We hope you enjoy the latest video in our In Conversation series, which features Cait McKinney, author of Information Activism: A Queer History of Lesbian Media Technologies, speaking about the book with Executive Editor Courtney Berger. In the book, McKinney traces how lesbian feminist activists in the United States and Canada between the 1970s and the present developed communication networks, databases, and digital archives to use as a foundation for their feminist, antiracist, and trans-inclusive work.
Vanessa Díaz is Assistant Professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University. In this Q&A she discusses her new book Manufacturing Celebrity in which she draws on ethnographic fieldwork, her experience reporting for People magazine, and dozens of interviews with photographers, journalists, publicists, magazine editors, and celebrities, Díaz traces the complex power dynamics of the reporting and paparazzi work that fuel contemporary Hollywood and American celebrity culture.
Chapter Two touches on the frustration that paparazzi experience when they are villified by celebrities, the media, and the public. Often there is a negative perception of paparazzi since they take the pictures. Why do you believe paparazzi receive the sole blame?
There are so many layers to this question. It’s really important to start off with the fact that there is a long history of celebrity irritation with paparazzi. After all, the term evolved from the 1960 Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita in which the annoying celebrity photographer was called “paparazzo”—Italian for mosquito. The magazines and other media outlets need the paparazzi to be the bad guys of celebrity media, creating the perception that they are solely responsible for the lack of privacy faced by today’s stars, so that the media outlets can position themselves on the side of celebrities, furthering their relationships with the stars they cover. If paparazzi are the only ones out on the streets gathering the images that the magazines and other media outlets want and, frankly, need to sell their product, the paparazzi are the only ones in the line of direct contact with the celebrities. A magazine editor sitting in his office in a fancy high rise building in Hollywood is specifically and strategically positioned to not be blamed, despite the fact that he may be requesting the photo that the paparazzi are trying to get. Paparazzi are workers operating in the informal channels of an often highly formal media production process, within a hugely profitable corporate system, doing the dirty work for the celebrity media industry.
Since the demographics of the Los Angeles paparazzi shifted to being predominately Latinx, which I discuss in the book, the media and public discourse surrounding paparazzi has become highly racialized and xenophobic. So whereas there used to be general annoyance around paparazzi work, the language towards and the legal action taken against paparazzi was not anything like it is now. For instance, major news articles from outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and AP have referred to contemporary paparazzi as “illegals,” “pack animals,” “knuckle-scraping mouth breathers,” and “foreigners working on…questionable visas.”
Can you elaborate on the process of deciding the final photos that are published in a magazine?
The decision as to which photos get published is entirely at the discretion of the staff of the media outlets (reporters may weigh in, but the decision is usually made photo editors, with approval from other senior editorial staff). The decisions tend to be made based on newsworthiness, so whatever is most newsworthy to that particular outlet. For example, the week that Kim Kardashian had her first wedding to former NBA player Kris Humphreys, all of the weekly celebrity magazines featured photos of their wedding, since it was the big (celebrity) news of the moment. When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were first photographed together as a couple, People magazine bought those paparazzi images as an exclusive (meaning nobody else could buy the rights) and they were featured in a huge spread in the magazine. The magazine knew this story was big for their audience, and for celebrity and entertainment news more broadly, so they invested heavily in these photos since they knew it would boost sales.
It’s important to note that paparazzi take images based on what is deemed “newsworthy” in the moment, and that has very much to do with what they know the magazines want. So, while the paparazzi do not directly help the magazines decide which photos to publish, their work and their own judgement of newsworthiness in combination with the magazines’ and other media outlets’ decisions themselves impact which images end up circulating.
How do you believe advancements in technology have impacted the paparazzi industry?
There are so many ways, it’s hard to know where to even start. Technological advancements have impacted every realm of every media industry across the board. Even when I started reporting for People magazine in 2004 as an intern, the reporting that didn’t make it in the magazine was mostly used on their website just to create extra content, because most people were still not getting their news online. That shifted dramatically over the next few years and media outlet websites started to be the place where news broke. Whereas before it was the printed newspaper or printed magazine that held the breaking news, and stories were held specifically so that they could appear in printed press to break the news, it became customary to break news online first, since more and more people started getting their information online. So, while the internet was exploding, so was the digitization of images, which had huge impacts on how images were shot and circulated. As I discuss in chapter two of the book, in 2001 around fifty thousand digital photos were received by the magazines, but by 2011 that number had jumped to over eight million. Now most outlets receive close to twice that number per year. So that means a lot of different things. It means that there are more paparazzi taking images because there is more demand. It also means that there is an excess of photos that are taken because obviously the images can’t all be published. It means that there is more competition because there are more photos. And it means that photographers, like most other media workers, have to work extremely quickly and around the clock to ensure they get their content shared first. A minute difference in transmitting a photo can mean losing a sale if someone else get a similar shot and uploads it first.
During your research, when did you make the connection between gender disparity and the sexualization of women reporters?
I actually noticed this immediately after starting my internship with People magazine in New York, prior to starting my research in this area. I saw it when I covered red carpet events. I saw it in the way that stories were assigned at the magazine. When I became a stringer for the LA Bureau of People magazine in 2005, I saw it even more in Hollywood than in New York. There was always a conversation among the reporters (who I noticed from the beginning were mostly women) about the different ways that employers pressured them into particular kinds of situations with celebrity men. Once I started doing the research for the book and interviewing people about this, I heard more and more stories, many of them extremely disturbing, about the ways that women reporters were asked to handle themselves to help get a story. The most public of the situations is the one I discuss in the opening of the book, Natasha Stoynoff’s assault by Donald Trump.
You discuss the #MeToo movement in Chapter Five. Why do you believe the #MeToo movement is important, especially within the entertainment industry?
#MeToo became such a force in the entrainment industry because the type of abuse of power that is often exercised in cases of sexual assault is rampant throughout Hollywood. In fact, Hollywood is full of really serious and egregious abuses of power, abuses of labor, racism, gender discrimination and forms of abuse. And what’s amazing is that the whole image of Hollywood, and its movies, television shows, and celebrities, are all putting on a show for us. That’s what Hollywood does—it produces stories, it produces shows, and it creates very strategic images to draw in audiences, not to turn them away. And so it’s no accident that the kind of abuses of power I’m describing are simply not the picture we get when we look at beautiful glossy magazines like People and Us Weekly. And so I think the Hollywood figures who came forward as part of the #MeToo movement did so to help people see these layers. And so that’s part of what I’m trying to do in the book too—to understand the institutional complexities of the Hollywood-industrial complex, which I discuss in more depth in the book and which helps give us a framework for the level of institutional force of Hollywood.
How do magazines play positive and negative roles in the promotion of body image and standards, specifically for women?
The magazines have the potential to play a positive role on body image and beauty standards, and they sometimes play at least a marginally positive role. But most of the coverage contributes to negative body image perceptions. Across the weekly magazines, there is a consistent focus on stories that celebrate women’s weightloss, regardless of how healthy that weightloss may be. And, often times, the weightloss is focused on women who just have just given birth. So, not only are the expectations unrealistic, they are often unhealthy. As chapter six in the book discusses, many body-focused stories develop out of magazine workers ridiculing women’s bodies. The very climate of the conceptualization of body-focused coverage is negative. Even in the moments where the magazines attempt to confront negative perceptions, like the famous example I use in the book of Tyra Banks on the cover of People magazine, posting in a bathing suit and posing the question, “You call this fat?” Banks is photographed in a bathing suit, looking slim and trim. So, the point of the story is to prove that she isn’t fat, rather than to celebrate different body shapes and sizes. To be clear, it’s not just celebrity magazines, though. American culture more broadly celebrates unrealistic body and beauty standards that are also incredibly Eurocentric. The magazines reflect that. In the moments where the celebration of certain bodies are not reflective of Eurocentric standards of beauty, we often see that it takes place through the celebration of typically non-white features on white bodies, like the Kardashians/Jenners who physically alter their actual bodies. The representation and limited celebration of very particular kinds of women’s bodies in magazine and in popular culture more broadly is troubling.
What is the correlation between celebrity reporting and hard news in the Trump Era? How has reporting and news changed in the past few years?
In the book, I explain the story of Natasha Stoynoff, the former People magazine reporter, and my friend and colleague, who was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump while interviewing him for the magazine. While I was doing the research for this book, she had confided in me about this experience in both 2011 and 2012 during recorded interviews, with the expectation that I would anonymize everything. Then she came out publicly with the story in 2016. That my research on celebrity media became intertwined in the U.S. presidential race is emblematic of the way Trump has impacted what we understand as news. While there were always blurred lines between entertainment, celebrity, and politics, the distinction between entertainment and news media is not an empirical reality, but rather a function of a public imaginary—that there should be a difference between so-called hard news and entertainment news. The dynamics I talk about in the book are increasingly relevant to media in general, international politics, and to the state of American culture more broadly.
There is an interesting parallel in how Donald Trump fomented hatred of mainstream news media outlets like CNN and NBC News by relating to White House and national reporters in ways that mirror how celebrities often relate to celebrity media producers, especially paparazzi. He understands how to use the media to generate interest, such as when he revealed his Supreme Court nominee Apprentice-style on prime-time television. Yet he constantly performs anger toward the very media who gave his candidacy, and now his presidency, nonstop coverage. He disparages them as “fake news” and “dishonest.” This behavior mirrors the way celebrities rely on paparazzi shots for promotion while simultaneously performing hatred toward them. For Trump, it is directly carried over from his career as a celebrity. In his book How to Get Rich, he wrote, “If I happen to be outside, I’m probably on one of my golf courses, where I protect my hair from overexposure by wearing a golf hat. It’s also a way to avoid the paparazzi. Plus the hat always has a big TRUMP logo on it—it’s automatic promotion.” Trump references wanting to avoid the paparazzi while in the very next sentence revealing how he uses them to promote his own brand—a celebrity tactic I explore in depth in chapter 4 of the book.
While Trump has used celebrity media strategically to build his brand, he has also exploited, humiliated, and assaulted celebrity reporters. Since becoming president, he has continued this belligerent behavior in White House press conferences and other media events. Trump has kicked out, verbally bullied, and even banned news reporters and media outlets from his press conferences. His ire has been directed at the corporate media entities themselves, as well as individual media laborers. For example, in 2015 Trump had Univision’s Jorge Ramos symbolically deported from a press conference while yelling at him, “Go back to Univision,” another way of telling the Mexican American reporter to go back to Mexico. This kind of racialization and racialized discrimination is closely linked to the treatment of Latino paparazzi I expose in the book. A 2016 Dallas Morning News op-ed titled “Trump Can’t Treat Press Like Paparazzi” pointed to Trump’s problematic approach with the political media: “Trump may see these reporters as an extension of the paparazzi that hounded him when he was a reality television promoter and real estate mogul. They aren’t. The press pool isn’t about staking out celebrities.” The article insinuates that, unlike political reporters, paparazzi are and should be treated as problems. Trump has drawn no distinction between the celebrity news and hard news outlets that have followed him at various stages of his career. While using them for self-promotion, he has treated the political press with the same disdain that he showed to celebrity media producers— including Natasha Stoynoff.
Although you can’t see them in person, there are many opportunities to catch our authors at online events in September.
September 16, 4 pm CDT: Katina Rogers will participate in an online conversation about her book Putting the Humanities PhD to Work. This event is sponsored by the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies with support from Humanities for the Public Good; Prairie Lights Bookstore; and The Futures Initiative, and The Graduate Center, CUNY.
September 21, 6:30 pm EDT: Intellectual Publics sponsors an online conversation between Arlene Dávila and Patricia Banks.
September 22, 2 pm EDT: Difficult Objects: A Transnational Feminist Book Conversation. Moderated by Samantha Pinto, author of Infamous Bodies, this conversation features Simidele Dosekun, Durba Mitra, and Laura Hyun Yi Kang, author of Traffic in Asian Women, talking about their recent books and transnational feminist methodologies.
We hope you can tune in to some of these great talks. Keep up with all our author events on our Twitter feed.
This year the annual meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) was to be held in Prague. Like most academic conferences, it has moved online. We are pleased to partner with Combined Academic Publishers to showcase new work in science studies. Customers in the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia can shop their site and save 30% off new titles with coupon code CSF20EASST. Customers in the US, Canada, and Latin America can save at our own site using coupon 4S2020. You’ll also want to check out the giveaway opportunity at CAP’s site for a chance to win a copy of Fractivism by Sarah Ann Wylie!
Several of our authors will be participating in online panels. Noemi Tousignant, author of Edges of Exposure, is presenting a paper entitled “Mutagenic Residues of Senegal’s Peanut Export Economy.” Juno Salazar Parreñas, author of Decolonizing Extinction, is presenting a paper called “Geriatric Ex-Dairy Cows: Caring for Otherwise Expendable Life.” Kalindi Vora, co-author of Surrogate Humanity, has organized a panel entitled “Teaching interdependent agency I: Feminist STS approaches to STEM pedagogy,” and is presenting a paper called “Teaching Technoscience Infrastructures of Care.” And Noah Tamarkin, whose book Genetic Afterlives will be out next month, is presenting a paper entitled “Locating Controversy in Established Technoscience: Debating National DNA Databases in South Africa.”
We hope you’ll check out these recent titles that we would have enjoyed showing off to you in our booth. In Anaesthetics of Existence, Cressida J. Heyes draws on examples of things that happen to us but are nonetheless excluded from experience, as well as critical phenomenology, genealogy, and feminist theory, showing how and why experience has edges, and analyzes phenomena that press against them. In Rock | Water | Life Lesley Green examines the interwoven realities of inequality, racism, colonialism, and environmental destruction in South Africa. In Wild Blue Media, Melody Jue destabilizes terrestrial-based ways of knowing and reorients our perception of the world by considering the ocean itself as a media environment—a place where the weight and opacity of seawater transforms how information is created, stored, transmitted, and perceived.
We have a number of recent books that engage with agriculture and resource extraction in Latin America, placing the non-human at the center of their studies. Vital Decomposition by Kristina M. Lyons presents an ethnography of human-soil relations in Colombia. In An Ecology of Knowledges, Micha Rahder examines how technoscience, endemic violence, and an embodied love of wild species and places shape conservation practices in Guatemala. Kregg Hetherington’s The Government of Beans is about the rough edges of environmental regulation in Paraguay, where tenuous state power and blunt governmental instruments encounter ecological destruction and social injustice. Seeds of Power by Amalia Leguizamón explores why Argentines largely support GM soy despite the widespread damage it creates. In Resource Radicals, Thea Riofrancos looks at Ecuador, expanding the study of resource politics by decentering state resource policy and locating it in a field of political struggle populated by actors with conflicting visions of resource extraction. And in Bolivia in the Age of Gas, Bret Gustafson explores how the struggle over natural gas has reshaped Bolivia, along with the rise, and ultimate fall, of the country’s first Indigenous-led government. Look for an online conversation about these issues featuring Riofrancos, Gustafson, Hetherington, and Leguizamón later this fall.
Also examining agriculture, Alex Blanchette’s Porkopolis immerses readers into the workplaces that underlie modern meat, from slaughterhouses and corporate offices to artificial insemination barns and bone-rendering facilities, outlining the deep human-hog relationships and intimacies that emerge through intensified industrialization. Check out Blanchette’s recent conversation with Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker.
One of our favorite conference traditions is the in-booth selfies that our authors often take with their books. We can’t do that this year, so we’ve asked some of our science studies authors to send them in. Check out our book selfie album on Facebook or look for the photos on Twitter this week.
Save on these and all our science studies titles on our site with coupon 4S2020 (North and South America, Caribbean) or at Combined Academic Publishers with coupon CSF20EASST (UK, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia).
Also check out Environmental Humanities, a peer-reviewed open-access journal that draws humanities disciplines into conversation with the natural and social sciences around significant environmental issues. Start reading here.
We invite you to return to the blog tomorrow to read a message from Executive Editor Courtney Berger.
Vanessa Díaz is the author of the new book Manufacturing Celebrity. She is Assistant Professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, her experience reporting for People magazine, and dozens of interviews with photographers, journalists, publicists, magazine editors, and celebrities, Díaz traces the complex power dynamics of the reporting and paparazzi work that fuel contemporary Hollywood and American celebrity culture. This guest post by the author introduces the trailer and teaser for her new book.
As a multimedia ethnographer and documentary filmmaker, I always knew I wanted to create a book trailer for Manufacturing Celebrity. The prospect of capturing the essence of the over 300 pages of Manufacturing Celebrity in a few minutes of video was daunting. However, because the book itself is rich with images from my own photography, the photography of the paparazzi I worked with, and material from the magazines I write about, imagining a visual representation of the book was organic. I started developing ideas for the trailer early this year, with the assistance of two research assistants at Loyola Marymount University, Malik Gay-Bañuelos and Steven Uribe. We decided that it was important to focus not only on the main issues, questions and conundrums the book presents, but specifically to highlight the stories of the paparazzo Chris Guerra who was killed on the job and former People magazine reporter and sexual assault survivor Natasha Stoynoff who ground my discussion about precarity in the manufacturing of celebrity. By the time we started to make progress on the trailer’s development, the pandemic hit and we had to conceptualize video production in a new way. I set up the camera equipment lighting in my living room, and recorded my own interview while Malik and Steven interviewed me via FaceTime. Video editor Larissa Díaz Hahn of The Díaz Collective took my interview, original footage shared with me by the paparazzi, images from the book, my archive of celebrity reporting clips, and archival news footage and began masterfully piecing together the trailer. It was a collaborative process and we went through various iterations, with a focus on doing justice to the central themes of the book and, most importantly, the incredibly intense stories of my friends and colleagues Chris and Natasha. The goal of the trailer is to provide an engaged, visual representation of the book that encapsulates in a few minutes what is at stake with the stories I’m telling and why this book matters in this particular moment in history. The trailer shows the ways the book centers on issues of power, privilege and positionality in a way that resonates with the present moment. As the U.S. remains in an uprising focused on addressing systemic racism, and as Hollywood figures remain at the center of controversy due to rampant abuse of power on racial, gender, and intersectional levels, Manufacturing Celebrity breaks down the larger stakes of celebrity culture and demonstrates how the Hollywood-Industrial Complex is part and parcel in the broader systemic inequalities of the U.S. The trailer offers a small taste of the complicated questions and analysis Manufacturing Celebrity forces the reader to grapple with. You’ll never look at celebrity magazines the same again.
It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to an end but there’s still time to purchase new books to complete your summer reading list. Check out these exciting new titles coming out hot off the press this August!
In Information Activism, Cait McKinney traces how lesbian feminist activists in the United States and Canada between the 1970s and the present developed communication networks, databases, and digital archives to use as a foundation for their feminist, antiracist, and trans-inclusive work.
Resource Radicals by Thea Riofrancos explores the politics of extraction, energy, and infrastructure in contemporary Ecuador in order to understand how resource dependency becomes a dilemma for leftist governments and movements alike.
In Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema, Daisuke Miyao reveals the undetected influence that Japanese art and aesthetics had on early cinema and the pioneering films of the Lumiére brothers.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, her experience reporting for People magazine, and dozens of interviews with photographers, journalists, publicists, magazine editors, and celebrities, in Manufacturing Celebrity Vanessa Díaz traces the complex power dynamics of the reporting and paparazzi work that fuel contemporary Hollywood and American celebrity culture.
In American Blockbuster, Charles R. Acland charts the origins, impact, and dynamics of the blockbuster, showing how it became a complex economic and cultural machine designed to advance popular support for technological advances.
Conceiving of sovereign space as volume rather than area, the contributors to Voluminous States, edited by Franck Billé, explore how such a conception reveals and underscores the three-dimensional nature of modern territorial governance.
In History 4° Celsius, Ian Baucom puts black studies into conversation with climate change, outlining how the ongoing concerns of critical race, diaspora, and postcolonial studies are crucial to understanding the Anthropocene and vice versa.
In Peripheral Nerve, the contributors to this volume reframe the history of the Cold War by focusing on how Latin America used the rivalry between superpowers to create alternative sociomedical pathways. The collection is edited by Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Raúl Necochea López.
In his posthumous book Sexual Hegemony, Christopher Chitty traces the 500 year history of capitalist sexual relations, showing how sexuality became a crucial dimension of the accumulation of capital and a technique of bourgeois rule. The book is edited by Max Fox and features an introduction by Christopher Nealon.
In Infamous Bodies, Samantha Pinto explores how histories of and the ongoing fame of Phillis Wheatley, Sally Hemings, Sarah Baartman, Mary Seacole, and Sarah Forbes Bonetta generate new ways of imagining black feminist futures.
Examining the work of Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Solange Knowles, Flying Lotus, and others, in The Meaning of Soul Emily J. Lordi proposes a new understanding of soul, showing how it came to signify a belief in black resilience enacted through musical practices.
In Afterlives of Affect, Matthew C. Watson considers the life and work of artist and Mayanist scholar Linda Schele (1942–1998) as an entry point to discuss the nature of cultural inquiry, decipherment in anthropology, and the social conditions of knowledge production.
In Enduring Cancer, Dwaipayan Banerjee explores the efforts of Delhi’s urban poor to create a livable life with cancer as they negotiate an over-extended health system unequipped to respond to the disease.
In Gestures of Concern, Chris Ingraham shows that gestures of concern, such as sharing or liking a post on social media, are central to establishing the necessary conditions for larger social or political change because they help to build the affective communities that orient us to one another with an imaginable future in mind.
The contributors to We Are Not Dreamers—who are themselves currently or formerly undocumented—call for the elimination of the Dreamer narrative, showing how it establishes high expectations for who deserves citizenship and marginalizes large numbers of undocumented youth. The collection is edited by Leisy J. Abrego and Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales.
The contributors to Gramsci in the World, edited by Roberto M. Dainotto and Fredric Jameson, examine the varying receptions and uses of Antonio Gramsci’s thought in diverse geographical, historical, and political contexts, highlighting its possibilities and limits for understanding and changing the social world.
As vast infrastructure projects transform the Mekong River, in Mekong Dreaming Andrew Alan Johnson explores of how rapid environmental change affects how people live, believe, and dream.
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“Cold War Feminisms in East Asia,” a new issue of positions: asia critique, unpacks three contested and varied concepts: the Cold War, feminism, and East Asia. Contributors challenge conventional understandings of these terms, discussing the temporality of the Cold War as “victoriously ended,” the spatialization of East Asia as an Orientalist category “over there,” and the myopia of Western feminism.
The issue, edited by Suzy Kim, asks how the Cold War shaped feminist movements and cultures in their critical analyses and possibilities for organization; how the women’s movements before the Cold War destabilize Cold War paradigms; and what challenges remain for contemporary theory and praxes for women, sexual minorities, and other dispossessed communities as a result of Cold War feminisms in East Asia.
Read the free introduction, as well as Kozue Akibayashi’s “Cold War Shadows of Japan’s Imperial Legacies for Women in East Asia,” which is free through the end of October. The full table of contents is available here.
We are now mid-way through the summer, and it’s not too late to stock up on books to add to your summer reading list. Check out these brand new titles coming out in July!
Journeys through the Russian Empire is a lavishly illustrated volume that features hundreds of full-color images of Russian architecture and landscapes taken by early-twentieth-century photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky and juxtaposed against those of contemporary photographer and scholar William Craft Brumfield. Together their images document Russia’s architectural, artistic, and cultural heritage. This one will look gorgeous on your coffee table!
The contributors to Paper Trails, edited by Sarah B. Horton and Josiah Heyman, examine migrants’ relationship to the state through requirements to obtain identification documents in order to get legal status.
Written for humanities graduate students and the faculty they study with, Katina L. Rogers’s Putting the Humanities PhD to Work grounds practical career advice in a nuanced consideration of how graduate training can lead to meaningful and significant careers beyond the academy.
In Keith Haring’s Line, Ricardo Montez traces the drawn and painted line that was at the center of Keith Haring’s artistic practice, engaging with Haring’s messy relationships to race-making and racial imaginaries.
In ¡Presente!, Diana Taylor offers the theory of presente as a model of standing by and with victims of structural and endemic violence by being physically and politically present in situations where it seems that nothing can be done.
Drawing on numerous interviews with artists, dealers, and curators, in Latinx Art Arlene Dávila explores how and why the contemporary international art market continues to overlook, devalue, and marginalize Latinx art and artists.
In The Wombs of Women, Françoise Vergès examines the scandal of white doctors forcefully terminating the pregnancies of thousands of poor women of color on the French island of Réunion during the 1960s, showing how they resulted from the legacies of the racialized violence of slavery and colonialism.
In Embodying Relation, Allison Moore examines the tensions between the local and the global in the art photography movement that blossomed in Bamako, Mali, in the 1990s, showing contemporary Malian photography to be a rich example of Western notions of art meeting traditional cultural precepts to forge new artistic forms, practices, and communities.
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We regret that in the ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we will be unable to meet with you during the Berkshire Conference of Women, Genders, and Sexualities, which has been cancelled. Check out the virtual conference to listen to pre-recorded plenaries.
We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new books at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to extend a 30% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues. Use coupon code BERKS20 to save 30% when ordering online. Journal subscriptions and society memberships don’t qualify for the 30% discount.
Check out some of the exciting titles we would have featured in our booth at the Berks.
In I Never Left Home, poet and revolutionary Margaret Randall tells the moving, captivating, and astonishing story of her life, from her childhood in New York to joining the Sandanista movement in Nicaragua, from escaping political repression in Mexico to raising a family and teaching college. Watch a video of Margaret Randall discussing her memoir here.
In Second World, Second Sex, Kristen Ghodsee recuperates the lost history of feminist activism from the so-called Second World, showing how women from state socialist Bulgaria and socialist-leaning Zambia created networks and alliances that challenged American women’s leadership of the global women’s movement. Listen to an interview with Kristen Ghodsee here.
Jennifer C. Nash reframes black feminism’s engagement with intersectionality in Black Feminism Reimagined, contending that black feminists should let go of their possession and policing of the concept in order to better unleash black feminist theory’s visionary and world-making possibilities. Read an interview with Jennifer Nash here.
Lynn M. Thomas constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond in Beneath the Surface, theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies. Watch an interview with Lynn Thomas on South African TV here.
From The Guiding Light to Passions, Elana Levine traces the history of daytime television soap operas as an innovative and highly gendered mass cultural form in Her Stories. Read an interview with Elana Levine in Jezebel here.
In Mafalda, Isabella Cosse examines the history, political commentary, and influence of the world-famous comic character Mafalda from her Argentine origins in 1964 to her global reach in the 1990s. Recently, the Argentinan goverment has been using Mafalda to educate citizens about wearing face masks during the pandemic. Read Cosse’s blog post on the campaign here.
The contributors to Spirit on the Move examine Pentecostalism’s appeal to black women worldwide and the ways it provides them with a source of community, access to power, and way to challenge social inequalities. This volume is edited by Judith Casselberry and Elizabeth A. Pritchard.
Ana María Reyes examines how the polarizing art of Beatriz González disrupted Cold War aesthetic discourses and the politics of class and modernization in 1960s Colombia in The Politics of Taste.
In Vexy Thing, Imani Perry recenters patriarchy to contemporary discussions of feminism through a social and literary analysis of cultural artifacts—ranging from nineteenth-century slavery court cases and historical vignettes to literature and contemporary art—from the Enlightenment to the present. Read an interview with Imani Perry here.
If you were hoping to connect with one of our editors about your book project at the Berks, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our submissions guidelines here. We are now accepting submissions online!
Our journal issues in women’s and gender studies are also included in our 30%-off sale.
In “(En)gendering: Chinese Women’s Art in the Making,” new from positions, contributors—including artists, art historians, critics, and curators—consider how the work of contemporary women artists has generated new approaches to and perspectives on the Chinese art canon.
“Radical Transnationalism: Reimagining Solidarities, Violence, Empires,” an issue of Meridians, looks at the expansive domains of transnational feminism, considering its relationship to different regions, historical periods, fields, and methodologies.
As you prepare for your fall classes, be they virtual or in-person, we invite you to check out our Feminist Politics and Women’s Rights syllabus and our Revisiting Queer Studies syllabus. Both feature journal articles that are freely available until September 30, 2020 as well as suggested books you might want to teach.
Once again, we’re sorry to miss you in person but hope the 30% discount will make it possible for you to pick up some new books and journal issues. Use coupon BERKS20 at checkout.
Today’s guest post is by Isabella Cosse, an independent researcher for the National Science and Technology Research Council and the University of Buenos Aires. She is the author of numerous books, including Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta and her new book, Mafalda: A Social and Political History of Latin America’s Global Comic. In Mafalda, Cosse examines the history, political commentary, and influence of the world-famous comic character Mafalda from her Argentine origins in 1964 to her global reach in the 1990s.
In Argentina, the government took drastic measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic early on. Despite an acute economic crisis, on March 19 the government decreed a mandatory nation-wide lock-down. The aim was to prepare the healthcare system while slowing down the spread of the virus. A month and a half later, with the national death toll at less than 300, there seems to be no doubt that this was the right strategy, especially when compared to the terrible situation faced by other countries where the government failed to take action in time.
That does not mean things have not been hard in Argentina. Nor that what lies ahead will be easy. The most vulnerable sectors of society are struggling just to cover their basic food needs, even with the aid provided by the government. Winter is only weeks away and when it finally arrives it will aggravate the situation. Wage-earners with a steady job and middle-class independent workers have also been hit by the effects of the pandemic, as they face a shrinking labor market and dwindling salaries in a context of mounting inflation. Tension and uncertainty dwell in every household. Conflicts and anxieties simmer just below the surface, ready to erupt at any moment.
As a way of dealing with the situation, people have taken to social media like never before. News on the virus and its effects naturally spread like wildfire, but so do memes and jokes. As in other crises, humor in its various forms makes it easier for us to navigate these hard times. It allows us to laugh at the tensions that we face on a daily basis, serving as a relief valve. As Freud said, humor acts on our emotional state, enabling us to look at something unpleasant and even painful through the lens of laughter, thus displacing unmanageable feelings of distress. It therefore helps process conflict, functioning as an effective coping mechanism.
A few days ago, it became mandatory for Argentines to wear face masks when leaving the house. This marked a new stage in the quarantine. Seeing people walking briskly down the street, with their faces covered up and carefully avoiding each other certainly presents a disheartening picture. In that grim context, Mafalda—Latin America’s most famous cartoon character—made the news. The people of Buenos Aires woke up one morning to find that the much-loved statue of this iconic character was sporting its own homemade face mask. An anonymous fan—one of the many among the legions of readers that the comic strip has garnered in its almost sixty years of existence—had decided that Mafalda had to make a statement in this new global crisis. And not just Mafalda, but her friends Susanita and Manolito as well, who flank her sides at a prudent distance, as if mindful of the current social distancing guidelines.
This is not the first time something like this has happened. In fact, since the very beginning, Mafalda has helped to channel the dilemmas faced by the comic strip’s readers. This wise-beyond-her-years little girl emerged as an expression of the antiestablishment generations of the sixties, reflecting on the changes that were shaking the foundations of social and family life at the time and speaking out against the many injustices in the world. And she did it with a witty and endearing humor.
Despite the character’s obvious social commitment and the fact that her readers have had no qualms about appropriating her as a symbol of what they consider a just cause, her creator, Joaquín Salvador Lavado (or Quino, as he is more widely known), has only very rarely given permission to use her in public campaigns. This, however, is one of those rare occasions. Mafalda now leads a group of popular cartoons featured in an awareness-raising effort launched by the government that also seeks to encourage Argentines and help them withstand the lockdown, just as it faces insistent calls from the opposition to lift the strict quarantine measures.
In the current crisis it is not surprising that Quino could be persuaded to lend his famous character for this effort. The historical moment we are living is one of great global uncertainty. But even if some suffer more than others, it is undeniable that the entire planet is afflicted. In the image chosen for the campaign, we see Mafalda caring for a bandaged globe as if it were a sick child. That strip, which was originally drawn as a reflection on the problems of humanity, now expresses the current state of the world almost literally. As in the past, this crisis—the ways to face it and the effects it has—entails political disputes on a transnational scale, and humor can not only help relieve our anxieties, it can also contribute to shape a common identity, one that takes on the responsibility of caring for the world and all its inhabitants.
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