students, that’s teaching. When an adviser goes over a student’s cover letter and cv (or resume) during a job search, that’s teaching. It’s also teaching when a journal editor recruits graduate students to report on the proceedings of a conference for publication….

That myriad of teaching opportunities is the subject of this special issue. This resolutely pedagogical focus provides a refuge from the question I began with: we don’t have to agree about whether graduate school is broken in order to talk about how to improve it pedagogically. Graduate programs, and the lives of graduate students, will improve if we teach graduate school better.

“[A] culture of graduate education that privileges teaching” (Cassuto), then, is one cultivated through one of the other hallmarks of the journal: multiple voices. Pedagogy has always been committed to seeking out voices from across the discipline—and at every professional level. And to hearing those voices in dialogue.

That is certainly the case in this issue. Thus, for example, former president of the Modern Language Association Michael Bérubé’s commentary in the issue responds not only to the special cluster on graduate education in English, including Marc Bousquet’s commentary piece, but also to “Feces on the Philosophy of History! A Manifesto of the MLA Subconference” which appeared in volume 14, issue 3, written by the organizers of the MLA Subconference. Whatever their differences, all of these writers are serious about examining labor conditions in higher education—something essential if we are to reimagine graduate education.

What would it mean if the profession examined its pedagogical practices seriously at the graduate level? This issue helps begin to answer that question. And maybe even encourages us to go ahead and write those letters of recommendation.

Rafael Campo on PBS News Hour

Poet and doctor Rafael Campo, whose latest book is Alternative Medicine, appeared on the PBS News Hour this week to discuss the power of poetry in healing and teaching. Watch the video below and then head to the News Hour website for videos of Campo reading three of his poems and for a lesson plan for using Campo's poetry with your own students.

 

Why University Presses Matter: A Guest Post by Jack Halberstam


Up_week_2012Welcome to University Press Week! We're so excited to be kicking off a great tour of university press blogs featuring posts by authors, press staff, customers, and many more fans of the great work university presses do. Watch this space for more posts and links to all the other great university press blogs. Today's post is by Judith (Jack) Halberstam, author of, among many other books, 
The Queer Art of Failure (2011) and Female Masculinity (1998), one of our all-time bestsellers. The blog tour continues at Stanford University Press. A complete schedule is available here

 In our post-optimistic, pre-revolutionary, ante-Apocalyptic, late pollution, early warning signs, post-election end times as we try to determine what is wrong with politics as know it and imagine life in a different time zone, one that is not marked by lost hopes, disappointments, resentment, regret and anger but instead finds different things to believe in and different ways of making those things become reality, it is as good a time as any to think about how radical knowledge emerges, circulates and lives on.  

Two words: university presses. Obviously not all radical knowledge appears through university presses and not all university presses have made commitments to sustaining radical and alternative forms of knowledge. And yet, the sheer volume of material produced by university presses in any given year, much of it arcane, specific, highly theoretically, heady, cerebral and written in specialized languages, ensures that alternative knowledge remains available, in circulation and imaginable. 

And university presses guarantee much more than just the availability of radical knowledge. They also ensure that slow knowledge can percolate, that unpopular notions can be aired, that counter-intuitive thinking can flourish. Honestly, without university presses, we would have few venues left for big ideas and bookstores would be filled with hundreds of books on “Yoga for Pets,” “Who Killed JFK,” “50 Shades of Gray” and “Was Lincoln Gay?” Not to mention “50 Shades of Gay,” Who Killed Your Pet?” and “Yoga for Presidents.” Not that there is anything wrong with these books but it would be depressing to lose the rich variety of topic, approach and density that university press books offer on a wide range of topics from slavery to settler colonialism, from empire to the multitudes, from material culture to digital worlds, topics, in other words, that can be addressed only in long format and accompanied by bibliographies, indices and footnotes. 

We need university presses today more than ever as new forms of literacy are emerging all around us. Even as we are rapidly learning new modes of intellectual and cultural production and unlearning old modes, our intellectual disorientation can be mapped and assuaged by the university press books that address new paradigms and then leads us through their implications to new forms of literacy.

In fact, education today is as much about Unlearning as learning and, as Alvin Toffler put it in Rethinking the Future: “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” To which Cathy Davidson adds: “Unlearning is required when the world or your circumstances in that world have changed so completely that your old habits now hold you back."


Unlearning-in-progressIf we are living at a time of crisis, and we obviously are, a crisis that has been manufactured by the overwhelming emphasis placed in our culture on money, the economy, work and business, then this is not the time to mount an elite defense of learning, genius and expertise, nor is it a time to emphasize a canon or to dig into idealizations of the book and print culture and excoriations of the screen and digital culture. Instead, our current crisis affords an opportunity to rethink the ways in which all of our forms of cultural media—print, visual and digital—work together and are 
interdependent. As books go electronic and can be carried around as part of a massive archive on a hand held device, new understandings of the library, of reading and of researching emerge. Now is the time for more not less products, more not fewer ideas, more range, more depth, more clarity and higher degrees of difficulty.

As our world becomes more complex everyday, as our political idioms fall short in their ability to makes sense of the convolutions of ideological positions, as web based data banks grow and as information circulates at higher and higher speeds, in this age of what Lauren Berlant names as the “ongoing thickness of the everyday,” we need university presses more than ever. The commitment to publishing ideas rather than pushing book sales drives university presses and keeps all our intellectual projects and pursuits alive.

Albert Einstein was said to have predicted that if bees die out, mankind would last only 4 more years before dying out completely. The end of cross-pollenation would signal the end of crucial food staples and the end of man. If university presses were not around to cross-pollenate, to cross-fertilize, to allow for knowledge to buzz around at all altitudes, we would not become extinct in four years (barring other ecological disasters), but certain forms of knowledge certainly would, arcane forms, expert knowledges and subjugated knowledges. And just as a world without bees would lack sweetness and light, so a world without university presses would lack the hard edges of the difficult, the dense and the didactic. So, buy a university press book today, better yet, write one. 


Guest Post by SAQ contributor, Priyamvada Gopal, on the British University System Crisis

Home_coverA symptomatic trial is underway in London this month. Alfie Meadows, a philosophy student who had to have brain surgery to save his life after he received severe head injuries, most likely from a police baton, during 2010’s massive student protests in the capital, is the one facing charges of “violent disorder.” The investigation of the role of the police in the incident that led to Alfie’s head injury has yet to be completed. It is, however, widely known that the use of disproportionate force as well as legally questionable tactics such as “kettling” (cordoning off protesters for hours without access to food, water, or toilets) has become widespread in the British state’s response to perfectly legal protests and democratic assertions of collective displeasure. Police were also filmed pulling activist Jody McIntyre out of his wheelchair after he was “inadvertently” hit with a baton, an action later ruled “lawful,” given the “volatile and dangerous” situation. Some of Britain’s judiciary have also played a zealous role in what appears to be a concerted establishment attempt to discipline and punish young people: a Cambridge student, Charlie Gilmour, received a sixteen-month jail term for the crime of hanging off London’s war memorial, the Cenotaph, during the same demonstrations.

Meanwhile, even as they are experiencing a historic assault on their funding structures and raison d’être, universities—or, rather, university administrations, increasingly bastions of managerialist and corporatized bureaucracies disconnected from the majority academics and students—have cooperated in what can only be described as a crackdown on student protest and campus dissent more generally. Singling out individuals for punishment, handing out large fines, and even expelling students have become disturbingly routine. A few weeks ago, a PhD student from my own department at Cambridge was “rusticated,” or suspended from his studies, for a staggering two and a half years (effectively aimed at bringing an end to his career). His crime? Participating in a “people’s mic” in which more than fifty students and faculty chanted a denunciation of government higher education policy in the presence of the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, which effectively led to Willetts canceling his planned set-piece speech.

A key figure in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that now runs Britain without a clear mandate, Willetts, of course, has presided over a singularly effective demolition of the renowned British public university. As Howard Hotson pointed out some months ago in the London Review of Books, Britain had managed to develop a world-class system of publicly funded universities with a relatively small portion of its GDP, maintaining “top-ranked universities for only about a fifth of the US price.” Not only have tuition fees been tripled, ensuring the further exclusion of most working-class youth and adult learners (or mature students, as they are known here), but arts and humanities teaching budgets have been almost entirely demolished, with more cuts promised in the near future. As other commentators have observed, the near-overnight demolition is as much ideological as financial, devastating though the consequences of the latter have been in practical terms. What universities should teach and to what end was explicitly and instrumentally linked, in the now-notorious Browne report (2010) on higher education funding, to the needs of “business and industry,” with special protection accorded to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (although here, too, presumably, the emphasis would be less on pure research than industrial applications).

Although unhappiness has been voiced widely in the secure confines of common rooms, seminar halls, and journals, and despite the brave attempts of several small groups, academics have not, on the whole, mounted strong collective resistance to these profound transformations in how higher education is envisioned and delivered. The University and College Union (UCU) has attempted symbolic strike action and working to contract, but its leadership remains largely quiescent and ineffective, hampered in part by its links to the Labour Party, which, sitting in opposition, has yet to spearhead effective resistance to wide-ranging “austerity” measures and an openly pro-corporate agenda that has simultaneously decimated public services and reduced the tax burden on the wealthiest.

In the Against the Day section of the current issue of SAQ, five academics from a range of British universities—Nina Power from Roehampton University, a “post-1992” university now in the front line of decimation; Gurminder Bhambra and John Holmwood from Warwick and Nottingham Universities, respectively; and Simon Jarvis and myself from Cambridge—reflect on the origins and implications of the present crisis, one for which neither academic essays nor conference presentations will in themselves suffice as a response. The questions posed by the essays are urgent; the answers must be found collectively and imminently.

 

Read Gopal's article, "How Universities Die," for free here.