Sociology

New Books in August

Our Fall 2019 season is off to a phenomenal start with a diverse range of titles in Theory and Philosophy, African American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, and more. Take a look at all of these great new books coming in August!

Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory by Patricia Hill Collins

Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory by Patricia Hill Collins offers a set of analytical tools for those wishing to develop intersectionality’s capability to theorize social inequality in ways that would facilitate social change.

In Animate Literacies, Nathan Snaza proposes a new theory of literature and literacy in which he outlines how literacy operates at the interface of humans, nonhuman animals, and objects and has been used as a means to define the human in ways that marginalize others.

Fictions of Land and Flesh by Mark Rifkin

Mark Rifkin’s Fictions of Land and Flesh turns to black and indigenous speculative fiction to show how it offers a site to better understand black and indigenous political movements’ differing orientations in ways that can foster forms of mutual engagement and cooperation without subsuming them into a single political framework in the name of solidarity.

In The Black Shoals Tiffany Lethabo King uses the shoal—an offshore geologic formation that is neither land nor sea—as metaphor, mode of critique, and methodology to theorize the encounter between Black studies and Native studies and its potential to create new epistemologies, forms of practice, and lines of critical inquiry.

Savage Ecology by Jairus Victor Grove

Jairus Victor Grove’s Savage Ecology offers an ecological theorization of geopolitics in which he contends that contemporary global crises are better understood when considered within the larger history of geopolitical practice, showing how political violence is the principal force behind climate change, mass extinction, slavery, genocide, extractive capitalism, and other catastrophes. Watch the trailer for the book here.

In How to Make Art at the End of the World Natalie Loveless examines the institutionalization of artistic research-creation—a scholarly activity that considers art practices as research methods in their own right—and its significance to North American higher education.

Wages Against Artwork Leigh Claire La Berge’s Wages Against Artwork shows how socially engaged art responds to and critiques what she calls decommodified labor—the slow diminishment of wages alongside an increase of demands of work—as a way to work toward social justice and economic equality.

In Sounds of Vacation, edited by Jocelyne Guilbault and Timothy Rommen, the contributors examine the commodification of music and sound at popular vacation destinations throughout the Caribbean in order to tease out the relationships between political economy, hospitality, and the legacies of slavery and colonialism. 

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Series Launch: Theory in Forms

This year we are pleased to launch a new series, Theory in Forms, edited by Nancy Rose Hunt and Achille Mbembe. A few of the books came out this spring and we have several more on the fall list.

Theory in Forms presents new writing showcasing the import of new political contours in our planetary times of crisis, racializations, and securitization. The books address temporal and spatial scales—whether global, transnational, or intimate—and emphasize movement, borders, enclaves, and impasses in (post)colonies, global South(s), and beyond. Inciting experimentation with structure, methods, and the practice of writing, the series argues that form enables theory. Theory in Forms seeks new work that addresses the politics of life and death—whether in history, anthropology, aesthetics, geography, architecture, urban design, or environmental, medical, oceanic, literary, and postcolonial studies—and creates a transversal space for new modes of writing, reflection, and timely interventions.

Experiments with Empire by Justin IzzoThe first book in this series is Experiments with Empire by Justin Izzo, which examines how twentieth-century writers, artists, and anthropologists from France, West Africa, and the Caribbean experimented with ethnography and fiction in order to explore new ways of knowing the colonial and postcolonial world. Focusing on novels, films, and ethnographies that combine fictive elements and anthropological methods and modes of thought, Izzo shows how empire gives ethnographic fictions the raw materials for thinking beyond empire’s political and epistemological boundaries.

 

The Fixer by Charles Piot

In the West African nation of Togo, applying for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery is a national obsession, with hundreds of thousands of Togolese entering each year. In The Fixer Charles Piot follows Kodjo Nicolas Batema, a Togolese visa broker—known as a “fixer”—as he shepherds his clients through the application and interview process. Relaying the experiences of the fixer, his clients, and embassy officials, Piot captures the ever-evolving cat-and-mouse game between the embassy and the hopeful Togolese as well as the disappointments and successes of lottery winners in the United States.

 

Colonial Transactions by Florence Bernault

In Colonial Transactions Florence Bernault moves beyond the racial divide that dominates colonial studies of Africa. Instead, she illuminates the strange and frightening imaginaries that colonizers and colonized shared on the ground. Bernault looks at Gabon from the late nineteenth century to the present, historicizing the most vivid imaginations and modes of power in Africa today: French obsessions with cannibals, the emergence of vampires and witches in the Gabonese imaginary, and the use of human organs for fetishes. Overturning theories of colonial and postcolonial nativism, this book is essential reading for historians and anthropologists of witchcraft, power, value, and the body.

Coming this fall we will publish series editor Achille Mbembe’s own book Necropolitics; Beneath the Surface: A Transnational History of Skin Lighteners by Lynn M. Thomas; and The Complete Lives of Camp People: Colonialism, Fascism, Concentrated Modernity by Rudolf Mrázek.

About the series editors: Nancy Rose Hunt is Professor of History & African Studies at the University of Florida, and the author of the prizewinning A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo. Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economy Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is author of Critique of Black Reason and coeditor of Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis. 

We look forward to watching this exciting new series expand. 

 

Questioning the Super-Rich

cup_15_1_coverThe latest issue of Cultural Politics, “Questioning the Super-Rich,” edited by Jennifer Smith Maguire and Paula Serafini, is available now.

Despite the contemporary fascination with the super-rich and their excesses, the super-rich remain obscured from view by tendencies to focus on the spectacle of wealth or on the super-rich as exceptional or deviant individuals. Making a timely intervention, this special issue interrogates the concept, global composition, and consequences of the super-rich.

Working from a range of disciplinary perspectives, the contributors unveil an otherwise invisible cultural architecture of representations, systems and experiences that underpin and reproduce the ways in which power works through concentrations of economic, cultural, and spatial resources.

Read the introduction, freely available, or browse the table of contents.

The Most Read Articles of 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on the most read articles across all our journals. Check out the top 10 articles that made the list, all freely available until the end of January.

TSQ_5_1_coverToward the Decipherment of a Set of Mid-Colonial Khipus from the Santa Valley, Coastal Peru” by Manuel Medrano and Gary Urton

Predatory Value Economies of Dispossession and Disturbed Relationalities” by Jodi A. Byrd, Alyosha Goldstein, Jodi Melamed, and Chandan Reddy

Black Aesthetics, Black Value” by Lewis R. Gordon

Rural Voids” by Miriam Driessen

Desiring Blackness: A Queer Orientation to Marvel’s Black Panther, 1998–2016” by André Carrington

Conversational Exculpature” by Daniel Hoek

SMX_22_1(55)_coverThe Anarchy of Colored Girls Assembled in a Riotous Manner” by Saidiya Hartman

Collective Memory and the Transfeminist 1970s: Toward a Less Plausible History” by Finn Enke

Realism and the Absence of Value” Shamik Dasgupta

Partus sequitur ventrem: Law, Race, and Reproduction in Colonial Slavery” by Jennifer L. Morgan

The Authoritarian Personality

The most recent issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, “The Authoritarian Personality,” edited by Robyn Marasco, is now available.SAQ_new_pr

In response to the recent rise of neo-fascist movements around the world, the intensification of racist violence against black and brown people, the reactionary backlash against feminism, and the crisis of neoliberal capitalism, contributors to this special issue of SAQ offer a reappraisal of The Authoritarian Personality (1950) that yields fresh insights and new resources for contemporary critique.

While arguably the first major contribution to the field of political psychology, the book by Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford has been relegated to the margins of Frankfurt School critical theory, even as an industry of scholarship has formed around Adorno’s philosophical and cultural criticism. By focusing on The Authoritarian Personality and its relevance for contemporary politics, the contributors aim to correct this imbalance and assess the empirical project in early critical theory, including its integration of political sociology and social psychology.

Browse the table-of-contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

Q&A with Melissa Gregg, author of Counterproductive

GreggHeadshotMelissa Gregg is the Principal Engineer and Research Director, Client Computing Group at Intel, and author of the new book Counterproductive: Time Management in the Knowledge Economy. In Counterproductive, Gregg explores how productivity emerged as a way of thinking about job performance and shows how a focus on productivity isolates workers from one another, erasing their collective efforts to define work limits. We’re pleased to share an interview with her about the new book.

What sparked your interest in time management and the history of productivity culture? How has your own office-job experience influenced your study?

At one level I have always been fascinated by the way that some people seem to have an effortless ability to manage even the most intense workloads with grace and composure, while others really struggle to focus. I think this became more apparent when I joined a corporate job because time has a heightened cost in a publicly listed company. There are social pressures of accountability when you aren’t “getting things done” in a matrixed team environment. Those experiences can be intense, and can create a kind of dread when it seems as though you are not keeping up to speed, precisely in the athletic sense that the book describes. This differs from what my friends in contract careers deal with, trying to maintain motivation working from home or in a café on a temporary gig that may be the last paycheck for a while. It becomes very clear that time management problems aren’t the same in all of these situations. We need a better manual for living and working in a world where collective rituals and routines—and the respite they provide—are becoming harder to practice.

How have emergent technologies, like apps, reflected—or contributed to—an uptick in our obsession with productivity?

Software systems extend what is already a pervasive cultural desire in the United States for individuals to evince a strong work ethic. The convenience of having a mobile device always with you means it’s easier to establish this intimate infrastructure for living; to fully monitor and audit your activities since so many of them are digitally mediated. Apps bring a more obvious aesthetic to the productive lifestyle, making it simple, elegant and beautiful to organize your life, in the language of User Experience design (UX). Who can resist a tool that has a more reliable memory than you! But we do lock ourselves in to a bind by using technology to regulate our use of technology, whether for work or pleasure.

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What remedies does Counterproductive offer for a productivity-obsessed culture? How can we reclaim mindfulness as a tool for ourselves rather than as a method for coping with corporate life?

An appreciation of corporate history is a critical part of the remedy, including the curious self-help genres that have been used so often by so many. This book is deeply informed by my cultural studies training, and by the principle that popular culture is an index of capitalism’s contradictions. Self-help genres can be incredibly useful in the absence of more comprehensive social and economic change, especially for minorities faced with the anonymizing social wounds of large institutions. That’s one way of understanding the role of mindfulness today. It is a salve for too much productivity striving, the constant affective labor of knowledge work. But mindfulness is only bearable if it is not a smokescreen for solipsism. It has to adhere to an idea of collective withdrawal to be political. That is the post-work future we all need to build.

The preface to your book includes a deeply moving tribute to your mother. How does the personal inform your scholarship in Counterproductive?

To a much larger extent than I had realized! There was a moment when this wider purpose of reconciling her passing first became clear to me. It was during the auto-ethnographic component of the chapter on time management manuals, specifically while contemplating the insanity of David Allen’s directive to write a “Someday/Maybe list.” It struck me then how productivity gurus succeed by promising protection from the volatility of real life, the unpredictable nature of our own and others’ mortality. One can keep extremely occupied in the effort to manage time well, but this is also a socially sanctioned way to avoid thinking about bigger existential questions.

Do you think of Counterproductive as an activist text? In what ways? What impact do you hope to have on readers?

The book is fueled by a number of irritants: the outrageously mythologized figures in the history of management studies, for example, and the whole “bias towards action” ideology that pervades certain sectors of Silicon Valley. For a long time I have been channeling rage at the inequities of a world governed by the 1%, where so many brilliant minds are drowning in mid-rank organizational email and jockeying PowerPoint files instead of fighting to save the planet. Meanwhile real estate entrepreneurs drink champagne on yachts! I want to offer a catalyst against the myopia of present day workplace heroics, which is unfinished business from my last book, Work’s Intimacy. I also think we need better management theory that calls out the privileges inherent in industrial era labor divisions, including the delegation dynamic that so differently affects workers according to race, class and gender. These biases continue to govern the experience of work today, and I see that more clearly in the corporate sector. I would dearly like for more academics and writers to take this project on. Finally, Counterproductive concludes with a manifesto of ideas that draw from the best legacies of labor activism but for a vastly different economy. I hope that it prompts readers to think differently about their relationship to work, and the motivations behind the sacrifices that it necessarily entails.  

Pick up your paperback copy of Counterproductive for 30% off using coupon code E18GREGG on our website.

Recent Scholarship on Trans* Surgery

TSQ_5_2_coverThe Surgery Issue,” a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly edited by Eric Plemons and Chris Straayer, explores the vital and contested place of surgical intervention in the making of trans* bodies, theories, and practices. This issue engages “the surgical” in its many forms. Contributors contemplate a wide scope: physical, technical, and social aspects of the body; trans* and transition-related surgeries broadly construed; local and international endeavors; the conceptual, the theoretical, and the practical; the historical and the speculative.

Trans* surgery has been an object of fantasy, derision, refusal, and triumph. For decades after its establishment in the 1950s, clinicians considered a desire for reconstructive genital surgery to be the linchpin of the transsexual diagnosis. Drawing on earlier legacies of sexology and plastic surgery and the emerging specialties of endocrinology and surgical transplant, early emphasis on genital surgery determined clinical legibility, shaped forms of identification, produced institutional capacities, and became the object of criticism by those for whom a desire for body alterations indicated profound pathologies on the parts of patients and their willing surgeons. Subsequent contestations of the medico-surgical framework troubled the place of surgical intervention and helped mark the emergence of “transgender” as an alternative, more inclusive term for gender nonconforming subjects who were sometimes less concerned with surgical intervention.

Beginning in the 1990s, new histories of trans* clinical practice challenged the institutional claim that transsexuals were uniform in their desire for genital surgery, and trans* authors began to advocate relationships to their surgically altered bodies as sites of power rather than capitulation. Still others refused a focus on surgery-centric conceptualizations of trans* on the grounds that it obscures the conditions of how and for whom surgery is available, values Euro-American histories of transsexualism, and obfuscates the reality that trans* subjectivity might be as much about justice and rights as it is about physical transition.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Eric Plemons, coeditor of “The Surgery Issue,” is also author of the recent book The Look of a Woman: Facial Feminization Surgery and the Aims of Trans- Medicine. Developed in the 1980s, facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a set of reconstructive surgical procedures intended to feminize the faces of trans- women. Plemons foregrounds the narratives of FFS patients and their surgeons, showing how the increasing popularity of FFS represents a shift away from genital-based conceptions of trans- selfhood. He demonstrates how FFS is changing the project of surgical sex reassignment by reconfiguring the kind of sex that surgery aims to change.

EASTS wins 2018 STS Infrastructure Award

EASTSCongratulations to East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal (EASTS), winner of the 2018 STS Infrastructure Award from the Society for Social Studies of Science. The STS Infrastructure Award is given each year to recognize exemplary initiative to build and maintain infrastructure supporting science and technology studies.

The selection committee notes, “EASTS was established just over a decade ago but has become an exciting, well-respected forum for publishing STS scholarship. Thanks to each of its issues it is possible to enjoy a careful work centered on the wide range of STS topics, that bridge STS with others, amplifying interpretations, languages and insights, presented moreover in distinctive and attractive covers to the audience.”

ddeasts_12_1_coverWen-Hua Kuo, editor of EASTS, wrote in an acceptance statement:

Though a relative newcomer, EASTS has been an active and visible presence at 4S meetings via its editorial meetings, paper sessions, and activities like “EASTS night”. It in turn makes East Asia visible to the world—through not only the scholarly articles it carries but also the research notes, forums, review articles, and essays. Since its very inception, EASTS has committed itself to being more than “just another STS journal”; aside from its own publishing role, EASTS has provided an umbrella for a growing network of STS scholars across Asia, transcending the various national STS societies and giving a space for global scholars to work within. By recognizing infrastructure as a network and a platform for building society, we are grateful that our work with the journal has been recognized this way. With this award, EASTS will continue to work closely on an expanding, interactive, and also challenging STS world in which East Asia is not an outsider but has a permanent part.

Congratulations again to all who work on EASTS. Learn more about the award here.

Call for Papers: Teaching Critical Theory in the Era of Globalization

ddped_18_1Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture is seeking submissions for a special issue edited by Helena Gurfinkel (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) and Gautam Basu Thakur (Boise State University), titled “Critical Theory in the Era of Globalization,” and scheduled for October 2020.

The editors of this special issue are seeking contributions on teaching critical theory in the global present. What is the relevance of teaching theory in the era of globalization, and what is at stake? What are the challenges and unavoidable paradoxes of teaching theory at a time when global classrooms are geared toward both neoliberal information/skills acquisition and conservative knowledge accumulation?

Changes in the classroom reflect changes in global politics. In the decades following the Second World War, that is, in the midst of the Cold War and the rapid decolonization of the globe, critical theory gained popularity across Anglo-American English departments with its radical interrogations of traditional society, politics, and culture. It drastically dislocated the imperial boundaries of English studies and was responsible for challenging the canon – “birthing” gender and postcolonial studies and connecting literature to politics, subjectivity, and networks of commodity relations. But does theory retain these strengths in the twenty-first century college classroom? What relevance does it have as pedagogy and practice to better understand and address the challenges of contemporary social reality – climate change, depredation of democracy, neoliberalism and violence, and the so-called “death of the humanities”?

This special issue will ponder these questions, as we seek new ways of teaching undergraduate and graduate literary theory and criticism courses. The editors would particularly like to rethink the institution of the survey course, an accepted narrative that begins with formalism and ends with identity.

Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Teaching a theory survey course (graduate and/or undergraduate) in a globalized world: challenges, rewards, and methodologies.
  • Teaching critical theory: new methodologies, forgotten theories/forgotten methodologies, new theories.
  • Teaching critical theory in a graduate course in the current (global) job market.
  • Teaching global literatures as theory/ Global literary theory as pedagogy.
  • Teaching a global critical theory survey: resisting chronology.
  • Teaching critical theory beyond the Western university.

The editors invite articles of 5000-7500 words and position papers of 1500 words. Articles are open to all theoretical approaches. Position papers should address one of the following: 1) teaching queer theory; 2) teaching postcolonial theory; 3) teaching the non-human turn. In all cases, global pedagogical contexts are essential. Pedagogy uses The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Submission Deadlines:

March 2, 2018: 1-page CVs; abstracts of 500 words for articles, or of 150 words for position papers to Helena Gurfinkel and Gautam Basu Thakur.

September 4, 2018: full articles and position papers to Helena Gurfinkel and Gautam Basu Thakur.

Queries welcome.

Groundbreaking Study on Incan Khipus Published in Ethnohistory

ddeh_65_1Toward the Decipherment of a Set of Mid-Colonial Khipus from the Santa Valley, Coastal Peru,” by Manuel Medrano and Gary Urton is a groundbreaking study recently published in Ethnohistory.

Khipus, a method of record-keeping used by the Inca, were used to record data using knotted strings. In the past, khipus have proven nearly impossible to decipher and there was a very limited understanding of what they represented. In this article, Harvard junior Manuel Medrano shares what he discovered—the khipus were used to represent names of villagers in a census.

Gary Urton, co-writer and Harvard professor tells the Harvard Gazette:

It’s giving the Incas their own voice. I could never figure out the hidden meanings in these devices. Manny figured them out, focusing on their color, and on their recto or verso (right-hand and left-hand) construction. This was the only case we have discovered so far in which one or more (in this case six) khipus and a census record matches.

Recently featured on All Things Considered, Medrano states:

The khipus are incredible because they compel us to interpret history in multiple dimensions. South America’s the only continent besides Antarctica on which no civilization invented a system of graphical writing for over 10,000 years after the first people arrived. And what that means in the course of history is that the Incas are often defined by what they lack and with a despite clause. In other words, this civilization who never invented the wheel, never invented markets and lacked a system of graphical writing are often defined as never having stumbled upon the wonders of civilization. And this project is aimed at reversing that incorrect narrative.

Read the article, made freely available.