Social Theory

Q&A with Sara Ahmed, author of Complaint!

Sara Ahmed is an independent scholar and author of What’s the Use?, Living a Feminist Life, and other books also published by Duke University Press. Drawing on oral and written testimonies from academics and students who have made complaints about harassment, bullying, and unequal working conditions at universities, in her new book Complaint! she examines what we can learn about power from those who complain about abuses of power.

In the introduction to Complaintyou write about how your resignation created the conditions that made this book possible. Was it essential for you to be outside the institution as you compiled these stories?

I decided to do this research on complaint before I resigned. I did not know I was going to resign until I did! Once I had resigned, it changed how I could do the research. I wouldn’t say it was essential that I was outside the institution to be able to collect the stories but it certainly shaped how I could do it.

That I was outside the institution had an impact on the kinds of stories that were shared with me. The complaints that I talk about in the book (I don’t talk about all complaints!), complaints about abuses of power, complaints that challenge hierarchies, can devastate lives as well as careers. Complaints can be hard to talk about – you can even be prevented from talking about them.  Many of the participants in my study got in touch with me because they heard about my resignation. It mattered to them that I had resigned. I had refused to be silent; I had said no. That I was outside the institution probably also meant I could provide a safer space: they were not speaking to someone who was in the same institution they were speaking about. 

From my point of view, I do not really feel outside the institution – even if I sometimes call myself post-institutional. The fact that I did the research shows in a way that I am still in it, still on it. Leaving my post and profession was a very painful, bumpy and difficult process – and doing this research helped me to come to terms with what happened and to feel more grounded where I am, doing what I am.  I am so grateful for that.

Complaint! is about grievances against institutions of higher education but discrimination is everywhere, as are HR roadblocks to disciplinary procedures. What can non-academic readers learn from the stories you’ve collected?

You could do the kind of research that I have done for this book in many other institutions – and in fact, I have been approached by people about their experiences in other sectors who have shared very similar stories. I spoke to someone in my own neighborhood recently. She asked me what I was working on and when I said I was working on complaint, she shared a story. She told me what happened when she tried to complain about being bullied by her manager at the supermarket where she worked. She said “I knew I was in trouble, when they shut the door.” The experience she had of ending up under scrutiny because she complained, her knowledge of what the closed door meant, how her complaint was going to be managed and contained, was very similar to many of the experiences shared by academics and students. 

We learn from what we share. 

The book is really about power, how power works to make it hard to challenge how power works. That complaint procedures become techniques for stopping complaints and complainers is telling us something about the mechanics of power. So, I hope the book reaches readers outside the university. I also am planning to write a shorter book, The Complainer’s Handbook, which will follow The Feminist Killjoy Handbook that I am currently drafting, so I can share the stories with less of a focus on the university as a specific site. 

You map how complaints can lay groundwork for future change, and can create communities of shared experience between people whom institutional processes would otherwise have kept apart. Complaint activism is not a guarantee of institutional change, but rather “a way of thinking about what we get from complaint even when we do not get through.” Is this hopeful, or exhausting? 

It is hopeful and exhausting! I call the hope of complaint, a “weary hope,” we have hope because of what we go through not despite it even when we don’t get very far. This kind of hope gives us a sense of the point, of there being a point, but it keeps us close to the ground. Complaints can take so much out of you. But most of the time, we also get something from them. I was really delighted that Leila Whitley, Tiffany Page and Alice Corble (with support from Heidi Hasbrouck and Chryssa Sdrolia and others) wrote one of the two conclusions of the book about their experience of making a collective complaint. They took on this work as PhD students – I joined the collective they had already formed. The last sentence of their conclusion is very simple and very powerful and very true. They write: “We moved something.” We have hope, they moved something, even if it took a huge amount of effort to get there. And that effort led us to each other.  A weary “we” is still a “we.” That matters.

What does it mean for complaint to be pedagogy? 

Complaint as feminist pedagogy became the Twitter hashtag for my project – this wasn’t an intentional decision; it was one of the formulations I was trying out to pull out the significance of complaint and it is the one that stuck! Other formulations in the book are “complaint as diversity work,” and “complaints as a queer method.” Each “as” brings out different aspects of what complaints are about

Why pedagogy? When we think of pedagogy, we might think of how we teach – the teacher is the subject who uses different methods of instruction (which are also different ways of thinking about learning). By saying complaint is pedagogy, I am putting complaint in the position of the subject/teacher. We learn from complaint about the world. If we hadn’t complained, there is so much we would not know (even could not know) about what goes on. By making complaint my teacher, I position myself as learning from those I have spoken to. In my conclusion I acknowledge that “learning,” is one of the most used words in the book.

Complaint is heavy work. What strategies have you learned for those engaged in complaint to persevere? 

Finding other people to support you in your institution is vital.  If you can’t find someone inside your institution, go outside. Complaint procedures are designed to keep us apart for a reason. We need to combine our resources and energies. We need our co-complainers. We often lose people when we make complaints. But we also find people. 

Working together is also about accepting the limits of what each of us can do. There is only so much we can do. I have in my “Killjoy Survival Kit” from Living a Feminist Life, permissions notes – sometimes, we need to give ourselves permission not to do something if it is too much. We are different and we need different things to keep going. I also think of tactics that might lighten the load – we might laugh, dance, eat, breathe, take walks, hang out with our companions, furry and non-furry. 

There are two sentences from my conclusion to Complaint! that are key to my thoughts about working on as well as at institutions. They are slightly modified versions of sentences that appeared in What’s the Use: On the Uses of Use, which also made use of data from my research into complaint.  

Transforming institutions can be necessary if we are to survive them. But we still need to survive the institutions we are trying to transform.

The heavier the task, and complaint is made heavy, it is no accident that you feel the weight of the institution coming down on you, the more you need to attend to what you need to survive.  I am, of course, learning from Audre Lorde here. 

Complaint! is learning from Lorde

Read the introduction to Complaint! free online and save 50% on it and all in-stock titles with coupon FALL21 through October 15, 2021. After October 15, save 30% on Complaint! with coupon E21AHMD.

New Books in August

Don’t miss all our exciting new releases in August!

In three long-form poems and a lyrical essay, fahima ife speculates in Maroon Choreography on the afterlives of Black fugitivity, unsettling the historic knowledge of it while moving inside the ongoing afterlives of those people who disappeared themselves into rural spaces beyond the reach of slavery.

Rachel Zolf activates the last three lines of a poem by Jewish Nazi Holocaust survivor Paul Celan—“No one / bears witness for the / witness”—to theorize the poetics and im/possibility of witnessing in No One’s Witness.

In Amkoullel, the Fula Boy, Malian writer Amadou Hampâté Bâ—one of the towering figures in the literature of twentieth-century Francophone Africa—tells in striking detail the story of his youth, which was set against inter-ethnic conflict and the arrival and installation of French colonialism.

In The Politics of Decolonial Investigation Walter D. Mignolo provides a sweeping examination of how colonialty has operated around the world in its myriad forms between the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries while calling for a decolonial politics that would delink from all forms of Western knowledge.

Laurence Coderre explores the material culture of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in Newborn Socialist Things to show how it paved the way for rampant commodification and consumption in contemporary China.

Carolyn Hardin offers a new way of understanding arbitrage—the trading practice that involves buying assets in one market at a cheap price and immediately selling them in another market for a profit—as a means of showing how its reliance upon taking on risk is fundamental to financial markets in Capturing Finance.

Monica Huerta draws on her experiences growing up in her family’s Mexican restaurants and her life as an academic in Magical Habits to sketch out habits of living that allow us to consider what it means to live with history as we are caught up in it and how those histories bear on our capacities to make sense of our lives.

The contributors to Long Term, edited by Scott Herring and Lee Wallace, use the tension between the popular embrace and legalization of same-sex marriage and the queer critique of homonormativity as an opportunity to examine the myriad forms of queer commitments and their durational aspect.

In Domestic Contradictions Priya Kandaswamy brings together two crucial moments in welfare history—the advent of the Freedmen’s Bureau during Reconstruction and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996—to show how they each targeted Black women through negative stereotyping and normative assumptions about gender, race, and citizenship.

In Policing Protest Paul A. Passavant explores how the policing of protest in the United States has become increasingly hostile since the late 1990s, moving away from strategies that protect protestors toward militaristic practices designed to suppress legal protests.

In A Black Intellectual’s Odyssey Martin Kilson—the first tenured African American professor at Harvard—takes readers on a fascinating journey from his upbringing in a small Pennsylvania mill town to his experiences as an undergraduate to pursuing graduate study at Harvard before spending his entire career there as a faculty member.

In Whiteness Interrupted, Marcus Bell presents a revealing portrait of white teachers in majority Black schools to outline how white racial identity is constructed based on localized interactions and the ways whiteness takes a different form in predominantly Black spaces.

Jennifer C. Nash examines how the figure of the “Black mother” has become a powerful political category synonymous with crisis, showing how they are often rendered into one-dimensional symbols of tragic heroism and the ground zero of Black life in Birthing Black Mothers.

Transnational Feminist Itineraries, edited by Ashwini Tambe and Millie Thayer, demonstrates the key contributions of transnational feminist theory and practice to analyzing and contesting authoritarian nationalism and the extension of global corporate power.

In Reimagining Social Medicine from the South Abigail H. Neely explores social medicine’s possibilities and limitations at one of its most important origin sites: the Pholela Community Health Centre (PCHC) in South Africa.

New Books in June

Looking for some summer reading? Check out the great new titles we have coming out in June!

Jennifer L. Morgan draws on the lived experiences of enslaved African women in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries in Reckoning with Slavery to reveal the contours of early modern notions of trade, race, and commodification in the Black Atlantic.

In Decolonizing Memory, Jill Jarvis examines the crucial role that writers and artists have played in cultivating historical memory and nurturing political resistance in Algeria, showing how literature offers the unique ability to reckon with colonial violence and to render the experiences of those marginalized by the state.

The contributors to Beyond Man, edited by An Yountae and Eleanor Craig, reckon with the colonial and racial implications of the philosophy of religion’s history by staging a conversation between it and Black, Indigenous, and decolonial studies.

In Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, Martin Savransky draws on the pragmatic pluralism of William James and the ontological turn in anthropology to propose a “pluralistic realism”—an understanding of ontology in which at any given time the world is both one and many, ongoing and unfinished.

In How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind, La Marr Jurelle Bruce ponders the presence of “madness” in black literature, music, and performance since the early twentieth century, showing how artist ranging from Kendrick Lamar and Lauryn Hill to Nina Simone and Dave Chappelle activate madness as content, form, aesthetic, strategy, philosophy, and energy in an enduring black radical tradition.

Việt Lê examines contemporary art in Cambodia and Việt Nam in Return Engagements to trace the entwinement of militarization, trauma, diaspora, and modernity in Southeast Asian art.

In Images of Beirut, Hatim El-Hibri explores how the creation and circulation of images has shaped the urban spaces and cultural imaginaries of Beirut, showing how images can be used to consolidate or destabilize regimes of power.

Editors Diana Paton and Matthew J. Smith combine more than one hundred classic and lesser-known texts in The Jamaica Reader to present a panoramic history of the country—from its pre-contact Indigenous origins to the present—and provide an unparalleled look at Jamaica’s history, culture, and politics.

In Colonial Debts, Rocío Zambrana uses the current political-economic moment in Puerto Rico to outline how debt functions as both an apparatus that strengthens neoliberalism and the island’s colonial relation to the United States.

Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández challenges the stereotypes of machismo in Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora with nuanced portraits of Mexican men and masculinities along and across the US-Mexico border.

The contributors to Words and Worlds, edited by Veena Das and Didier Fassin, examine the state of politics and the political imaginary within contemporary societies by taking up the everyday words such as democracy, revolution, and populism that we use to understand the political present.

A concise, easy-to-understand reference book, the revised and updated second edition of the bestselling All about Your Eyes tells you what you need to know to care for your eyes, various eye diseases and treatments, and what to expect from your eye doctor. The editors, Sharon Fekrat, Tanya S. Glaser, and Henry L. Feng are all physicians at the world-renown Duke Eye Center.

In an indispensable guide for all ethnographers, the editors of Experimenting with Ethnography, Andrea Ballestero and Brit Ross Winthereik, collect twenty-one essays that offer concrete suggestions for thinking about and doing ethnographic research and writing.

The contributors to Sound Alignments, edited by Michael K. Bourdaghs, Paola Iovene, and Kaley Mason, explore the myriad forms of popular music in Asia during the Cold War, showing how it took on new meanings and significance as it traveled across the region and forged and challenged alliances, revolutions, and countercultures.

Shaoling Ma examines late Qing China’s political upheavals and modernizing energies through the problem of the dynamics between new media technologies such as the telegraph the discursive representations of them in The Stone and the Wireless.

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New Books in April

Check out the great new titles we have coming out in April!

Right Here Right NowIn Right Here, Right Now, Lynden Harris collects the powerful first-person stories of dozens of men who are living on death row in the United States, offering a glimpse into the lives of some of the most marginalized people in America. Watch the trailer.

Rafico Ruiz uses the Grenfell Mission in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, to theorize how settler colonialism establishes itself through the building, maintenance, and mediation of site-specific infrastructure in Slow Disturbance.

Analyzing a range of Chicano/a and Native American novels, films, short stories and other cultural artifacts from the eighteenth century to the present, Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita in Spatial and Discursive Violence in the US Southwest examine literary representations of settler colonial land enclosure and dispossession in the US Southwest.

Hentyle Yapp analyzes contemporary Chinese art as it circulates on the global art market to outline the limitations of the predominant narratives that currently frame understandings of non-Western art in Minor China. Join an online book launch for Minor China on April 15.

We are excited to be bringing out two new volumes in the Stuart Hall: Selected Writings series. Selected Writings on Marxism, edited by Gregor McLennan, collects Stuart Hall’s key writings on Marxism surveys the formative questions central to his interpretations of and investments in Marxist theory and practice.

Race and DifferenceAnd in Selected Writings on Race and Difference, Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Paul Gilroy gather more than twenty essays by Stuart Hall that highlight his extensive and groundbreaking engagement with race, representation, identity, difference, and diaspora.

The contributors to Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging, edited by Leerom Medovoi and Elizabeth Bentley, examine how the new political worlds that are emerging—from Trump’s America to the post-Arab-Spring Middle East—intersect with locally specific articulations of religion and secularism.

Todne Thomas explores the internal dynamics of community life among black evangelicals and the ways they create spiritual relationships through the practice of Kincraft—the construction of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, partners in prayer, and spiritual mothers, fathers, and children.

Edited and translated by Ilinca Iurascu, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, and Michael Wutz, Operation Valhalla collects eighteen texts by German media theorist Friedrich Kittler on the close connections between war and media technology.

Eating in TheoryAnnmarie Mol reassess notions of human being and becoming by thinking through the activity of eating, showing how eating is a lively practice bound up with our identities, actions, politics, and senses of belonging in the world in Eating in Theory.

Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu examines the legacies of the Vietnam War on contemporary ideas about race and beauty, in Experiments in Skin, showing how US wartime efforts to alleviate the environmental and chemical risks to soldiers’ skin has impacted how contemporary Vietnamese women use pharmaceutical cosmetics to repair the damage from the war’s lingering toxicity.

The Long EmancipationRinaldo Walcott posits that Black people globally live in the time of emancipation and that emancipation is definitely not freedom in The Long Emancipation, showing that wherever Black people have been emancipated from slavery and colonization, a potential freedom became thwarted.

Drawing on Black feminism, Afro-pessimism, and critical race theory, the contributors to Antiblackness, Moon-Kie Jung and João H. Costa-Vargas,trace the forms of antiblackness across time and space, showing how the dehumanization of Black people has been foundational to the establishment of modernity.

Thomas Aiello traces the complicated and fascinating life of pioneering journalist, television host, bestselling author, and important yet overlooked civil rights figure in The Life and Times of Louis Lomax. Lomax became one of the most influential voices of the civil rights movement despite his past as an ex-con, serial liar, and publicity-seeking provocateur.

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Q&A with Catherine Besteman, author of “Miltarized Global Apartheid”

Besteman shotCatherine Besteman is Francis F. Bartlett and Ruth K. Bartlett Professor of Anthropology at Colby College. She is the author or editor of many books, including Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine (2016). Her latest book is Militarized Global Apartheid, which is part of the Global Insecurities series, which she co-edits.

As your title makes clear, your book argues that we are living under militarized global apartheid. You explain in your Introduction that your concept is (as might be suspected) modeled after South Africa’s apartheid, which extended officially from 1948 to 1994. How might the term apartheid, and the South African paradigm it references, contribute to an understanding of current global networks? And why might it be preferable to other words like imperialism, globalization, and transnationalism, which, as you mention, have been formerly utilized in your field?

Militarized Global ApartheidThe reason for defining the system I analyze as militarized global apartheid is to highlight the ways in which imperialism, globalization, and transnationalism are race-based projects. Imperialist projects over the past 500 years are projects of racial differentiation and racist domination; projects of capital accumulation enabled by globalization use hierarchies created by racial differentiation as a tool of extraction and domination; and transnationalism presumes nationalism, which, as I show, has become a racially coded identity in most parts of the world. As scholars such as Cedric Robinson, Charles Mills, Deborah Thomas, and Kamari Clarke have shown brilliantly in various ways, globalization has proceeded over the past 500 years through the creation and imposition of race-based hierarchies in ways that reinforce white supremacy and benefit the global north rather than the global south through the control of mobility and labor. Using the term ‘apartheid’ places race at the center of analysis of how power and capitalism work in our contemporary world.

Your project is built around a conceptual division of the world between the global north and the global south. As you yourself remark, the global south is a contested geographical category and not at all homogenous. Why is it important for you, nevertheless, to utilize this concept? What does the category miss, and what does it get right? 

Global north and global south are obviously roughly drawn terms that nevertheless I find useful for making my theoretical argument. I draw on Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s definition of the global north and Jean and John Comaroff’s definition of the global south in recognition of the historical fact that the forces of capital extraction and finance emanate primarily from the global north and that most of the global south experienced colonization and neocolonization of one kind or another by countries in the global north. Of course, these terms carry the danger of reductionism and overgeneralization. Categories like these miss the class interests shared by elites across these divides, which is a critically important component of the contemporary world. These categories also run the risk of reinforcing dangerous assumptions about global north supremacy and global south impoverishment, which the book seeks to deconstruct. But I hope my use of these broad categories to describe the global patterns of militarized structures of control over mobility and labor clarify whose interests are being served and which parts of the world are being harmed.

You argue that our current framework of militarized global apartheid rests heavily on racialization, which is increasingly tied to nationality; long-standing systems of white supremacy, then, encourage heightened policing and militarization to contain people of the global south within geographical borders according to their perceived national belonging. Would you say that mobility, in the face of containment, is a human right? And how can we imagine “belonging,” as you title your first chapter, outside of the boundaries of national borders?

Yes, absolutely, I consider mobility to be a human right. Everyone should have the right to move. As for how to imagine belonging outside the boundaries of national borders, all we have to do is look at how much work has gone into constructing nationalism and national identities over the past century and a half alone. The monumental effort expended to cohere groups of people into accepting national identities as not only legitimate but primary suggests the power of alternative—and competing—sensibilities of mutuality, belonging, and commonality, often rooted in kinship, locality, language, religious affiliation, or other things. The notion of belonging carries a commitment to mutual responsibility, care, and social recognition; a sense of shared basic values; and a willingness to co-participate in problem-solving. We don’t need nation-states to create these things.  

In your introduction, you draw a connection between “security fears about immigrants, and the disproportionate incarceration of Black men in the United States.” Can you say more about this link? How can your concept of militarized global apartheid inform ongoing critiques of policing and incarceration within the US that systemically target Black people, despite their national citizenship?

This issue—the connection between the racialized policing and control of mobile populations and the racialized policing and control of internal populations—is really the crux of the book. Security imperialism—in the form of mobility controls wielded against mobile and potentially mobile populations from the global south by countries of the global north—is tightly and intricately connected to carcerality within nation-states of the global north. Racialized language and militarized security innovations characterize both arenas. The use of mass incarceration as a tool of social control in some parts of the global north, most particularly the US, is reproduced in the carceral forms spreading across the global south as imprisonment and containment become the norm for disciplining political dissent, removing populations whose presence is threatening to capitalist interests, and meeting the demands of the global north for constraining mobility. I call this security carcerality, and argue it is the new form of imperialism of our era.

You acknowledge early on that migrants resist militarized apartheid in diverse and creative ways, but that this resistance is not the focus of your current project. What brought you to the decision to aim your attention at global systems of containment, rather than on sites of contestation? 

There have been so many studies of migrant resistance, strategies, experiences, and tragedies, including by me. Migrants have been in the spotlight for decades, but especially since the so-called migrant ‘crisis’ of 2015 in Europe, and some scholars, like Shahram Khosravi, are calling for scholars to recognize a migrant ‘right to opacity’. The focus on the migrant can be seen as reproducing the perception that migrants are the problem, when in fact they are not. The problem is a global system which unequally apportions capital and the power of some over the livelihoods of others, controls mobility, and determines who has the right to move and whose mobility is blocked. The problem is a global system in which the lives of people in the global south are seen as sacrificable for the benefit of people in the global north. My choice in this book is to focus on the real problem, the global system of militarized apartheid.

Who do you hope reads your book? 

I hope the book will be useful for teaching, which is why it is short. Chapters can be excerpted and taught separately. I hope the book reaches a cross disciplinary audience, speaking to geographers, critical race and globalization theorists, migration scholars and advocates, journalists, and people working in critical security studies. I hope the book stimulates a range of new studies, and especially studies that push forward the discussion about alternative futures opened in the book’s final chapter. My 90-year old stepfather was the first family member to read this book, and he read it in two days and then phoned with a long list of questions. I hope people of all ages read this book and then get in touch with their list of questions.

New Books in November

November is here, and even though we may have the US election and the end of the semester on our minds, there are still new books to celebrate. Check out our November releases. They should all be out before the end of our 50% off sale on November 23, so be sure to check the website frequently. Use coupon code FALL2020 to save.

AnimaliaAnimalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times is a unique new collection edited by Antoinette Burton and Renisa Mawani. The contributors analyze twenty-six animals—domestic, feral, predatory, and mythical—whose relationship to imperial authorities and settler colonists reveals how the presumed racial supremacy of Europeans underwrote the history of Western imperialism.

In Aesthetics of Excess: The Art and Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment, Jillian Hernandez examines how cultural discourses of aesthetic value racialize the bodies of women and girls of color by Analyzing the personal clothing, makeup, and hairstyles of working-class Black and Latina girls.

Liquor Store TheatreIn Liquor Store Theatre, artist and anthropologist Maya Stovall uses her Liquor Store Theatre conceptual art project—in which she danced near her Detroit neighborhood’s liquor stores as a way to start conversations with her neighbors—as a point of departure for understanding everyday life in Detroit and the possibilities for ethnographic research, art, and knowledge creation.

Mimi Sheller’s Island Futures: Caribbean Survival in the Anthropocene delves into the ecological crises and reconstruction challenges affecting the entire Caribbean region, showing how vulnerability to ecological collapse and the quest for a “just recovery” in the Caribbean emerge from specific transnational political, economic, and cultural dynamics.

Militarized Global ApartheidCatherine Besteman offers a sweeping theorization of the ways in which countries from the global North are reproducing South Africa’s apartheid system on a worldwide scale to control the mobility and labor of people from the global South in her new book Militarized Global Apartheid.

In Biopolitics of the More-Than-Human: Forensic Ecologies of Violence, Joseph Pugliese examines the concept of the biopolitical through a nonanthropocentric lens, arguing that more-than-human entities—from soil and orchards to animals and water—are actors and agents in their own right with legitimate claims to justice.

For a Pragmatics of the UselessFor a Pragmatics of the Useless by Erin Manning draws on the radical black tradition, process philosophy, and Felix Guattari’s schizoanalysis to explore the links between neurotypicality, whiteness, and black life.

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Congratulations to MacArthur Fellow Fred Moten

Black and BlurCongratulations to Fred Moten, who has won a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. Moten is the author of the consent not to be a single being trilogy, which includes Black and Blur, Stolen Life, and The Universal Machine. He is also the author of a book of poems, B Jenkins.

The MacArthur Fellows program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. Recipients receive a $625,000 stipend. Of Moten’s work, the MacArthur Foundation says, “In his theoretical and critical writing on visual culture, poetics, music, and performance, Moten seeks to move beyond normative categories of analysis, grounded in Western philosophical traditions, that do not account for the Black experience. He is developing a new mode of aesthetic inquiry wherein the conditions of being Black play a central role.”

Watch Moten speak about his work. 

This week, Fred Moten is also being awarded the 2020 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Honor of Newton Arvin for his book Black and Blur. The Capote Award is a $30,000 prize and is the largest award for literary criticism in English.

Ken Wissoker, Senior Executive Editor says, “I’m so moved. Fred Moten is my idea of what a genius is. His capaciousness of thought, the generative spirit of engagement.” The staff of Duke University Press send Fred a huge congratulations for these well-deserved honors.

All of Fred Moten’s books are 50% off during our Fall Sale (through November 23, 2020) using coupon code FALL2020.

New Books in October

As the days cool and leaves turn so should your new book pages! This month our new book titles will go great with your favorite hot drink.

sentient fleshExamining black performance practices that critique Western humanism, R. A. Judy offers an extended meditation on questions of blackness, the human, epistemology, and the historical ways in which the black being is understood in Sentient Flesh.

In Sensory Experiments, Erica Fretwell examines how psychophysics—a nineteenth-century scientific movement originating in Germany dedicated to the empirical study of sensory experience—became central to the process of creating human difference along the lines of race, gender, and ability in nineteenth-century America.

Brigitte Fielder presents an alternative theory of how race is constructed in Relative Races with readings of nineteenth-century personal narratives, novels, plays, stories, poems, and images to illustrate how interracial kinship follows non-heteronormative, non-biological, and non-patrilineal models of inheritance in nineteenth-century literary culture.

The Sense of Brown, which he was completing at the time of his death, is José Esteban Muñoz’s treatise on brownness and being as well as his most direct address to queer Latinx studies. Joshua Chambers-Letson and Tavia Nyong′o have edited the book and written an introduction.The Sense of Brown

Lyle Fearnley situates the production of ecological facts about the likely epicenter of viral pandemics inside the shifting cultural landscapes of agrarian change and the geopolitics of global health in the timely new book Virulent Zones.

Amalia Leguizamón reveals how the Argentine state, agribusiness, and their allies in the media and sciences deploy narratives of economic redistribution, scientific expertise, and national identity as a way to gain the public’s consent to grow genetically modified soybeans despite the massive environmental and social costs in Seeds of Power.

Drawing on ethnographic research with policy makers, politicians, activists, scholars, and the public in Manchester, England, Hannah Knox in Thinking Like a Climate confronts the challenges climate change poses to knowledge production and modern politics.

Wild Things with border In Wild Things Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which the wild—a space located beyond normative borders of sexuality—offers sources of opposition to knowing and being that transgress Euro-American notions of the modern subject.

Saiba Varma in The Occupied Clinic, explores spaces of military and humanitarian care in Indian-controlled Kashmir—the world’s most militarized place—to examine the psychic, ontological, and political entanglements between medicine and violence.

With Cowards Don′t Make History, Joanne Rappaport examines the work of a group of Colombian social scientists led by Orlando Fals Borda, who in the 1970s developed a model of “participatory action research” in which they embedded themselves into local communities to use their research in the service of social and political organizing.

Vanessa Freije explores the causes and consequences of political scandals in Mexico from the 1960s through the 1980s in Citizens of Scandal, showing how Mexico City reporters began to denounce government corruption during this period in ways that defined the Mexican public sphere in the late twentieth century .

In Building Socialism, Christina Schwenkel analyzes the collaboration between East German and Vietnamese architects and urban planners as they attempted to transform the bombed-out industrial city of Vinh into a model socialist city.

Political theorist and anticapitalist activist Sabu Kohso uses the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster to illuminate the relationship between nuclear power, capitalism, and the nation-state in Radiation and Revolution, showing how nuclear power has become the organizing principle of the global order.

blackdiamondqueens In Black Diamond Queens Maureen Mahon documents the major contributions African American women vocalists such as Big Mama Thornton, Betty Davis, Tina Turner, and Merry Clayton have made to rock and roll throughout its history.

Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan in The Globally Familiar examines how the young men of Delhi’s hip hop scene construct themselves on- and off-line and how digital platforms offer these young men the means to reimagine themselves and their city through hip hop.

In essays addressing topics ranging from cinema, feminism, and art to hip hop, urban slums, and digital technology, Sujatha Fernandes in The Cuban Hustle explores the multitudinous ways ordinary Cubans have sought to hustle, survive, and create expressive cultures in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

In Genetic Afterlives, Noah Tamarkin illustrates how Lemba people in South Africa give their own meanings to the results of DNA tests that substantiated their ancestral connections to Jews and employ them to manage competing claims of Jewish ethnic and religious identity, African indigeneity, and South African citizenship.

Shane Denson examines the ways in which computer-generated digital images displace and transform the traditional spatial and temporal relationships that viewers had with conventional analog forms of cinema in Discorrelated Images.

Media Primitivism by Delinda Collier finds alternative concepts of mediation in African art by closely engaging with electricity-based works since 1944.

writing in spaceWriting in Space, 1973-2019 gathers the writings of conceptual artist Lorraine O’Grady as edited by Aruna D’Souza, including artist statements, scripts, magazine articles, critical essays on art and culture, and interviews.

Acknowledging the difficulty for artists in the twenty-first century to effectively critique systems of power, in The Play in the System Anna Watkins Fisher theorizes parasitism—a form of resistance in which artists comply with dominant structures as a tool for practicing resistance from within.

Filled with advice from over fifty contributors, this completely revised and expanded edition of our popular book The Academic’s Handbook guides academics at every career stage, whether they are first entering the job market or negotiating post-tenure challenges of accepting leadership and administrative roles. The volume is edited by Lori A. Flores and Jocelyn H. Olcott.

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New Books and Journals in Sociology

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August marks the beginning of the fall conference season, when we usually look forward to greeting authors and editors at our booths. Unfortunately, most conferences have been cancelled for the rest of 2020 or have gone online only. The American Sociological Association will hold its online meeting August 8-11. Although we can’t greet you in person at our booth, we invite you check out our web page for the conference and peruse our sociology catalog. You can save 30% on all books and journal issues using coupon code ASOCA20.

Editor Elizabeth Ault was supposed to attend ASA for the first time this year. Instead, she offers you some highlights from our sociology list here.

EAult_webGreetings, sociologists! I’m really sad not to get the chance to meet up with folks in person in San Francisco. Not only because, well, San Francisco!!, but also because this was supposed to be my first ASA as the editor primarily responsible for our sociology lists here at Duke. It’s an honor to be stepping into a strong list in a field that has lots of important insights to offer about the current uprisings against white supremacy and anti-Black policing, the healthcare disparities being laid bare by COVID-19, and so much more. I’m disappointed to miss out on the chance to celebrate the publication of important books like We Are Not Dreamers, a collection of work by undocumented scholars, edited by Leisy J. Abrego and Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales; Symbolic Violence, a new engagement with Bourdieu from Michael Burawoy; and Nandita Sharma’s crucial work on sovereignty and migration, Home Rule

Even without meeting in person, though, there’s lots to look forward to: I’m eager to see how Duke Press’s recent books on intersectionality, by Patricia Hill Collins and Jennifer Nash, are changing conversations and methods! And I’m really excited about the highlighted conversation on  “Power, Resistance, and Inequality in Tech,” which I know will draw on important insights from Ruha Benjamin’s edited collection Captivating Technology. I am looking forward to learning from you all as we continue the conversations represented by these books and begin new ones. 

A little bit about me: I’ve been acquiring books primarily in disability studies, Black studies, trans studies, global urban studies, and African and Middle East studies. I’m also interested in Latinx and other critical ethnic studies, critical studies of policing and prisons, and higher education. I know there’s lots of great work on these topics happening in sociology!

To give us the opportunity to meet face-to-face, I’ll be holding Zoom office hours, in lieu of the casual chats we might have had in the book room (or at the hotel bar!) on the Monday and Tuesday of the conference. You can sign up for those here. And you can always find me on Twitter.

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

In addition to the panel featuring Ruha Benjamin that Elizabeth mentions above, several of our authors are presenting at the virtual ASA conference. Michael Burawoy has organized the panel “The Neoliberal University,” is a discussant on the panel “Canonization,” and will serve as a moderator on the panel “The Specter of Global China.”  And Trevor Hoppe, co-editor of The War on Sex, has organized the panel “Deviance and Social Control.”

978-1-4780-0840-8This week we are also pleased to launch the first in a series of online conversations we are planning for the fall. Watch Alex Blanchette discuss his recent book Porkopolis with Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker. 

Flip to page 15 of our virtual sociology catalog to peruse imaginative new journal issues on disability, sanctuary, alternatives to policing, Indigenous land reclamation, and more.

And finally, we’re really going to miss one of our favorite conference traditions, the in-booth photos of authors with their recent books. Please check out our album of author selfies instead. We’ll be posting those photos on Twitter this weekend as well.

Although you can’t pick up books in our booth this year, you can save 30% online with coupon code ASOCA20. If you live in the UK or Europe, head to Combined Academic Publishers and save there with coupon code CSDUKE30.

New Books in August

It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to an end but there’s still time to purchase new books to complete your summer reading list. Check out these exciting new titles coming out hot off the press this August!

978-1-4780-0828-6In Information Activism, Cait McKinney traces how lesbian feminist activists in the United States and Canada between the 1970s and the present developed communication networks, databases, and digital archives to use as a foundation for their feminist, antiracist, and trans-inclusive work.

Resource Radicals by Thea Riofrancos explores the politics of extraction, energy, and infrastructure in contemporary Ecuador in order to understand how resource dependency becomes a dilemma for leftist governments and movements alike.

In Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema, Daisuke Miyao reveals the undetected influence that Japanese art and aesthetics had on early cinema and the pioneering films of the Lumiére brothers.

978-1-4780-0943-6Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, her experience reporting for People magazine, and dozens of interviews with photographers, journalists, publicists, magazine editors, and celebrities, in Manufacturing Celebrity Vanessa Díaz traces the complex power dynamics of the reporting and paparazzi work that fuel contemporary Hollywood and American celebrity culture.

In American Blockbuster, Charles R. Acland charts the origins, impact, and dynamics of the blockbuster, showing how it became a complex economic and cultural machine designed to advance popular support for technological advances.

Conceiving of sovereign space as volume rather than area, the contributors to Voluminous States, edited by Franck Billé, explore how such a conception reveals and underscores the three-dimensional nature of modern territorial governance. 

978-1-4780-0839-2In History 4° Celsius, Ian Baucom puts black studies into conversation with climate change, outlining how the ongoing concerns of critical race, diaspora, and postcolonial studies are crucial to understanding the Anthropocene and vice versa.

In Peripheral Nerve, the contributors to this volume reframe the history of the Cold War by focusing on how Latin America used the rivalry between superpowers to create alternative sociomedical pathways. The collection is edited by Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Raúl Necochea López.

In his posthumous book Sexual Hegemony, Christopher Chitty traces the 500 year history of capitalist sexual relations, showing how sexuality became a crucial dimension of the accumulation of capital and a technique of bourgeois rule. The book is edited by Max Fox and features an introduction by Christopher Nealon.

In Infamous Bodies, Samantha Pinto explores how histories of and the ongoing fame of Phillis Wheatley, Sally Hemings, Sarah Baartman, Mary Seacole, and Sarah Forbes Bonetta generate new ways of imagining black feminist futures.

978-1-4780-0959-7Examining the work of Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Solange Knowles, Flying Lotus, and others, in The Meaning of Soul Emily J. Lordi proposes a new understanding of soul, showing how it came to signify a belief in black resilience enacted through musical practices.

In Afterlives of Affect, Matthew C. Watson considers the life and work of artist and Mayanist scholar Linda Schele (1942–1998) as an entry point to discuss the nature of cultural inquiry, decipherment in anthropology, and the social conditions of knowledge production.

In Enduring Cancer, Dwaipayan Banerjee explores the efforts of Delhi’s urban poor to create a livable life with cancer as they negotiate an over-extended health system unequipped to respond to the disease.

In Gestures of Concern, Chris Ingraham shows that gestures of concern, such as sharing or liking a post on social media, are central to establishing the necessary conditions for larger social or political change because they help to build the affective communities that orient us to one another with an imaginable future in mind.

978-1-4780-1083-8The contributors to We Are Not Dreamers—who are themselves currently or formerly undocumented—call for the elimination of the Dreamer narrative, showing how it establishes high expectations for who deserves citizenship and marginalizes large numbers of undocumented youth. The collection is edited by Leisy J. Abrego and Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales.

The contributors to Gramsci in the World, edited by Roberto M. Dainotto and Fredric Jameson, examine the varying receptions and uses of Antonio Gramsci’s thought in diverse geographical, historical, and political contexts, highlighting its possibilities and limits for understanding and changing the social world.

As vast infrastructure projects transform the Mekong River, in Mekong Dreaming Andrew Alan Johnson explores of how rapid environmental change affects how people live, believe, and dream.

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