Women’s Studies

In Conversation: Cait McKinney and Courtney Berger

We hope you enjoy the latest video in our In Conversation series, which features Cait McKinney, author of Information Activism: A Queer History of Lesbian Media Technologies, speaking about the book with Executive Editor Courtney Berger. In the book, 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.

Courtney Berger on the 4S Conference

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The annual conference of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4s) has gone virtual. We’re pleased to offer some remarks by Executive Editor Courtney Berger, who usually attends the conference.

CBerger_webGreetings, 4S-ers! I am excited to attend this year’s virtual conference. While it has been difficult to miss out on the conversations and connections facilitated by in-person conferences, virtual conferences offer new opportunities. I’m not usually able to attend 4S on the years when it’s held outside of the U.S., so this is a bit of a bonus for me. I’ll be waking up early on East Coast time to attend panels, many of which include Duke University Press authors. My schedule is overflowing with panels that focus on more-than-human worlds (including the viral, of course); trans, queer, and feminist approaches to science studies; race and indigeneity; the environment (especially work on the elements, energy, and toxicity); and data and algorithmic thinking.

978-1-4780-0831-6Duke University Press’s new books in science and technology studies reflect the wide ranging and politically relevant approaches found at the 4S conference.  No doubt people will be reading and talking about Frédéric Keck’s Avian Reservoirs: Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts, which highlights the importance of interspecies relations in managing pandemics. Noah Tamarkin’s Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa attends to the multivalent intersection of race, nation, and indigeneity. Lesley Green’s Rock|Water|Life: Ecology and Humanities for a Decolonial South Africa examines the interwoven realities of inequality, racism, colonialism, and environmental destruction in South Africa. Louise Amoore’s Cloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others calls for “an ethics of doubt” when it comes to understanding the work of machine learning algorithms. And Cait McKinney’s Information Activism: A Queer History of Lesbian Media Technologies reminds us that the ways that we store, organize, and provide access to information can have wide-reaching political effects. It’s tough not to be able to share these books, and so many more, in person. But you can still get a glimpse of our newest titles through our virtual exhibit and purchase books with the conference discount.

978-0-8223-6902-8_prI’d also like to offer a virtual toast to our two 4S book prize winners: Sara Ann Wylie, whose book Fractivism: Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds won this year’s Rachel Carson Prize; and Noémi Tousignant, whose book Edges of Exposure: Toxicology and the Problem of Capacity in Postcolonial Senegal won the Ludwik Fleck Prize. Congratulations! We’re thrilled that their books have received this recognition.

Finally, unlike an in-person conference, where I spend most of my time meeting with potential authors and hearing about projects in the works, this year I will be focused on attending panels and deepening my knowledge of the field. However, I am still eager to hear about your book projects. You can send me an email or submit a proposal through our online submission portal. I look forward to seeing you around the conference.

See a few more of our science studies highlights in yesterday’s blog post. We are pleased to partner with Combined Academic Publishers to showcase our new work in science studies. Customers in the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia can shop their site and save 30% off new titles with coupon code CSF20EASST. Customers in the US, Canada, and Latin America can save at our own site using coupon 4S2020. You’ll also want to check out the giveaway opportunity at CAP’s site for a chance to win a copy of the award-winning Fractivism by Sarah Ann Wylie!

Watch the Teaser and Trailer for Vanessa Díaz’s New Book Manufacturing Celebrity

Vanessa Díaz is the author of the new book Manufacturing Celebrity. She is Assistant Professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, her experience reporting for People magazine, and dozens of interviews with photographers, journalists, publicists, magazine editors, and celebrities, Díaz traces the complex power dynamics of the reporting and paparazzi work that fuel contemporary Hollywood and American celebrity culture. This guest post by the author introduces the trailer and teaser for her new book.

As a multimedia ethnographer and documentary filmmaker, I always knew I wanted to create a book trailer for Manufacturing Celebrity. The prospect of capturing the essence of the over 300 pages of Manufacturing Celebrity in a few minutes of video was daunting. However, because the book itself is rich with images from my own photography, the photography of the paparazzi I worked with, and material from the magazines I write about, imagining a visual representation of the book was organic. I started developing ideas for the trailer early this year, with the assistance of two research assistants at Loyola Marymount University, Malik Gay-Bañuelos and Steven Uribe. We decided that it was important to focus not only on the main issues, questions and conundrums the book presents, but specifically to highlight the stories of the paparazzo Chris Guerra who was killed on the job and former People magazine reporter and sexual assault survivor Natasha Stoynoff who ground my discussion about precarity in the manufacturing of celebrity. By the time we started to make progress on the trailer’s development, the pandemic hit and we had to conceptualize video production in a new way. I set up the camera equipment lighting in my living room, and recorded my own interview while Malik and Steven interviewed me via FaceTime. Video editor Larissa Díaz Hahn of The Díaz Collective took my interview, original footage shared with me by the paparazzi, images from the book, my archive of celebrity reporting clips, and archival news footage and began masterfully piecing together the trailer. It was a collaborative process and we went through various iterations, with a focus on doing justice to the central themes of the book and, most importantly, the incredibly intense stories of my friends and colleagues Chris and Natasha. The goal of the trailer is to provide an engaged, visual representation of the book that encapsulates in a few minutes what is at stake with the stories I’m telling and why this book matters in this particular moment in history. The trailer shows the ways the book centers on issues of power, privilege and positionality in a way that resonates with the present moment. As the U.S. remains in an uprising focused on addressing systemic racism, and as Hollywood figures remain at the center of controversy due to rampant abuse of power on racial, gender, and intersectional levels, Manufacturing Celebrity breaks down the larger stakes of celebrity culture and demonstrates how the Hollywood-Industrial Complex is part and parcel in the broader systemic inequalities of the U.S. The trailer offers a small taste of the complicated questions and analysis Manufacturing Celebrity forces the reader to grapple with. You’ll never look at celebrity magazines the same again.  

Read the introduction to Manufacturing Celebrity and save 30% on the book using the code E20DIAZ.

French Book Week

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Literally Swiss, the European Literature Network and Pro Helvetia have launched the first French Book Week, an online forum dedicated to French literature, translation and publishing in the UK. We’re happy to share our new and upcoming French Studies titles as part of the celebration. UK customers can purchase these books from our European distributor, Combined Academic Publishers.

978-1-4780-0823-1_prThe Birth of Solidarity: The History of the French Welfare State by François Ewald is edited by Melinda Cooper and translated from the French by Timothy Scott Johnson.  The Birth of Solidarity—first published in French in 1986, revised in 1996, with the revised edition appearing here in English for the first time—is one of the most important historical and philosophical studies of the rise of the welfare state. It’s is a classic work of social and political theory that will appeal to all those interested in labor power, the making and dismantling of the welfare state, and Foucauldian notions of governmentality, security, risk, and the limits of liberalism.

Paris in the Dark: Going to the Movies in the City of Light, 1930–1950 by Eric Smoodin  takes readers on a journey through the streets, cinemas, and theaters of Paris to sketch a comprehensive picture of French film culture during the 1930s and 1940s. Judith Mayne says, “Paris in the Dark is an outstanding study of the spaces and places of Parisian filmgoing and a major contribution to French film studies.”

Wombs of WomenThe Wombs of Women: Race, Capital, Feminism by Françoise Vergès will be published in August. Translated by Kaiama L. Glover, The Wombs of Women examines the scandal of white doctors forcefully terminating the pregnancies of thousands of poor women of color on the French island of Réunion during the 1960s, showing how they resulted from the legacies of the racialized violence of slavery and colonialism. Vergès traces the long history of colonial state intervention in black women’s wombs during the slave trade and postslavery imperialism as well as in current birth control politics. She examines the women’s liberation movement in France in the 1960s and 1970s, showing that by choosing to ignore the history of the racialization of women’s wombs, French feminists inevitably ended up defending the rights of white women at the expense of women of color.

We also invite you to check out our journal French Historical Studies, the leading journal on the history of France, which publishes articles and commentaries on all periods of French history from the Middle Ages to the present. The journal’s diverse format includes forums, review essays, special issues, and articles in French, as well as bilingual abstracts of the articles in each issue. Also featured are bibliographies of recent articles, dissertations, and books in French history and announcements of fellowships, prizes, and conferences of interest to French historians.

New Titles in Women’s and Gender Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Titles in Latin American Studies

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

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

¡Saludos afectuosos a todxs mis colegas de LASA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Books in May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never miss a new book! Sign up for our e-mail newsletters, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

 

Q&A With Margaret Randall

Margaret Randall is a poet, essayist, oral historian, translator, memoirist, and photographer who has published over 150 books of poetry and prose. In her newest book, I Never Left Home, she details the extraordinary stories from her life, recounting moments ranging from her time living among New York’s abstract expressionists in the mid-1950s as a young woman to working in the Nicaraguan Ministry of Culture to instill revolutionary values in the media during the Sandinista movement.

 

You explain in Chapter 1 that you started this project by writing about your time in New York in the late 1950s and subsequently moved forward and backwards in time throughout your writing process. How was the experience of placing these chapters in chronological order for the book? Did conceiving of your memories in this linear fashion bring you to any new insights about your life?

I guess I should say that I have always believed more in non-linear than in linear time. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t begin this memoir by writing about my earliest years but rather about my years in New York City, an experience I had never written about before. When it came time to organize the book I did go with a chronological timeline, though, maybe because I thought it would allow readers to follow my life and times as they have unfolded. This also seemed like a good choice because earlier experiences inevitably influenced later ones, and I wanted my readers to understand that.

A number of big geographic and cultural moves punctuate your life—first as a child to New Mexico, and later as an adult to Spain, New York, Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua, and then back to New Mexico. Throughout these moves, you navigated many “insider/outsider moments” —moments in which you felt at home, and those in which you grappled with your racial identity, class status, and foreignness. What have you learned about the importance of embracing one’s position as an outsider? What kinds of connections break down this distinction and allow one to feel at home?

Embracing one’s experience as an outsider is necessary. One always wants to belong; it is part of the human condition. But if one chooses to live in places foreign to one’s culture or in ways that are foreign to one’s class, racial or gender identities, one’s “otherness” is right out there for all to see. There is no denying or getting around it. So, I think we learn to make peace with that and live the experience as it is. As a young US American in Latin America, living and working and raising my children in countries frequently attacked or exploited by the United States, it was inevitable that I should carry a sense of guilt. Inevitable but not healthy. I had to learn to struggle with that and not allow it to overpower or destroy me. I believe one can straddle this outsider condition best by living as much as possible as the people where you are living. In Mexico this meant learning about dozens of indigenous cultures, appreciating native art and music, participating in national fiestas. In Cuba it meant refusing the foreigner’s ration book and living as much as possible like a Cuban. In Nicaragua it meant participating in national defense as the Contra war heated up. Despite such efforts, though, if one is from somewhere else one is an outsider. So then it becomes important to figure out how to make one’s condition transparent and use it to benefit others.

You mention that, while living in Seville, you “immediately agreed” to assist smuggling contraceptives from Morocco to Spain, as would be your response to other future invitations to risk. At what other moments in your life do you recall agreeing to risk? How necessary is risk in one’s pursuit of justice? 

I have taken risks as long as I can remember. Smuggling contraceptives into Spain in the 1950s was just one example. In Mexico I assisted revolutionary organizations and took part in the 1968 Mexican Student Movement. In Cuba I insisted on asking difficult questions of a revolution not accustomed to being questioned by outsiders. And when I returned to the United States and was ordered deported because of opinions expressed in some of my books, I didn’t leave but decided to fight for my right to stay. All these moments, and others, involved risk. I can’t really explain why it has been so natural for me to take risks. Perhaps it is written into a person’s DNA. Perhaps I was simply following the example of mentors who were, themselves, notable risk-takers.

While publishing the bilingual journal El Corno with Sergio Mondragón during the 1960s, you recall believing that “poetry could change the world.” How did you conceive of the relationship between artistic expression and revolution then? What connection do you see between them today, both in the US and abroad? 

I have always believed that poetry is a necessary ingredient to living fully. Revolution, or working for justice, is really about living fully. We can only live fully if we struggle for equality and fairness in all areas. Art is the highest manifestation of living to the fullest, engaging all the senses, experiencing the heights and depths of the human experience. When I was younger and claimed that poetry could change the world, I think I meant that more explicitly than when I say the same thing today. Today I understand this more complexly. Poetry—and artistic expression generally—allows us to exercise our imaginations, think outside the box, believe in the “impossible”. It is in this sense that I believe it can change the world.

It was not until your return to the US that you were able to reflect on your sexual identity and come out as a lesbian to yourself and others. What was it about returning “home” that allowed for this personal exploration? 

I think what kept me from understanding my sexual identity while I was living in Latin America, especially when I was in Cuba and Nicaragua, was that I was involved in situations of social change that required full focus on the collective. It would have been healthier if we had found ways to attend to our personal issues as well, but we didn’t know how. That was one of the problems with the movements with which I was involved. We rarely prioritized our own needs. The collective was what was important. So, when I came back to the US, I was immersed in the women’s movement. It was the 1980s, and women were addressing issues of personal identity, domestic violence, recovery, and so forth. Arriving in the midst of this community of women, many of whom were lesbians, somehow allowed me to begin to question my own sexual identity. It was in this context, as well, that I remembered the incest of which I had been a victim as a very young child. I do believe that social change movements must find ways to combine the personal with the public, develop ways to struggle that take into account people’s individual differences and needs.

You describe your witnessing of the Cuban and Sandinista Revolutions as a “privilege,” as you experienced times in which quests for justice, passion, and creativity seemed to be bursting at the seams of daily life. What do you hope younger generations looking for revolutionary change might learn from these memories and experiences?

I do believe that I was privileged to have lived in the places where I lived and at the times when I lived in them. And that sense of privilege, in my mind, implies the willingness to share those experiences. Every generation is faced with new situations that demand new strategies and tactics. But we can learn a lot from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, their struggles and solutions. Just as I believe that I can learn a lot from those who are coming up now. In terms of my memoir, I guess I just hope that it is a good read, a story or series of stories that express one woman’s journey through the second part of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century.

Watch Margaret discuss her book and read a passage:

You can catch Margaret at a virtual reading sponsored by Collected Works Bookstore on April 30 at 6:00pm MDT. Read the introduction to I Never Left Home free online. Save 50% off all in-stock titles, including Randall’s other books, Che on My Mind, Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary, and Exporting Revolution with coupon SPRING50 until May 1, 2020.

New Titles in Asian American Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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