Gay and Lesbian Studies

Give the Gift of Books

It’s Black Friday, but instead of heading to the mall, why don’t you simplify your life by giving books to everyone on your shopping list? We suggest a few great gift books below. They’re available for 30% off on our website with coupon code SAVE30, or head to your local independent bookstore tomorrow and #shoplocal on Small Business Saturday instead!

Baldwin_REV_jacket_frontWant to introduce a child in your life to James Baldwin? Pick up a copy of his only children’s book, Little Man, Little Man. Originally published in 1976 and quickly out of print, we have brought the book back in a beautiful new edition. School Library Journal calls it “a new classic.” Publishers Weekly says, “Through luminous prose and fine observation, readers come to care deeply about TJ and his friends, and they’ll wish their story didn’t end so soon.” Adults will also enjoy the story and the lovely illustrations by French watercolorist Yoran Cazac. Baldwin fans may also want to check out Me and My House: James Baldwin’s Last Decade in France by Magdalena J. Zaborowska. This richly illustrated book takes readers into Baldwin’s home and uses the space as a lens through which to expand his biography and explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity in his complex and underappreciated later works.

We have a number of suggestions for the poetry lovers in Gunslinger-50your life. Dionne Brand’s The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos will appeal to readers of Derek Walcott and Claudia Rankine. Through these essay poems, Brand explores memory, language, culture, and time while intimately interrogating the act and difficulty of writing, the relationship between the poet and the world, and the link between author and art. We also recommend Comfort Measures Only, a collection of selected poems by physician Rafael Campo. A&U Magazine calls it “a powerful collection of this masterful poet’s work,” and the Bay Area Reporter says, “Fans of Campo’s work will find much to savor in this treasury from a physician with his heart in all the right places.” This year we also released a special Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Edward Dorn’s classic poem Gunslinger. In a new foreword Marjorie Perloff discusses Gunslinger‘s continued relevance to contemporary politics. This new edition also includes a critical essay by Michael Davidson and Charles Olson’s idiosyncratic “Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn,” which he wrote to provide guidance for Dorn’s study of, and writing about, the American West.

978-1-4780-0129-4If you’re interested in the history of gay and lesbian activism, check out two memoirs and a biography we put out this year. In Exile within Exiles, James N. Green examines the life of Herbert Daniel, a Brazilian activist for gay rights, feminism, and environmentalism, who fought for social justice both in Brazil and from exile in Europe from the mid-1960s until his death in 1992. Historian Martin Duberman was also an activist for LGBT rights, and his memoir The Rest of It chronicles a time in his life when he was both extremely productive in his scholarly and activist work while also suffering from depression, addiction, and other health problems. In My Butch Career, anthropologist Esther Newton tells her life story from childhood to age forty, when a lifetime of struggle against sexism and LBGT discrimination finally brought her professional success.

Got music lovers in your life? Why not give them Is It Still Good to Ya?, a collection of rock critic Robert Christgau’s best writing from his fifty-year career.  Kirkus Reviews writes, “At a moment when music criticism seems less empowered for being more fragmented, Christgau still offers an informed, authoritative perspective, self-aware regarding cultural aging and mortality, not stodgy but wry. A vital chronicler of rock’s story, several decades on.”

Someone to Talk ToTwo recent novels in translation would make great gifts for lovers of literature. Someone to Talk To is by one of China’s most respected novelists, Liu Zhenyun. Library Journal says, “”Dense with dozens of interwoven narratives of living through pre- and post-Mao China, Liu’s scathing and illuminating tome is highly recommended for internationally savvy fans of Mo Yan, Yu Hua, and Yan Lianke.” Or try a historical novel that still resonates today: Published in 1924 and widely acknowledged as a major work of twentieth-century Latin American literature, José Eustasio Rivera’s The Vortex follows the harrowing adventures of the young poet Arturo Cova and his lover Alicia as they flee Bogotá and head into the wild and woolly backcountry of Colombia. “Ironically, the environmentalist concerns he addressed are as timely as ever,” says Ilan Stavans.

We hope some of these great books will make it onto your holiday shopping list. Order by December 1 using coupon code SAVE30 and domestic orders will definitely make it to you before Christmas. Or head to your local bookstore and buy or order these great books from them.

 

 

The Queer Commons

glq_24_4_coverThe most recent issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, “The Queer Commons,” edited by Gavin Butt and Nadja Millner-Larsen, is now available.

The conventional idea of the commons—a resource managed by the community that uses it—might appear anachronistic as global capitalism attempts to privatize and commodify social life. Against these trends, contemporary queer energies have been directed toward commons-forming initiatives from activist provision of social services to the maintenance of networks around queer art, protest, public sex, and bar cultures that sustain queer lives otherwise marginalized by heteronormative society and mainstream LGBTQ politics. This issue forges a connection between the common and the queer, asking how the category “queer” might open up a discourse that has emerged as one of the most important challenges to contemporary neoliberalization at both the theoretical and practical level.

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

New in August

The summer is almost over, but August brings lots of great books to read while you prepare for the new semester. Check out what’s coming this month!

978-1-4780-0004-4.jpgNow available for the first time in nearly forty years, James Baldwin’s only children’s book Little Man, Little Man follows the day to day life of the four year old protagonist TJ and his friends in their 1970s Harlem neighborhood as they encounter the social realities of being black in America. Highly praised in Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal, this exciting new edition is a must-buy for Baldwin fans.

In Decolonizing Extinction Juno Salazar Parreñas traces the ways in which colonialism and decolonization shape relations between humans and nonhumans at a Malaysian orangutan rehabilitation center, contending that considering rehabilitation from an orangutan perspective will shift conservation biology from ultimately violent investments in population growth and toward a feminist sense of welfare.978-1-4780-0015-0

Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s The End of the Cognitive Empire further develops his concept of the “epistemologies of the South,” in which he outlines a theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical framework for challenging the dominance of Eurocentric thought while showing how an embrace of the forms of knowledge of marginalized groups can lead to global justice.

Attending to the everyday lives of infrastructure across four continents, the contributors to The Promise of Infrastructure, edited by Nikhil Anand and Akhil Gupta, demonstrate how infrastructure such as roads, power lines, and water pipes offer a productive site for generating new ways to theorize time, politics, and promise.

978-1-4780-0006-8In The Blue Clerk award-winning poet Dionne Brand explores memory, language, culture, and the nature of writing through a series of haunting prose poems that contain dialogues between the figure of the poet and the Blue Clerk, who is tasked with managing the poet’s discarded attempts at writing.

Radhika Mongia’s Indian Migration and Empire outlines the colonial genealogy of the modern nation-state by tracing how the British Empire monopolized control over migration, showing how between its abolition of slavery in 1834 and World War One, the regulation of Indians moving throughout the Commonwealth linked migration with nationality and state sovereignty.

In Experimental Practice Dimitris Papadopoulos explores the potential for building new forms of political and social movements through the reconfiguration of the material conditions of existence.

Melissa Hackman’s Desire Work traces the experiences of Pentecostal “ex-gay” men in Cape Town, South Africa, as they attempted to cure their homosexuality, forge a heterosexual masculinity, and enter into heterosexual marriage through various forms emotional, bodily, and religious work.

In Double Negative Racquel J. Gates examines the potential of so-called negative representations of African Americans in film and TV, from Coming to America to Basketball Wives and Empire, showing how such representations can strategically pose questions about blackness, black culture, and American society in ways that more respectable ones cannot.

978-1-4780-0025-9.jpgIn her impassioned, analytical, playful, and irreverent book Laughing at the Devil, theologian Amy Laura Hall takes up Julian of Norwich’s call to laugh at the Devil as a means to transform a setting of dread and fear into the means to create hope, solidarity, and resistance.

The contributors to Ethnographies of U.S. Empire, edited by Carole McGranahan and John Collins, examine how people live in and with empire, presenting ethnographic scholarship from across U.S. imperial formations, from the Mohawk Nation, Korea, and the Philippines to Guantánamo and the hills of New Jersey.

In Across Oceans of Law Renisa Mawani charts the story of the Komagata Maru—a steamship that left Hong Kong for Vancouver in 1914 carrying 376 Punjabi immigrants who were denied entry into Canada—to illustrate imperialism’s racial, legal, spatial, and temporal dynamics and how oceans operate as sites of jurisdictional and colonial contest.

Micol Seigel’s Violence Work redefines policing as “violence work,” showing how it is shaped by its role of channeling state violence and how its status as a civilian institution obscures its ties to militarization.

The contributors to Constructing the Pluriverse, a volume edited by Bernd Reiter, explore how non-Western, pluriversal approaches to core questions in the social sciences and humanities can help to dramatically rethink the relationship between knowledge and power.

978-1-4780-0024-2.jpgStraight A’s features personal narratives of Asian American undergraduate students at Harvard University in which they reflect on their shared experiences with discrimination, stereotypes, immigrant communities, their relationship to their Asian heritage, and the difficulties that come with being expected to reach high levels of achievement. This timely new book edited by Christine Yano and Neal Adolph Akatsuka will help inform current debates about Asian American students in elite educational institutions.

In Migrants and City-Making Ayşe Çağlar and Nina Glick Schiller trace the lived experiences of migrants in three cities struggling to regain their former standing, showing how they live and work in their new cities in ways that require them to negotiate the unequal networks of power that connect their lives to regional, national, and global institutions.

In 1968 Mexico Susana Draper puts the events and aftermath of 1968 Mexico into a global picture and counters the dominant cultural narratives of 1968 by giving voice to the Mexican Marxist philosophers, political prisoners, and women who participated in the movement and inspired alternative forms of political participation.

Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe, the latest volume of MoMA’s Primary Documents edited by Ana Janevski, Roxana Marcoci, and Ksenia Nouril, reflects on the effects that communism’s disintegration across Central and Eastern Europe—including the Soviet Union’s fifteen republics—had on the art practices, criticism, and cultural production of the following decades.

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Wildness

The most recent special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, “Wildness,” edited by Jack Halberstam and Tavia Nyong’o, is now available.

m_saq_117_3_coverThe concept of wildness within queer studies has generated new vocabularies for historicizing and theorizing modes of embodiment and categories of experience that lie beyond the conventional, institutionally produced, and modern classifications used to describe and explain gender and sexual variance. Wildness can refer to profusions of plant life, to animal worlds, crazed and unscripted human behaviors, and the unknown and the uncharted, as well as to wandering and wayward sensibilities, alternative understandings of freedom and power, and intense moods and unstable environments. Wildness has functioned as the Other to civilization and plays a distinct role in the racialized fantasies of violence and chaos that underpin white settler colonial imaginaries. It has also named a realm of activity that lies beyond the domestic and institutional, a realm that confronts medical, legal, and governmental efforts to order, catalog, and know various forms of life.

Contributors to this issue explore the meaning, function, and challenges presented by the wild and wildness now and in the past, focusing on how wildness relates to new directions in queer studies, animal studies, and the study of embodied difference.

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

Queers Read This! LGBTQ Literature Now

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

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

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

“Queer about Comics”: A Selected Reading List

Today we’re featuring a selected reading list on the intersection of queer studies and comics studies compiled by Ramzi Fawaz, co-editor (with Darieck Scott) of “Queer about Comics,” a special issue of American Literature (volume 90, issue 2), now available.

ddaml_90_2_coverQueer about Comics” explores the intersection of queer theory and comics studies. The contributors provide new theories of how comics represent and reconceptualize queer sexuality, desire, intimacy, and eroticism, while also investigating how the comic strip, as a hand-drawn form, queers literary production and demands innovative methods of analysis from the fields of literary, visual, and cultural studies.

Contributors examine the relationships among reader, creator, and community across a range of comics production, including mainstream superhero comics, independent LGBTQ comics, and avant-garde and experimental feminist narratives. They also address queer forms of identification elicited by the classic X-Men character Rogue, the lesbian grassroots publishing networks that helped shape Alison Bechdel’s oeuvre, and the production of black queer fantasy in the Black Panther comic book series, among other topics.

To learn more about the issue, browse the table-of-contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

Additionally, these three articles have been made freely available for a short time, until December 15, 2018:


“Queer about Comics”: A Selected Reading List

Comics and Graphic Narratives

Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele. Queer: A Graphic History. London: Icon Books, 2016.

Alison Bechdel. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Alison Bechdel. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. New York: Mariner Book, 2007.

Jennifer Camper, ed. Juicy Mother Volume 1: Celebration. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2005.

Jennifer Camper. Rude Girls and Dangerous Women. New York: Laugh Line Press, 1994.

Charles Zan Christensen, ed. Anything That Loves: Comics beyond “Gay” and “Straight”. Seattle: Northwest Press, 2013.

Jaime Cortez. Sexile: A Graphic Novel Biography of Adela Vazquez. New York: Institute for Gay Men’s Health, 2004.

Howard Crus. Stuck Rubber Baby. New York: DC Comics, 2000.

Blue Delliquanti. Oh Human Star. Vol. 1. Self-published, 2017.

Diane Dimassa. The Complete Hothead Paisan: Homocidal Lesbian Terrorist. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 1999.

Dylan Edwards. Transposes. Seattle: Northwest Press, 2012.

Edie Fake. Gaylord Phoenix. Los Angeles: Secret Acres, 2010.

Gay Comix (September 1980–July 1988). Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press.

Kieron Gillon (writer) and Jamie McKelvie (artist). Young Avengers Omnibus. New York: Marvel, 2014.

Sina Grace (writer) and Alessandro Vitti (artist). Iceman Volume 1: Thawing Out and Iceman Volume 2: Absolute Zero. New York: Marvel Comics, 2018.

Justin Hall, ed. No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2013.

Nagata Kabi. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. Los Angeles: Seven Seas, 2017.

Robert Kirby. Curbside Boys: The New York Years. New York: Cleis Press, 2002.

Ed Luce. Wuvable Oaf. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2015.

Jon Macy. Teleny and Camille. Seattle: Northwest Press, 2010.

Cristy C. Roads. Spit and Passion. New York: Feminist Press at CUNY, 2012.

Tommy Roddy, Carl Hippensteel, et al. Pride High. Seattle: Northwest Press, 2017.

Ariel Schrag, Potential: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag. New York: Touchstone, 2008.

A. K. Summers. Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2014.

Gengoroh Tagame. My Brother’s Husband. Vol. 1. Translated by Anne Ishii. New York: Pantheon, 2017.

Shimura Takako. Wandering Son: Book 1. Translated by Matt Thorn. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2011.

Mariko Tamaki (writer) and Jillian Tamaki (artist). Skim. San Diego: Groundwork Books, 2010.

Tom of Finland. Tom of Finland: The Complete Kake Comics. Cologne, Germany: Taschen, 2014.

David Wojnarowicz (writer), James Romberger (artist), and Marguerite Van Cook (artist). Seven Miles a Second. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2013.

Scholarship

Michelle Ann Abate, Karly Marie Grice, and Christine N. Stamper, eds. “Lesbians and Comics” (special issue). Journal of Lesbian Studies 22.4 (2018).

Noah Berlatsky. Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peters Comics, 1941–1948. New York: Rutgers University Press, 2015.

Hillary Chute. “Why Queer?” in Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere. New York: Harper, 2017.

Brian Cremins. “Bodies, Transfigurations, and Bloodlust in Edie Fake’s Graphic Novel Gaylord Phoenix.” Journal of Medical Humanities, 34.2 (June 2013).

Ramzi Fawaz. The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics. New York: New York University Press, 2016.

Ramzi Fawaz. “Stripped to the Bone: Sequencing Queerness in the Comic Strip Work of Joe Brainard and David Wojnarowicz.” ASAP/Journal 2.2 (May 2017).

Margaret Galvan. “Making Space: Jennifer Camper, LGBTQ Anthologies, and Queer Comics Communities.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 22.4 (2017).

Andréa Gilroy. “The Epistemology of the Phone Booth: The Superheroic Identity and Queer Theory in Batwoman: Elegy.” ImageTexT 8.1 (2015).

Gayatri Gopinath. “Chitra Ganesh’s Queer Re-Visions.” GLQ 15.3 (2009).

Justin Hall. “Erotic Comics.” In The Routledge Companion to Comics, ed. Frank Bramlett, Roy T. Cook, and Aaron Meskin. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Michael Harrison. “The Queer Spaces and Fluid Bodies of Nazario’s Anarcoma.” Postmodern Culture 19.3 (2009).

Yetta Howard. “Politically Incorrect, Visually Incorrect: Bitchy Butch’s Unapologetic Discrepancies in Lesbian Identity and Comic Art.” Journal of Popular Culture 45.1 (February 2012).

Ashley Manchester. “Teaching Critical Looking: Pedagogical Approaches to Using Comics as Queer Theory.” SANE journal: Sequential Art Narrative in Education 2.2 (2017).

Michael Moon. Darger’s Resources. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

Paul Petrovic. “Queer Resistance, Gender Performance, and ‘Coming Out’ of the Panel Borders in Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III’s Batwoman: Elegy.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 2.1 (2011).

Jonathan Risner. “‘Authentic’ Latino/as and Queer Characters in Mainstream and Alternative Comics.” In Multicultural Comics: From Zap to Blue Beetle, edited by Frederick Luis Aldama. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

Darieck Scott. “Big Black Beauty: Drawing and Naming the Black Male Figure in Superhero and Gay Porn Comics.” In Porn Archives, edited by Tim Dean, Steven Ruszczycky, and David Squires. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

Darieck Scott and Ramzi Fawaz, eds. “Queer about Comics” (special issue). American Literature 90.2 (June 2018).

Sina Shamsavari. “Gay Ghetto Comics and the Alternative Gay Comics of Robert Kirby.” Queer Studies in Media and Popular Culture 2.1 (March 2017).

Patrick Walter. “A Post-Colony in Pieces: Black Faces, White Masks, and Queer Potentials in Unknown Solider.” In The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art, edited by Frances Gateward and John Jennings. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015.

Andrea Wood. ‘“Straight’ Women, Queer Texts: Boy-Love Manga and the Rise of a Global Counterpublic.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 34.1/2 (Spring–Summer 2006).

Now Available: First Issue of Journal of Korean Studies Published by Duke University Press

ddjks_23_1We are pleased to announce that the first issue of the Journal of Korean Studies fully published by Duke University Press, volume 23, issue 1, is now available.

The Journal of Korean Studies is the preeminent journal in its field, publishing high-quality articles in all disciplines in the humanities and social sciences on a broad range of Korea-related topics, both historical and contemporary. Korean studies is a dynamic field, with student enrollments and tenure-track positions growing throughout North America and abroad. At the same time, the Korean peninsula’s increasing importance in the world has sparked interest in Korea well beyond those whose academic work focuses on the region. Recent topics include the history of anthropology of Korea; seventeenth century Korean love stories; the Chinese diaspora in North Korea; student activism in colonial Korea in the 1940s; and GLBTQ life in contemporary South Korea. Contributors include scholars conducting transnational work on the Asia-Pacific as well as on relevant topics throughout the global Korean diaspora. The Journal of Korean Studies is based at the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University.

Browse the table of contents to the issue.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. In solidarity, we’d like to share some of our scholarship on gender identity and sexuality.

ddtsq_5_1_coverThe first issue from TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly‘s fifth volume is its first nonthemed, open-call issue, inviting a broad scope of scholarship in the field of trans studies. The issue features “Policy,” “Research Note,” and “Translation” sections, as well as a reproduction of an “action art object” collectively created by several trans artists and art scholars for distribution at the 2016 International Trans* Studies Conference in Tucson. The issue also includes several book reviews.

From the introduction by editors Paisley Currah and Susan Stryker:

“As a complement to whatever other actions we might take as individuals, we, as editors of this academic journal, hope the articles we are able to publish in this issue of TSQ can make their own contributions, in their own ways, to empowering trans lives, using knowledge and analysis to improve social conditions and contesting the violence being directed against us.”

Read the introduction to the issue now, made freely available.

ddglq_24_1_coverThe most recent issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies features a forum on the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. It offers a range of responses to the murders of forty-nine people—and the injuring of many more—that took place in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, at Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, Florida. While acts of violence—everyday and spectacular—have long histories in queer and trans communities (threatening trans and queer people of color with double, triple, quadruple forms of jeopardy), one guiding question for this collection of contributions revolves around what is at stake in responding to and unpacking violent and publicly mediated events after the fact, after the events have faded from public consciousness. Read the special forum, “GLQ Forum/Aftereffects: The Pulse Nightclub Shootings,” made freely available.

Look for these upcoming issues

ddaml_90_2_coverAmerican Literature‘s “Queer about Comics,” edited by Dariek Scott and Ramzi Fawaz, explores the intersection of queer theory and comics studies. The contributors provide new theories of how comics represent and re-conceptualize queer sexuality, desire, intimacy, and eroticism, while also investigating how the comic strip, as a hand-drawn form, queers literary production and demands innovative methods of analysis from the fields of literary, visual, and cultural studies.

Contributors examine the relationships among reader, creator, and community across a range of comics production, including mainstream superhero comics, independent LGBTQ comics, and avant-garde and experimental feminist narratives. They also address queer forms of identification elicited by the classic X-Men character Rogue, the lesbian grassroots publishing networks that helped shape Alison Bechdel’s oeuvre, and the production of black queer fantasy in the Black Panther comic book series, among other topics.

GLQ-Clit Club 2“The Queer Commons,” a special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies edited by explore how contemporary queer energies have been directed toward commons-forming initiatives from activist provision of social services to the maintenance of networks around queer art, protest, public sex, and bar cultures that sustain queer lives otherwise marginalized by heteronormative society and mainstream LGBTQ politics. This issue forges a connection between the common and the queer, asking how the category “queer” might open up a discourse that has emerged as one of the most important challenges to contemporary neoliberalization at both the theoretical and practical level.

Contributors look to radical networks of care, sex, and activism present within diverse queer communities including HIV/AIDS organizing, the Wages for Housework movement, New York’s Clit Club community, and trans/queer collectives in San Francisco. The issue also includes a dossier of shorter contributions that offer speculative provocations about the radicalism of queer commonality across time and space, from Gezi Park uprisings in Turkey to future visions of collectivity outside of the internet.

 

 

 

Q&A with Magdalena J. Zaborowska, Author of Me and My House

Zabrowska2Magdalena J. Zaborowska is Professor of Afroamerican and American Studies and the John Rich Faculty Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, and the author and coeditor of several books, including James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile, also published by Duke University Press, and How We Found America: Reading Gender through East European Immigrant Narratives.
Her latest book, Me and My House: James Baldwin’s Last Decade in France, uses James Baldwin’s house in the south of France as a lens through which to reconstruct his biography and to explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity in his complex and underappreciated later works.

What initially drew you to James Baldwin’s house in the South of France? What was it like the first time you visited?

Me and My HouseI first visited that house, known locally as “Chez Baldwin,” in the Provençal village of St. Paul-de-Vence in June 2000. I was fascinated with the writer’s international peregrinations and admired his cosmopolitan, decades-ahead-of-our-time approach to how one’s composite self, inflected by race, gender, sexuality, and class, was key to understanding one’s national identity within and without one’s home country. I also wanted to get a sense of the domestic environment in which he wrote his later works, and where he thrived as a black queer American artist, who was reviled both by US black nationalists and white liberals at the time.

Like most readers, I had first read the best known early Baldwiniana of 1953-63, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, and The Fire Next Time. The works written at Chez Baldwin, during 1971-87, were another matter. They revealed an author transformed, testing new ideas and approaches to identity, trying his hand at new forms. I wanted to look for material and tangible reasons for that transformation. I was teaching in Denmark until 2000, and thanks to Aarhus University’s support made my trip to Provençe, where I first encountered Baldwin’s most enduring home. Another draw was my interest in the interpenetration of literary and literal social spaces, or how material environments become metaphoric representations by means of evocative language and imagery on the pages of books. Perhaps, because I was an immigrant, I was curious as well about how the writer lived his life in French and in such a remote location, especially given his earlier fondness for metropolitan locations like Istanbul, New York, London or Paris. In the early 1970’s, when Baldwin moved there, St. Paul-de-Vence was a sleepy, slow-paced Provençal village, rather than the densely commercialized tourist destination it is today.

My first visit to the house and surrounding gardens in June of 2000 was a revelation on several levels. First, because of how unlike the place that Baldwin had come from it was, and second, because it made him into a homeowner and someone who lived, so to speak, on and off the land. Third, as he explains it in the little-known Architectural Digest piece on his house published just a few months before his death in 1987, as he grew older and frailer, he loved the light, peace, and quiet that filled the old structure. He had first rented rooms, and then bought, piece by piece as money from his books came in, the property from an eccentric old lady. In his last interview, literally on his deathbed, he explains that the place had led him to discover and embrace a rather mythic “peasant” mindset that he traced back to his parents, who migrated to New York from Maryland and Louisiana. He loved the ancient olive, orange, and almond trees, and enjoyed flowers and herbs that enveloped the house in a lush embrace. He was beloved by the town, and wished to be buried there after his death, which we know did not happen. The more I looked, the more I found and realized, too, that Chez Baldwin had to be a character of sorts in the book along with the writer.

OK - 4/28/17

The patio in front of Baldwin’s study, with his writing/reading table. Photo by Magdalena J. Zaborowska, 2000.

How did seeing the space where Baldwin lived and worked change your own perceptions of him and how did it inspire your research?

At first, I was overawed at being inside the parts of the house that were not rented out at the time (the most important space, Baldwin’s study and quarters downstairs, and in the back, were off limits, alas). Imagine, sitting on the living room couch where Baldwin once sat, or at the so-called Welcome Table in the gardens, while wearing one of his straw hats (which actually did happen, courtesy of Jill Hutchinson, who took care of the house and invited me in to see it). When I went through the interiors, I was shocked that no one wanted to salvage the material riches it still contained—books, journals, furniture, and artwork—that witnessed Baldwin’s daily life, and must have provided inspiration and tactile framework for his daily labor of writing. It struck me, too, that Baldwin must have had lots of work-related clutter, like so many of us, that he liked mantelpiece decorations arranged in symbolic manners, that he was playful; I was told of his favorite records and pillows; I looked through the possessions he left behind.

The house helped me appreciate how his acts of dwelling were inextricably intertwined with acts of literary creativity, how the rooms and gardens provided a stage on which he placed his characters (The Welcome Table) or how architectural elements of the interior and its decor appeared on the pages of his novels (Just Above My Head), not to mention his local friends’ influence on all of his works that he would read to and discuss with them regularly. The house embodied and exuded but also enabled and nurtured his fascinating, complex personality. The late Baldwin insisted on his uniqueness precisely because his blackness and queerness, his effeminate, “sissy” mannerisms made him an outcast in his home country and elsewhere. That house was a domestic and authorial haven where he could be fully himself.

I was also astonished while at Chez Baldwin that there were no sites in the United States where I could glimpse his domestic legacy; that school kids could not access the private life of one of the greatest twentieth-century American writers. On the other hand, that fact was not at all surprising, for until recently, the matter of African diasporic artistic legacies has not been preserved, cherished, and memorialized. Quite the opposite, material remnants of black lives have been systematically erased, demolished, and ignored.

My immigrant origins and early work on immigrant women writers provided another inspiration. Years before I arrived in St.Paul-de-Vence, I had visited Maria Kuncewiczowa’s house, known as “Kuncewiczowka,” in the town of Kazimierz on the Vistula in Poland. In fact, I ended up spending a night there, and while on subsequent visits noticed how fast it was becoming a cultural epicenter for the region, drawing authors, visual artists, and actors. That nothing similar was happening with Baldwin’s legacy either in France or in the United States was painful to behold. That early experience, my first visit to Chez Baldwin in 2000, and then a conference in Istanbul a year later, led me to Baldwin’s story in Turkey. From there, where I first glimpsed the tremendous vitality of transient domestic spaces to Baldwin’s artistic vision, no matter how remote from his birthplace of Harlem, it only made sense to return to St. Paul-de-Vence and pick up where I had started something that made sense only a decade later.

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The welcome table and books in Baldwin’s “last room,” an upstairs living room that was transformed into his bedroom during the final few months of his life. Photo by Magdalena J. Zaborowska, 2000.

Baldwin’s works from this period (1971-1987) are underappreciated, both by readers and scholars, compared to his earlier works. Why do you think this is? What can readers and scholars learn about Baldwin from his later works?

These works are bold and complex, and much ahead of their time, as their largely superficial and negative reviews, or homophobic responses to them by the likes of Eldridge Cleaver in Soul on Ice (1968), demonstrate all too clearly. No Name in the Street (1972), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), The Devil Finds Work (1976), Just Above My Head (1979), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and the unpublished play The Welcome Table (1987) ushered in a new Baldwin, more complex and mature as an author, one who became disillusioned growing older as a black queer American, who had no choice but to live abroad to get his work done and to feel safe. The latter issue is often overlooked, especially by those who think it somehow uncool that, in his later life, the activist Baldwin, who came from dire poverty in Harlem, was a bourgie owner of a fancy property in France, where he entertained lavishly, and kept lovers and an entourage of hangers-on. This attitude may have something to do with the kind of politics of respectability on both sides of the proverbial US color line then. Along with the stifling, binary, hetero-patriarchal, misogynist, mainstream social norms that often masqueraded as patriotism, nationalism, or ethnocentrism, that attitude made him an outcast and rendered him, in a sense, homeless in the US. And Baldwin, of course, being who he was, wrote vehemently against all these oppressive politics in his later works.

I think that today we should be happy for his rags-to-riches story, and celebrate the fact that he had found a haven where he was cherished and nurtured and was able to write some of his most interesting works. As many of his letters to friends and family evidence, he was acutely aware that his portrayal of queer and interracial love and sex in Another Country and Just Above My Head not only angered but also threatened both black nationalists, who despised his sexuality and integrationist views, and the so-called white liberals, who objected to his candor concerning their complicity in national race relations and what they perceived as his “black anger.” These later works are daring both in terms of content and narrative structure, characterization, and imagery. They reveal a writer who wants to grow and experiment, and who is not afraid to test new waters. Baldwin considered his last novel his best, for example. I agree, for the more one reads Just Above My Head, the more its formal and thematic radicalism becomes clear and compelling (move over postmodernism…). Another matter is that reading late Baldwin requires work and intellectual willingness to be challenged, if not changed. You cannot encapsulate any of his ideas in 140 characters; you have to fight for who you can become thanks to his literary witnessing. That’s what great literature has always done, and that’s why we find his writings so relevant to our racially and politically troubled moment today.

You suggest that because of his gender and sexuality, not many scholars have written about the role of domesticity in Baldwin’s writing. How does a familiarity with Baldwin’s house in France help us understand more about the domestic themes (?) in his later works?

Queer domestic life, not to mention doubly-marginalized black queer or queer of color home-making, has been a taboo in US culture. As Baldwin writes in many of his essays, there are racial and sexual secrets and myths undergirding American cultural and social history that sharply cut across racial and class lines. He shows us how the official, traditional representations of how black and white Americans have envisaged domesticity since the mid-twentieth century have been superficial, small-minded, and provincial at best. Crafted to uphold the myth of the ideal national house, they may let us, for example, learn about Alice B. Toklas and Gertude Stein. But since these eccentric women lived as lesbians in Paris and not in Pittsburgh, we are supposed to chalk their lives up to having been inflected, if not tainted, by foreign, indeed, perverse “European” freakishness. Such expulsions of gender and sexual identity beyond the borders of the national house in the portrayals of cultural icons like Baldwin strip them of their complexity and adulterate their art. For example, even in the recently popular Raul Peck’s art film, “I Am Not Your Negro,” we encounter the so-called “Baldwin brand,” or the desexualized race man, rather than the intersectionality-promoting radical, who exploded binaries of identity, and by 1985-87 advocated for domesticating androgyny and black queer sex both in his works and on the pages of Playboy magazine. To those who would not accept him even today, and there are many, the radical better remain hidden at Chez Baldwin.

James Baldwin’s house in France was recently destroyed to make room for luxury condos. What do you think has been lost with that destruction?

The demolition of Chez Baldwin demonstrates yet again the power of capital over human need. The brutal erasure of that house strives to make our collective desire to connect with each other by means of affect and by preserving material places and remnants of lives that matter to us, that we love and want to keep tangible, insignificant. (Think of Rosa Parks’s house in Detroit, which was recently slated for demolition, and was saved only by having been moved to Berlin, where it now thrives as a popular museum.) It also means that there will be no brick-and-mortar museum for this writer, for there are no comparable sites in the US; the demolition makes France look bad, too, given that Baldwin was a recipient of its highest distinction, the Legion of Honor. Baldwin’s wish for his house was that it become a retreat for writers; there were plans and parties, and money, ready to implement his vision. That this did not happen demonstrates astonishing lack of imagination, as well as the sad reality of unequal valuation of legacies that still propels racialized politics of archiving, preservation, and memorialization. Among over seventy writers’ houses open to the public in the US today, there are only two devoted to African Americans. For all the sweat and blood its gestation and birth have taken, I am thrilled that some of Baldwin’s domesticity survives on the pages of my book.

What will happen to Baldwin’s “material archive”—all his belongings from the now-destroyed house? What can we learn from his day-to-day possessions? Is there a particular object that is most special to you?

Thanks to the aforementioned late David Baldwin’s partner, Jill Hutchinson, to whom he entrusted the care of the house he had inherited from James in 1987, most of the contents have been rescued from ending up in the trash when the property was lost. My own painstaking efforts to preserve the Chez Baldwin archive in digital form since 2000 have also opened a way for it to be considered for acquisition by a notable US institution. (I am unable to disclose the details at the moment.) I am returning to St. Paul-de-Vence next July to document a few more artifacts that were given by Baldwin to members of the Roux family; I am also in contact with a new entity there, Les Amis de la Maison-Baldwin, who has been fundraising to host exhibits and maintain a cultural center devoted to the writer.

My favorite artifact is the welcome table from Baldwin’s last room that Hutchinson has preserved at her own house, its surface imprinted with rings left by drinking glasses, scratches, and indentations marking various moments in Baldwin’s life that we will never know. Positively obsessed with making the only material remnants of Baldwin’s domesticity available to a wider audience, I am currently working on a companion project to Me and My House. It will yield a digital exhibit that will serve as a virtual writer’s house-museum for Baldwin in the absence of a brick-and-mortar one. I envisage it as open-access and showcasing the house and its grounds, as much as its contents. Down the road, it will be accompanied by an e-book and include other archival materials that I have amassed over the years; I am looking forward to involving graduate and undergraduate students and enlisting the wisdom of my University of Michigan colleagues in this project. I am currently mired in writing grant proposals and securing funding for it and for my upcoming research trip to Chez Baldwin. Grateful for being cheered on in these efforts by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and by my units at the University of Michigan, Institute for the Humanities, and the Departments of Afroamerican and African Studies and American Culture, I am also looking forward to writing more on Baldwin and collaborating again, I hope, with the marvelous folks at Duke University Press, who have helped me bring Me and My House into the worl

Head to our website where you can read the introduction to Me and My House for free. You can order Me and My House from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or save 30% when you order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E18ZABOR at checkout to save.

New Books in April

 April brings a fresh crop of great new books. Check out what we’re releasing this month.

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In Biblical Porn Jessica Johnson draws on a decade of fieldwork at Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle to show how congregants became entangled in a process of religious conviction through which they embodied Driscoll’s teaching on gender and sexuality in ways that supported the church’s growth.

In Abject Performances Leticia Alvarado explores how Latino artists and cultural producers have developed and deployed an irreverent aesthetics of abjection to resist assimilation and disrupt respectability politics.

Matthew Vitz’s A City on a Lake outlines the environmental history and politics of Mexico City as it transformed its original forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity, showing how the scientific and political disputes over water policy, housing, forestry, and sanitary engineering led to the city’s unequal urbanization and environmental decline.

In Domesticating Democracy Susan Helen Ellison offers an ethnography of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) organizations in El Alto, Bolivia, showing that by helping residents cope with their interpersonal disputes and economic troubles how they change the ways Bolivians interact with the state and global capitalism, making them into self-reliant citizens.

978-0-8223-7081-9.jpgKatherine Verdery’s My Life as a Spy analyzes the 2,781 page surveillance file the Romanian secret police compiled on her during her research trips to Transylvania in the 1970s and 1980s. Reading it led her to question her identity and also revealed how deeply the secret police was embedded in everyday life.

 In Edges of Exposure, following Senegalese toxicologists as they struggle to keep equipment, labs, and projects operating, Noémi Tousignant explores the impact of insufficient investments in scientific capacity in postcolonial Africa.

 

Examining human rights discourse from the French Revolution to the present, in Human Rights and the Care of the Self Alexandre Lefebvre turns common assumptions about human rights—that its main purpose is to enable, protect, and care for those in need—on their heads, showing how the value of human rights lies in its support of ethical self-care.

Gay PrioriLibby Adler’s Gay Priori offers a comprehensive critique of the mainstream LGBT legal agenda in the United States, showing how LGBT equal rights discourse drives legal advocates toward a narrow array of reform objectives that do little to help the lives of the most marginalized members of the LGBT community.

In From the Tricontinental to the Global South Anne Garland Mahler traces the history and intellectual legacy of the understudied global justice movement called the Tricontinental and calls for a revival of the Tricontinental’s politics as a means to strengthen racial justice and anti-neoliberal struggles in the twenty-first-century.

Aimee Bahng’s Migrant Futures traces the cultural production of futurity by juxtaposing the practices of speculative finance against those of speculative fiction, showing how speculative novels, films, and narratives create alternative futures that envision the potential for new political economies, social structures, and subjectivities that exceed the framework of capitalism.

A Primer for Teaching Environmental History, by Emily Wakild and Michelle K. Berry, is a guide for college and high school teachers who are teaching environmental history for the first time, for experienced teachers who want to reinvigorate their courses, for those who are training future teachers to prepare their own syllabi, and for teachers who want to incorporate environmental history into their world history courses. The book is part of a new series, Design Principles for Teaching History.

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