Environmental Studies

New Books in December

As the weather cools and the holiday season approaches, treat yourself to one of our great new December titles!

Cover of On Paradox: The Claims of Theory by Elizabeth S. Anker. Cover features the title in large all-caps blue font against a plain white background.

In On Paradox, Elizabeth S. Anker contends that the faith in the logic of paradox has been the watermark of left intellectualism since the second half of the twentieth century, showing how paradox generates the very exclusions it critiques and undercuts theory’s commitment to social justice.

Piro Rexhepi explores the overlapping postsocialist and postcolonial border regimes in the Balkans that are designed to protect whiteness and exclude Muslim, Roma, and migrant communities in White Enclosures.

The contributors to Turning Archival, edited by Daniel Marshall and Zeb Tortorici, trace the rise of “the archive” as an object of historical desire and study within queer studies and examine how it fosters historical imagination and knowledge.

In Feltness, Stephanie Springgay considers socially engaged art as a practice of research-creation that germinates a radical pedagogy she calls feltness—a set of intimate practices of creating art based on touch, affect, relationality, love, and responsibility.

Cover of Ain't But a Few of Us: Black Music Writiers Tell Their Stories by Willard Jenkins. Cover features pink spotted border on left with purple background to the right. Various sized rectangles across the center feature pictures of hands, somone writing, and instruments. Orange subtitle is bottom-right of images, white title is above, and word US in captial pink. Author's name is below-right images in yellow.

Ain’t But a Few of Us, edited by Willard Jenkins, presents over two dozen candid dialogues with Black jazz critics and journalists who discuss the barriers to access for Black jazz critics and how they contend with the world of jazz writing dominated by white men.

In Poverty and Wealth in East Africa, Rhiannon Stephens offers a conceptual history of how people living in eastern Uganda have sustained and changed their ways of thinking about wealth and poverty over the past two thousand years.

Examining a wide range of photography from across the global South, the contributors to Cold War Camera, edited by Thy Phu, Erina Duganne, and Andrea Noble, explore the visual mediation of the Cold War, illuminating how photography shaped how it was prosecuted and experienced.

In Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea, Namhee Lee explores how social memory and neoliberal governance in post-1987 South Korea have disavowed the revolutionary politics of the past.

Cover of New Growth: The Art and Texture of Black Hair by Jasmine Nichole Cobb. Cover is red with black and white lettering and features a historical picture of a Black woman in a low-cut dress in the middle. Where her hair would be is a collection of black brush strokes so that she looks like she is wearing a large wig or hat. Underneath her image, upside down, text reads "the strange sit-in that changed a city."

Through close readings of slave narratives, scrapbooks, travel illustration, documentary film and photography, as well as collage, craft, and sculpture, Jasmine Nichole Cobb explores Black hair as a visual material through which to reimagine the sensual experience of Blackness in New Growth.

The contributors to New World Orderings, edited by Lisa Rofel and Carlos Rojas, demonstrate that China’s twenty-first-century rise occurs not only through economics and state politics, but equally through its relationships and interactions with the Global South.

Focusing on his personal day to day experiences of the “shelter-in-place” period during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, Alberto Moreiras offers a meditation on intellectual life and the nature of thought under the suspension of time and conditions of isolation in Uncanny Rest.

Cover of Ruderal City: Ecologies of Migration, Race, and Urban Nature in Berlin by Bettina Stoetzer. Cover is a photograph focused on a small patch of a yellow flower bush. In the background past the bush is an out of focus bridge with a yellow train on it. The sky is blue.

In Ruderal City, Bettina Stoetzer traces the more-than-human relationships between people, plants, and animals in contemporary Berlin, showing how Berlin’s “urban nature” becomes a key site in which notions of citizenship and belonging as well as racialized, gendered, and classed inequalities become apparent.

Veit Erlmann examines the role of copyright law in post-apartheid South Africa and its impact on the South African music industry in Lion’s Share, showing how copyright is inextricably entwined with race, popular music, postcolonial governance, indigenous rights, and the struggle to create a more equitable society.

Rumya Sree Putcha uses the figure of the Indian classical dancer to explore the complex dynamics of contemporary transnational Indian womanhood in The Dancer′s Voice.

In Feminism in Coalition Liza Taylor examines how U.S. women of color feminists’ coalitional collective politics of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s is an indispensable resource to contemporary political theory, feminist studies, and intersectional social justice activism.

Cover of Cooling the Tropics: Ice, Indigeneity, and Hawaiian Refreshment by Hi'ilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart. White title centered and transparent with "the" centered left and transparent white subtitle to the right. Background features a blue tinged picture of girl eating ice cream in front of light blue, purple, pink, and orange/yellow blended background. Author name in all caps in blue along bottom.

Hiʻilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart charts the social history of ice in Hawaiʻi in Cooling the Tropics, showing how ice and refrigeration underpinned settler colonial ideas about race, environment, and the senses.

The contributors to Siting Postcoloniality, edited by Pheng Cheah and Caroline S. Hau, reevaluate the notion of the postcolonial by focusing on the Sino-sphere—the region of East and Southeast Asia that has been significantly shaped by relations with China throughout history.

Rupal Oza follows the social life of rape in rural northwest India to reveal how rape is a language through which issues ranging from caste to justice to land are contested in Semiotics of Rape.

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A Teachable Book: Integrating Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics into your Syllabus

In this guest post, Lisa E. Bloom shares a teaching guide for her new book Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics. We hope you’ll consider adding it to your 2023 syllabus!

Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics: Artists Reimagine the Arctic and Antarctic is a teachable book, clear enough for undergraduates and challenging enough to use with graduate students. The book engages feminist, Black, Indigenous, and non-Western perspectives to address the exigencies of the experience of the Anthropocene and its attendant ecosystem failures brought on by the burning of oil, gas, and coal that has led to polar ice and glacial melt, rising sea levels, deadly floods, fires, and climate-led migrations. The book addresses the way contemporary artists, activists, and filmmakers are devising a new polar aesthetics that challenges the dominant narrative of mainstream media, which equates climate change with apocalyptic spectacles of melting ice and desperate polar bears, and green capitalism with masculinist imagery of sublime wilderness and imperial heroics.

In what follows I present many different threads that you can use to connect the book to an already existing syllabi in a diverse range of courses. For those who have already taught my earlier books or articles but especially Gender on Ice: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions (1993), you might also be interested in teaching this one as some of the artists were influenced by my earlier writings.

For feminist art history, visual culture or design classes, teachers might be interested in teaching Chapters 1 and 2. Though at first glance climate art and film on the polar region and the Circumpolar North might seem gender and race neutral, the feminist intersectional analysis of representation of the Arctic and Antarctic in these chapters suggests that this welcome reemergence of interest in polar narratives and art often comes wrapped in a colonial nostalgia for white male heroism.  Chapter 1 on Antarctica focuses on four contemporary women artists — Anne Noble, Judit Hersko, Connie Samaras, and Joyce Campbell — whose work collectively creates a specifically feminist critical aesthetics that counters such an approach, since their art  addresses the historic exclusion of women altogether from the continent until the 1960s and 1970s and the way the visual tropes of Antarctica as the last great wilderness on earth contribute to maintaining the perception that Antarctica is still an all-male continent or a living memorial to this earlier moment when only men could populate the continent.

Chapter 2 might also be of interest since it  complicates official polar exploration art by creating plausible, yet fictional, accounts based on the historical record to address the climate crisis. Isaac Julien’s reformulation of the African American polar explorer Matthew Henson (1866 – 1955) not only makes Henson’s accomplishments part of northern polar exploration but creates a new fictional persona for him that challenges mainstream homophobic narratives of imperial heroics. Swedish artist Katja Aglert, in her conceptual project Winter Event — Antifreeze, uses a variety of media and aesthetic techniques to unsettle colonialist and nationalist masculinist history as the major mode of engagement in the Arctic till this day.

In Chapter 3 there is work on the new polar aesthetics that addresses questions of memory and what it means to make art and film about a warming Arctic without sentimentalizing or spectacularizing Indigenous suffering. Film and media studies scholars might be interested in my discussion of three innovative short films on the Arctic that call forth new representations of the climate crisis that focus on a world beset by uncertainty. An online documentary by Zacharias Kunuk and Ian Munro, titled Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change (2010), takes the perspective of an Igloolik community highly affected by climate change. It puts front and center communities from Canada’s Circumpolar North, who craft a decolonial method of knowledge production through filmmaking.

Chapters 4 and 5, cowritten with Elena Glasberg, suggests that the category of art continues to change as artists create new aesthetic arrangements of visibility capable of comprehending the material and representational aspects of climate breakdown (Roni Horn, Amy Balkin, Lillian Ball, Andrea Bowers and Annie Pootoogook). Artists and art historians might be interested in teaching these chapters as artists discussed in this section focus on some of these new aesthetic practices and the way they sensitize us to the unfolding process of climate breakdown. They also might be adopted in more general classes that include the iconic photography of Yosemite by Ansel Adams and Carleton Watkins and coverage of the pieces of land art or environmental art from the 1960s or 1970s. Teachers could juxtapose these earlier works with those emerging from Indigenous, feminist and non-western contexts in the Circumpolar North (Subhankar Banerjee, Andrea Bowers, Amy Balkin, amongst others) to consider a wider range of new directions in art, photography, and conceptual art that engages landscape, environment and ecology. Such approaches contest older romantic views of pristine nature in the Arctic that continues to be used to justify Indigenous absence rather than presence.

Again scholars of visual culture, film and media studies might be interested in Chapter 6  that focuses on innovative new-media films that take into account increased development by the oil industry, local knowledge, and the resilience of Indigenous communities. Combining strategies from documentary and speculative fiction genres, while incorporating scientific fact, these films demonstrate the challenges of representing the built-in invisibilities of climate change as well as the corporate obfuscations of the damage caused by extractivism. The chapter discusses experimental projects by the Swiss video artist Ursula Biemann and the Canadian filmmaker Brenda Longfellow to bring awareness to what is not otherwise fully visible by creating new forms of perception and representational framings that capture the intricacies of visibility.

Chapter 7 focuses on more collaborative and participatory forms of art and film  to move students past the psychic numbing of being overwhelmed by climate change while demonstrating their own political agency as central to imagining and constructing a better world. Activist artists such as Liberate Tate, the British Platform collective, Not an Alternative, and the Yes Men express a desire for change within the museum system of sponsorship, governance, and finance. Their work aims at holding Western art, natural history, and science museums to account for their complicity through the solicitation and acceptance of corporate sponsorship, in enabling climate change and perpetuating the colonial narratives that underlie it.

The later chapters might be taught in a wider range of courses since they show how historically under-represented groups are also pioneering new forms of environmental justice work in their resistance, and this, too, applies to Arctic Inuit women activists discussed in this book, such as Sheila Watt-Cloutier who movingly demanded “the right to be cold.” Watt-Cloutier has been instrumental in shaping an environmental justice campaign and has been widely recognized for suggesting that climate change is a matter of both Indigenous and multispecies survival (chapters 6, 7 and epilogue). For her “if we don’t have our environment, we cannot survive. “ Artists, writers, activists, and filmmakers in Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics share her vision in creating an alternative voice for the future, one opposed to the seemingly inevitable colonial imaginary for which the environment is a means that supports the ends of unregulated capitalism and hyperextractivism.

Lisa E. Bloom is Scholar-in-Residence at the Beatrice Bain Research Group in the Department of Gender and Women’s studies, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Gender On Ice: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions. We invite you to request an exam copy on our website, and your students can save 30% on Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics with coupon E22BLOOM.

New Books in October

Fall is in full swing, so curl up with a hot drink, a cozy sweater, and a new book! Check out our October releases.

Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood is John D’Emilio’s coming-of-age story in which he takes readers from his working-class Bronx neighborhood and Columbia University to New York’s hidden gay male subculture and the political and social upheavals of the late 1960s. You can catch John D’Emilio discussing his book at the Calandra Italian American Institute in New York City later this month.

Exploring her attraction to tininess and the stories of those who share it, Barbara Browning offers a series of charming short essays that plumb what it means to ponder the minuscule in The Miniaturists.

Cover of No Machos or Pop Stars: When the Leeds Art Experiment Went Punk by Gavin Butt. Cover features a group of young people dressed up for a punk showing laughing together.

Gavin Butt tells the story of the post-punk scene in the northern English city of Leeds in No Machos or Pop Stars, showing how bands ranging from Gang of Four, Soft Cell, and Delta 5 to Mekons, Scritti Politti, and Fad Gadget drew on their university art school education to push the boundaries of pop music. Butt will launch his book at an exciting event in Leeds this month, featuring performances by Scritti Politti and The Mekons77.

In Fragments of Truth, Naomi Angel analyzes the visual culture of reconciliation and memory in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Canada established in 2008 to review the history of the Indian Residential School system, a brutal colonial project that killed and injured many Indigenous children.

Drawing on the archives of the Black Panther Party and the National Black Women’s Health Project, Sami Schalk explores how issues of disability have been and continue to be central to Black activism from the 1970s to the present in Black Disability Politics. Schalk launches her book at an event at the Ford Foundation in New York City on October 26.

In Changing the Subject, Srila Roy traces the impact of neoliberalism on gender and sexuality rights movements in the Global South through queer and feminist activism in India. Roy is speaking about her book at The New School and Columbia University later this month.

Filipe Maia offers a theological reflection on hope and the future in the context of financialized capitalism in Trading Futures, arguing that the Christian vocabulary of hope can provide the means to build a future beyond the strictures of capitalism.

Cover of The Promise of Multispecies Justice by Sophie Chao, Karin Bolender, and Eben Kirksey. Cover is green with black and white pictures of a plant between wire. Title sits top left in bold white with a light blue line underlinging it. Authors' names sit bottom right in white without bold.

Coming from the worlds of cultural anthropology, geography, philosophy, science fiction, poetry, and fine art, editors Sophie Chao, Karin Bolender, and Eben Kirksey and the contributors to this volume of The Promise of Multispecies Justice consider the possibility for multispecies justice and speculate on the forms it would take. The authors have developed a multimedia website where you can learn more about this collection.

In Health in Ruins, César Ernesto Abadía-Barrero assesses neoliberalism’s devastating effects on a public hospital in Colombia and how health care workers resisted defunding.

Jovan Scott Lewis retells the history and afterlife of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre and its century-long legacy of dispossession in Violent Utopia, placing it in a larger historical and social context of widespread anti-Black racism and segregation in Tulsa and beyond.

In a new revised and expanded twentieth anniversary edition of his classic book Big Game, Small World, sportswriter Alexander Wolff travels the globe in search of what basketball can tell us about the world, and what the world can tell us about the game.

AnaLouise Keating provides a comprehensive investigation of the foundational theories, methods, and philosophies of Gloria E. Anzaldúa in The Anzaldúan Theory Handbook.

Nomenclature collects eight volumes of Dionne Brand’s poetry published between 1983 and 2010, as well as a new long poem, the titular Nomenclature for the time being.

In Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad, Volume I, Obeah, Tracey E. Hucks traces the history of the repression of Obeah practitioners in colonial Trinidad.

And in Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad, Volume II, Orisa, Dianne M. Stewart analyzes the sacred poetics, religious imagination, and African heritage of Yoruba-Orisa devotees in Trinidad from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.

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Peer Review Week: Max Liboiron on Problems, Theories, and Methods of We

For Peer Review Week this year we are sharing some excerpts from recent books that discuss the ideas encompassed by this year’s theme, “Research Integrity: Creating and supporting trust in research.” Today’s post is an excerpt from Pollution Is Colonialism by Max Liboiron.

The joke was old even before it appeared in print:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto find themselves surrounded by hostile Indians. The Ranger asks Tonto: “What are we going to do, Tonto?” To which Tonto replies: “What do you mean we, white man (or paleface, or kemo sabe, depending on the version)?”

Its racist ancestry is undeniable: the joke partly evokes the picture of a feckless subordinate who will treacherously abandon his superior at the first sign of trouble — usually with the ethnic or social group to which the subordinate belongs. But even before 1956, ancient variants of the joke were meant to deflate the condescension of individuals who used the royal “we,” and the insulting presumption of people who assumed, for their own purposes, what they had no business assuming.1

We is rife with such assumptions. A familiar, naturalized narrative about environmental pollution is that We are causing it. We are trashing the planet. Humans are inherently greedy, or wasteful, or addicted to convenience, or naturally self-maximizing, and are downright tragic when it comes to “the” commons. On the other side of the coin, We must rise up, work together, refuse plastic straws, act collectively, and put aside our differences.

I’m not going to dwell on how We erases difference and power relations or how it makes a glossy theory of change that doesn’t allow specific responsibility.2 Here, I want to focus on responsibility — the obligation to enact good relations as scientists, scholars, readers, and to account for our relations when they are not good. And you can’t have obligation without specificity. We isn’t specific enough for obligation. You know this — an elder daughter has different obligations than a mail carrier, and you have different obligations to your elder daughter than to the mail carrier. DuPont has different obligations to plastic pollution than someone with a disability who uses a straw to drink. Even though I’m sure you’ve heard that “everything is related” in many Indigenous cosmologies, this doesn’t mean there is a cosmic similitude of relations. You are not obliged to all things the same way.3 Hence there is a need for specificity when talking about relations.

There can be solidarity without a We. There must be solidarity without a universal We. The absence of We and the acknowledgement of many we’s (including those to which you/I/we do not belong4) is imperative for good relations in solidarity against ongoing colonialism and allows cooperation with the incommensurabilities of different worlds, values, and obligations. There are guidebooks to doing careful, specific solidarity work across difference.5 Indigenous science and technology studies (STS) scholar Kim TallBear has written about “standing with” as a methodological approach to doing research in good relation. In her work, she writes that she “had to find a way to study bio-scientists (whose work has profound implications for indigenous peoples) in a way in which I could stand more within their community,” rather than critiquing them from a place of confrontation and not-caring— an approach that she argues is bad feminist practice. She now moves “towards faithful knowledges, towards co-constituting my own knowledge in concert with the acts and claims of those who I inquire among.”6 Indigenous peoples, settlers, and others have different roles and responsibilities in the “challenge to invent, revive, and sustain decolonizing possibilities and persistences.”7 Rather than fixing or saving one another, “giving back,”8 or assuming that ongoing colonial Land relations only harm Indigenous people, “within the condition of alterlife the potential for political kinship and alter-relations comes out of the recognition of connected, though profoundly uneven and often complicit, imbrications in the systems that distribute violence.”9 This is investment without assumed access to our subjects and areas of research.

Max Liboiron is Associate Professor of Geography at Memorial University. Pollution Is Colonialism is available for 30% off on our website with coupon SAVE30.

Footnotes

Hello, Reader! Thank you for being here. These footnotes are a place of nuance and politics, where the protocols of gratitude and recognition play out (sometimes also called citation), where warnings and care work are carried out (including calling certain readers aside for a chat or a joke), and where I contextualize, expand, and emplace work. The footnotes support the text above, representing the shoulders on which I stand and the relations I want to build. They are part of doing good relations within a text, through a text. Since a main goal of Pollution Is Colonialism is to show how methodology is a way of being in the world and that ways of being are tied up in obligation, these footnotes are one way to enact that argument. Thank you to Duke University Press for these footnotes.

1. Ivie, “What Do You Mean ‘We,’ White Man?” Also see Heglar, “Climate Change Ain’t the First Existential Threat”; Hecht, “African Anthropocene”; and Whyte, “Is It Colonial Déjà Vu?” All of these pieces break out of the violence and myopia of “we” as a way to critique mainstream environmental narratives, including the notion of the Anthropocene (which is also a key critique in Murphy, “Alterlife and Decolonial Chemical Relations”).

2.  If you want some more of that, see M. Liboiron, “Against Awareness, for Scale”; and M. Liboiron, “Solutions to Waste.” There is also an entire chapter on the problems of We in a currently in-progress manuscript called Discard Studies that I am writing with excellent collaborator Josh Lepawsky (settler).

3. The idea that obligations are specific is put into practice by many different Indigenous thinkers, but this guiding principle is not exclusive to Indigenous groups. I think of New Orleans activist Shannon Dosemagen (unmarked), director of the Public Lab for Open Technology and Science, whose understandings of relations as the primary source, goal, and ethic of community science have led to a career in bringing people together in a good way and building technologies and platforms to support those relations. See Dosemagen, Warren, and Wylie, “Grassroots Mapping.” I also think about Labrador-based scholar Ashlee Cunsolo (settler), director of the Labrador Institute, whose directorship is premised on building and maintaining relations in a context of complex geopolitics and competing interests, and who exemplifies humility, generosity, and gratitude in every setting I’ve seen her in. See Cunsolo and Landman, Mourning Nature. Shannon and Ashlee, thank you for your examples of putting the relational politics that so many people talk about into practice in ways that far exceed the cultural and ethical norms of your existing institutions. It has been a great gift being activist-administrators with you.

4. Acknowledging where you do not belong while remaining aligned with those who do seems to be one of the more difficult lessons of allyship. I recently attended an “Indigenous LGBTQ2S+” gathering where white and non-Indigenous allies were thanked for attending, but then asked to leave so we could build a certain type of community. The settler sitting beside me didn’t leave. She was clearly nervous and unsure of what to do, but her inability to choose the embarrassment of standing up and leaving, and thereby outing herself as a white person, over the choice to stay in a place she had been asked to leave by those she was there to support meant that she probably isn’t ready for the even harder choices involved with Indigenous queer folk. Because of her choice, I had to take time to teach her when she was ignorant of something a speaker said. You can stand with a group without standing in their midst. In fact, sometimes standing-with-but-over-there is the best place to stand. A similar story is told by Sara Ahmed in the context of trying to have a Black Caucus professional meeting in On Being Included. I’m sure you have your own stories.

5. Land, Decolonizing Solidarity; Gaztambide-Fernández,“Decolonization and the Pedagogy of Solidarity”; Walia, “Decolonizing Together”; TallBear, “Standing with and Speaking as Faith”; Amadahy and Lawrence, “Indigenous Peoples and Black People in Canada.”

6. TallBear, “Standing with and Speaking as Faith,” 5. Thank you, Kim, for your big, bold, Out-in-public work and thinking as well as your tableside, quieter talks. I’m sure you know that your work — written scholarship, Twitter essays and jokes, gathering and organizing — props the door open for so many others, and for this I am grateful. Also, love the hair. Maarsi, Kim.

7. Murphy, “Against Population, towards Alterlife,” 122 – 23.

8. TallBear writes about Gautam Bhan’s (Indian) notion of “continuous and multiple engagements with communities and sites of research rather than a frame of giving back,” which maintains a benevolent narrative of wealth and deficit. TallBear, “Standing with and Speaking as Faith,” 2.

9. Murphy, “Against Population, towards Alterlife,” 120.

New Books in June

Summer is almost here! Kick off the new season with some of the great new titles we have coming out in June.

Perfect for vacation reading, Shola von Reinhold’s decadent queer literary debut LOTE immerses readers in the pursuit of aesthetics and beauty, while interrogating the removal and obscuring of Black figures from history.

Examining the reception of evolutionary biology, the 1925 Scopes Trial, and the New Atheist movement of the 2000s, Donovan O. Schaefer theorizes the relationship between thinking and feeling by challenging the conventional wisdom that they are separate in Wild Experiment.

In Gridiron Capital, Lisa Uperesa charts the cultural, historical, and social dynamics that have made American football so central to Samoan culture.

Thulani Davis provides a sweeping rethinking of Reconstruction in The Emancipation Circuit, tracing how the four million people newly freed from bondage created political organizations and connections that mobilized communities across the South.

In The Small Matter of Suing Chevron, Suzana Sawyer traces Ecuador’s lawsuit against the Chevron corporation for the environmental devastation resulting from its oil drilling practices, showing how distinct legal truths were relationally composed of, with, and through crude oil.

In Discovering Fiction, eminent Chinese novelist Yan Lianke offers insights into his views on literature and realism, the major works that inspired him, and his theories of writing.

The contributors to Grammars of the Urban Ground, edited by Ash Amin and Michele Lancione, develop a new conceptual framework and vocabulary for capturing the complex, ever-shifting, and interactive processes that shape contemporary cities.

In Myriad Intimacies, Lata Mani oscillates between poetry and prose, genre and form, register and voice, and secular and sacred to meditate on the ways in which everyone and everything exists in mutually constitutive interrelations.

Working at the intersection of urban theory, Black studies, and decolonial and Islamic thought, AbdouMaliq Simone offers a new theorization of the interface of the urban and the political in The Surrounds.

Sophie Chao examines the multispecies entanglements of oil palm plantations in West Papua, Indonesia in her new book In the Shadow of the Palms, showing how Indigenous Marind communities understand and navigate the social, political, and environmental demands of the oil palm plant.

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Courtney Berger’s Sale Recommendations

Image reads: use code SPRING22, Spring Sale, 50% off all in-stock books and journal issues through May 27

You have one week left to save 50% on in-stock books and journal issues during our Spring Sale. If you’re still wondering what to buy, check out Executive Editor Courtney Berger’s suggestions.

A white woman with short grey and white hair wearing glasses. She is wearing a white top and a necklace.

This is always a tough assignment: can you recommend some books for the spring sale? All the books, I want to say. But, evidently that doesn’t make for a compelling blog post, and I’m told that I must select just a few. So, here are my picks. (But, secretly, I am whispering, All the books.)

Cover of Passionate Work: Endurance after the Good Life by Renyi Hong. Cover is a painting of a man in a white suit working on a laptop, sitting atop the shoulder of a giant robot. This robot looks like a man in a black suit, a phone attached to his ear. The robot is breaking, with smoke coming out and paint peeling off, revealing orange metal underneath.

Hot off the presses: Renyi Hong’s Passionate Work: Endurance After the Good Life. If you’ve ever balked at the advice to “follow your passion” or “do what you love and the money will follow,” this is the book for you. Hong considers how the idealization of work as a passionate endeavor that sustains people emotionally and spiritually papers over the conditions of labor in late capitalism, which are dominated by precarity, unemployment, repetitive labor, and isolation. He shows us how passion has become an affective structure that shapes our relationship to work and produces the fantasy of a resilient subject capable of enduring disappointment and increasingly disadvantageous working conditions. Hong asks us to question our compulsory attachment to labor and, instead, to consider forms of social and emotional attachments that might better sustain our lives.

Cover of Suspicion: Vaccines, Hesitancy, and the Affective Politics of Protection in Barbados by Nicole Charles. Cover features a 2015 art piece called Waterlogged, by Bajan artist Simone Asia. The piece features a person's face with flora around it in a variety of colors.

Another new book that hits on squarely on pandemic politics: Nicole Charles’s Suspicion: Vaccines, Hesitancy, and the Affective Politics of Protection in Barbados. Charles examines resistance to government-led efforts in Barbados to vaccinate girls against HPV. Framing this resistance not as “vaccine hesitancy” but instead as a form of legitimate suspicion, Charles shows how colonial and postcolonial histories of racial violence, capitalism, and biopolitical surveillance aimed at regulating and controlling Black people have shaped Afro-Barbadians’ relationship to the state and to medical intervention. The book undoes conventional narratives of vaccine hesitancy and scientific certainty in order to open up space for addressing the inequalities that shape health care and community care.

Cover of Hawai′i Is My Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific by Nitasha Tamar Sharma. Features a photograph of singer Kamakakēhau by Kenna Reed. Photo is of a bearded Black man in a large pink shaggy collar with pink flowers around him.

You might pick up Nitasha Sharma’s Hawai’i Is My Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific because of the stunning cover, but you’ll stay for Sharma’s compelling analysis of Black life on the islands. Despite the prevalence of anti-Black racism in Hawai’i, many Black people regard Hawai’i as a sanctuary. Sharma considers why and shows how Blackness in Hawai’i troubles US-centric understandings of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity. Through extensive interviews with Black residents—including transplants, those born in Hawai’i, and many who identify as dual-minority multiracial–Sharma attends to Black residents’ complex experiences of invisibility, non-belonging, and liberation, as well as the opportunities for alliance between anti-racist activism and Native Hawaiian movements focused on decolonization.

Calling all foodies and lovers of The Great British Bake Off: Anita Mannur’s Intimate Eating: Racialized Spaces and Radical Futures dwells on culinary practices, texts, and spaces that resist heteropatriarchal norms of the family, the couple, and the nation. Mannur shows us how racialized and marginalized groups use food to confront and disrupt racism and xenophobia and to create alternate, often queer forms of sociality and kinship.

Our lists in environmental humanities and environmental media continue to grow. Here are a few new titles to look out for:

Nicole Starosielski’s Media Hot and Cold asks us to reckon with the politics of temperature. Thermal technologies—from air conditioning to infrared cameras—serve as both modes of communication and subjugation, and Starosielski’s book points to the urgent need to address the political, economic, and ecological ramifications of “thermopower” and climate control. In Climatic Media: Transpacific Experiments in Atmospheric Control Yuriko Furuhata highlights the intertwined development of climate engineering, networked computing, and urban design in the transpacific relationship between the US and Japan during the Cold War. Min Hyoung Song’s Climate Lyricism turns to literature as a site for confronting climate change. In the lyrical voice (the “I” who addresses “you”), Song finds a tool that can help us to develop a practice of sustained attention to climate change even as we want to look away. And, lastly, in Dockside Reading: Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House Isabel Hofmeyr brings us to an unlikely site for thinking about the environment and literature–the colonial customs house. It was here that books were sorted, categorized, and regulated by customs agents, and where the handling of books reflected the operations of empire both at the water’s edge and well beyond the port.

Use coupon SPRING22 to save on all these titles and more. If you’re located outside North and South America, we suggest you order from our partner Combined Academic Publishers using the same coupon. You’ll get faster and cheaper shipping. See the fine print here.

New Books in March

Need something to read over Spring Break? Check out our amazing titles coming out this March!

In Bigger Than Life, Mary Ann Doane examines how the scalar operations of cinema, especially those of the close-up, disturb and reconfigure the spectator’s sense of place, space, and orientation. Doane traces the history of scalar transformations from early cinema to the contemporary use of digital technology.

In Poetic Operations, artist and theorist micha cárdenas considers contemporary digital media, artwork, and poetry in order to articulate trans of color strategies for safety and survival. Drawing on decolonial theory, women of color feminism, media theory, and queer of color critique, cárdenas develops a method she calls algorithmic analysis.

In Intimate Eating, Anita Mannur examines how notions of the culinary can create new forms of kinship, intimacy, and social and political belonging. Drawing on critical ethnic studies and queer studies, Mannur traces the ways in which people of color, queer people, and other marginalized subjects create and sustain this belonging through the formation of “intimate eating publics.”

In Warring Visions, Thy Phu explores photography from dispersed communities throughout Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora, both during and after the Vietnam War, to complicate narratives of conflict and memory. While the visual history of the Vietnam War has been dominated by American media, Phu turns to photographs circulated by the Vietnamese themselves.

In Familial Undercurrents, Afsaneh Najmabadi uncovers her family’s complex experiences of polygamous marriage to tell a larger story of the transformations of notions of love, marriage, and family life in mid-twentieth-century Iran.

In Racist Love, Leslie Bow traces the ways in which Asian Americans become objects of anxiety and desire. Conceptualizing these feelings as “racist love,” she explores how race is abstracted and then projected onto Asianized objects.

Throughout Atlantis, an Autoanthropology, Nathaniel Tarn captures this multiplicity and reaches for the uncertainties of a life lived in a dizzying array of times, cultures, and environments. Drawing on his practice as an anthropologist, he takes himself as a subject of study, examining the shape of a life devoted to the study of the whole of human culture.

In Workers Like All the Rest of Them, Elizabeth Quay Hutchison recounts the long struggle for domestic workers’ recognition and rights in Chile across the twentieth century. Hutchison traces the legal and social history of domestic workers and their rights, outlining their transition from slavery to servitude.

In Earworm and Event, Eldritch Priest questions the nature of the imagination in contemporary culture through the phenomenon of the earworm. Through a series of meditations on music, animal mentality, abstraction, and metaphor, Priest uses the earworm and the states of daydreaming, mind-wandering, and delusion it can produce to outline how music is something that is felt as thought rather than listened to.

In Scales of Captivity, Mary Pat Brady traces the figure of the captive or cast-off child in Latinx and Chicanx literature and art between chattel slavery’s final years and the mass deportations of the twenty-first century. She shows how Latinx expressive practices expose how every rescaling of economic and military power requires new modalities of capture, new ways to bracket and hedge life.

In Queer African Cinemas, Lindsey B. Green-Simms examines films produced by and about queer Africans in the first two decades of the twenty-first century in an environment of increasing antiqueer violence, efforts to criminalize homosexuality, and other state-sanctioned homophobia.

In Living Worth, Stefan Ecks draws on ethnographic research on depression and antidepressant usage in India to develop a new theory of value. Framing depressive disorder as a problem of value, Ecks traces the myriad ways antidepressants come to have value, from their ability to help make one’s life worth living to the wealth they generate in the multibillion-dollar global pharmaceutical market.

In The Florida Room, Alexandra T. Vazquez listens to the music and history of Miami to offer a lush story of place and people, movement and memory, dispossession and survival. She transforms the “Florida room”—an actual architectural phenomenon—into a vibrant spatial imaginary for Miami’s musical cultures and everyday life.

In Plastic Matter, Heather Davis traces plastic’s relations to geology, media, biology, and race to show how matter itself has come to be understood as pliable, disposable, and consumable. The invention and widespread use of plastic, Davis contends, reveals the dominance of the Western orientation to matter and its assumption that matter exists to be endlessly manipulated and controlled by humans.

In Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s, Rox Samer explores how 1970s feminists took up the figure of the lesbian in broad attempts to reimagine gender and sexuality. Samer turns to feminist film, video, and science fiction literature, offering a historiographical concept called “lesbian potentiality”—a way of thinking beyond what the lesbian was, in favor of how the lesbian signified what could have come to be.

The contributors to Reframing Todd Haynes, edited by Theresa L. Geller and Julia Leyda, reassess his work in light of his long-standing feminist commitments and his exceptional career as a director of women’s films. They present multiple perspectives on Haynes’s film and television work and on his role as an artist-activist who draws on academic theorizations of gender and cinema.

In Vulgar Beauty, Mila Zuo offers a new theorization of cinematic feminine beauty by showing how mediated encounters with Chinese film and popular culture stars produce feelings of Chineseness. To illustrate this, Zuo uses the vulgar as an analytic to trace how racial, gendered, and cultural identity is imagined and produced through affect.

Jia Zhangke on Jia Zhangke is an extended dialogue between film scholar Michael Berry and the internationally acclaimed Chinese filmmaker. Drawing from extensive interviews and public talks, this volume offers a portrait of Jia’s life, art, and approach to filmmaking.

In this new edition of Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution, C. L. R. James tells the history of the socialist revolution led by Kwame Nkrumah, the first president and prime minister of Ghana.

In Climatic Media, Yuriko Furuhata traces climate engineering from the early twentieth century to the present, emphasizing the legacies of Japan’s empire building and its Cold War alliance with the United States.

China in the World by Ban Wang traces the shifting concept of the Chinese state from the late nineteenth century to the present, showing how the Confucian notion of tianxia—“all under heaven”—influences China’s dedication to contributing to and exchanging with a common world.

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Q&A with Tania Murray Li and Pujo Semedi

AuthorsTania Murray Li is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto and author of Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier, also published by Duke University Press. Pujo Semedi is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Universitas Gadjah Mada and author of Close to the Stone, Far from the Throne: The Story of a Javanese Fishing Community, 1820s–1990s. In their new book, Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone, Li and Semedi examine the structure and governance of contemporary palm oil plantations in Indonesia, showing how massive forms of capitalist production and control over the palm oil industry replicate colonial-style relations that undermine citizenship.

What led each of you to plantation research?

Pujo Semedi:

Well it is basically a continuation of my previous research on a fishing community in the north coast of Java where in a matter of decades fishers were able to destroy the natural stock of fish in a fertile marine ecosystem. A precious opportunity to obtain welfare from the richness of mother nature sunk into an abyss. The fishers were living in poverty, the government failed to obtain a sustainable supply of protein to feed its people, and the sea was stripped of its fish.  I found the destruction of the fishery a perfect illustration of what Garret Hardin (mistakenly) called a “tragedy of the commons,” which is more accurately described as a tragedy of open access: anyone could access the resource hence no one took responsibility for protecting it. Both fishers and government officials dreamt of a fish stock cornucopia while in fact living the sad consequences of an open access situation.

My research in the fisheries led me to pose a new question: what happens when resources are highly privatized, owned by a single person or institution? Is privatization a sure way to avoid destruction of resources, as Hardin proposed? A plantation is a large and highly privatized institution in which people make a living from hundreds of hectares of land and an array of machinery that belong to a single company. So I did research on a coffee/tea plantation in Java in 2003-6; the book is not finished yet. And then came this project in 2010.

Tania Li: 

For me the interest started with crop booms which bring dynamism to rural economies. I had studied a spontaneous, farmer-driven cacao boom in Sulawesi and wanted to see what happened in a boom that was driven by corporations. I also became aware that since 2000 the plantation format, which had been in decline, was again expanding massively in the Indonesian countryside. I wanted to understand what that meant in human terms.

How does the contemporary plantation compare to and differ from colonial-era plantations? How does the rise of global capitalism/corporatization affect the ways in which plantations operate today?

Semedi:

The first difference is scale. In the heyday of colonialism there were around 2 million hectares of plantation in Indonesia. About half were located in Java where labor was relatively easy to obtain and the rest were in the east coast of Sumatra, the infamous Deli plantations supported by indentured labor mostly from Java and China. Now there are more than 10 million hectares of plantations and new concentrations in Kalimantan and Papua.

The expansion began in the 1980s when the Indonesian government facilitated capital owners to invest in the countryside, based on the idea of increasing the country’s productivity and the wrong assumption that the area was unoccupied. Now the government knows the land is occupied but implicitly assumes that the people who live there are people of low value whose livelihoods can be sacrificed without compensation or recognition. Officials also assume that plantations grow oil palm more efficiently than local farmers, but that is unproven.

The second difference concerns the actors involved. In the colonial period plantations were sites for European capital; a century later at least half the plantation corporations are owned by Indonesian capitalists, and transnational corporations also have a heavy component of Indonesian ownership. A dozen Indonesian oligarchs are firmly in control. So colonial-era plantation-style capitalism has become Indonesianized.

Li:

At one stage in our writing we made a diagram in which we attempted to identify common elements and differences between colonial and contemporary plantations. The labor regime is an obvious place to start. Colonial plantation labor in Sumatra was indentured but in Java plantation workers were always free to come and go, as they are in the plantation sector today, so the difference is less stark than it seems. Plantation infrastructure, technology, layout, housing and hierarchy are almost unchanged.

The most significant difference we identified is in the political milieu. In colonial times plantation owners and managers expected government officials to facilitate their ventures. This is still true today but now government officials and politicians expect to profit from plantation presence, so a much larger set of actors have an incentive to support them. Sadly this expansion of the political field does not make plantation presence more democratic; quite the opposite. It brings the political, administrative and corporate regimes into new kinds of alignment and leaves citizens unprotected. In colonial times Indonesian villagers did not have the rights of citizens; the shocking part is that they do not have these rights now either because the people whose job it is to protect citizens are busy protecting corporations.

We argue that plantations are intrinsically colonial. Not only do contemporary plantation corporations rely on the racialized, colonial “myth of the lazy native” to justify appropriating land and importing workers; they continue to create colonial situations not just economically, as resources are extracted and sent overseas, but politically and socially as well.

The title of your book indicates a focus on plantation “life,” even though plantations, as you argue, operate as machines (a word usually associated with the non-biological) and cause a great amount of destruction and death. What led to your decision to emphasize “life” even so, and how does that shape your project?

Semedi:

This machine of production is operated by people—real people, not theoretical and abstract ones—whose life is structured and shaped by relations set in place by plantations.

Li:

Pujo’s response opens towards the ethnographic aspiration of the book. There are many studies of the death and destruction that accompany plantation presence, but so far not much attention to the new sets of relations or what we call the forms of life that emerge in a plantation zone. Plantation presence shapes not only landscapes and livelihoods but also communities and subjectivities, law and government, aspirations and claims. We estimate that around 15 million Indonesians are now living a plantation life, whether as workers on plantations or as residents of the residual nook and cranny spaces between plantations. So what kind of life is it?  Our ethnographic approach is designed to address that question.

What are some of the unique, theoretical concepts your book offers for understanding modern-day plantations?

Semedi:

For me the theorizing followed from an empirical puzzle. I found from my study of plantations in Java that some of them ran at a loss for multiple decades, yet they did not fold. So what kind of entity is a corporate plantation, and what kind of cultural, political and economic relations enable it to persist and replicate?

Li:

Theorizing the corporation is one part of our conceptual tool kit. Another is the concept of occupation, and specifically corporate occupation. Again, we devised this theorization inductively from our ethnographic research. I noticed that in the margins of my fieldnotes I had written many times “this is a war zone; these people are at war.” But talking it through with Pujo we came to the realization that war was not quite the right term. It suggests armed conflict, which we did not encounter; indeed we did not see any guns anywhere, as security guards do not carry them and we did not witness any direct confrontations involving armed police. The violence was real but it was built into the infrastructure: the presence of a plantation on customary land; roads designed to transport palm fruit not people; credit schemes that entrap and impoverish; laws that favor corporations.  Violence was also ambient. An early draft had a chapter we called “an uneasy feeling” where we described an atmosphere of strain, resentment, frustration, anger, and anxiety about the future. These are the structures of feeling of an occupied population. Villagers and workers know that the presence of massive corporations in rural spaces produces an unjust situation, but they cannot change it and have to find ways to live with it. This often means collaborating with the occupying force, which leaves a bad feeling. 

Plantation Life draws on collaborative research involving around a hundred students from your two institutions, Gadjah Mada and the University of Toronto. (You speak to your collaborative practices in the appendix to your book, but perhaps you’d like to say a bit for our blog readers.) What was the greatest reward of this collaboration, and what was the greatest challenge?

Semedi:

As a teacher, the greatest reward is seeing how the students learned about plantations as a form of life on site.  They obtained knowledge that I cannot simply teach in a classroom. Some of the students continued further to write their master’s thesis about the plantation; and three students wrote PhD dissertations on palm oil in Kalimantan. The training opportunity was really valuable.  Challenges? It takes some energy to organize a good number of students to work in several villages at the same time. But the students were good in supporting each other, especially in dealing with language barriers.

Li:

The big plus for me was collaborating closely with Pujo. We had a partnership in both the fieldwork and the writing, which I found very enriching. As I read the book now, I can reconstruct how we came up with the ideas, the fieldnotes we drew on, and hundreds of discussions, decisions and most of all, revisions! We took the text to pieces and reconstructed it several times, something I’m used to doing with my own writing but I wondered if Pujo would have the patience. It turned out he was equally determined not to settle for something that wasn’t quite right.

Who do you hope will read your book? That is, who is it for?

Semedi:

I hope this book will be read by scholars in agrarian/plantation studies, either for teaching material or input for further research, that in effect will spread critical knowledge on plantations and help us to decide what we are going to do next. I also hope this work will be read by agrarian policy makers for more or less the same reasons, that they will take the message in this book as serious consideration for their further policy in Indonesian agriculture; that they should not see agriculture in a cost-benefit calculus but as a world lived by people, by their own fellow countrymen.

Li:

The book addresses topics currently under academic and public debate including new and old forms of capitalist globalization, racialized landscapes, and our changing planet. In addition, I believe the political stakes of the book are quite high. In Indonesia plantation corporations and their government allies endlessly repeat the message that plantations are necessary for agricultural productivity and that they bring development and jobs to remote regions. Transnational development agencies like the World Bank echo this mantra on a global scale. Yet none of them provide credible evidence to support their claims, as if the necessity for corporate domination in agriculture is self-evident.

Our book counters the corporate narrative by exposing the distorted form of development that emerges in a plantation zone: the losses are huge and the gains are not as advertised. It also counters the sustainability fix—the notion that massive mono-crop plantations can be certified “sustainable.”  Even a virtuous corporation that obeys all the rules is still a giant, occupying force. In Indonesia, not only is the domination of plantation corporations over a third of all agricultural land harmful, it is unnecessary, as farmers have shown for three centuries that they are capable of highly efficient production.  We hope that our work will be useful to activists who have been mobilizing against plantation corporations for decades without making much headway. 

Read the introduction to Plantation Life for free and save 30% on the paperback with coupon code E21PLTNL.

 

New Journals in 2022: Agricultural History & Trans Asia Photography

This coming year, we’re thrilled to welcome two journals to our publishing program: Agricultural History and Trans Asia Photography. Both journals will begin publication with Duke University Press in the spring.

Agricultural History, edited by Albert Way, is the journal of record in its field. As such, it publishes articles that explore agriculture and rural life over time, in all geographies and among all people. Articles in Agricultural History use a wide range of methodologies to illuminate the history of farming, food, agricultural science and technology, the environment, rural life, and beyond. The journal includes innovative research, timely book and film reviews, and special features that unite diverse historical approaches under agriculture-related themes.

Trans Asia Photography, edited by Deepali Dewan, Yi Gu, and Thy Phu, is the first and only open-access international peer-reviewed journal devoted to the interdisciplinary exploration of historic and contemporary photography from Asia and across the Asian diaspora. The journal examines all aspects of photographic history, theory, and practice by centering images in or of Asia, conceived here as a territory, network, and cultural imaginary. Bridging photography and area studies, the journal rethinks transnational and transcultural approaches and methodologies. By centering photographic practices of Asia and its diasporas, the journal foregrounds multiple ways of seeing, knowing, and being, which are distinct yet inseparable from other regional formations. The journal brings together the perspectives of scholars, critics, and artists across the humanities and social sciences to advance original and innovative research on photography and Asia, and to reflect and encourage quality, depth, and breadth in the field’s development.

Check out our full list of journals here.

The Most Read Articles of 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on the most read articles across all our journals. Check out the top 10 articles that made the list, all freely available until the end of January.

Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy” by Alice E. Marwick
Public Culture no. 75

Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin” by Donna Haraway
Environmental Humanities volume 6, issue 1

Solidarity Not Charity: Mutual Aid for Mobilization and Survival” by Dean Spade
Social Text no. 142

Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)” by Shamus Khan
Public Culture no. 91

Necropolitics” by Achille Mbembe
Public Culture volume 15, issue 1

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1983)” by Manu Goswami
Public Culture no. 91

Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” by Cathy J. Cohen
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies volume 3, issue 4

All Power to All People?: Black LGBTTI2QQ Activism, Remembrance, and Archiving in Toronto” by Syrus Marcus Ware
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly volume 4, issue 2

Radical Care: Survival Strategies for Uncertain Times” by Hi‘ilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart and Tamara Kneese
Social Text no. 142

Young Adults’ Migration to Cities in Sweden: Do Siblings Pave the Way?” by Clara H. Mulder, Emma Lundholm, and Gunnar Malmberg
Demography volume 57, issue 6