History

Q&A with William Craft Brumfield

Brumfield with BookWilliam Craft Brumfield is Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University. Brumfield, who began photographing Russia in 1970, is the foremost authority in the West on Russian architecture. He is the author, editor, and photographer of numerous books, including Architecture at the End of the Earth: Photographing the Russian North and Lost Russia: Photographing the Ruins of Russian Architecture, both also published by Duke University Press. In 2019 he was awarded the Russian state Order of Friendship medal—the highest decoration of the Russian Federation given to foreign nationals—for his study and promotion of Russia’s cultural legacy. Brumfield’s photographs of Russian architecture have been exhibited at numerous galleries and museums and are part of the Image Collections at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. In this Q&A, he discusses his new book Journeys through the Russian Empire: The Photographic Legacy of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, a lavishly illustrated volume featuring hundreds of full-color images of Russian architecture and landscapes taken by early-twentieth-century photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky juxtaposed against those of his own.

Tell us about Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky and why he embarked on his photographic journeys.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky was born in 1863 on his family’s estate in central Russia. As a member of the middle nobility, he received a good education with emphasis on technical subjects. Study in Germany and France deepened his research in chemistry, optics and color theory with the goal of creating a camera for color images. Taking a prototype developed by the German chemist Adolf Miethe, Prokudin-Gorsky devised a reliable, if cumbersome, camera.

978-1-4780-0602-2Yet Prokudin-Gorsky did not stop with the invention, which he saw as the means to an end. He conceived a grand project that would apply the technology to photographic documentation of the Russian Empire in its vast diversity. During the decade before World War I he engaged in a blur of activity in the sphere of professional photography, primarily in St. Petersburg.

For posterity, however, the main legacy was his documentary campaigns that extended from the Caucasus to Central Asia to the White Sea. Between 1903 and 1916 he traveled over a dauntingly large part of the Russian Empire and took some 3,000 photographs with the process, which involved three exposures on a glass plate. 1909 was a particularly significant year for his work. In May Tsar Nicholas II invited the photographer to the imperial residence at Tsarskoe Selo to show his images of Russia through an elaborate projector. Following this presentation, Prokudin-Gorsky gained the support of the imperial court to continue his travels. The august patronage accelerated the pace of the photographer’s work, which received essential logistical support from the Ministry of Transportation.

We can assume that Prokudin-Gorsky believed in the Russian Empire as a force for enlightenment and technical progress. At the same time, he could not have been unaware of fundamental threats to the empire’s stability, including the 1905 revolution. I explore this ambivalence in the book’s concluding essay, “Over the Abyss”. After the revolutions of 1917, Prokudin-Gorsky seems to have accommodated himself to the new Soviet regime, but with the assassination of Nicholas and his family in July 1918, the photographer left Russia the following month, never to return. (Shockingly, one of his Yekaterinburg photographs includes the house in whose basement the murders occurred.) He ultimately resettled in France and regained a large part of his collection of glass negatives. Following his death in Paris in September 1944, his heirs sold the collection to the Library of Congress in 1948.

What is special and unusual about Prokudin-Gorsky’s photographic techniques?

The exposure process required an elongated, chemically treated glass plate that dropped in three steps past a lens. Different color filters were placed in front of the lens for each of the three exposures. It was something of a Rube Goldberg device, but when the three exposures were combined (through a projector or in the lab), the process produced images of remarkable quality. The lens and the process had their inherent limitations, but Prokudin-Gorsky’s mastery transcended them.

Why do you think Prokudin-Gorsky’s work resonates so much with Russians today?

Many reasons. Pride that yet another Russian proved such an adept inventor. Then there is the fascination with the sheer unexpected beauty of the images. Most importantly, perhaps, his work allows them to reconnect on so many levels with their heritage, and especially with a vision of that heritage before the cataclysms of the 1917 revolutions, a massively destructive civil war and the upheavals that followed in Soviet history during the 20th century. The photographs allow them to reconnect with a profoundly important part of their identity. There is a great thirst among many Russians of whatever generation to regain a sense of cultural and historical connectedness. When the Prokudin-Gorsky collection was made available online by the Library of Congress, a floodgate of emotion and interest was opened. These pre-revolutionary images suggest something indelibly Russian that has persisted notwithstanding the cataclysms of the 20th century. To be sure, this reconnection is not a simple matter I discuss some of the ambiguities in the introductory essay, and I return to them in the conclusion.

What inspired you to juxtapose your own photographs with Prokudin-Gorsky’s? 

Actually, the project was an unexpected gift, a commission from the Library of Congress in 1985. Before then I had only a vague impression of his work; but after the appearance in October 1984 of my first book, Gold in Azure: One Thousand Years of Russian Architecture, word got around Washington that I had traveled widely in Russia and knew something about photography. One thing led to another, and in the summer of 1985 I was invited by the Library of Congress to curate the first exhibit devoted to Prokudin-Gorsky’s work. That exhibit opened at the Library in 1986, and subsequently traveled to museums around the country. From the first moments of work with his collection, I was astounded by the discovery that I had covered much of the same territory, including the fabled Central Asian cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. My mantra became, “I too have seen this.”

What challenges did you encounter while photographing these Russian landmarks?

 A thorough answer to this question would require a separate book. There have been so many improbable journeys during the half-century range of my work in the former Soviet Union and in Russia specifically—for example, my trip to Uzbekistan as a graduate student in May 1972. This greatest possible treasure was part of a final trip arranged at the end of the academic year by the Foreign Section of Leningrad State University. The itinerary, unimaginable today, included the astounding monuments of Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan, the three Caucasus republics, and the Ukrainian port of Odessa. I was the only American who joined the small group. Most of my compatriots were energetically completing archival research, microfilming, and additional scholarly duties. I, however, was giddy at the prospect of going to Central Asia. To this day I do not understand how anyone with an ounce of curiosity about the planet could not have gone.

samarkand

Gur Emir (Timurid mausoleum). West
view after thunderstorm. Brumfield, May 16, 1972.

For all the rigors of traveling on our risible budget, the trip proved from a photographic point of view to be one of the most rewarding in my life. Imagine my astonishment in the summer of 1985 when I opened the Prokudin-Gorsky albums of contact prints at the Library of Congress and saw his photographs of Samarkand and Bukhara taken some six decades before my own. I witnessed those architectural monuments in much the same state as he did at the beginning of the 20th century. With the appearance of Journeys, those 1972 photographs of Samarkand and Bukhara—a very different culture from the one I usually study—will finally reach the public.

Another challenging area in my photographic work was the Russian North, historically defined as the area around the White Sea, Here again, my documentary campaigns overlapped with the journeys of Prokudin-Gorsky almost a century earlier, including his final Russian journey in 1916 (the subject of Chapter Eight). Especially rich in wooden architecture, the North could be a difficult environment for photographic work, not only because of the distances over poor roads, but also due to the climate variations. The summer in that Arctic region has its own lyrical beauty (together with swarms of blood-thirsty mosquitoes), yet the extremes of winter yielded some of the most distinctive photographs. Days of trudging with cameras through snow in intense cold were followed with evenings near the crackling heat of wood-burning brick stoves. And there were  a few convivial toasts.

At the same time, during the late 1990s, I embarked on what in was in geographical terms by far the largest expansion of my regional field work. The vehicle for this expansion, which would ultimately take me through the Urals and Siberia to Russia’s Far Eastern port of Vladivostok, was an Internet project titled “Meeting of Frontiers,” initiated by James Billington, the librarian of Congress, with the support of the US Congress and major libraries of the Russian Federation. The project’s basic premise consisted of many parallels between the transcontinental destinies of the United States and Russia: the Russians move east, the Americans move west; they come into contact (occasionally violent and exploitative) with aboriginal peoples; they build railroads; and they create narratives—with substantial elements of myth—about their respective Pacific destinies.

In 1998, Billington asked me as a photographer and a specialist in Russian architecture to create a photographic component that would illustrate and illuminate this epic movement as reflected in the architecture of settlements along the way east. My relations with the library had always been productive and included my work in 1985–86 as guest curator for the first traveling exhibit of the photographs of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. I was, therefore, convinced of the program’s potential and its impact on my field work.

Between 1999 and 2002, I made five trips over territory that extended from the European approaches to the Ural Mountains to Vladivostok, at the southeastern tip of Russia. Each trip brought extraordinary gains in my knowledge of Russia, and each made exhaustive demands on my endurance. I should add that during my travels in Siberia, as in the Russian North, I was often met with a degree of generous hospitality that threatened to overwhelm my work. Not coincidentally, “Meeting of Frontiers” allowed me to expand my earlier Prokudin-Gorsky work at the Library by visiting the areas that he photographed in the Urals and Western Siberia.

belozersk

Children with Church of Saint Paraskeva in background.
Prokudin-Gorsky 21067. Summer 1909.

Do you have a favorite photograph by Prokudin-Gorsky?

It is difficult to choose one, because they are so varied and so rich. Favorite in what sense? In what category? I specialize in Russia’s architectural heritage, which is so vividly presented in his work. Yet the photograph that haunts my memory is the one with children sitting on a levee in Belozersk. They are squinting in the late afternoon sun. Behind them is the dome of the Church of St. Paraskeva, ruined during the Soviet period (as my corresponding photograph shows), His photograph was taken in 1909, and I could not help but wonder what happened to those children in the following decades, decades that brought such unending trials to Russia.

Read the introduction to Journeys through the Russian Empire free online and save 30% on the book with coupon code E20BRMFL.

New Books in July

We are now mid-way through the summer, and it’s not too late to stock up on books to add to your summer reading list. Check out these brand new titles coming out in July!

978-1-4780-0602-2Journeys through the Russian Empire is a lavishly illustrated volume that features hundreds of full-color images of Russian architecture and landscapes taken by early-twentieth-century photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky and juxtaposed against those of contemporary photographer and scholar William Craft Brumfield. Together their images document Russia’s architectural, artistic, and cultural heritage. This one will look gorgeous on your coffee table!

The contributors to Paper Trails, edited by Sarah B. Horton and Josiah Heyman, examine migrants’ relationship to the state through requirements to obtain identification documents in order to get legal status.

978-1-4780-0954-2Written for humanities graduate students and the faculty they study with, Katina L. Rogers’s Putting the Humanities PhD to Work grounds practical career advice in a nuanced consideration of how graduate training can lead to meaningful and significant careers beyond the academy.

In Keith Haring’s Line, Ricardo Montez traces the drawn and painted line that was at the center of Keith Haring’s artistic practice, engaging with Haring’s messy relationships to race-making and racial imaginaries.

In ¡Presente!, Diana Taylor offers the theory of presente as a model of standing by and with victims of structural and endemic violence by being physically and politically present in situations where it seems that nothing can be done.

978-1-4780-0945-0Drawing  on numerous interviews with artists, dealers, and curators, in Latinx Art Arlene Dávila explores how and why the contemporary international art market continues to overlook, devalue, and marginalize Latinx art and artists.

In The Wombs of Women, Françoise Vergès examines the scandal of white doctors forcefully terminating the pregnancies of thousands of poor women of color on the French island of Réunion during the 1960s, showing how they resulted from the legacies of the racialized violence of slavery and colonialism.

In Embodying Relation, Allison Moore examines the tensions between the local and the global in the art photography movement that blossomed in Bamako, Mali, in the 1990s, showing contemporary Malian photography to be a rich example of Western notions of art meeting traditional cultural precepts to forge new artistic forms, practices, and communities.

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Revisiting Written in Stone, A Guest Post by Sanford Levinson

svl55-largeSanford Levinson holds the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School. In today’s guest post he writes about how his 1998 book Written in Stone continues to be relevant but in constant need of updating. We published a 20th Anniversary Edition in 2018. Through August 31, 2020 we are offering a 40% discount on the book with coupon code STONE40. We hope you’ll consider adding it to your reading list or syllabus.

This fall, for the third time, I will be teaching a “reading course” at the Harvard Law School on “Monuments and Memorialization.” Needless to say, among the readings is my Duke University Press book Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies. Originally published in 1998, the Press published a second edition in 2018, with what turned out to be a new afterword of some 20,000 words, together with a new cover—a picture of Robert E. Lee’s statue being removed from Lee Circle in New Orleans—and a variety of other new photographs of controversial monuments. When the second edition was initially planned in 2016, the thought was that I would write a new afterword of about 5,000 words and that the new edition would be published in early 2018 (at the latest). As John Lennon famously sang, though, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Among the things that happened between initial plan and publication in September 2015 was the massacre in Charleston, the 2016 March in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the ensuing taking down of many monuments, particularly in the states of the Confederacy. And, of course, at the present time the entire country is experiencing the aftermath of the murder by a Minneapolis police officer of George Floyd in Minneapolis, including the renewed attention on monuments (and building names) across the country. For example, Lake Calhoun, in Minneapolis, named after John C. Calhoun, the leading defender of the slavocracy in his long career in American politics, was renamed, though not without controversy, Bde Maka Ska, described by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “its original Dakota name.

Written in StoneGiven events in Minneapolis; Richmond, Virginia; Bristol, England; and Brussels, Belgium, to name only and handful of recent locales where monuments have come down or places renamed, friends have encouraged me to prepare a third edition of Written in Stone. There is a good reason for not doing so at the present time: Such an edition, at least at this time, would have to be published in a loose-leaf version! As I prepare my syllabus for the course this fall, I find myself revising it almost literally every day, as new actions are undertaken and arguments presented. Just this week, toward the end of June, 2020, for example, it appears very likely that Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, will drop Robert E. Lee’s name, though, no doubt, some students, both African-American and white, might at least wonder why the slaveowning George Washington deserves continued honor.

And Princeton University, after deciding in 2018 to retain Woodrow Wilson’s name for its eminent School of Public Affairs, announced that it would drop it. Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post explaining his own change of mind. Eisgruber took note of “Wilson’s genuine achievements,” not to mention his centrality to the development of Princeton because of his service as one of Eisgruber’s predecessors. Wilson, therefore, “is a far different figure than John C. Calhoun or Robert E. Lee, people whose pro-slavery commitments defined their careers and who were sometimes honored for the purpose of supporting segregation or racism. Princeton honored Wilson without regard to, and perhaps even in ignorance of, his racism.” Eisgruber now believes that “ignorance” was “precisely the problem. Princeton is part of an America that has too often disregarded, ignored and turned a blind eye to racism, allowing the persistence of systems that discriminate against black people….”  There is nothing innocent about naming programs or buildings. “When a university names its public policy school for a political leader, it inevitably offers the honoree as a role model for its students. However grand some of Wilson’s achievements may have been, his racism disqualifies him from that role.” It is no longer possible to “disregard or ignore racism when deciding whom we hold up to our students as heroes or role models…. Our commitment to eliminate racism must be unequivocal, and that is why we removed the name of Princeton’s modern-day founder from its School of Public and International Affairs.”

Fortunately, Written in Stone, especially in its expanded second edition, pays extended attention to a number of analyses of policies about monuments that were prepared at a variety of universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, and the University of Texas, as well as by a special committee appointed by the Mayor of New York. I also treat at length an absolutely remarkable speech by former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu explaining his decision to remove a number of Confederate statues from the city’s public space, including the aforementioned one of Robert E. Lee.

At the present time, there are two central issues at the forefront of the controversy over monuments and memorialization. First, who exactly deserves the kind of public honor that is conveyed, say, by a statue in front of a major public building? In New York City, for example, a statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the New York Museum of Natural History that was explicitly considered by the Mayor’s Committee, which recommended against removing it, has now been slated for removal because it demeans African- and Native-Americans in placing them in a decidedly subordinate position to Roosevelt atop his horse. Many statues of Christopher Columbus are being removed, not to mention, of course, the myriad of statues honoring those who took up arms against the United States in 1861-65 and vigorously advocated the maintenance of white supremacy (including lynchings) thereafter. Some of these examples seem quite easy to resolve. Others, as with Roosevelt, Columbus, or Woodrow Wilson, appear considerably more difficult.

But, especially to a lawyer like myself, a second important issue involves the process by which decisions to remove (or maintain) statues or to rename buildings or, as in Minnesota, lakes, should be made. Even if one heartily approves, for example, of attempts to remove the slaveowning and anti-Native American Andrew Jackson’s statue from Lafayette Park, in Washington, one can, at the same time, be disturbed if that decision, in effect, is made by demonstrators (or, as some people might describe them, a “mob”). It is not simply that a structured process would give people an opportunity to make a variety of conflicting arguments, with the final decision made by bodies ranging from a city council to the voters in a local referendum; rather, it is almost certainly also the case that the losers who might lament the demotion of their own “heroes” from the public square might at least feel somewhat mollified if they felt they had a fair opportunity to make their arguments and they lost “fair and square.”

New Books in June

Summer is just around the corner. As this new season begins, we’re releasing some exciting titles in history, art, anthropology, and more. Check out these brand new books arriving in June!

A Primer for Teaching Pacific Histories is a guide for college and high school teachers who are teaching Pacific histories for the first time or for experienced teachers who want to reinvigorate their courses. It can also serve those who are training future teachers to prepare their own syllabi, as well as teachers who want to incorporate Pacific histories into their world history courses.

In Disordering the Establishment, Lily Woodruff examines the development of artistic strategies of political resistance in France in the decades following World War II, showing how artists countered establishment ideology, challenged traditional art institutions, appealed to direct political engagement, and grappled with French intellectuals’ modeling of society.

Pointing out that presumptions of solidarity, antagonism, or incommensurability between Black and Native communities are insufficient to understand the relationships between both groups, the scholars, artists, and activists contributing to Otherwise Worlds investigate the complex relationships between settler colonialism and anti-Blackness to explore the political possibilities that emerge from such inquiries. This volume is edited by Tiffany Lethabo King, Jenell Navarro, and Andrea Smith.

In Trafficking, Hector Amaya examines how the dramatic escalation of drug violence in Mexico in 2008 transformed how people discussed violence and the rules of participation in the public sphere.

Sa’ed Atshan and Katharina Galor draw on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in The Moral Triangle to explore the asymmetric relationships between Germans and Israeli and Palestinian immigrants in the context of official German policies, public discourse, and the impact of coming to terms with the past. You can watch Assistant Editor Sandra Korn interview Atshan and Galor here.

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New Titles in Women’s and Gender Studies

We regret that in the ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we will be unable to meet with you during the Berkshire Conference of Women, Genders, and Sexualities, which has been cancelled. Check out the virtual conference to listen to pre-recorded plenaries.

We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new books at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to extend a 30% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues. Use coupon code BERKS20 to save 30% when ordering online. Journal subscriptions and society memberships don’t qualify for the 30% discount.

Check out some of the exciting titles we would have featured in our booth at the Berks. 

In I Never Left Home, poet and revolutionary Margaret Randall tells the moving, captivating, and astonishing story of her life, from her childhood in New York to joining the Sandanista movement in Nicaragua, from escaping political repression in Mexico to raising a family and teaching college. Watch a video of Margaret Randall discussing her memoir here.

In Second World, Second Sex, Kristen Ghodsee recuperates the lost history of feminist activism from the so-called Second World, showing how women from state socialist Bulgaria and socialist-leaning Zambia created networks and alliances that challenged American women’s leadership of the global women’s movement. Listen to an interview with Kristen Ghodsee here.

Jennifer C. Nash reframes black feminism’s engagement with intersectionality in Black Feminism Reimagined, contending that black feminists should let go of their possession and policing of the concept in order to better unleash black feminist theory’s visionary and world-making possibilities. Read an interview with Jennifer Nash here

Lynn M. Thomas constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond in Beneath the Surface, theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies. Watch an interview with Lynn Thomas on South African TV here.

From The Guiding Light to Passions, Elana Levine traces the history of daytime television soap operas as an innovative and highly gendered mass cultural form in Her Stories. Read an interview with Elana Levine in Jezebel here.

In Mafalda, Isabella Cosse examines the history, political commentary, and influence of the world-famous comic character Mafalda from her Argentine origins in 1964 to her global reach in the 1990s. Recently, the Argentinan goverment has been using Mafalda to educate citizens about wearing face masks during the pandemic. Read Cosse’s blog post on the campaign here.

The contributors to Spirit on the Move examine Pentecostalism’s appeal to black women worldwide and the ways it provides them with a source of community, access to power, and way to challenge social inequalities. This volume is edited by Judith Casselberry and Elizabeth A. Pritchard.

Ana María Reyes examines how the polarizing art of Beatriz González disrupted Cold War aesthetic discourses and the politics of class and modernization in 1960s Colombia in The Politics of Taste.

In Vexy Thing, Imani Perry recenters patriarchy to contemporary discussions of feminism through a social and literary analysis of cultural artifacts—ranging from nineteenth-century slavery court cases and historical vignettes to literature and contemporary art—from the Enlightenment to the present. Read an interview with Imani Perry here.

If you were hoping to connect with one of our editors about your book project at the Berks, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our submissions guidelines here. We are now accepting submissions online!

Our journal issues in women’s and gender studies are also included in our 30%-off sale.

In “(En)gendering: Chinese Women’s Art in the Making,” new from positions, contributors—including artists, art historians, critics, and curators—consider how the work of contemporary women artists has generated new approaches to and perspectives on the Chinese art canon.

Radical Transnationalism: Reimagining Solidarities, Violence, Empires,” an issue of Meridians, looks at the expansive domains of transnational feminism, considering its relationship to different regions, historical periods, fields, and methodologies.

As you prepare for your fall classes, be they virtual or in-person, we invite you to check out our Feminist Politics and Women’s Rights syllabus and our Revisiting Queer Studies syllabus. Both feature journal articles that are freely available until September 30, 2020 as well as suggested books you might want to teach. 

Once again, we’re sorry to miss you in person but hope the 30% discount will make it possible for you to pick up some new books and journal issues. Use coupon BERKS20 at checkout.

Always a Poster Girl for Just Causes, Mafalda Now Takes on COVID-19: A Guest Post by Isabella Cosse

Today’s guest post is by Isabella Cosse, an independent researcher for the National Science and Technology Research Council and the University of Buenos Aires. She is the author of numerous books, including Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta and her new book, Mafalda: A Social and Political History of Latin America’s Global Comic. In Mafalda, Cosse examines the history, political commentary, and influence of the world-famous comic character Mafalda from her Argentine origins in 1964 to her global reach in the 1990s.

In Argentina, the government took drastic measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic early on. Despite an acute economic crisis, on March 19 the government decreed a mandatory nation-wide lock-down. The aim was to prepare the healthcare system while slowing down the spread of the virus. A month and a half later, with the national death toll at less than 300, there seems to be no doubt that this was the right strategy, especially when compared to the terrible situation faced by other countries where the government failed to take action in time.

That does not mean things have not been hard in Argentina. Nor that what lies ahead will be easy. The most vulnerable sectors of society are struggling just to cover their basic food needs, even with the aid provided by the government. Winter is only weeks away and when it finally arrives it will aggravate the situation. Wage-earners with a steady job and middle-class independent workers have also been hit by the effects of the pandemic, as they face a shrinking labor market and dwindling salaries in a context of mounting inflation. Tension and uncertainty dwell in every household. Conflicts and anxieties simmer just below the surface, ready to erupt at any moment.

As a way of dealing with the situation, people have taken to social media like never before. News on the virus and its effects naturally spread like wildfire, but so do memes and jokes. As in other crises, humor in its various forms makes it easier for us to navigate these hard times. It allows us to laugh at the tensions that we face on a daily basis, serving as a relief valve. As Freud said, humor acts on our emotional state, enabling us to look at something unpleasant and even painful through the lens of laughter, thus displacing unmanageable feelings of distress. It therefore helps process conflict, functioning as an effective coping mechanism.

A few days ago, it became mandatory for Argentines to wear face masks when leaving the house. This marked a new stage in the quarantine. Seeing people walking briskly down the street, with their faces covered up and carefully avoiding each other certainly presents a disheartening picture. In that grim context, Mafalda—Latin America’s most famous cartoon character—made the news. The people of Buenos Aires woke up one morning to find that the much-loved statue of this iconic character was sporting its own homemade face mask. An anonymous fan—one of the many among the legions of readers that the comic strip has garnered in its almost sixty years of existence—had decided that Mafalda had to make a statement in this new global crisis. And not just Mafalda, but her friends Susanita and Manolito as well, who flank her sides at a prudent distance, as if mindful of the current social distancing guidelines.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. In fact, since the very beginning, Mafalda has helped to channel the dilemmas faced by the comic strip’s readers. This wise-beyond-her-years little girl emerged as an expression of the antiestablishment generations of the sixties, reflecting on the changes that were shaking the foundations of social and family life at the time and speaking out against the many injustices in the world. And she did it with a witty and endearing humor.

Despite the character’s obvious social commitment and the fact that her readers have had no qualms about appropriating her as a symbol of what they consider a just cause, her creator, Joaquín Salvador Lavado (or Quino, as he is more widely known), has only very rarely given permission to use her in public campaigns. This, however, is one of those rare occasions. Mafalda now leads a group of popular cartoons featured in an awareness-raising effort launched by the government that also seeks to encourage Argentines and help them withstand the lockdown, just as it faces insistent calls from the opposition to lift the strict quarantine measures.

In the current crisis it is not surprising that Quino could be persuaded to lend his famous character for this effort. The historical moment we are living is one of great global uncertainty. But even if some suffer more than others, it is undeniable that the entire planet is afflicted. In the image chosen for the campaign, we see Mafalda caring for a bandaged globe as if it were a sick child. That strip, which was originally drawn as a reflection on the problems of humanity, now expresses the current state of the world almost literally. As in the past, this crisis—the ways to face it and the effects it has—entails political disputes on a transnational scale, and humor can not only help relieve our anxieties, it can also contribute to shape a common identity, one that takes on the responsibility of caring for the world and all its inhabitants.

Mafalda, and all in-stock Duke University Press titles, are available for 50% off during our Spring Sale with coupon SPRING50.

New Titles in Latin American Studies

SPRING50_SaleApril20_Blog_ExtendedMay25

Our editors look forward to meeting their authors at conferences every year and are sad to be missing out on that this spring. The annual meeting of the Latin American Studies Association would have taken place May 13-16 in Guadalajara, Mexico this year. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new books at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to extend a 50% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues through May 25.

Instead of greeting Editorial Director Gisela Concepción Fosado in person this year, check out her recommendations for new titles in the discipline and a great round up of other ways to learn about all the new scholarship that we planned to present at the conference.

¡Saludos afectuosos a todxs mis colegas de LASA!

I hope everyone is taking care of themselves and their communities as much as possible during these challenging times. I’m so sorry that we’ll all miss coming together in person this year. I’m particularly sad to miss the bustle of the book exhibit and all of the enthusiasm LASA members invariably extend towards our new releases. We can’t offer you our usual piles and piles of beautifully crafted books, but I can share with you a few highlights that represent a small slice of our newest Latin American studies books.

Kregg Hetherington’s thought-provoking new book, The Government of Beans: Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops traces well-meaning attempts by Paraguay bureaucrats and activists to regulate the destructive force of monocrops. Although Paraguay’s massive new soy monocrop brought wealth, it also brought deforestation, biodiversity loss, rising inequality, and violence, all beyond the scope of the toolkit of the current government.

We’re thrilled to be publishing an English edition of Isabella Cosse’s award winning book, Mafalda: A Social and Political History of Latin America’s Global Comic. Winner of LASA’s Premio Americano, Mafalda represents transnational cultural history at its absolute best. Analyzing how the comic strip, Mafalda, reflects generational conflicts, gender, modernization, the Cold War, authoritarianism, neoliberalism, and much more, Cosse demonstrates the unexpected power of humor to shape revolution and resistance. Engagingly written, Mafalda is a great course book for graduate and undergraduate level courses.

Eric Zolov’s brand new book, The Last Good Neighbor: Mexico in the Global Sixties, presents a revisionist account of Mexican domestic politics and international relations during the long 1960s, tracing how Mexico emerged from the shadow of FDR’s Good Neighbor policy to become a geopolitical player in its own right during the Cold War. If you’re looking for an engaging and brilliant book on Mexican politics and foreign relations, written by one of the most talented historians around, this one is a must-read.

Pluriversal Politics: The Real and the Possible, by renowned anthropologist and social theorist Arturo Escobar, fits perfectly with LASA’s theme this year, “Améfrica Ladina: vinculando mundos y saberes, tejiendo esperanzas.” In the book, Escobar engages with the politics of the possible and shows how established notions of what is real and attainable prohibit the emergence of radically alternative visions of the future.

Like Escobar’s work, Kristina Lyons’s new book is also based on ethnographic fieldwork in Colombia. Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners and Life Politics tells us a timely story of human-soil relations. Lyons examines the practices and philosophies of rural farmers who value the decomposing layers of leaves, which make the soils that sustain life in the Amazon, and shows how the study and stewardship of the soil point to alternative frameworks for living and dying. Like Escobar’s work, Lyons beautifully centers local knowledge to open up new ways of collective living and knowing, “vinculando mundos y saberes.”

Two exceptional newly released art history books include Ana María Reyes’s The Politics of Taste: Beatriz González and Cold War Aesthetics and Mary Coffey’s Orozco′s American Epic: Myth, History, and the Melancholy of Race, which are both gorgeously illustrated in full color.  In The Politics of Taste, Ana María Reyes brilliantly examines the works of Colombian artist Beatriz González and Argentine-born art critic, Marta Traba, who championed González’s art during Colombia’s National Front coalition government (1958–74). Mary Coffey’s sophisticated and theoretically nuanced book looks at José Clemente Orozco’s twenty-four-panel mural cycle entitled The Epic of American Civilization. An artifact of Orozco’s migration from Mexico to the United States, the Epic stands as the only fresco in which he explores both American and Mexican narratives of national history, progress, and identity.

This truly represents a small slice of our new books in Latin American studies.  Please check out our two most recent catalogs to see our full list of new releases!  Cuidense mucho y nos vemos el proximo año.

If you were hoping to connect with Gisela or another of our editors about your book project at LASA, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our new online submissions guidelines here.

We’d also like to let you know about a few of our great new journal issues in Latin American studies. Contributors to Radical History Review’s “Revolutionary Positions: Gender and Sexuality in Cuba and Beyondexplore the impact of the Cuban Revolution through the lens of sexuality and gender, providing a social and cultural history that illuminates the Cuban-influenced global New Left. “Mesoamerican Experiences of Illness and Healing,” new from Ethnohistory, addresses how Mesoamericans experienced bodily health in the wake of the sixteenth-century encounter with the Europeans. And the Hispanic American Historical Review always publishes excellent scholarship in Latin American history and culture.

Once again, we’re sorry to miss you in person but hope the 50% discount will make it possible for you to pick up some new books and journal issues. Use coupon SPRING50 at checkout and see the fine print on the sale here.

New Books in May

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We’re pleased to announce that we’ve extended our Spring Sale through  May 25, which will allow you to pick up some new titles at 50% off this month. Use coupon SPRING50 to save.

In the beautifully illustrated, full-color book  AFRICOBRA, painter, photographer, and cofounder of Chicago arts collective AFRICOBRA Wadsworth A. Jarrell tells the definitive history of the group’s creation, history, and artistic and political principles and the ways it captured the rhythmic dynamism of black culture and social life to create uplifting art for all black people.

Eric Zolov presents a revisionist account of Mexican domestic politics and international relations during the long 1960s in The Last Good Neighbor, tracing how Mexico emerged from the shadow of FDR’s Good Neighbor policy to become a geopolitical player in its own right during the Cold War. Look for a Q&A with Zolov on our blog later this month.

Through innovative readings of gay and lesbian films, Lee Wallace offers a provocative argument in Reattachment Theory that queer experiments in domesticity have profoundly reshaped heterosexual marriage to such an extent that now all marriage is gay marriage.

François Ewald’s The Birth of Solidarity—first published in French in 1986 and appearing here in English for the first time—is one of the most important historical and philosophical studies of the rise of the welfare state. This edition is edited by Melinda Cooper.

Louise Amoore examines how machine learning algorithms are transforming the ethics and politics of contemporary society in Cloud Ethics, proposing what she calls cloud ethics as a way to hold algorithms accountable by engaging with the social and technical conditions under which they emerge and operate.

In Re-enchanting Modernity, Mayfair Yang examines the reemergence of religious life and ritual after decades of enforced secularized life in the coastal city of Wenzhou, showing how local practices of popular religion, Daoism, and Buddhism influence economic development and the structure of civil society.

In Writing Anthropology, fifty-two anthropologists reflect on scholarly writing as both craft and commitment, offering insights into the myriad roles of anthropological writing, the beauty and the function of language, the joys and pains of writing, and encouragement to stay at it. This collection is edited by Carole McGranahan.

In Beijing from Below, Harriet Evans tells the history of the residents in Dashalar—now redeveloped and gentrified but once one of the Beijing’s poorest neighborhoods—to show how their experiences complicate official state narratives of Chinese economic development and progress. 

Alex Blanchette explores how the daily lives of a Midwestern town that is home to a massive pork complex were reorganized around the life and death cycles of pigs while using the factory farm as a way to detail the state of contemporary American industrial capitalism in Porkopolis. As the coronavirus tears through meatpacking plants around the U.S., Blanchette’s analysis is highly relevant. We’ll feature a Q&A with him on our blog later in the month.

Drawing on examples of things that happen to us but are nonetheless excluded from experience, as well as critical phenomenology, genealogy, and feminist theory, Cressida J. Heyes shows how and why experience has edges, and analyzes phenomena that press against them in Anaesthetics of Existence.

In The Government of Beans, Kregg Hetherington uses Paraguay’s turn of the twenty-first century adoption of massive soybean production and the regulatory attempts to mitigate the resulting environmental degradation as a way to show how the tools used to drive economic growth exacerbate the very environmental challenges they were designed to solve.

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Welcoming History of the Present to Duke University Press

We are proud to welcome History of the Present to our journals publishing program starting with its tenth-anniversary issue, available now. The entire journal is free online for 3 months—start reading here.

History of the Present, a journal devoted to history as a critical endeavor, is edited by Joan Wallach Scott, Andrew Aisenberg, Brian Connolly, Ben Kafka, Jennifer Morgan, Sylvia Schafer, and Mrinalini Sinha. The journal’s aim is twofold: to create a space in which scholars can reflect on the role history plays in making categories of contemporary debate appear inevitable, natural, or culturally necessary; and to publish work that calls into question certainties about the relationship between past and present that are taken for granted by the majority of practicing historians.

At a time when a journal committed to history as a form of critique is more necessary than ever, History of the Present encourages critical examination of both history’s influence on politics and the politics of history as a discipline. Instead of writing about “history” from the abstract philosophical or historiographical perspectives that predominate today, History of the Present offers a rigorous, theoretically informed alternative based mainly on evidence from archives, texts, and other sources.

“Coming to Duke brings us into a family that feels more like who we are—a family of like-minded, critically engaged journals,” said Joan Scott. “That’s been tremendously exciting for us as we enter our second decade.”

Start reading, or learn more about History of the Present in our editor interview.

New Titles in Asian American Studies

We regret to announce that in the ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we will be unable to meet with you during the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS) conference, which has been cancelled.

We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new books at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to extend a 50% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues through May 1. Use coupon code SPRING50 to save 50% when ordering online. In addition, if you spend $100 or more, we are offering free shipping to U.S. addresses. Journal subscriptions and society memberships don’t qualify for the 50% discount, but they do count toward the $100 threshold.

Across Oceans of LawBig congratulations to Renisa Mawani, whose book Across Oceans of Law is the winner of the AAAS Book Award for Outstanding Achievement in History. The prize committee wrote, “Grappling with the interconnectedness of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans—and the ways in which Asian Indians navigated the reach of the British empire—Mawani shifts our perspectives not only from U.S.-centric histories, but also from terrestrially-bound histories. . . . Mawani is able to ground her conceptual insights, transforming what could have remained an abstract, legal history of maritime law into a richly materialized narrative of mobility, empire, and race.” 

Check out some of the other great titles we would have featured in our booth at AAAS. 

Nandita Sharma traces the development of the categories of migrants and natives from the nineteenth century to the present in Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants to theorize how the idea of people’s rights being tied to geographical notions of belonging came to be.

In a brilliant reinvention of the travel guide, Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i, artists, activists, and scholars redirect readers from the fantasy of Hawai‘i as a tropical paradise and tourist destination toward a multilayered and holistic engagement with Hawai‘i’s culture, complex history, and the effects of colonialism. This volume is edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez.

Rick Bonus tells the stories of Pacific Islander students at the University of Washington as they and their allies struggled to transform a university they believed did not value their presence into a space based on meaningfulness, respect, and multiple notions of student success in The Ocean in the School: Pacific Islander Students Transforming Their University.

In Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawai`i and Oceania, Maile Arvin analyzes the history of racialization of Polynesians within the context of settler colonialism across Polynesia, especially in Hawai‘i, arguing that a logic of possession through whiteness animates European and Hawaiian settler colonialism.

Drawing on Marxist phenomenology, geography, and aesthetics and film from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan made between the 1990s and the present, Erin Y. Huang theorizes the economic, cultural, and political conditions of neoliberal postsocialist China in Urban Horror: Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility.

In Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures, Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora trace the ways in which robots, artificial intelligence, and other technologies serve as surrogates for human workers within a labor system that is entrenched in and reinforces racial capitalism and patriarchy.

Weaving U.S. history into the larger fabric of world history, the contributors to Crossing Empires: Taking U.S. History into Transimperial Terrain de-exceptionalize the American empire, placing it in a global transimperial context as a way to grasp the power relations that shape imperial formations. This collection is edited by Kristin L. Hoganson and Jay Sexton.

Examining the work of writers and artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, and Allan deSouza, Kandice Chuh advocates for what she calls “illiberal humanism” as a way to counter the Eurocentric liberal humanism that perpetuates structures of social inequality in The Difference Aesthetics Makes: On the Humanities “After Man.”

If you were hoping to connect with one of our editors about your book project at AAAS, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our submissions guidelines here. We are now accepting submissions online!

Once again, we’re sorry to miss you in person but hope the 50% discount with free U.S. shipping on orders over $100 will make it possible for you to pick up some new books and journal issues. Use coupon SPRING50 at checkout and see the fine print on the sale here.