Media Studies

Congratulations to MacArthur Fellow Lisa Parks

Parks_2018_hi-res-download_smallCongratulations to MIT media scholar Lisa Parks on winning a 2018 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship! Parks is the co-editor (with Caren Kaplan) of the recent book Life in the Age of Drone Warfare and co-editor (with Elana Levine) of the 2007 collection Undead TV: Essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has also contributed essays to several other collections we have published.

Parks is the author of the 2005 book Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual. The MacArthur Foundation calls it “a groundbreaking analysis of satellite use, including live international transmissions, 978-0-8223-3497-2_pr
archeological excavations via remote sensing, and satellite images documenting mass graves in Srebrenica during the Bosnian conflict.”

The MacArthur Foundation praises Parks for “extending the parameters of media studies and revealing the ways in which media technologies have come increasingly to define our everyday lives, politics, and culture.”

Watch a video of Parks discussing her work:

New in August

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2018 Conference

We had a great time in Toronto at the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies last week, selling books and journals and meeting authors and editors.

Queer Cinema in the WorldCongratulations to Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt, whose book Queer Cinema in the World won the Katherine Singer Kovacs award for outstanding scholarship in cinema and media studies.

We enjoyed a wine and cheese party celebrating the relaunch of our Camera Obscura book series (which is associated with our journal of the same name. Archiveology by Catherine Russell and Sisters in the Life edited by Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz are the most recent books in the series.

Pamela Wojcik served as president of SCMS this year. She stopped by our booth to pose with her 2010 book The Apartment Plot. Her new edited collection, The Apartment Complex, is out in October.

Wojcik

It’s always great to welcome authors and editors to the booth. Here are Lynn Comella, Rielle Navitski, Catherine Russell, and Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz.

If you missed the meeting, you don’t have to miss the sale! Shop all our great media studies titles now and save 30% using coupon code SCMS18.

New Books in November

Another month, another batch of great new releases! Check out all the new books we have coming out in November.

978-0-8223-7016-1In Black and Blur—the first volume in his consent not to be a single being trilogy—Fred Moten engages in a capacious consideration of the place and force of blackness in African diaspora arts, politics, and life, exploring a wide range of thinkers, musicians, and artists. The other two volumes in the series will be out in the spring.

The contributors to Asian Video Cultures: In the Penumbra of the Global examine Asian video cultures—from video platforms in Indonesia to amateur music videos in India—in the context of social movements, market economies, and local popular cultures, showing how Asian video practices are central to shaping contemporary experiences and mainstream global media.

Melanie Yergeau’s Authoring Autism challenges the academic and cultural stereotypes that do not acknowledge the rhetorical capabilities of autistic people, and shows how autistics both embrace and reject the rhetorical, thereby queering the lines of rhetoric, humanity, agency, and the very essence of rhetoric itself.

978-0-8223-7021-5Reckoning with one’s role in perpetuating systematic inequality, in The Beneficiary Bruce Robbins examines the implications of a humanitarianism in which the prosperous are the both the cause and the beneficiaries of the abhorrent conditions they seek to remedy.

In Domestic Economies Susanna Rosenbaum examines how immigrant Mexican and Central American domestic workers in Los Angeles and the predominantly white, upper-middle-class women who employ them seek to achieve the “American Dream,” underscoring how the American Dream’s ideology is racialized and gendered while exposing how pursuing it lies at the intersection of motherhood and domestic labor.

In Epigenetic Landscapes Susan Merrill Squier follows the cultural trail of C. H. Waddington’s “epigenetic landscape” metaphor from its first visualization by the artist John Piper to its use beyond science, examining how it has been used to illustrate complex systems that link scientific and cultural practices: graphic medicine, landscape architecture, and bioArt.

In Passionate and Pious Monique Moultrie explores the impact of faith-based sexual ministries on black women’s sexual agency to trace how these women navigate sexuality, religious authority, and their spiritual walk with God.

978-0-8223-6898-4.jpgIn Saving the Security State Inderpal Grewal traces the changing relations between the US state and its citizens in an era she calls advanced neoliberalism, under which everyday life is militarized, humanitarianism serves imperial aims, and white Christian men become exceptional citizens tasked with protecting the nation from racialized others.

In Sounds of CrossingAlex E. Chávez explores the contemporary politics of Mexican migrant cultural expression manifest in huapango arribeño, a musical genre from north-central Mexico that helps Mexicans build communities on both sides of the US border and give voice to the transnational migrant experience.

N. Fadeke Castor’s Spiritual Citizenship explores the roles African religious practice play in the formation of social and political identities play in post-independence Trinidad and Tobago, showing how Ifá/Orisha practitioners build and perceive a sense of diasporic belonging that leads them to work toward black liberation and a decolonial future.978-0-8223-7150-2

In Street Archives and City Life Emily Callaci maps a new terrain of political and cultural production in mid-twentieth-century Tanzanian cities. While the postcolonial Tanzanian ruling party adopted a policy of rural socialism—Ujamaa—an influx of youth migrants to the city of Dar es Salaam generated innovative forms of urbanism through the production and circulation of street archives.

We are excited to publish a tenth anniversary expanded edition of Jasbir K. Puar’s pathbreaking book, Terrorist Assemblages—which features a new preface by Tavia Nyong’o and a new postscript by the author. Puar argues that configurations of sexuality, race, gender, nation, class, and ethnicity are realigning in relation to contemporary forces of securitization, counterterrorism, and nationalism.

978-0-8223-7034-5In Test of Faith photographer Lauren Pond documents a Signs Following preacher and his family in rural West Virginia, offering a deeply nuanced, personal look at serpent handling that invites a greater understanding of a religious practice that has long faced derision and criticism. The book is the eighth winner of the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography.

978-0-8223-7001-7Paul Rabinow continues his explorations of “a philosophic anthropology of the contemporary” in Unconsolable Contemporary by examining the work of German painter Gerhard Richter. Defining the contemporary as a moving ratio in which the modern becomes historical, Rabinow uses Richter’s work to illustrate how meaning is created within the contemporary.

The contributors to Unfinished, edited by João Biehl and Peter Lockeexplore the ethnographic essay’s expressive potentials by pursuing an anthropology of becoming, which attends to the contingency of lived experience and provides new means to represent what life means and how it can be represented.

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The Face Is a Population

Thank you to Kris Cohen, author of new book Never Alone, Except for Now: Art, Networks, Populations, for today’s guest blog post.

cohen-krisApple’s design aesthetic mimics social media intimacy, so the arrival of a new Apple product can feel a lot like something blowing up on one’s Facebook feed, even if not a single person in the world actually cares. Nevertheless, the arrival of a technological capability such as facial recognition software, built into Apple’s new iPhone 8, is worth paying attention to even if it does follow the now entirely predictable commodity arc from military-funded R&D fantasy to ordinary mass consumer good. Maybe its new ordinariness means that people have become numb to it, but it always means that people now have to bargain with it in their daily lives. In the case of facial recognition software—a technology that now plays a major if sometimes shadowy role in all aspects of the security industry: border policing, population control, crime prevention—what exactly are we being made to bargain with?

Like the cameras on our phones and computers, embedded facial recognition software is one more place where the “personal” device becomes entirely porous to the corporations and governments that extract data from all devices. Try shopping for computer camera covers and you will get a sense of how deep and habitual the feeling is that the most personal devices are now the ones we control the least. The threat with a camera is quite concrete: someone is watching. The threat with facial recognition software is slightly more abstract (for some), but it exists because in order to recognize one’s face, the software has to create an open channel between our device and the massive database of faces and correlated data that make automated recognition possible (for some), but over which we have no control at all.

978-0-8223-6940-0Here we see how, in networked cultures, an intensely individualistic address is tightly laminated to a massive effort to form groups of people that can be put to work, producing value, relations, suggestions. As I say in my recent book Never Alone, Except for Now: Art, Networks, Populations, individuality in networked cultures is a kind of group form. In order to better understand individuals in relation to group form, I adapt the term population. The term comes from census technologies used for managing the resources of a nation, but also from Michel Foucault’s late work on neoliberalism. A population logic is one that addresses and organizes individuals through the informatic power of statistics, making the individual into a kind of effect, even a side effect of the population as a predictive and statistical entity. In networked cultures, populations get assembled in databases and prediction is keyed to desire: what we want to see, read, buy. Networked populations make the individual a distillate of the database, and the database an effect of the ordinary habits and activities of individuals, recorded as data. I think this is the untold story of the too-told story of the individual and individualism in contemporary American politics. And this is why populations are not the same as the masses of modernity, which always prioritized some form of unity or sameness. Facial recognition software prioritizes individuality, the quiddity of the unique face, but can only do so by participating deeply in population logics. How can we learn about such effects even as they’re being rolled out at paces and scales beyond human comprehension?

I’m an art historian as well as a media studies theorist, so one of my methods is to look to art: not art as in fine art objects magisterially pronouncing judgment upon the jumbled events of ordinary life, but art as a mode of thought about the present embodied in an encounter between more than one person, any of whom are invited to improvise a relation with one another in a scene that can work at a range of paces. On this view, art is no less mired in and impacted by the present tense than anyone else, and one can read the marks of those impacts on the work as a kind of impression of the ways the present tense shapes people, labor, environments, institutions. The artist Josh Kline would be one kind of resource for thinking about facial recognition software, as it appears so often in his work. There, the mediation of the problem is more or less direct. In this, Kline’s work offers the anchor of concrete feeling, even the prospect of a community of sorts galvanized by shared feeling.

But in the book I also think about artists whose work has no biographical or directly referential relationship to the networked technologies I study (performance artist Sharon Hayes and installation artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres). But as facial recognition software shows so graphically, one of the most distinctive features of networked technologies is that they are distributive by nature, automating the extraction of data from gestures, from movements through streets, from things we say out loud and in print, from our very facial expressions. So we need better resources for thinking about that kind of spread, in which literally nothing doesn’t bear the imprint—maybe slight, maybe bruising, maybe overt, often subliminal or subdermal—of networked technologies. Working between media technologies and works of art that often seem to operate at some distance from those technologies helps me to sense some of these more distributed and deeply encoded impacts.

Facial recognition technology fundamentally, even physically, changes what faces are. Think about that next time you encounter faces such as those in the paintings of Kehinde Wiley, Chuck Close, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Henry Taylor, or Amy Sillman; in the early videos or late paintings of Sadie Benning; or even in the massive public works of Julie Mehretu, which contain no faces, but then neither do the circuits that connect our phones with the populations of people that allow phones to discern a single face out of millions, a face we might once have called our own.

Read the introduction to Kris Cohen’s Never Alone, Except for Now free online, then pick up the paperback for 30% off—just use coupon code E17COHEN at dukeupress.edu.