Gender Studies

Ken Wissoker’s Sale Recommendations

Image reads: use code SPRING22, Spring Sale, 50% off all in-stock books and journal issues through May 27
A white man with short, graying dark hair, wearing rectangular glasses, a black and white collared print shirt, and a black jacket.
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Our Spring Sale is rapidly coming to a close. You only have three days to save 50% on in-stock books and journal issues. If you’re still not sure what to purchase, here are Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker’s suggestions.

I don’t need to tell most DUP readers that this moment requires transformative thinking. The pandemic and the racist agenda of the last US administration are not over in the least. Rarely a day goes by where rights and conditions central to our well-being are not under attack. Thank you, SCOTUS. What can we as thinkers, readers, and publishers do to make a difference? I would start my sale recommendations there. I’m thinking about books that will help all of us get through: Sara Ahmed’s Complaint!, Max Liboiron’s Pollution Is Colonialism, Katherine McKittrick’s Dear Science and Other Stories. Tools for thinking differently.

My own thinking has been transformed this spring by Jennifer L. Morgan’s Reckoning with Slavery, which centers Black women in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, giving them agency, not merely footnoted presence. Morgan points a way for historians to restore the power and feelings of those who were of no account in the archives, while putting the numeracy of the slave trade at the core of capitalism.
 
Morgan’s friend and colleague Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu has shown exactly how this can be done, similarly working between disciplines and archives, but across the Pacific rather than the Atlantic. Her book Experiments in Skin won the publishing equivalent of March Madness this year, the Prose awards from the Association of American Publishers. They choose 106 finalists in categories from Mathematics to Philosophy; then 39 category winners, 4 area winners for humanities, social sciences, bio sciences, and physical sciences—and one overall winner, Thuy’s incredible book, which combines a history of imperialism and chemical warfare with that of dermatology and concepts of beauty showing how they all come together in present-day Vietnam.

Cover of Planetary Longings by Mary Louise Pratt. Cover features a brown landscape with a muddy orange river running through it.

Mary Louise Pratt is one of the theorists who made the intellectual and political work of the last decades possible. Her long-awaited Planetary Longings is just out, as is Jonathan Sterne’s Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment, a brilliant and personally driven account of impairment. 
 
The presence and care of a writer’s personal voice feels especially necessary at this moment, given the wearing politics of our time. Rather than being separate from scholarship and theorizing, the voice is central part to it. We see that in Jafari S. Allen’s gorgeous There’s a Discoball Between Us—his account of Black gay male life from the 80s and after and what it owes to Black feminism—and in Kevin Quashie’s similarly inspiring Black Aliveness, or a Poetics of Being. You hear it in La Marr Jurelle Bruce’s stunning How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind and in McKenzie Wark’s pathbreaking Philosophy for Spiders.
 
In this vein, one book I can’t recommend enough is Mercy Romero’s Toward Camden, a memoir and a way of understanding raced geography at once, where the two are inseparable, and written with intense beauty and insight.

Finally, in other political registers, I would strongly recommend Tania Murray Li and Pujo Semedi’s Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone, an analysis of emergent forms of capitalism based on the massive expansion of plantations in the present. You should also check out Vicente Rafael book on Duterte, The Sovereign Trickster; Jodi Kim’s long-awaited and incisive Settler Garrison; and Leslie Bow’s superb Racist Love: Asian Abstraction and the Pleasure of Fantasy.
 
I could easily come up with another list this long (where is Beth Povinelli’s new book or Joshua Clover’s Roadrunner??) so get over to the website and look around yourself. Just do it quickly!

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

Courtney Berger’s Sale Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth Ben-Ghiat Interviews Vicente L. Rafael

On May 9, the Philippines will elect a new President. For those interested in autocracy, it is a dramatic situation. The current illiberal president, Rodrigo Duterte, is not standing for re-election, but his daughter, Sara Duterte, is on the ticket with Bongbong Marcos, the son of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Once a country has an experience with strongman rule, the leader can haunt a nation for decades.

To better understand Duterte—a violent man who engaged in extrajudicial killings—and the stakes of this election, I talked with Vicente L. Rafael, who is Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the author, most recently, of The Sovereign Trickster: Death and Laughter in the Age of Duterte (2022), and Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language Amid Wars of Translation (2016). Our conversation took place on March 5, 2022, and has been edited for clarity and flow.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat (RBG): Why do people support these violent fraudsters? In your book you talk about how the culture of fear that Duterte disseminated was actually part of his charm. Many don’t understand why these extreme figures have such devoted followings.

Vicente Rafael (VR): In the case of the Philippines, there’s a long tradition of authoritarian leaders. And people tend to think that strong male leaders are the best way to deal with the uncertainties of life. Someone like Duterte who comes in and promises to not just solve the crime problem, but basically wipe out criminals, drug dealers and drug users, can be popular.  

Although of course this violence doesn’t solve the problem, but it creates a sense of false security. People feel, well, someone’s in charge, so I don’t have to worry. It’s very common to hear people say, oh, my neighborhood is really safer these days. And when you ask them, what do you think about all these people who got killed? I mean, many of them are your neighbors. And they would say, well, they were warned. They didn’t want to stop dealing or using, so they got what they deserved.

RBG: This is one way that autocrats are different than democratic leaders. Duterte came on my radar when he started talking, as a candidate, about the violence that he would perpetrate if he won the election. And in the US we had Trump warning as a candidate that he could shoot someone and not lose any followers.

VR: Duterte’s political style was really developed and honed while he was Mayor of Davao. He used threats, he hired thugs, like former rebels, and turned his police force into vigilantes. He himself liked to play vigilante. He would get on his motorcycle or borrow a taxi cab and roam around at night. As he said, he was looking for trouble he could fix.

So there was this sense that he was a hands-on mayor who didn’t hesitate to do what was needed without having to go through the bureaucracy or the judicial system. And that was the basis of his popularity. People were afraid, but also impressed that he actually went and did these things. When he became president, he basically nationalized these local practices.

Cover of Sovereign Trickster: Death and Laughter in the Age of Duterte. Cover features a photograph of an alleged drug dealer—and Duterte supporter—arrested after a buy-bust operation in a slum area in Manila on September 28, 2017. The photo is a close-up of the person's handcuffed hands, one of which bears a Duterte writstband.

RBG: Your book discusses Duterte’s brand of machismo. I’m happy to see that because I feel that we don’t take masculinity seriously enough as a tool of authoritarian rule. You capture the complex masculinity of Duterte, and his blend of fragility and brutality.

VR: Duterte talks unabashedly about sexuality, he makes these obscene vulgar jokes about rape, about women. But when you look more closely at his use of misogyny and machismo, you see they are part of complex storytelling devices. He’s a great storyteller, his way of using the vernacular is really quite amazing. It’s one of the ways he connects to people.  

As an example, he might say, oh, gee, they raped the women. And it was so beautiful and I should have been first. I was the mayor. And instead I was sort of left out of the whole thing. People crack up because it’s really about how his authority was obviated. And they can even sympathize with him.

RBG: It’s beyond awful, but it’s effective in terms of him building community and legitimating misogyny and sexual assault.

VR: Another example is a story he used to tell on the campaign trail about being sexually abused by an American Jesuit while he was going to confession. I think he connects with people who might have experienced the same thing. And yet he relates this painful trauma in a humorous fashion, saying, well, I still came out on top. I was abused, but I survived to tell this story.

Duterte also expresses vulnerability when he talks about dying, about how fragile his body is. So he says, I’m going to kill all of you. But he also says, I’m probably going to die tomorrow.

RBG: This sounds nihilistic. Many strongmen have a nihilistic streak.

VR: Yes, there’s a really close relationship between authoritarianism and nihilism. It’s this idea that well, I don’t mind risking the lives of my soldiers and my citizens, because we’re all going to die anyway. Someone’s going to assassinate me sooner or later. Someone’s going to launch a coup against me sooner later. So I’m just going to go all in now.

RBG: That’s great context for Duterte stepping aside from the presidency. How does someone like that fade into the sunset?

VR: Well, physically he’s very tired. I think that’s part of the reason he wants to step down and retire. Yet he’s got this legacy. His mode of governing and the practices he engaged in will continue. His daughter Sara will be there (even though they don’t get along), and if Marcos junior becomes president, he will be surrounded by a lot of Duterte allies and cronies.

Duterte’s also empowered the police to an enormous degree. It’s really the police that run the show. In the Philippines, unlike in the United States, police are nationalized. So it’s really the office of the president that controls the appointment of the chief of police and so forth.

In addition, in the Philippines Congress designates intelligence funds, a massive amount of money, and no one knows what it’s used for, it’s never accounted for. So the economic power, the political power, and of course the military power of the police will continue.

RBG: Isn’t there also some nostalgia for the Marcos era?

VR: Yes, and it comes out of a decade of propaganda, a lot of it on YouTube, about how wonderful martial law was, and how the son will continue what the father did—the attraction of continuity. People who support Duterte will support Marcos Jr. because Sara’s there. In fact, Marcos Jr. himself doesn’t have much of a platform. He always says I’m going to unify the country. Whatever that means.

RBG: Ah, the strongman slogan for one hundred years, still going strong!

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and author of Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present (W.W. Norton & Company). This interview is republished with permission from her Substack newsletter Lucid. Vicente Rafael’s books are available for 50% off with coupon SPRING22 through May 27.

New Books in May

As we approach the end of the semester, kick off your summer reading with some of our great new titles! Here’s what we have coming out in May.

Shannen Dee Williams provides a comprehensive history of Black Catholic nuns in the United States in Subversive Habits, tracing how Black sisters’ struggles were central to the long African American freedom movement.

The contributors to Re-Understanding Media, edited by Sarah Sharma and Rianka Singh, advance a feminist version of Marshall McLuhan’s key text, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, repurposing his insight that “the medium is the message” for feminist ends.

In Queer Companions, Omar Kasmani theorizes the construction of queer social relations at Pakistan’s most important Sufi site by examining the affective and intimate relationship between the site’s pilgrims and its patron saint.

In The Impasse of the Latin American Left, Franck Gaudichaud, Massimo Modonesi, and Jeffery R. Webber explore the Latin American Pink Tide as a political, economic, and cultural phenomenon, showing how it failed to transform the underlying class structures of their societies or challenge the imperial strategies of the United States and China.

In Passionate Work, Renyi Hong theorizes the notion of being “passionate about your work” as an affective project that encourages people to endure economically trying situations like unemployment, job change, repetitive and menial labor, and freelancing.

Allan E. S. Lumba explores how the United States used monetary policy and banking systems to justify racial and class hierarchies, enforce capitalist exploitation, and counter movements for decolonization in the American colonial Philippines in Monetary Authorities.

In The Lives of Jessie Sampter, Sarah Imhoff tells the story of the queer, disabled, Zionist writer Jessie Sampter (1883–1938), whose body and life did not match typical Zionist ideals and serves as an example of the complex relationships between the body, queerness, disability, religion, and nationalism.

Jodi Kim examines how the United States extends its sovereignty across Asia and the Pacific in the post-World War II era through a militarist settler imperialism that is leveraged on debt in Settler Garrison.

In Legal Spectatorship, Kelli Moore traces the political origins of the concept of domestic violence through visual culture in the United States, showing how it is rooted in the archive of slavery.

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Three Questions with Zeynep Korkman & Sherene Razack, Editors of “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism”

Zeynep Korkman and Sherene Razack are editors of “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism,” a new special issue of Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism that traces the global circuits and formations of power through which anti-Muslim racism travels, operates, and shapes local contexts. The full issue is free to read through the end of June; start reading here.

What makes “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism” unique or essential? What does it do that no other collection has done before?

Transnational feminists begin with the idea that gender is not an abstract system but rather one that emerges in and through global capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Attentive not only to the differences in women’s lives but also to the inequalities among women, transnational feminists have long had a preoccupation with global circuits of power. This collection of essays offers insight into how anti-Muslim racism travels along such global circuits. As racism travels and becomes attached to local conflicts, Muslims are installed as a pre-modern, barbaric, racial Other, a racial category that consolidates white supremacy and other civilizational discourses. The collection is the first to discuss how global white supremacy is upheld through anti-Muslim racism.

The transnational feminist analysis that this special issue embraces emphasizes that anti-Muslim racism is a gendered phenomenon. Muslim women are cast as singularly oppressed by Muslim men who in turn are cast as the universal enemy. Meriting extraordinary levels of violence, Muslims are imagined globally as threats to civilization who must be met with force. The global figures of the Muslim as “terrorist,” and the Muslim woman as oppressed and in need of saving, handily obscure the tremendous force that is directed at Muslim communities. Although the discourses of anti-Muslim racism travel globally, there is no singular overbearing structure of oppression. Likewise, Muslims are not any one thing. This special issue attends to the imbrication of the global with the local and to Muslims as complex and dynamically constituted social and political subjects.

What are some topics that readers can expect to find covered in the issue?

Readers of this special issue will be introduced to the interconnections between gendered anti-Muslim legal projects across the globe. In her article Natasha Bakht reveals how there have been attempts to ban Muslim women’s clothing across the globe, bans articulated as about saving Muslim women from the barbarism of their communities even as they impose a host of restrictions and punishments. Muslims meet these challenges in a host of ways. Readers will meet Bengali women who negotiated the transnational spaces opened up by US Cold War–era imperialist ambitions (Shehabuddin), Muslim women in Russia who draw on narratives of religious and cultural histories of strength to resist their racialization in contemporary Russia (Rabinovitch), and pious Pakistani women who draw on narratives of secularism to stake their rights claims (Jamal). The special issue offers a unique look into a revolutionary politics and resistance in the Muslim world through an exploration of the aesthetic practices of Muslim artists (Ali Bhutto) who ask whether a Muslim warrior drag queen can take us to a queer Muslim futurism.

How do you imagine the issue could be used in courses, or as a basis for future scholarship?

“The transnational terrain of anti-Muslim racism demands solidarities across regions.”

The special issue will be of interest to scholars who explore how class, gender, and sexuality are central to formations of racial dominance, how these discourses travel globally, and how to resist. Gender studies scholars will find a nuanced consideration of agency and feminist political organizing. All readers will be able to deepen their knowledge of how race, class, gender, and sexuality interlock in women’s lives, in national discourses, and in imperial and colonial systems.

The enduring contribution of the issue is the message that the transnational terrain of anti-Muslim racism demands solidarities across regions. As feminists, we must learn and unlearn as we trace the investments we each bring to a transnational feminist politics. Our scholarship has to bear the weight of these critical reflections on our own praxis.

New Books in March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Erica Rand on Racialized Gender in Figure Skating at the Winter Olympics

Today at the Beijing Olympics the U.S. figure skating Pairs team of Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc made sports history. The most widely publicized, broadly accessible aspect of that history is that LeDuc competes as the first openly nonbinary athlete in the Winter Olympics. For figure-skating fans and practitioners, other aspects of the team’s gender identities and presentation may stand out.  Cain-Gribble, competing as female at 5’6”, does not fit typical gender norms for the sport either. Together, the two explain, they reject common narrative themes of rescue and romance. Tomorrow they skate a long program called “Two Pillars of Strength,” an intentional message toward gender equality.

Some things are changing for the better. Others, not so much. The Olympics remains a shitshow of violence, repression, and harm  from preparation through aftermath, broadly but differentially inflicted on living creatures and their environments—which is not new even if the venue is Beijing rather than Toronto, or just because NBC has decided to cover a fraction of it. Racialized gendering continues to abound. I raged on this blog in 2014 about US Figure Skating (USFS) leaving Mirai Nagasu off the Olympic team. Today I’m raging about Higuchi Wakaba of Japan being grossly undermarked on her short program a few days ago, and about the commentating on yesterday’s long program by Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. Weir praised white U.S. skater Mariah Bell’s “class” and “elegance,” and called her the skater “everyone can imagine being,” even though it was Bell’s Asian American teammate Alysa Liu who Lipinski described as the one revolutionizing the sport for future generations. As I write in The Small Book of Hip Checks—regarding the censure of Black U.S. figure skater Debi Thomas, 1988 Olympic Bronze medalist, and tennis star Serena Williams—those racialized gender ideals have long history and enduring effects. How racially inequitable standards have been applied across Olympics this year to Sha’Carri Richardson and Kamila Valieva needs another post or twelve.

Then there is skating for those of us who don’t have Olympic aims, which, of course, is just about everyone who puts skates on. Since 2019, as I detail in Global Sports Matters, I have been part of a non-traditionally gendered pairs partnership myself. My partner Anna Kellar and I are two white queer skaters: I am a cis woman and Anna is trans nonbinary. Having learned a throw jump, connected spirals, a pairs spin, and a lot about moving together on the ice, we are one trick away—the pairs lift!—from trying to test and compete. Yet while US Figure Skating USFS doesn’t specify by gender who can be a pair, and while people can now join the organization in a gender category called “undeclared,” (USFS) requires testing in male/female units and competing against pairs with the same gender make-up.

It’s great to see USFS “stand with our LGBTQ+ members,” when LeDuc encountered hostility. That doesn’t help us participate. The organization can learn a lot from Skate Canada which has been discarding many gender restrictions, not only for pairing, that USFS holds intact. For example, the 2022 USFS rule book still requires people competing in the “men’s’ category or as the delegated “man” of a pairs or dance team to wear “full-length trousers.” Yes, really.

That’s changing a bit, too. Cain-Gribble and LeDuc create their “two pillars of strength” partly through costume: both wear one-piece form-fitting pants-based garments reminiscent of the unitard that garnered so much hostility against Debi Thomas, leading to a ban on women wearing pants, specifically including unitards, that lasted until the 2000s. The fact that LeDuc isn’t being docked for wearing a skin-tight leg covering is new. For Cain-Gribble, a non-skirt remains an unusual choice sometimes considered too risky, although less so for white women, who have more access to the ideals of aristocratic whiteness that make Bell, as Lipinski put it approvingly, the “quintessential skater in the snow globe.”

Still, I’m heartened by the growing movement to bust open our sport, and I’m hoping to write a different blog post in 2026.

Erica Rand is Professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Gender and Sexuality Studies at Bates College. She is the author of Red Nails, Black Skates, in which she describes becoming a competitive figure skater in her forties, and The Small Book of Hip Checks: On Queer Gender, Race, and Writing.

The Most Read Articles of 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Books in October

Couplets_coverOur October releases are not to be missed!

Couplets: Travels in Speculative Pragmatism is a collection of twenty-four essential essays written by Brian Massumi over the past thirty years and is both a primer for those new to his work and a supplemental resource for those already engaged with his thought.

A new twentieth anniversary edition of Brian Massumi’s pioneering and highly influential Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation includes a significant new preface that situates the book in relation to developments since its first publication and outlines the evolution of its main concepts.

McHenry_coverIn To Make Negro Literature: Writing, Literary Practice, and African American Authorship Elizabeth McHenry locates a hidden chapter in the history of Black literature at the turn of the twentieth century, revising concepts of Black authorship and offering a fresh account of the development of “Negro literature” focused on the never published, the barely read, and the unconventional.

Celeste Day Moore’s Soundscapes of Liberation: African American Music in Postwar France turns to African American music and its popularization in post-war France, showing how various genres (from gospel and spirituals to blues and jazz) accrued new meanings and political power as it traveled globally.

In Moving Home: Gender, Place, and Travel Writing in the Early Black Atlantic, Sandra Gunning complicates understandings of the Black Atlantic through an exploration of 19th-century travel writing. Analyzing accounts from missionaries, abolitionists, entrepreneurs, and explorers, Gunning sheds light on African diasporic mobility even amidst the constraints of imperialism.

Saturation_cover

Saturation: An Elemental Politics, a collection edited by Melody Jue and Rafico Ruiz, brings a scientific concept to media studies, showing how elements in the natural world affect and are affected by human culture and politics.

In Atmospheres of Violence: Structuring Antagonism and the Trans/Queer Ungovernable, Eric A. Stanley casts doubt on liberal, State-driven bids for “inclusion” and “recognition” for LGBTQ folks, which, they argue, have done nothing to diminish violence against trans, queer and/or gender-nonconforming people of color. Stanley calls for abolitionist forms of organizing to achieve a better future.

Rana M. Jaleel’s The Work of Rape links international law’s redefinition of mass rape as a crime against humanity to the expansion of US imperialism and its effacement of racialized violence and dispossession.

In The Deconstruction of Sex, Irving Goh conducts a series of conversations with the late philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, in which they deconstruct sex in the age of #MeToo, searching for the “senses of sex” and advocating for a critical awareness of the role sex plays in our relationships with ourselves and others.

New Books in September

Start off the semester strong by perusing our new September releases!

Drawing on oral and written testimonies from academics and students who have made complaints about harassment, bullying, and unequal working conditions at universities, Sara Ahmed examines what we can learn about power from those who complain about abuses of power in Complaint! Angela Y. Davis says, “Complaint! is precisely the text we need at this moment as we seek to understand and transform the institutional structures promoting racism and heteropatriarchy.”

Mark Rifkin examines nineteenth-century Native writings by William Apess, Elias Boudinot, Sarah Winnemucca, and and Zitkala-Ša to rethink and reframe contemporary debates around recognition, refusal, and resurgence for Indigenous peoples in Speaking for the People: Native Writing and the Question of Political Form.

In The Nature of Space, pioneering Afro-Brazilian geographer Milton Santos attends to globalization writ large and how local and global orders intersect in the construction of space.

In Hawaiʻi is my Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific, Nitasha Tamar Sharma maps the context and contours of Black life in Hawaiʻi, showing how despite the presence of anti-Black racism, the state’s Black residents consider it to be their haven from racism.

The contributors to Assembly Codes: The Logistics of Media, edited by Matthew Hockenberry, Nicole Starosielski, and Susan Zieger, document how media and logistics—the techniques of organizing and coordinating the movement of materials, bodies, and information—are co-constitutive and key to the circulation of information and culture.

In Philosophy for Spiders: On the Low Theory of Kathy Acker, McKenzie Wark combines an autobiographical account of her relationship with Kathy Acker with her transgender reading of Acker’s writing to outline Acker’s philosophy of embodiment and its importance for theorizing the trans experience.

In A Mass Conspiracy to Feed People: Food Not Bombs and the World-Class Waste of Global Cities David Boarder Giles traces the work of Food Not Bombs—a global movement of grassroots soup kitchens that recover wasted grocery surpluses and redistribute them to those in need—to examine the relationship between waste and scarcity in global cities under late capitalism and the fight for food justice

Patricia Stuelke traces the hidden history of the reparative turn, showing how it emerged out of the failed struggle against US empire and neoliberal capitalism in the 1970s and 1980s and unintentionally supported new forms of neoliberal and imperial governance in The Ruse of Repair: US Neoliberal Empire and the Turn from Critique.

Michael K. Bourdaghs, in A Fictional Commons: Natsume Sōseki and the Properties of Modern Literature, presents a radical reframing of the works of Natsume Sōseki—widely considered to be Japan’s greatest modern novelist—as critical and creative responses to the emergence of new forms of property ownership in nineteenth-century Japan.

The contributors to Embodying Black Religions in Africa and Its Diasporas, edited by Yolanda Covington-Ward and Jeanette S. Jouili, investigate the complex intersections between the body, religious expression, and the construction and negotiation of social relationships and collective identities throughout the Black diaspora.

Sarah Jane Cervenak traces how Black artists and writers who create alternative spaces for Black people to gather free from those Enlightenment philosophies that presume Black people and land as given to enclosure and ownership in Black Gathering: Art, Ecology, Ungiven Life.

The exhibition catalog to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse, by curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, chronicles the pervasive visual and sonic parallels in the work of Black artists from the southern United States.

Andil Gosine revises understandings of queer desire in the Caribbean in Nature’s Wild, Love, Sex and the Law in the Caribbean, showing how the very concept of homosexuality in the Caribbean (and in the Americas more broadly) has been overdetermined by a colonially-influenced human/animal divide.

In Between Gaia and Ground: Four Axioms of Existence and the Ancestral Catastrophe of Late Liberalism, Elizabeth A. Povinelli theorizes how legacies of colonial violence and the ways dispossession and extraction that destroyed indigenous and colonized peoples’ lives now poses an existential threat to the West.

In Roadrunner, cultural theorist and poet Joshua Clover examines Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ 1972 song “Roadrunner,” charting its place in rock & roll history and American culture.

Drawing on close readings of 1960s American art, Jason A. Hoelscher offers an information theory of art and an aesthetic theory of information in which he shows how art operates as information wherein art’s meaning cannot be determined in Art as Information Ecology: Artworks, Artworlds, and Complex Systems Aesthetics.