New year, new books! Check out the great new titles we have coming out in January:
In Wake Up, This Is Joburg, writer Tanya Zack and photographer Mark Lewis offer a stunning portrait of Johannesburg and personal stories of its residents, showing how its urban transformation occurs not in a series of dramatic, widescale changes but in the everyday lives, actions, and dreams of individuals.
Chérie N. Rivers shows how colonial systems of normalized violence condition the way we see and, through collaboration with contemporary Congolese artists, imagines ways we might learn to see differently in To Be Nsala’s Daughter.
In Code, Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan traces the shared intellectual and political history of computer scientists, cyberneticists, anthropologists, linguists, and theorists across the humanities as they developed a communication and computational-based theory that grasped culture and society in terms of codes.
Lee Edelman offers a sweeping theorization of queerness as one of the many names for the void around and against which the social order takes shape in Bad Education.
Jennifer Lynn Kelly explores the significance of contemporary solidarity tourism in Palestine/Israel in Invited to Witness, showing how such tourism functions both as political strategy and emergent industry.
In River Life and the Upspring of Nature, Naveeda Khan examines the relationship between nature and culture through the study of the everyday existence of chauras, the people who live on the chars (sandbars) within the Jamuna River in Bangladesh.
Drawing on fieldwork in a Chinese toxicology lab that studies the influence of toxins on male reproductive and developmental health, Janelle Lamoreaux investigates how epigenetic research conceptualizes and configures environments in Infertile Environments.
In On Learning to Heal, Ed Cohen draws on his experience living with Crohn’s disease—a chronic, incurable condition that nearly killed him—to explore how modern Western medicine’s turn from an “art of healing” toward a “science of medicine” impacts all whose lives are touched by illness.
Joseph C. Russo takes readers into the everyday lives of the rural residents of southeast Texas in Hard Luck and Heavy Rain, showing how their hard-luck stories render the region a mythopoetic landscape that epitomizes the impasse of American late capitalism.
Josen Masangkay Diaz interrogates the distinct forms of Filipino American subjectivity that materialized from the relationship between the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and Cold War US anticommunism in Postcolonial Configurations.
In The Spectacular Generic, Cori Hayden explores how consumer access to generic drugs has transformed public health care and the politics of pharmaceuticals in the global South.
Petrus Liu challenges key premises of classic queer theory and Marxism in The Specter of Materialism, turning to an analysis of the Beijing Consensus—global capitalism’s latest mutation—to develop a new theory of the political economy of sexuality.
In Uncomfortable Television, Hunter Hargraves examines how postmillennial television made its audiences find pleasure through discomfort, showing that televisual unease trains audiences to survive under late capitalism, which demands that individuals accept a certain amount of discomfort, dread, and irritation into their everyday lives.
Lara Langer Cohen excavates the long history of the underground in nineteenth-century US literature in Going Underground, showing how these formations of the underground can inspire new forms of political resistance.
Travelling from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean to South America and the eastern United States, the authors of Vanishing Sands, Orrin H. Pilkey, Norma J. Longo, William J. Neal, Nelson G. Rangel-Buitrago, Keith C. Pilkey, and Hannah L. Hayes, track the devastating environmental, social, and economic impact of legal and illegal sand mining over the past twenty years.
Vincanne Adams takes the complex chemical glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup and a pervasive agricultural herbicide—to explore the formation of contested knowledge in Glyphosate and the Swirl.
Jean-Luc Godard passed away on September 13, 2022. Eric Smoodin, author ofParis in the Dark, is an expert on French film culture and offers this guest post in remembrance. Smoodin is Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis, and also author of Regarding Frank Capraandcoeditor of Looking Past the Screen.
“The camera is a living being…unstable…it’s a body trying to keep its balance……and this imbalance is the very sign of life.” That was how Pierre Marcabru, writing in Combat in March 1960, described À Bout de souffle in his perplexed, admiring, and not always positive review of Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature-length film. When Godard died last month, he left a body of work that had transformed the cinema, and he was acknowledged as one of the most important filmmakers of the last sixty years. But how was he understood at the very beginning of his career, a career so intertwined with the start of the New Wave, and so connected to a belief, among critics in France, filmmakers, and quite possibly the public, that French cinema had just been unalterably changed?
Despite the extensive bibliography about Godard and his work, the available evidence is hard to come by, at least for film historians working in the United States. Of the Bibliothèque nationale’s vast online holdings, the only daily from the period that readily can be accessed is Combat, which had been founded during the war as a Resistance newspaper, but that despite its interest in politics always gave a great deal of space to the cinema. It’s difficult to generalize from Combat, but the newspaper certainly paid attention to Godard, even before À Bout de souffle opened in Paris, perhaps a sign of the young filmmaker’s place in French film culture broadly.
In Combat at the time, Godard typically would be mentioned in relation to the New Wave and to other young filmmakers, often as one among many and then increasingly as the first among equals. In July 1959, for instance, the newspaper’s headline acknowledged a sort of aggressive attack by a group of new directors and screenwriters; “No Respite for the New Wave’s Assault on Cinema.” In Combat’s telling, these cineastes—all of them men—“reflected the phenomenon of the New Wave in cinema.” Combat named many of them, the movies they had made, and also how old they were. The list is familiar to us now—Claude Chabrol, 28 years old, Le Beau Serge (1958), and François Truffaut, 27 years old, Les 400 Coups (1959), for example. But it also contains names and films mostly unknown so many years later—Jean-Pierre Mocky, 30 years old, Les Dragueurs (1959), and Claude Bernard-Aubert, 28 years old, Les Tripes au soleil (1959). In this narrative, Godard is very much in the second wave of the New Wave, “among the new names on the horizon” yet to make a first feature, along with Jacques Demy and Louis Malle.
Combat continued writing about these young, exciting filmmakers, including Godard, who by that time had only made some short films. In January 1960, still a few months before the premiere of À Bout de Souffle, Roger Tailleur lauded “a new generation of cineastes,” including Godard but also Marcel Hanoun, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Philippe de Broca, and many others.
By March, though, just a few days before À Bout de souffle opened, Godard and Truffaut had begun separating themselves, at least in Combat, from their contemporaries. The newspaper ran an interview with American producer Sam Spiegel, recently arrived in France, in order to frame the cinema as being in something of a generational conflict. The 58-year-old Spiegel, responsible for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and who was in preparation for Lawrence of Arabia (1962), came from a long line of hardened veterans who believed that, “after D.W. Griffith, the director had died,” replaced in importance by the movie producer. Combat then pointed out, though, that “nevertheless, he had come to Paris to see the films of François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, those “intellectuals from Cahiers du Cinéma whose theories of…film are…the opposite of his.”
Just a few days later, À Bout de souffle opened at four very fashionable Parisian cinémas d’exclusivité, the Vivienne in the second arrondissement, the Balzac in the eighth, the Helder in the ninth, and Scala in the tenth. Godard’s premiere stood out as a notable event in the city, even though other films beginning that week point to the astonishing film culture in Paris at the time: Fritz Lang’s Les Contrebandiers de Moonflet (Moonfleet ), Blake Edwards’ Opérations jupons (Operation Petticoat ), and Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955), among others. Marcabru’s extensive review in Combat seemed to mirror the film itself, a series of jump cuts between emotions and reactions; “À Bout de souffle is a sour, aggressive film…a dry film with a prodigious contempt for human weakness…a razor-sharp film.” Marcabru tried to describe the experience of seeing a film that “comes towards us in fits and starts…the eye and ear never attached to continuity in vision and hearing,” providing us with a “cinema of tensions.”
After the shock of À Bout de souffle, Godard became the great star of the New Wave. Two weeks after the opening, Combat reported that the film had finished second to Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959), by one vote, for the best French film since September 1959 among the editors of the literary journal La Nouvelle Critique. The next month, Combat told readers that the Ministry of Affairs had chosen À Bout de souffle to represent France at the Cannes film festival, and then, in July, that Godard had won the best director prize at the Berlin film festival. Marcabru himself kept writing about the film, explaining in April 1960, in an article headlined Ethnologie et cinéma, that Godard was actually a sociologist, telling us more about human behavior than any expert in the field.
Combat now treated Godard, not yet thirty, as something of a mentor to other New Wave directors, and as an important model for young, serious filmmakers around the world. The newspaper wrote admiringly of the 29-year-old Jacques Demy making his first feature, Lola (1961), with “the blessing” of his “production advisor,” Jean-Luc Godard. Then, in an enthusiastic review of the just-released Shadows, an anonymous critic confidently explained that the technique of the film “was very close to that which Jean-Luc Godard utilized in À Bout de souffle,” asserting influence even though the director, John Cassavetes, had finished his 1958 film well before Godard had begun his.
Godard consistently would be used to signify the ongoing health and vibrancy of the French cinema, and the terms here were those of continuity rather than the earlier “assault.” In August 1960, Jean-Louis Caussou reflected in Combat on “The New Film Season,” and viewed it as marked both by a welcome return of “the old guard,” with the opening of Abel Gance’s Austerlitz (1960), and by the spectacular new films by Godard, as well as Truffaut, Malle, and Claude Autant-Lara.
Combat began reporting on Godard’s second feature, Le Petit Soldat, in February 1960, even before his first, À Bout de souffle, had opened. By the time Godard had finished Le Petit Soldat, the film and the controversy around it had become a major news story. The Minister of Information, Louis Terrenoire, who oversaw the French film censorship commission, had banned this film about the Algerian war, largely because of the movie’s depiction of the French army’s use of torture against Algerian liberation fighters. Combat took up the commission’s decision in order to argue against censorship in general, and also saw Terrenoire’s action as the death knell of the New Wave, “putting an end to the ambitions of young directors who wish to bring to the screen something other” than the expected and the conventional.
Even more than Terrenoire, the man Combat named as most responsible for banning the film was Jean-Marie Le Pen. At the time a young member of the national assembly, Le Pen would become the leader of the anti-immigrant, antisemitic French ultra-right, a position now held by his daughter, Marine le Pen. In 1960, Le Pen père demanded that Le Petit Soldat not be shown anywhere in France or elsewhere, and argued unsuccessfully that Godard himself should be expelled from the country.
Referring to the scenes that Terrenoire found objectionable, Combat quoted Godard as saying that “the instances of torture last three-and-a-half minutes in a 90-minute film, and therefore do not exceed that which is tolerated in detective, horror, science fiction, or spy films.” Then Combat enlisted Godard to provide a response to the controversy, and the director wrote both dismissively and humorously about the actions taken against his film. Godard insisted, first, that “I don’t think anything about censorship,” but then added that “we must say what we have to say, express what we feel without worrying about…censorship.” He went on that “if we really are of this century, we necessarily pose the problems of this century through stories,” while “censorship…aims to preserve principles fixed in the past.” Godard concluded that censorship is “like someone telling you, ‘I don’t like your belt, it’s shocking, take it off.’” Then, when you comply, “your pants fall down and that’s even more shocking…so you get put in jail.”
In just one year, at least in Combat, Godard had gone from one of many very promising young French filmmakers to a leading spokesperson for freedom of speech and expression. Reading through the newspaper’s reporting on Godard from that period, we can get a sense of the impact of his films, of the intense shock of the new. This is the recurring motif of Marcabru’s review of À Bout de Souffle, and, in fact, of so much of the writing about Godard in the decades that followed. “It is a new beginning of cinema,” Marcabru wrote. “It is crucial.”
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.
In Multisituated, Kaushik Sunder Rajan proposes a reconceptualization of ethnography as a multisituated practice that speaks to the myriad communities of accountability and the demands of doing and teaching anthropology in the twenty-first century.
In See How We Roll, Melinda Hinkson follows the experiences of Nungarrayi, a Warlpiri woman from the central Australian desert, as she struggles to establish a new life for herself in the city of Adelaide.
Tani Barlow’s In the Event of Women outlines the stakes of what she calls “the event of women” in China—the discovery of the truth that women are the reproductive equivalent of men. This book reconsiders Alain Badiou’s concept of the event; particularly the question of whose political moment marks newly discovered truths.
In At the Limits of Cure, Bharat Jayram Venkat draws on historical and ethnographic research on tuberculosis in India, exploring what it means to be cured and what it means for a cure to be partial, temporary, or selectively effective.
The contributors to Cocaine, edited by Enrique Desmond Arias and Thomas Grisaffi, analyze the contemporary production, transit, and consumption of cocaine throughout Latin America and the illicit economy’s entanglement with local communities.
In Disaffected, Xine Yao explores the racial and sexual politics of unfeeling—affects such as coldness, insensitivity and sexual frigidity that are not recognized as feeling—as a means of survival and refusal for people of color and queer people in nineteenth-century America.
In Stories That Make History, Lynn Stephen examines the writing of Elena Poniatowska, showing how it shaped Mexican political discourse and provides a unique way of understanding contemporary Mexican history, politics, and culture.
In TheLettered Barriada, Jorell A. Meléndez-Badillo tells the story of how a cluster of self-educated workers burst into Puerto Rico’s world of letters in the aftermath of the 1898 US occupation, showing how they produced, negotiated, and deployed powerful discourses that eventually shaped Puerto Rico’s national mythology.
Edited by Charlotte Brunsdon, Writings on Media collects Stuart Hall’s most important work on the media, reaffirming reaffirms his stature as an innovative media theorist while demonstrating the continuing relevance of his methods of analysis.
The contributors to Anthropology, Film Industries, Modularity, edited by Ramyar D. Rossoukh and Steven C. Caton, take an anthropological and comparative approach to capturing the diversity and growth of global film industries, bringing into relief common film production practices as well as the local contingencies and deeper cultural realities at work in every film industry.
In Hegemonic Mimicry, Kyung Hyun Kim considers the recent global success of Korean popular culture—the Korean wave of pop music, cinema, and television also known as hallyu—from a transnational and transcultural perspective.
Matthew H. Brown’s Indirect Subjects explores the connections between Nigeria’s booming film industry, state television, and colonial legacies that together involve spectators in global capitalism while denying them its privileges.
In Loss and Wonder at the World’s End, Laura A. Ogden considers a wide range of people, animal, and objects together as a way to catalog the ways environmental change and colonial history are entangled in the Fuegian Archipelago of southernmost Chile and Argentina.
The contributors to Decay, edited by Ghassan Hage, attend to the processes and experiences of symbolic and material forms of decay in a variety of sociopolitical contexts across the globe.
In Radiation Sounds, Jessica A. Schwartz examines the seventy-five years of Marshallese music developed in response to the United States’ nuclear weapons testing on their homeland, showing how Marshallese singing practices make heard the harmful effects of US nuclear violence.
Drawing on literature along with the visual and performing arts, Anthony B. Pinn’s Interplay of Things theorizes religion as a technology for interrogating human experiences understanding the ways in which things are always involved in processes of exchange and interplay.
Check out our newest “In Conversation” video, in which Editor Elizabeth Ault talks with Anna Watkins Fisher about her new book, The Play in the System: The Art of Parasitical Resistance. Fisher talks about what “parasitical resistance” is, about the ways in which the Trump Era has built on the Obama administration, and about thinking with Bong Joon-Ho’s film Parasite.
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.
In today’s guest post, Gayle Wald shares her appreciation for the TV show Soul! and the new movie Mr. Soul!, about its creator, Ellis Haizlip. Wald is Professor of American Studies at George Washington University and author of It′s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television (2015).
In one of the last episodes of Soul!, Ellis Haizlip mused prophetically on the cancellation of the TV show he had been producing and hosting for five years. Emerging on New York public broadcasting in the aftermath of the long summer of 1968, Soul! had demonstrated the ability of a supposedly “cold” medium to translate the warmth of Black American collective at a revolutionary moment in U.S. history. Combining performance and talk, the show gave a platform to an astonishing number of Black political and artistic luminaries, from the women of Labelle to Earth, Wind and Fire to the gospel singer Marion Williams, and from Kathleen Cleaver to Harry Belafonte to Louis Farrakhan. By 1973, Soul was on the way out, another casualty of the nation’s counter-revolutionary turn away from the “arc of justice.”
“Sometimes it is necessary in the evolution of things to disappear,” Haizlip said in that February 1973 episode, his eyes trained on the camera so as to address viewers directly. “We will continue to communicate.”
Soul! did indeed disappear in a way, if by disappear we mean get written out of history. Before the publication of Devorah Heitner’s groundbreaking study Black Power TV (Duke 2013), it was infrequently referenced, and had even been omitted even from reference books. But what Haizlip often referred to as the program’s “vibrations” did endure, in the form of both living memory and collective consciousness. Soul! ended its on-air run when the Corporation of Public Broadcasting moved to fund more overtly “integrationist” representations, but the ideas, attitudes, and affects it sparked were not so easily extinguished.
In my 2015 book It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television, I wrote about the affective, political, and aesthetic afterlives of Soul!, mindful of my own powerful attraction to the possibilities it projected through its bold and inclusive representation of “soul culture.” Soul!’s radicalism was manifested in its direct address to Black viewers, imagined as part of a “soul” collective. Yet even as an outsider to this collective, in watching it decades later I still felt the tug of its utopian imaginings.
Melissa Haizlip’s documentary Mr. Soul!, now airing on demand after making its rounds through festival circuits, where it was an audience favorite, arrives at a moment when we are once again, as in the summer of 1968, wondering whether calls for “law and order” will be allowed to drown out calls for justice and reparation. I had been in discussion with Haizlip, Ellis Haizlip’s niece, as an adviser and make a brief “expert” appearance in the film.
But it was not until I first experienced it, with a sold-out audience at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, that I felt the “vibrations” Haizlip had talked about. In the palpable pleasure of festival viewers of Mr. Soul! in being treated to memorable performances and discussions from Soul! archive, I saw the reactions of the show’s original, in-studio audience paralleled and augmented. It was as though, through the documentary, the two sets of audiences—one from the Black Power era and one from the era of #BlackLivesMatter, could see and feel each other.
Soul! is, in 2020, once again “right on time.” It is on time in terms of its material and representational commitments to Black queer people and Black women, and on time in terms of its celebration of a Black aesthetic amid turmoil and despair. As a teacher, I particularly look forward to one day using Mr. Soul! to bring hard-to-find Soul! footage to my students. I am sure, as Ellis Haizlip envisioned, it will continue to communicate.
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 DreamingAndrew Alan Johnson explores of how rapid environmental change affects how people live, believe, and dream.
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 Jezebelhere.
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.