Open Access: Duke University Press and the Knowledge Unlatched Initiative

We have created a series of five blog posts covering open access at Duke University Press. Today’s post features Knowledge Unlatched, an open-access initiative for humanities and social sciences books. We learned more about this initiative and the Press’s involvement through a conversation with Steve Cohn, Director of Duke University Press.

copy-of-ku_stacked_cmyk_green“The world is a better place when anyone can read what we’re publishing,” said Steve Cohn of Duke University Press’s 2013 decision to become one of the thirteen publisher participants in the original pilot collection for Knowledge Unlatched, an open-access initiative for humanities and social sciences books.

Through this pilot, libraries contributed funds to meet a target fee for a set of 28 books, covering the fees set by each publisher to “unlatch” a high-quality scholarly monograph. The “unlatched” titles were then made openly available on a Creative Commons license via OAPEN and HathiTrust as fully downloadable PDFs, while the publishers continued to sell their books in other formats. The pilot originally sought participation from 200 libraries, a target that was exceeded when close to 300 libraries from 24 countries joined Knowledge Unlatched.

Duke University Press participated with four books:

  • Biological Relatives: IVF, Stem Cells, and the Future of Kinship by Sarah Franklin
  • In Search of the Amazon: Brazil, the United States, and the Nature of a Region by Seth Garfield
  • My Voice Is My Weapon: Music, Nationalism, and the Poetics of Palestinian Resistance by David A. McDonald
  • Ever Faithful: Race, Loyalty, and the Ends of Empire in Spanish Cuba by David Sartorius

Authors have been very enthusiastic about the Knowledge Unlatched program. David Sartorius, author of Ever Faithful: Race, Loyalty, and the Ends of Empire in Spanish Cuba, credits Knowledge Unlatched with making it possible for Cuban scholars to find his work. He writes at the Knowledge Unlatched website: “As a scholar of Cuba, and Latin America more broadly, it’s important for me to share my research with the people whose past I study. Knowledge Unlatched makes that possible in ways that costly paper editions do not allow. Issues of price and distribution make much North Atlantic scholarship on Latin America out of reach in the region, and open access facilitates the kind of transnational exchange of ideas that needs to accompany the proliferation of other transnational phenomena in our present moment.”

A second collection for Knowledge Unlatched, “KU Round 2 Collection,” for 20152016 consists of 78 new titles from 26 publishers, available on both OAPEN and HathiTrust. Some publishers contributed individual books to be collected in disciplinary groups of ten; some publishers, like Duke and Michigan, offered a publisher package of ten books. Duke University Press contributed

  • Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology by David H. Price
  • Dalit Studies by Ramnarayan S. Rawat and K. Satyanarayana
  • Diaspora and Trust: Cuba, Mexico, and the Rise of China by Adrian H. Hearn
  • Disciplinary Conquest: U.S. Scholars in South America, 1900–1945 by Ricardo D. Salvatore
  • Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo by Yolanda Covington-Ward
  • Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine by Catherine Besteman
  • Metroimperial Intimacies: Fantasy, Racial-Sexual Governance, and the Philippines in U.S. Imperialism, 18991913 by Victor Román Mendoza
  • Moral Economies of Corruption: State Formation and Political Culture in Nigeria by Steven Pierce
  • Negro Soy Yo: Hip Hop and Raced Citizenship in Neoliberal Cuba by Marc D. Perry
  • Sexual States: Governance and the Struggle over the Antisodomy Law in India by Jyoti Puri

The library pledging period for a third collection, “KU Select 2016,” closed January 31, 2017. This collection will feature 343 titles: 147 on the frontlist and 196 on the backlist. Currently, Duke University Press has 15 titles waiting to be made open access on the “KU Select 2016” frontlist and 11 titles on the backlist. To learn more about “KU Select 2016,” visit the Knowledge Unlatched Select 2016 Pledging Process.

The Power of Misinterpellation

Today’s guest post is by James Martel, author of new book The Misinterpellated Subject.

James MartelIn all the sense of crisis and doom that we are currently experiencing with the advent of the Trump administration—despair over an administration that seems equal parts determined fascists and incompetent lunatics, horror and grim determination as thousands, perhaps millions, of people are to be deported, bathrooms becomes zones of exclusion and the war on people of color and the poor goes on unabated—there is one element that is critical to keep in mind. For all of his seeming power, self-confidence and authority, Donald Trump and his “alt-right” (i.e. neo-Nazi) minions do not command the absolute form of control that they think they have and we often imagine them to have (hence contributing to the efficacy of such a power).

On one level this is very obvious—witness the disastrous roll out of the ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations as an example of this impotence within apparent potency. But beneath the empirical reality of Trump’s failures (and successes) lies a deeper, more critical point; executive pronouncements can be declared with all the markings of sovereign authority, but they are never received in exactly the way they are intended; they never have the full effect that their speaker desires. Some of this can be explained by language theory, by the idea, championed by thinkers like J.A. Austin, that speech acts don’t always do what we think they do. The Misinterpellated SubjectBut there is also a more political version of this discussion, and this is where my new book, The Misinterpellated Subject, attempts to make an intervention. In the book, I argue that Althusser’s theory of interpellation—the process by which people are formed as subjects of the state in response to calls from authority figures (his famous example is of a police officer hailing a pedestrian by calling out “hey, you there!”)—contains within it the seeds of its own unmaking. The call goes out and Althusser tells us that “nine times out of ten” the person hailed is “really” the person intended by the law. But what about the one person in ten that is wrongly hailed? In The Misinterpellated Subject, I argue that in fact, the hail is never accurate. The law, or the state, never knows (or cares) who it is hailing; it is a pretense of authority that is reinforced by our willingness to receive that call, to see it as being “really for us.” But in some cases, this charade becomes untenable (one time in ten) and the authority of the call fails to produce its intended results.

This is the phenomenon that I am calling misinterpellation. Whereas the failure of the call is only visible some of the time, the key insight of misinteprellation is that the failure of the call is present in each and every moment (that is, even among the nine out of ten times where the callee is “really” who the law thinks it intended to call).

If we take this insight back to the question of Trump, we can see that his call to ban Muslims from the United States was met in many ways that he did not want or expect. This call was heard by the protestors who blocked the airports. It was heard by judges who resisted him. It was heard by those refugees themselves who continued to resist, to insist on their right to remain. It was even heard in myriad ways by the officials at Homeland Security and other federal agencies that often contradicted one another as well as the “official position” (itself a moving target).

All of this is critical for thinking about the power (and also the failure) of interpellation, of executive calls and the triumph of illicit power; it works when we respond as the state wishes, when we think that we have no choice but to respond. But all that changes when the subject of that call realizes that the call is not really about or for her, that the call is only made for the sake of the power of the state itself; the state needs us to recognize it or it fails to exist at all.

And therein lies the critical power of resistance. This power of misinterpellation can manifest itself as demonstrations and protests but it can also manifest itself as something far more subversive. If we simply say “no” to the call, we remain, in a way, inside the workings of interpellation. We are protestors, miscreants and rebels, and the law and the state know how to deal with that (witness Trump’s tweets about “professional anarchists” and the like). But if we render the call “incredible” (to cite Judith Butler), we move from simply rejecting the call to denying it as being a call at all. The more we understand that the call is never for us, never could be for us—that is to say, the more we are misinterpellated—the more we see the hollowness or emptiness of the state and its authority structures. By seeing the call as nothing, we can, in effect, return the state to its own nothing, the void from which it comes and which it ceaselessly seeks to deny.

In all the despair of our current moment, one bit of good news is that this power (perhaps counter-power is a better word) can never be taken away from us, regardless of how dark the time or how terrifying the tyrant that we face (recognizing that not all communities face the same traumas and that the “we” itself is a deep point of contention). My book argues that there is always recourse to the subversive force of misinterpellation; in doing so, we gain not just the destruction of our false, colonized and interpellated forms of subjectivity, but also the anarchist ferment—the multiple, overlapping and ungoverned beings that we’ve always been—which shows up in response to a call that never has been, and never will be, for anyone at all.

To learn more about or purchase The Misinterpellated Subject, visit its webpage. You can also read the introduction free online.

Open Access: The Carlyle Letters Online

We have created a series of five blog posts covering Open Access at Duke University Press. Today’s post features The Carlyle Letters Online, a digital archive based on the Duke-Edinburgh edition of The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle.


The Carlyle Letters Online (CLO) provides free access to the letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, an outstanding resource in Victorian literature, philosophy, and culture. During their marriage and throughout the middle of the nineteenth century, the couple wrote over 10,000 letters to a circle of well-respected contemporaries, such as Charles Dickens, John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Gaskell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. After a multiyear development process, the letters debuted digitally in 2006 and have remained open access, averaging nearly 20,000 unique views a month since its move to a new platform.

Features of the platform
In July 2016 the CLO migrated to a new platform hosted by the University of South Carolina Center for Digital Humanities (USC-CDH). This platform included new features such as an updated look, a tweaked letter viewer, and the ability to enlarge certain images and words for easier engagement with the content.  Users also have immediate access to the raw XML code of each letter on this new platform. These features provide readers, especially those involved with the digital humanities, with a more streamlined reading experience. The new platform employs both whole-word searching (which searches exact phrases) and fuzzy searching (which finds matches when users misspell words or enter only partial words). Using these two search options, users can filter letters by volume, date, recipient, and subject.

The Future of the CLO

The move to USC-CDH’s platform has created the opportunity to display manuscript images, a feature that will soon be available on the site through a new manuscript image viewer as opposed to PDF attachments. The Rare Books Library at Columbia University is also digitizing the Carlyle family photograph albums, which will soon be hosted alongside the letters on the new platform.

Meanwhile, the completion of the print edition of the Carlyle Project looms on the horizon, and with it the digitation of the letters. But while the last volume of the letters is projected to be added to the CLO in 2021, the CLO project will not end there. Coordinating editor Brent Kinser hopes to see the CLO evolve to meet the needs of its users and of changing technology, paving the way for other digital databases on Victorian life to thrive, such as the Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium.

“In the post-truth age of fake news, anyone interested in the pursuit of truth and knowledge and wisdom needs to double their efforts to envision, build, and maintain sites that offer new ways of exploring the past and the present, which Carlyle dubbed ‘the conflux of two eternities,’ both of which help to shape the future,” Kinser says. “Truth may be out of fashion, but if it goes forever, we are, all of us, lost. But as Carlyle once said, ‘The World is the Place of Hope.’ Let us be of good hope. Efforts such as the CLO have an important part to play. The results need to be made available to as many people in as many places as possible. That means open access.”

Stay up to date with the Carlyles on Twitter by following @carlyleletters.

Open Access: Project Euclid

We have created a series of five blog posts covering open access at Duke University Press. Today’s post features Project Euclid, a not-for-profit hosting and publishing platform for the mathematics and statistics communities, managed jointly by Cornell University Library and Duke University Press. Here Leslie Eager, Director of Publishing Services for Project Euclid, shares more about the platform and the ways it supports open access in the mathematics and statistics world.

peOur goal at Project Euclid is to make mathematics and statistics publications easy and affordable to find and read online. Supporting open-access publishing is a huge part of that mission. About 70% of Project Euclid is open access.

With Project Euclid the idea is to provide low-cost but feature-rich hosting services for journals, books, and conference proceedings so that publishers can keep the scholarship affordable and widely available to libraries and researchers while sustaining themselves financially. We partner with math and stats publishers around the world.

Some editors of open-access journals ask us why they should work with a formal publishing platform at all. It’s true that anyone can post articles on a web page at little or no cost, but it’s much harder for readers to discover those articles. Journals hosted on Euclid are fully indexed, compatible with library discovery systems, tagged with Mathematics Subject Classifications, search-engine-optimized, and linked directly to crucial mathematics resources like MathSciNet reviews, zbMATH, and arXiv.

We work with subscription-based publications as well as open access, but we offer special low pricing to publications with no access restrictions. We also encourage publishers to make their subscription-based content freely available after three to five years. The result is that across the 87 titles that we host, over 70% of the pages on Project Euclid are freely available to everyone.

Exciting opportunities

acta-mathematicaIt’s very exciting when long-standing, highly regarded journals find ways to open their content and become more easily available. Beginning in 2017, Acta Mathematica and Arkiv för Matematik will become open access and will be hosted on Project Euclid with issues going back to 1882. Both are high-quality journals (published by the Institut Mittag-Leffler and produced and distributed by International Press), and Acta is consistently ranked among the very top journals in the field, according to Impact Factor. We believe that making journals of their stature open access will bring new visibility to the open-access business model and to Euclid as a leading partner in open-access publishing.

We also offer partial open-access solutions to publishers that are unable to secure full funding for their publications. The Euclid Prime collection hybrid model allows 25% of its material to be open access in the first five years, and all the journal content becomes openly available to all after that time. Prime publishers pay no out-of-pocket hosting fees and earn royalties from Euclid’s sale of the collection to libraries. Through Euclid Prime, Project Euclid is able to help fund partially open publishing initiatives by charging a low fee for the most recent content. Visit the Project Euclid site for a full list of all open-access titles.

To learn more about Project Euclid and to browse our open-access content, visit

New Books in March

Welcome the beginning of Spring by ditching the heavy coats and checking out some new books. March is a big month for us here at the Press, and we have a plethora of new titles coming out:

978-0-8223-6343-9Eminent critic Achille Mbembe reevaluates history and racism, offering a capacious genealogy of the category of Blackness—from the Atlantic slave trade to the present—to show how the conjoining of the biological fiction of race with definitions of Blackness have been and continue to be used to uphold oppression in his latest, Critique of Black Reason.

In Illegible Will, Hershini Bhana Young engages with the archive of South African and black diasporic performance to examine the absence of black women’s will from that archive, showing that alternative critical imaginings juxtaposed against traditional historical research can help to locate where agency and will may reside.

listening-to-imagesTina Campt’s Listening to Images explores a way of listening to photography by engaging with lost archives of state identification photographs of Afro-diasporan people taken between the late 1800s and the present, showing how to hear the quiet refusal emanating from these photos originally intended to dehumanize and police their subjects.

Lalaie Ameeriar, in Downwardly Global, follows the experiences of immigrant Pakistani women in Toronto who—despite being skilled, white-collar workers—suffer high levels of unemployment and poverty and who are advised by government-sanctioned worker programs to conform to an embodied form of multiculturalism that privileges whiteness and erases difference.

Energy without Conscience sees David McDermott Hughes investigate why978-0-8223-6298-2 climate change is not yet a moral issue by examining the history of energy use in Trinidad and Tobago. Drawing parallels between Trinidad’s history of slavery and its oil industry, Hughes shows how treating oil as “ordinary” prevents us from making the moral choice to abandon it.

In Hydraulic City, Nikhil Anand explores the politics of Mumbai’s water infrastructure to demonstrate how citizenship and the rights through which to make demands on the state for public services emerges through the relations between residents, plumbers, politicians, engineers, and the 3000 miles of pipe that bind them.

Providing an overview of Japanese media theory from the 1910s to the present, Media Theory in Japan introduces English-language readers to Japan’s rich body of theoretical and conceptual work on media for the first time, challenging media theory’s Eurocentric formation and perspective and redefining its location and practice.

978-0-8223-6347-7In Mothering Through Precarity, Julie A. Wilson and Emily Chivers Yochim explore how working- and middle-class mothers of young children negotiate difficulties of holding a family together during difficulties such as job loss, health scares, and weakening social services through their everyday engagement with digital media.

In Afro-Atlantic Flight, Michelle D. Commander traces how black American artists, intellectuals, and travelers envision literal and figurative flight back to Africa through speculative literature and film and travel to cultural heritage sites as means to create a sense of homecoming, belonging, and connection with their ancestors, spiritual realm, and Africa.

Attiya Ahmad, in Everyday Conversions, examines the practice of conversion to Islam by South Asian migrant domestic workers in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf region and how these women’s conversions stem from an ongoing process rooted in their everyday experiences as migrant workers rather than a clean break from their preexisting lives.

Addressing a diverse set of improvised art and music forms—from jazz and cinema to dance and literature—Improvisation and Social Aesthetics traces how the social, political, and the aesthetic relate within the context of improvisation.

The War on Sex‘s contributors outline the current war on sex, in which—despite the978-0-8223-6367-5 expansion of sexual liberties in the United States—sex has become the target of ever-expanding regulation and control, from sex offender registries to the criminalization of HIV.

The edited collection Crumpled Paper Boat is an exploration of the possibilities and limits of a literary anthropology that bends the conventions of ethnographic voice and form to engage with writing as a material practice rather than a transparent representational medium.

978-0-8223-6349-1Noted cultural critic Ilan Stavans and artist ADÁL analyze the selfie and its role in contemporary life by exploring it in the context of the history of Western self-portraiture, mythology, literature, art, and philosophy, in I Love My Selfie.

With a mix of ethnography and social theory, the contributors to Competing Responsibilities challenge contemporary understandings of responsibility in political, social, and ethical life by showing how neoliberalism’s reification of the “responsible subject” masks the myriad forms of individual and collective responsibility that people engage with in their everyday lives.

The contributors to Critique and Postcritique evaluate literary critique’s structural,978-0-8223-6376-7 methodological, and political potentials and limitations while assessing the merits of the post-critical turn and exploring a range of alternate methods of literary criticism that may be better suited to the intellectual and political challenges of the present.

In Revolutionary Nativism, Maggie Clinton traces the history and cultural politics of the fascist organizations operating under the umbrella of the Chinese Nationalist Party (GMD) in the 1920s and 1930s, showing how the GMD’s rightward shift was based on a nativist discourse that emphasized Confucianism’s compatibility with industrial modernism.

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March Events

March is a great time to catch one of our authors at an event.

March 2: Flyboy 2 author Greg Tate will moderate a panel discussion at the Institute for Contemporary Art on “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now”
6:30pm, 118 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Life and Death on the New York Dance FloorMarch 3: Tim Lawrence will lecture on his book, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983, participate in a Q&A, and spin some records to kick off Downtownsounds DISCO-VERSARY. Lawrence heads to the US in April. Plan ahead and check out those events here.
7:00pm, Teachers Club, 36 Parnell Square West, Dublin, Ireland

March 3: Indian Given author María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo gives a talk at Duke University’s  John Hope Franklin Center.
4:30pm, John Hope Franklin Center, Room 240, 2204 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC 27705

brilliant-imperfection-coverMarch 7: See activist Eli Clare discuss “Gaping, Gawking, Staring” and his book Brilliant Imperfection at Western Washington University.
All day,  Artnzen Hall 405, 516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225

March 7: The editors of Collecting, Ordering, Governing will take part in a panel to launch the book at UCL Grant Museum of Zoology.
6:00pm, 21 University Street, London, WC1E 6DE, United Kingdom

March 8: The Museum of American Finance will host a discussion with Wall Street Women author Melissa Fisher and Candace Straight.
12:30pm, 48 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005

March 8: See Eli Clare, author of Brilliant Imperfection, give the keynote presentation at the Gender Studies Symposium at Lewis and Clarke College
7:00pm, Templeton Campus Center, 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Rd. MSC 63, Portlanddecolonizing-dialectics-cover, OR 97219

March 15: Catch Decolonizing Dialectics author George Ciccariello-Maher in conversation with Carlos Martinez hosted by SoleSpace.
7:00pm, 1714 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

March 16: The Independent Living Resource Center will host a reading and book signing with Eli Clare and his new book, Brilliant Imperfection.
6:00 pm, 825 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

March 18: Tim Lawrence in conversation with Paul Tarpey about his book Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983.
5:00pm, Mother Macs978-0-8223-6316-3, 10 High Street, Limerick, Ireland

March 24: Louis Sell, author of From Washington to Moscow, joins the panel It’s Complicated: US and USSR Relations at the Virginia Festival of the Book
10:00am, UVA Bookstore, 400 Emmet Street S, Charlottesville, VA 22903

March 30: Head over to Labyrinth Books and see Lalaie Ameeriar discuss her book, Downwardly Global.
6:00pm,  122 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ 08542
Hope you can catch one of our authors at one of these great events. Follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more events news.

Upcoming Events: Tim Lawrence

Life and Death on the New York Dance FloorIn his book  Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983, Tim Lawrence examines the city’s party, dance, music, and art culture between 1980 and 1983, tracing the rise, apex, and fall of this inventive, vibrant, and tumultuous scene. This Spring, Lawrence has a number of upcoming events throughout the US and Europe including readings, lectures, and even some DJ sets & dance parties.

Lecture, Q&A, and DJ Set
Lawrence will lecture on his book, participate in a Q&A, and spin some records to kick off Downtownsounds DISCO-VERSARY.
3 March, 7:00pm
Teachers Club
36 Parnell Square West
Dublin, Ireland

Lecture and Q&A
Tim Lawrence in conversation with Paul Tarpey.
18 March, 5:00pm
Mother Macs
10 High Street
Limerick, Ireland

Lecture and Party
Join Lawrence for a lecture at Carnegie Mellon University and after-party at VIA, where he will be selecting some music.
19 April
Studio for Creative Inquiry
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA

Conference Presentation and Panel Discussion
Lawrence will present a paper on the “Sounds from the Underground” panel.
22 April, 4:15pm
Pop Conference – EMP Museum
JBL Theater
325 5th Ave N.
Seattle, WA
Panel Participants: J. Jack Halberstam, Josh Kun, and Gala Porras-Kim

Talk and After-Party
Join Lawrence for a book talk at Alley Cat Books and after-party at Aunt Charlie’s.
23 April, 7:00pm
Alley Cat Books
3036 24th St
San Francisco, CA

Talk, Q&A, and Music
Inaugural event of the VDSF speaker series–join Lawrence for a fireside chat with Christopher Orr.
24 April
, 6:00pm
Vinyl Dreams
593 Haight St
San Francisco, CA

25 April
, 3:00pm
University of California – Riverside
Riverside, CA

Reading and Q&A
26 April
, 7:00pm
Mount Analog
5906 1/2 N. Figueroa Ave
Los Angeles, CA

27 April, 7:00pm
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA

Join Tim Lawrence for the Arthur Russell “Planting a Thought” symposium–a month-long multi-city celebration of musician and composer Arthur Russell.
28 April

Legion Arts
1103 Third St SE
Cedar Rapids, IA

Book Talk
1 May
Jersey City Free Public Library
472 Jersey Ave.
Jersey City, NJ

2 May
, 3:00pm
UMass Boston Campus Center 3540
100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA

We hope you can catch Tim at one of these great events. If not, you can order his book from us and save 30% using coupon code E16LAWRE.

Trans-Political Economy

ddtsq_4_1The most recent issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, “Trans-Political Economy,” edited by Dan Irving and Vek Lewis, addresses how capitalism differentially and unequally affects trans and sex/gender‐diverse people across the globe.

“We all, from our different social and political locations, become implicated in those architectures through our everyday interactions with a variety of coordinated and contradictory institutions and rationalities that order our lives across different local and global geopolitical spaces and scales,” write Irving and Lewis.

The editors and contributors to this issue reveal how the narrowly constructed objects of trans studies and political economy (such as gender, labor, class, and economy) have been complicit in the necropolitical devaluation of trans lives and existing strategies crafted for trans survival. Topics include trans visibility and commodity culture; trans credit reporting; the growing population of T-girls, trans women truckers; trans street-based sex workers; the system of sex/gender identification for trans asylum seekers in South Africa; waria affective labor in Indonesia; as well as a roundtable deconstructing trans* political economy.

The Arts & Culture section of this issue features a review of season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race in relation to some of the political economic elements of the drag industry as well as an in depth look at the representation of transgender lives on film, specifically in The Dallas Buyer’s Club.

Read the guest editor’s introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Feminist Perspectives on the 2016 Military Coup Attempt and Its Aftermath in Turkey

We are pleased to share this guest blog post by Banu Gökarıksel, co-editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies. The most recent issue of the journal, volume 13 and issue 1, features a special forum on Feminist Perspectives on the 2016 Coup Attempt and its Aftermath in Turkey.

ddmew_13_1Feminist critiques of political power reveal the central function of gender, sexuality, and difference in maintaining that power. Yet, in current events, a feminist geopolitics is rarely considered and has been absent from analysis of the 2016 coup attempt and its aftermath in Turkey. Much more than tallying the number of women who participated in protesting against the coup, a feminist approach reveals the ways in which the coup attempt (and responses to it) in Turkey relied on the exercise of masculine discursive and material power (Gökarıksel 2017). Violence was both engineered by a powerful institution, the Turkish military, as well as opposed by the political power of the AKP backed by other state institutions such as the police and gendarme. Both coup plotters and their opponents played a significant role in constructing and symbolizing normative masculinity and heterosexuality (Arat 2017). The eruption of violence reinforced the hegemonic relationship between the military, the state, and the nation (Açıksöz 2017; Korkman 2017).

Feminist critique reveals that under President Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership, the AKP government has taken increasingly repressive and alarmingly authoritarian measures against minorities, women, and girls (Arat 2017), and has galvanized a populist nationalist masculinity that Erdoğan himself embodies. The crowds of civilian men, police officers, and anti-coup soldiers who fought against the putschists, sometimes without any weapons, also legitimate and embolden a nationalist masculinity built on religious and social conservatism and populism.

The stepping up of its war against the Kurds is part of the government’s attempt to reestablish its nationalist and patriarchal power. Despite the magnitude of horror and human cost of this war, it could be thought in connection to a regulation for the chemical castration of sex offenders (Korkman 2017) and the ‘rape’ bill proposal introduced in November 2016 (that would have absolved rapists who marry their victims under 18 years of age from any criminal punishment but met with huge demonstrations and did not secure enough votes to pass). Without attending to the bolstering of this masculinist power in the streets and in government, analysts miss a crucial dimension of how a political environment of fear and intimidation has been legitimated and how violence and militarization have recast Turkish subjects.

The coup attempt on 15 July 2016 was unexpected but not entirely surprising given Turkey’s history. What was surprising was what happened afterwards. Following Erdoğan’s call to defend democracy over a FaceTime call broadcast live on television and constant prayer calls from minarets, people in huge numbers poured out to the streets, breaking the curfew. Although some women were present (Akınerdem 2017; Başdaş 2017), the overwhelming majority were men. The civilian men joined the police and anti-coup soldiers to fight against the putchists. Waving Turkish flags and shouting “Ya Allah, Bismillah, Allahuekber”, they attacked soldiers and tanks.

By the following morning it was clear that the coup attempt had failed. 241 people were killed and more than two thousand were injured during the coup. Crowds came out to occupy public squares to celebrate the defeat of the putschists in ‘democracy vigil’s that continued for weeks (Açıkerdem 2017). Some of the people who attended these democracy vigils did not seem to fully support democratic ideals and norms, asking for the immediate hanging of all the putschists (Başdaş 2017) and declaring unconditional loyalty to Erdoğan’s leadership.

The Turkish government’s reaction to the coup attempt has also been to the detriment of an already deteriorating democratic environment in which freedoms and rights of most citizens, mostly importantly of women and minorities have been increasingly restricted. Initiating a familiar re-militarization of society (Açıksöz 2017), the AKP government quickly and violently acted to restore its masculinist power, repressing any expression of difference from its normative Turkish citizenship. It declared a state of emergency which persists and strengthened its grip on power through arrests, purges, travel bans, and property seizures. The initial targets expanded from coup plotters, supporters, and anyone associated with Fethullah Gülen’s hizmet movement, which the government alleges masterminded the coup, to all critics of government policies, especially its war against the Kurds. Hundreds have been detained or arrested; thousands have been fired from their jobs or forced to resign; over one hundred media outlets have been closed down since July. Academics who signed a peace petition, journalists who wrote anything critical of the government continue to become targets as late as February 2017.

The coup attempt and the AKP’s response to it are manifestations of masculinist political power. The aggressive, violent masculinities that the coup attempt and its aftermath bolstered constitute the architecture of a security state. Political power is never gender-neutral but works through gendered and sexual production of bodies that belong and that do not, that need protection and that are threats, and through the gendered and sexual construction of borders and territory. A feminist critique provides insights into the production of an environment of increasing consolidation of masculinist power, rhetoric of national unity, violence, and militarism (Açıksöz 2017; Akınerdem 2017; Arat 2017; Başdaş 2017; Gökarıksel 2017; Korkman 2017). But it also shows the possibilities for building solidarities and working towards a different future built on pluralism, non-violence, and peace.

Read the Special Forum: Feminist Perspectives on the 2016 Coup Attempt and its Aftermath in Turkey here.

Interview with Ethnohistory co-editor John F. Schwaller

We recently sat down with new Ethnohistory co-editor John F. Schwaller to discuss his background, how he’d like to shape the journal in the future, and plans for upcoming special issues. To learn more about Ethnohistory, visit

How did you come to be co-editor of this journal?

ddeh_64_1Matthew Restall [former co-editor of Ethnohistory] is a colleague and friend of mine and when he had served the journal for almost 10 years, he asked me if I would be interested in taking over the position from him. I’ve been a long-time follower and sometime author in Ethnohistory. My work in early colonial Mexico and especially my work in Nahuatl was very close to the journal, so it was a fun opportunity.

How would you like to shape the journal in the future?

What I really want to do is continue to emphasize high quality work on the rest of the Americas. Ethnohistory always has had very strong pieces on British and French North America. For the last ten to fifteen years the journal has included increasingly important pieces on what we now consider Latin America and I want to continue that tradition. Many of the articles have come from Mesoamerica—that’s Mexico and Central America. We have published a little bit in South America and we now have a couple of articles in the queue focused on South America. I would like to expand the offerings for Mesoamerica and South America significantly, so we have a really great presence for both continents in the journal.

What are some under-researched areas that you hope to publish about in the future?

I think, in terms of the profession at large it may not be as underserved, but there are certainly a lot of native peoples of South America that have not been covered sufficiently. We’re only beginning to see some really good studies of some of the native peoples of South America, and I would love to see more ethnohistories of peoples from South America.

Do you have any plans for upcoming special issues?

We have two proposals for special issues right now. One deals with Nahuatl speaking people, and I’m very excited about that. It’s an outgrowth of a panel at the American Society for Ethnohistory meeting in Nashville [November 2016] in which we looked at language and cultural identity in modern Mexico. We had several native Nahuatl speakers who were part of the panel. The organizers of the panel have asked if Ethnohistory would be interested in looking at the papers and the presentations for a special issue and I’ve told them absolutely. If it comes to fruition, at least one or perhaps two of the shorter presentations will be in Nahuatl with English translations.

What are you looking for in submissions?

I’m excited about everything. I really want people to think of Ethnohistory as an important place for their work to appear if they work on native peoples of the Americas.

Obviously with the revolution in languages that we’ve had since the 1970s, many of us are very excited by documentation and works based on documentation in native languages. We need not be blind to the fact that there still are valid and important sources that are only Spanish, Portuguese, English, or French, that can also enlighten us as to the history of native peoples.

To learn more about the journal or to subscribe, visit To submit your work to the journal, review the submission guidelines.