Middle East Studies

New Books in February

Stay warm and comfy this February by curling up with a good book. Take a look at our many new titles coming out this month!

Cover of Death's Futility: The Visual Life of Black Power by Sampada Aranke. Cover is a series of black and gray lines which resemble TV static that form the image of an upturned face through shadows.

In Death’s Futurity, Sampada Aranke analyzes posters, photographs, journalism, and films that focus on the murders of three Black Panther Party members to examine the importance of representations of death to Black liberation.

Lucia Hulsether explores twentieth and twenty-first century movements from fair trade initiatives and microfinance programs to venture fund pledges to invest in racial equity, showing how these movements fail to achieve their goals in Capitalist Humanitarianism.

In Between Banat, Mejdulene Bernard Shomali examines homoeroticism and nonnormative sexualities between Arab women in transnational Arab literature, art, and film to show how women, femmes, and nonbinary people disrupt stereotypical and Orientalist representations of the “Arab woman.”

In Kids on the Street Joseph Plaster explores the informal support networks that enabled abandoned and runaway queer youth to survive in tenderloin districts across the United States. 

In Unkowing and the Everyday, Seema Golestaneh examines how Sufi mystical experience in Iran and the idea of unknowing—the idea that it is ultimately impossible to fully understand the divine—shapes contemporary life.

Cover of Rising Up, Living On: Re-Existences, Sowings, and Decolonial Cracks by Catherine E. Walsh. The cover has a tan textured background with an outline of a person with their arms up in a triangle and colorful plants/animals inside. Yellow subtitle runs along the left leg of the figure. All other text are block letters. The title is split between the top left and mid-right and the author name in the bottom left.

Catherine E. Walsh examines social struggles for survival in societies deeply marked by the systemic violence of coloniality to identify practices that may cultivate the possibility of living otherwise in Rising Up, Living On.

The contributors to Eating beside Ourselves, edited by Heather Paxson, examine eating as a site of transfer and transformation that create thresholds for human and nonhuman relations.

Drawing on memoir, creative writing, theoretical analysis, and ethnography in Santo Domingo, Havana, and New Jersey, Carlos Ulises Decena examines transnational black Caribbean immigrant queer life and spirit in Circuits of the Sacred.

The contributors to Sovereignty Unhinged, edited by Deborah A. Thomas and Joseph Masco, theorize sovereignty beyond the typical understandings of action, control, and the nation-state, considering it from the perspective of how it is lived and enacted in everyday practice and how it reflects people’s aspirations for new futures.

Cover of Spirit in the Land edited by Trevor Schoonmaker. Cover features a painting of a house on stilts in a tropical swamp, surrounded by trees. Over the house rises the green spirit of a giant woman holding a baby surrounded by flowers. The sky is yellow and contains abstract images. The title information is on a green strip on the left side of the cover.

Spirit in the Land, edited by Trevor Schoonmaker, accompanies the art exhibition of the same name at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The exhibition, which runs February 16 to July 9, examines today’s urgent ecological concerns from a cultural perspective, demonstrating how intricately our identities and natural environments are intertwined.

When Forests Run Amok by Daniel Ruiz-Serna follows the afterlives of war, showing how they affect the variety of human and nonhuman beings that compose the region of Bajo Atrato: the traditional land of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples.

In Letterpress Revolution, Kathy E. Ferguson explores the importance of anarchist letterpress printers and presses, whose printed materials galvanized anarchist movements across the United States and Great Britain from the late nineteenth century to 1940s.

Examining the 2002 pogrom in which Hindu mobs attached Muslims in the west Indian state of Gujuarat, Moyukh Chatterjee examines how political violence against minorities catalyzes radical changes in law, public culture, and power in Composing Violence.

In The Briny South Nienke Boer examines the legal and literary narratives of enslaved, indentured, and imprisoned individuals crossing the Indian Ocean to analyze the formation of racialized identities in the imperial world. 

In Crip Colony, Sony Coráñez Bolton examines the racial politics of disability, mestizaje, and sexuality in the Philippines, showing how heteronormative, able-bodied, and able-minded mixed-race Filipinos offered a model and path for assimilation into the US empire.

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New Books in January

New year, new books! Check out the great new titles we have coming out in January:

Cover of Wake Up, This is Joburg. The entire cover is a photograph of a Black woman on a street. She stands next to a red traffic light and behind her are a skyscraper and other people. The title is in bright yellow on top of the photo and in the upper left corner is the text Photographs by Mark Lewis, Words by Tanya Zack.

In Wake Up, This Is Joburg, writer Tanya Zack and photographer Mark Lewis offer a stunning portrait of Johannesburg and personal stories of its residents, showing how its urban transformation occurs not in a series of dramatic, widescale changes but in the everyday lives, actions, and dreams of individuals.

Chérie N. Rivers shows how colonial systems of normalized violence condition the way we see and, through collaboration with contemporary Congolese artists, imagines ways we might learn to see differently in To Be Nsala’s Daughter.

In Code, Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan traces the shared intellectual and political history of computer scientists, cyberneticists, anthropologists, linguists, and theorists across the humanities as they developed a communication and computational-based theory that grasped culture and society in terms of codes.

Cover of Bad Education: Why Queer Theory Teaches Us Nothing by Lee Edelman. Cover is bright yellow with lettering in red and black and features an image of a marionette in black professor's garb, holding a pointer.

Lee Edelman offers a sweeping theorization of queerness as one of the many names for the void around and against which the social order takes shape in Bad Education.

Jennifer Lynn Kelly explores the significance of contemporary solidarity tourism in Palestine/Israel in Invited to Witness, showing how such tourism functions both as political strategy and emergent industry.

In River Life and the Upspring of Nature, Naveeda Khan examines the relationship between nature and culture through the study of the everyday existence of chauras, the people who live on the chars (sandbars) within the Jamuna River in Bangladesh.

Drawing on fieldwork in a Chinese toxicology lab that studies the influence of toxins on male reproductive and developmental health, Janelle Lamoreaux investigates how epigenetic research conceptualizes and configures environments in Infertile Environments.

Cover of On Learning to Heal or, What Medicine Doesn't Know by Ed Cohen. The cover is a mint rectangle with a white border. The title is in brown in the center with the word Heal in read. The subtitle lies below and a horizontal line separates the subtitle from the author's name (in captial brown text). At the bottom-center of the page, lies a red snake around a pole.

In On Learning to Heal, Ed Cohen draws on his experience living with Crohn’s disease—a chronic, incurable condition that nearly killed him—to explore how modern Western medicine’s turn from an “art of healing” toward a “science of medicine” impacts all whose lives are touched by illness.

Joseph C. Russo takes readers into the everyday lives of the rural residents of southeast Texas in Hard Luck and Heavy Rain, showing how their hard-luck stories render the region a mythopoetic landscape that epitomizes the impasse of American late capitalism.

Josen Masangkay Diaz interrogates the distinct forms of Filipino American subjectivity that materialized from the relationship between the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and Cold War US anticommunism in Postcolonial Configurations.

In The Spectacular Generic, Cori Hayden explores how consumer access to generic drugs has transformed public health care and the politics of pharmaceuticals in the global South.

Cover of The Specter of Materialism: Queer Theory and Marxism in the Age of the Beijing Consensus by Petrus Liu. Cover is of an abstract creature sitting with its legs folded under it, its left hand raised with a trail of items falling from its wrist. The creature is a collage resembling magazine cutouts. Its head is oddly shaped with large eyes and lips, and a large detached hand adorned with rings rests atop it.

Petrus Liu challenges key premises of classic queer theory and Marxism in The Specter of Materialism, turning to an analysis of the Beijing Consensus—global capitalism’s latest mutation—to develop a new theory of the political economy of sexuality.

In Uncomfortable Television, Hunter Hargraves examines how postmillennial television made its audiences find pleasure through discomfort, showing that televisual unease trains audiences to survive under late capitalism, which demands that individuals accept a certain amount of discomfort, dread, and irritation into their everyday lives.

Lara Langer Cohen excavates the long history of the underground in nineteenth-century US literature in Going Underground, showing how these formations of the underground can inspire new forms of political resistance.

Cover of Vanishing Sands: Losing Beaches to Mining by Orrin H. Pilkey, Norma J. Longo, William J. Neal, Nelson G. Rangel-Buitrago, Keith C. Pilkey, and Hannah L. Hayes. Cover is a photograph of a mining site from an aerial view featuring haul trucks, gray sand dunes, and a turquoise pond.

Travelling from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean to South America and the eastern United States, the authors of Vanishing Sands, Orrin H. Pilkey, Norma J. Longo, William J. Neal, Nelson G. Rangel-Buitrago, Keith C. Pilkey, and Hannah L. Hayes, track the devastating environmental, social, and economic impact of legal and illegal sand mining over the past twenty years.

Vincanne Adams takes the complex chemical glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup and a pervasive agricultural herbicide—to explore the formation of contested knowledge in Glyphosate and the Swirl.

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Q&A with Jessica Barnes (+ Teaching Guide!)

JessicaBarnesPhotoJessica Barnes is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and the School of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at the University of South Carolina. She is author of Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt, also published by Duke University Press, and coeditor of Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change. Her new book, Staple Security: Bread and Wheat in Egypt, explores the central role that bread and wheat play in Egyptian daily life as well as the anxieties surrounding the possibility that the nation could run out these staples.

You recently put together a Teaching Guide that pairs with Staple Security. What prompted you to put this supplement together, and what do you hope students and teachers take away from it?

Staple Security is a text that would work well in undergraduate and graduate classrooms. I worked hard to write in a way that is clear, engaging, and jargon-free, and the result is a book that I think will be widely accessible. The subject matter is also topical and speaks to issues of broad interest – the foods that anchor our daily lives and their links with questions of security at both household and national scales. Inspired by the wonderful teaching guide written by Susan Bibler Coutin for her book Exiled Home (Duke, 2016), I wrote the supplement to offer instructors ideas of ways in which they might integrate the book, or parts of the book, in their classes. It was also an opportunity to share some of the resources that I have developed over the past five years teaching a class on Global Food Politics, such as my bread-tasting activity and a comparative discussion of accessing subsidized bread in Cairo and SNAP benefits in New York City. I hope that students and teachers will find questions and resources in the guide that will enrich their engagement with the text, spark new lines of thought, and help them see the connections between this material, current affairs, and their own lives.

How would you describe your own pedagogical approach? What’s most important to you as an educator?

To me, teaching isn’t so much about providing students with information so that they can answer questions as about training them in what questions to ask. One of my favorite pedagogical techniques is to show students a photograph, newspaper article, advertisement, or video clip, and ask them to reflect on the story the source is trying to tell and the message it seeks to convey. Just as significantly, we talk about what the source leaves out of the frame and the points it seeks to obscure. What’s most important to me as an educator is that students come away from my classes with an enhanced ability to analyze and consider multiple perspectives. Students sometimes comment on my evaluations that my classes have taught them to think in a new way. Those are the comments that make my heart sing.

978-1-4780-1852-0_prAs you explain in a recent op-ed for The Conversation, the war in Ukraine has threatened wheat supply, thus contributing to—one might say—a staple insecurity in Egypt. What might readers gain from your book’s attention to “staple security,” even (or especially) in the face of precarity?

My book’s attention to what I call staple security will prompt readers to reflect on the things that make them feel anxious or fearful, as well as those things that make them feel comfortable and safe, both as individuals in their homes and as citizens of a state. The fact that many Egyptians worry about their nation running out of wheat—as brought home by the war in Ukraine—might come as a surprise to many readers, for whom this likely doesn’t register as a concern. But it might resonate with how they think about other things, like reliance on foreign oil. The book will also help readers think about the ongoing efforts to address precarity, some explicitly framed in terms of security and others not, as individuals, households, and nations strive for stability and comfort. In the book I apply this frame to think about staple foods, but as I argue in the conclusion, staple security could also be used to think about other key needs, like water and energy.

As an aside, readers might be struck by the near absence of the word “insecurity” in my book. I choose not to write in terms of security and insecurity because I find it creates a false duality: a sense that an individual, household, or nation is secure if it has reliable, affordable access to sufficient, safe food; otherwise, it is insecure. If security is seen more as a practice than an achieved status, insecurity can’t be parceled off as a distinct form of experience. For it is the sense of threat that is produced by conditions of insecurity that shapes the practice of security.

Readers have praised the sensory details included in your writing about bread. Would you consider this an essential feature of Staple Security? How does it contribute to the book?

In writing the book, it was important to me to try to bring readers into the times and spaces in which Egyptians are handling and eating bread, whether at the bakery, by the oven, on the street, or in their homes. I wanted to give readers a sense of what it is like to eat this food on a daily basis and why the presence and taste of those loaves matters so much when they are a core component of every breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Sensory engagements with bread—the feel of loaves that are still hot, for example, or the taste of bread that is baked within the home—are a central part of the book. They speak to some of the key daily practices around bread—like heating loaves of frozen bread or airing loaves of warm bread before packing them in a plastic bag—which we don’t typically think of as practices of security, but which I argue are just as fundamental to securing the consistent supply of a tasty staple. They also underscore what is at stake: the quality and experience of everyday life, embedded in those moments of sitting down to eat a meal with a bread that is soft and flavorful.

Something fun to end on: are you a bread eater yourself? What’s your favorite bread-based meal?

Yes, bread is definitely my staple!

My favorite bread-based meal would have to be a Middle Eastern meze—a selection of small dishes—served with pita bread. This kind of meal isn’t so commonly eaten in Egypt, where I conducted the fieldwork for this book, but I fell in love with it during my first visit to Jordan in 1999 and subsequent time spent living and working in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. To me, a spread of salads and dips like moutabal (made from smoked eggplant) and hummus, eaten with bread, is a perfect meal. I’d be equally as happy, though, eating fresh bread with just some labne (strained yogurt cheese) and a few olives.

Read the introduction to Staple Security for free and save 30% on the paperback with coupon E22STAPL.

Peer Review Week: Afsaneh Najmabadi on How to Think about the Ethics of Telling Stories That People Did Not Want Re-told

It’s Peer Review Week, an annual event celebrating peer review. This year’s theme is “Research Integrity,” and this week we are sharing excerpts from some of our recent books that explore this issue. Today we present an excerpt from Afsaneh Najmabadi’s Familial Undercurrents: Untold Stories of Love and Marriage in Modern Iran, in which she discusses the ethics of using family secrets in research.

My mother chose not to talk about my father’s second marriage with anyone beyond a couple of her siblings and nieces. Nor did she even hint at it in her interviews in the 1990s and in her written memoirs. My father had kept his second family a secret from the first to his dying days.

Their silence posed for me, throughout the work on this project, the unresolvable ethical dilemma that many (auto)biography writers and memoirists have noted. As Nancy Miller has put it, “Memoir writers necessarily blur the lines between autobiography and biography, self and other, especially when a child tells the parents’ story.” Telling these stories is “to retrieve a past that is ours but not ours alone.”1

What right did I have to write my parents’ story when they had chosen silence? Shouldn’t I respect my father’s secrecy and my mother’s desire for keeping its knowledge confined? I understood my father’s keeping the second marriage a secret to have been an effect of a middle-class modernist and Baha’i embarrassment, if not shame, over his bigamy, his way of living his love for Mansureh under circumstances that had made that option no longer a publicly accepted practice. As Deborah Cohen has put it in a different context, “Secrecy guaranteed both security and authenticity.”2 In my father’s case, the authenticity of his being a modern Baha’i, whose new faith emphasized monogamy much more strongly than his old faith and practices in his parental generation had, and security from the possibility of losing Fari and the custody of his two children (me and my sister, Farzaneh), a possibility that had been shaped by my mother’s education and professional life, as well as the support she received from her family (inclusive of her sister’s husband who was my father’s uncle too) — secrecy guaranteed both.

I understood my mother’s desire for keeping a relative silence over that belated knowledge as her way of saving face, of remaining respectful as many relatives had said, in circumstances where things going wrong in marriage were by default seen as shortcomings of the wife. But things mattered only if they were known. Keeping silent made keeping face possible. I thus justified my desire to tell their story as my way of attempting to open up the possibility of reducing injury and disrespect, embarrassment and shame, over their life choices.

It is at times said that historians are motivated by the desire to speak of the dead and, even more, to speak on behalf of the dead. Some of the recent decades of recuperative historiography have indeed been informed by this desire to compensate for silences in history and give voice to the silenced. Yet what of the desire of the dead to remain silent? What of the lives made possible through keeping silent?

Quite early on, when I first started thinking about this project, I contacted one of my maternal cousins to inquire about memories of our mothers and our grandmother. She was reluctant to talk; she wrote that her “first reaction was that I wanted to ‘protect’ them and their legacy. Would my mother or yours want to have the public exposed to the ‘family secrets’?” What right did I have, she insisted, to tell the stories of “family members unable to speak for themselves”?

At the time, I shrugged this objection off, largely because I was thinking of my writing as an act of empathy with these lives, not as critical judgment of their choices, decisions, and lives lived. As my work developed, I was even more certain that I could write in total empathy with all my characters; though at times empathy with my father would become challenging!

Nonetheless, my cousin’s early warning remained an echo in my head that wouldn’t go away. Conversations with other relatives would bring it back in new contexts. A paternal uncle talked about several incidents he had heard about: two related to my father’s “scandalous behavior,” apparently propositioning other women from the family, but several were about other people —so many Najmabadi men’s scandals . . . we began to joke about whether this was a genetic trait! Each time, he made it clear that none of these stories were meant for re-telling. He emphasized that even though he talked about these stories to me, this had been a very rare thing for him to do; he definitely would not want any story to be re-told.

Another relative told similar stories about Najmabadi men, repeatedly prefacing each story by saying, “I don’t engage in gossip, astaghfar allah [may God forgive me], but . . .” The repeated disavowal of gossip, in conversations with Arafat Razzaque and his dissertation on ethics of speech in the formation of early Islamic piety, brought forth another layer of this shadowy weight on my writing.3 I too had grown up within an ethics of speech centered on restraint of the tongue, hifz al-lisan. This ethics was not simply located within the high Islamic culture of texts and teachings on piety, within books of ethics and injunctions to the pious. I too had grown up with cautions concerning excesses of talking that seeped through often-repeated advice: Why do you think God has given you two ears and one tongue? Hear twice before you talk once.

Most severely, the narrative attributed to the Prophet on gossip was often repeated: alghiba ashaddu min al-zina, roughly translated as “gossip is worse than fornication.” Given that telling about someone else’s sinful deed is considered a sin, and perhaps even a more severe sin than the committing of the sin itself, how does one go about telling other people’s lives — sins and all? Given the culture of keeping things unsaid, letting things pass rather than be told and re-told, how ethical is my writing of other people’s stories? If we take gossip itself as a critical “way of knowing,” indeed, at times, as a “weapon of the weak,” as an important source for historical cultural understanding, how do we deal with the shadow of shame hanging over the knowledge generated through gossip?

Within this kind of cultural ethos, how does one write about family secrets in a way that does not do harm to others’ sensibilities? Is there a way of telling a story they had chosen not to tell that would open up possibilities of reducing injury and disrespect? Do I just not tell things that were “too scandalous”? Clearly my father didn’t want the family on this side of town to know about the family on the other side of town. His story had, of course, already come out after his death because of legal requirements related to inheritance division, but even then, it had remained known only within a limited circle of people. Yet over the past years, my pursuit of his story has made

it known to ever wider circles of people. Each time when I started a conversation with another relative by saying, “Did you know my father had another wife?,” I made that circle of knowing larger. Writing and publishing a book would make it known to an even wider circle.

The ethics and politics of retrieving a past “that is not ours alone” is not simply a memoirist’s dilemma, of course. This is what historians do all the time. Usually, we have no reason to assume that the stories retrieved are objectionable to those whose stories we have retrieved. But we also usually have no information on whether it would not be objectionable. For characters unknown to us personally, we tend not to worry.

What are the ethics of using what we save, or have been entrusted to keep? My parents had come to London in the winter of 1980 to visit me and my family. They had planned to stay a month or so, then go to Phoenix, Arizona, to visit my sister. The visit became an immigration: we insisted that they were retired and both their children were abroad; life in Iran, especially in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of a small town, during the early revolutionary years of upheaval and with attacks against Baha’is, seemed to be too risky to return to, even though my father’s conversion might not have been locally known. Why not stay for a while in the United States until things calmed down? We kept them abroad.

They had come with two suitcases. The following spring, on my visit to Tehran, I selected things to bring for them: some clothes, a few books, a selection of photographs from family albums, and a bunch of letters tied together. I recognized my father’s handwriting. On closer inspection, they turned out to be letters my father had written over the first year of my parents’ marriage when he was not in Tehran with his new bride. These also came with me. At one point, when my mother was angry at my father after she had found out about his other wife, she had wanted to throw them out. I told her I would like to save them; they became mine, though I did not read them until my familial detective journey began in 2014.

Is it ethical to use my father’s letters to my mother, which she wanted to throw out? Just because I asked her to let me keep them and she agreed? At the time, of course, neither she nor I had any reason to imagine that some two decades later I would be writing this manuscript. What makes them mine to use for this project?

Afsaneh Najmabadi is Francis Lee Higginson Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University and author of Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran, also published by Duke University Press, and Women with Mustaches and Men Without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity. Professing Selves and Familial Undercurrents are both available for 30% off on our website using coupon code SAVE30.


  1. Nancy Miller, “Putting Ourselves in the Picture: Memoirs and Mourning,” in The
    Familial Gaze, ed. Marianne Hirsch (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England,
    1999), 51 – 66, quotes from 51.
  2. Deborah Cohen, Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present
    Day (London: Viking, 2013), 122.
  3. Arafat Razzaque, “The Sin of Ghība in Early Islamic Thought: The Zuhd Tradition,
    Late Antique Religion, and Ibn Abī l-Dunyā’s Book on the Ethics of the Tongue” (PhD
    diss., Harvard University, 2020).

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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New Books in December

The year’s wrapping up: grab our last books of 2021! 

Trouillot RemixedTrouillot Remixed gathers work from Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, including his most famous, lesser known, and hard to find writings. Together, they demonstrate Trouillot’s enduring importance to Caribbean studies, anthropology, history, postcolonial studies, and politically engaged scholarship more broadly. The volume is edited by Yarimar Bonilla, Greg Beckett, and Mayanthi L. Fernando.

In Multisituated, Kaushik Sunder Rajan proposes a reconceptualization of ethnography as a multisituated practice that speaks to the myriad communities of accountability and the demands of doing and teaching anthropology in the twenty-first century.

In Plantation Life, Tania Murray Li and Pujo Semedi examine the structure and governance of contemporary palm oil plantations in Indonesia, showing how massive forms of capitalist production and control over the palm oil industry replicate colonial-style relations that undermine citizenship.


Media Hot and ColdIn Media Hot and Cold, Nicole Starosielski examines the cultural dimensions of temperature and the history of thermal media such as thermostats and infrared cameras to theorize the ways heat and cold can be used as a means of communication, subjugation, and control.

In African Ecomedia, Cajetan Iheka examines the ecological footprint of media in Africa alongside the representation of environmental issues in visual culture; in doing so, he shows how African visual media such as film, photography, and sculpture deliver a unique perspective on the socio-ecological costs of media production.

In On Living with Television, Amy Holdsworth recounts her life with television to trace how the medium shapes everyday activities, our relationships with others, and our sense of time.

Toward Camden


In Toward Camden, Mercy Romero writes a complex and vibrant story about the largely African American and Puerto Rican Cramer Hill neighborhood in New Jersey where she grew up.

In Becoming Palestine, Gil Z. Hochberg examines how contemporary Palestinian artists, filmmakers, dancers, and activists use the archive in order to radically imagine Palestine’s future.

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Events in September

Several of our authors are giving talks online and even in person this month. Hope you can catch them! Please note the local time zone in each listing.

September 10, 1:00 pm EDT: Brown University Center for Middle East Studies sponsors a talk by Hagar Kotef, author of The Colonizing Self.

September 10, 3 pm EDT: Join the authors and editors of Meridians’ new issue, Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism, for a conversation.

September 16, 6:30 pm EDT and September 17, 11 am EDT: The journal liquid blackness celebrates their first three issues with an online event, Atonal Symphonies: Conversations on Blackness and Liquidity at the Threshold of Thinking and Making.

September 20, 6:00 pm PDT: Joshua Clover, author of Roadrunner, will be in conversation with Justin Desmangles in an event sponsored by City Lights Bookstore.

September 23, 1:00 pm EDT: The CUNY Center for Place, Culture, and Politics sponsors a conversation between Kareem Rabie, author of Palestine Is Throwing a Party and the Whole World Is Invited and Mezna Qato and David Harvey. 

September 25, 2:45 pm EDT: Amitava Kumar appears in person at the Albany Book Festival, in conversation with Ayad Akhtar and Joe Donahue. Kumar is the author of several books, including A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, and, most recently, Every Day I Write the Book.

September 28, 6:15 pm EDT:  The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University sponsors a talk by Kevin Fellezs, author of Listen But Don’t Ask Question

New Books in May

As you finish up the semester, considering rewarding yourself with new books! Here’s what we have coming out in May.

songbooks In Songbooks, veteran music critic and popular music scholar Eric Weisbard offers a critical guide to American popular music writing, from William Billings’s 1770 New-England-Psalm-Singer to Jay-Z’s 2010 memoir Decoded.

In Black Bodies, White Gold, Anna Arabindan-Kesson examines how cotton became a subject for nineteenth-century art by tracing the symbolic and material correlations between cotton and Black people in British and American visual culture.

Pollution is Colonialism Max Liboiron models an anticolonial scientific practice in Pollution Is Colonialism, aligned with Indigenous concepts of land, ethics, and relations to outline the entanglements of capitalism, colonialism, and environmental science.

The Genealogical Imagination by Michael Jackson juxtaposes ethnographic and imaginative writing to explore intergenerational trauma and temporality, showing how genealogy becomes a powerful model for understanding our experience of being in the world.

Editor Lisa Björkman and contributors to Bombay Brokers provide thirty-six character profiles of men and women whose knowledge and labor—which is often seen as morally suspect—are essential for navigating everyday life in Bombay, one of the world’s most complex, dynamic, and populous cities.

Christopher Tounsel investigates the centrality of Christian worldviews to the ideological construction of South Sudan from the early twentieth century to the present in Chosen Peoples.

Brian Russell Roberts dispels continental-centric US national mythologies in Borderwaters to advance an alternative image of the United States as an archipelagic nation to better reflect its claims to archipelagoes in the Pacific and Caribbean.

Palestine is throwing a party Palestine Is Throwing a Party and the Whole World Is Invited by Kareem Rabie examines how Palestine’s desire to fully integrate its economy into global markets through large-scale investment projects represented a shift away from political state building with the hope that a thriving economy would lead to a free and functioning Palestinian state.

Liz P. Y. Chee complicates understandings of Chinese medicine as timeless and unchanging in Mao’s Bestiary by historicizing the expansion of animal-based medicines in the social and political environment of early Communist China.

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New Books in January

If you made a New Year’s resolution to read more, this month we have some great new books to help achieve your goals. Happy New Year!

The future of FalloutJoseph Masco examines the psychosocial, material, and affective consequences of the advent of nuclear weapons, the Cold War security state, climate change on contemporary US democratic practices and public imaginaries in The Future of Fallout, and Other Episodes in Radioactive World-Making.

Andrew Bickford analyzes the US military’s attempts to design performance enhancement technologies and create pharmacological “supersoldiers” capable of becoming ever more lethal while withstanding various forms of extreme trauma in Chemical Heroes.

Drawing on ethnographic research in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Christopher Harker in Spacing Debt examines how Israel’s use of debt to keep Palestinians economically unstable is a form of slow colonial violence embedded into the everyday lives of citizens.

Whites are the Enemies of Heaven With The Whites are the Enemies of Heaven, Mark W. Driscoll examines Western imperialism in East Asia throughout the nineteenth century and the devastating effects of what he calls climate caucasianism—the West’s racialized pursuit of capital at the expense of people of color, women, and the environment.

In Dear Science and Other Stories Katherine McKittrick presents a creative and rigorous study of black and anticolonial methodologies, exploring how narratives of imprecision and relationality interrupt knowledge systems that seek to observe, index, know, and discipline blackness.

Christopher Freeburg’s Counterlife challenges the imperative to study black social life and slavery and its aftereffects through the lenses of freedom, agency, and domination and instead examines how enslaved Africans created meaning through spirituality, thought, and artistic creativity separate and alongside concerns about freedom.

emancipations daughtersRiché Richardson in Emancipation’s Daughters examines how five iconic black women—Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Condoleezza Rice, Michelle Obama, and Beyoncé—defy racial stereotypes and construct new national narratives of black womanhood in the United States.

Lingzhen Wang examines the work of Chinese women filmmakers of the Mao and post-Mao eras in Revisiting Women’s Cinema to theorize socialist and postsocialist feminism, mainstream culture, and women’s cinema in modern China.

Kaiama L. Glover examines Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean literature whose female protagonists enact practices of freedom that privilege the self, challenge the prioritization of the community over the individual, and refuse masculinist discourses of postcolonial nation building in A Regarded Self.

The Small Book of Hip ChecksErica Rand uses multiple meanings of hip check—an athlete using their hip to throw an opponent off balance and the inspection of racialized gender—to consider the workings of queer gender, race, and writing in the The Small Book of Hip Checks.

Drawing from ethnographic work with queer activist groups in contemporary Turkey, Evren Savcı’s Queer in Translation explores how Western LGBT politics are translated and reworked there in ways that generate new spaces for resistance and solidarity.

Anthony Reed takes the recorded collaborations between African American poets and musicians such as Amiri Baraka, Jayne Cortez, Cecil Taylor, and Charles Mingus to trace the overlaps between experimental music and poetry and the ways in which intellectuals, poets, and musicians define black sound as a radical aesthetic practice in Soundworks.

The Bruce B. Lawrence Reader assembles over two dozen selections of writing by leading scholar of Islam Bruce B. Lawrence which range from analyses of premodern and modern Islamic discourses, practices, and institutions to methodological and theoretical reflections on the study of religion.

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New Books in December

As we close out 2020, check out our new December titles.

interimperialityWeaving together feminist, decolonial, and dialectical theory, Laura Doyle theorizes the co-emergence of empires, institutions, language regimes, stratified economies, and literary cultures over the longue durée in Inter-imperiality.

Prathama Banerjee moves beyond postcolonial and decolonial critiques of European political philosophy in Elementary Aspects of the Political to rethink modern conceptions of “the political” from the perspective of Indian and Bengali practices and philosophies from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

the colonizing self

Hagar Kotef in The Colonizing Self explores the cultural, political, spatial, and theoretical mechanisms that enable people and nations to settle on the ruins of other people’s homes, showing how settler-colonial violence becomes inseparable from one’s sense of self.

Bakirathi Mani examines the visual and affective relationships between South Asian diasporic viewers, artists, and photographic representations of immigrant subjects in Unseeing Empire, showing how empire continues to haunt South Asian American visual cultures.

Claiming Union WidowhoodBrandi Clay Brimmer analyzes the US pension system from the perspective of poor black women in the period before, during, and after the Civil War in Claiming Union Widowhood; outlining the struggles of mothers, wives, and widows of black Union soldiers to claim rights in the face of unjust legislation.

Weaving together the black radical tradition with Caribbean and Latinx performance, cinema, music, and literature, Ren Ellis Neyra in The Cry of the Senses highlights the ways Latinx and Caribbean sonic practices challenge antiblack, colonial, post-Enlightenment, and humanist epistemologies.

In Utopian Ruins, Jie Li traces the creation, preservation, and elision of memories about China’s Mao era by envisioning a virtual museum that reckons with both its utopian yearnings and cataclysmic reverberations.

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