Reimagining Ourselves: Race, Gender, and Disability in Black Panther and Wrinkle in Time

Sami Final-9Today’s guest post is by Sami Schalk, author of the new book Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction.

It is a good time to be a black nerd—a blerd, if you will. The past few years have seen increased appearances of not only black characters, but entire black speculative worlds, worlds where we are not merely sidekicks, but heroes and heroines. From Netflix’s Luke Cage and Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out to Ryan Coogler’s record-shattering hit film Black Panther and Ava Duvernay’s just-released A Wrinkle in Time, we are in an incredible moment for black speculative film, television, and literature. I use “speculative” here, like I do in my new book, Bodyminds Reimagined, as an umbrella term for non-realist representations, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and magical realism. For a long time, African American literature and film were heavily burdened by the need and desire for positive, realist representations of black people to combat a legacy of influential racist stereotypes. As I discuss in the introduction to Bodyminds Reimagined, available for free here, positive, authentic representations for black and other oppressed groups are often assumed to only occur through realism, like life-writing and historical dramas, but increasingly more writers and filmmakers are experimenting with how speculative fiction and film can also provide empowering representations of marginalized people.

978-0-8223-7088-8Black Panther represents an alternate version of our world in which the people of Wakanda, a secret African nation that went into hiding to protect its supply of vibranium from the colonizing world, have developed their own advanced technology and culture. In this cinematic universe, based on the comic book series of the same title, the Wakandan king, T’Challa, serves as the Black Panther, protector of Wakanda, and is given extraordinary physical abilities through a mystical heart-shaped herb. Throughout the film, T’Challa relies on his genius younger sister Shuri, princess of Wakanda, who develops and improves vibranium technology, and an army of strong black women, the Dora Milaje, who are led by General Okoye. In this speculative world, black people are leaders and inventors as well as farmers, warriors, and spies. Black Panther reimagines the meaning of blackness and womanhood as well as the roles and expectations for black men and women. Importantly, the film provides this reimagining in conjunction with political messages about the history of colonization while also remaining firmly in the superhero genre—full of dramatic fights and chase scenes required of any superhero movie. While black, disabled, and feminist authors of speculative fiction, like Octavia E. Butler, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nnedi Okorafor have been creating politicized non-realist texts which center marginalized characters for years, Hollywood is now beginning to catch up, learning to combine diversity and politics with superheroes, science fiction, and other non-realist genres.

The move to reimagine race and gender identity through speculative fiction and film continues in the new film A Wrinkle in Time, originally a 1962 award-winning speculative fiction novel by Madeleine L’Engle. The book was initially rejected dozens of times, due in part, the author speculated, to its divergence from genre norms at the time, such as featuring a female protagonist. In its current adaptation, A Wrinkle in Time casts a black girl in the lead role of Meg Murray and other characters are also played by women of color. In the film, Meg, along with her friend and younger brother, bend time to travel the universe in order to find and rescue Meg’s scientist father who has been missing for four years. While not as explicitly political at Black Panther and created for a younger audience, A Wrinkle in Time nonetheless reimagines race and gender norms by creating a smart black girl character who must learn to love herself as she is, using her knowledge of physics and love for her family to become a hero.

What is missing from the race and gender diversity of these recent black speculative worlds, however, is disability. In Black Panther, while we see some bodily and age diversity among the tribal leaders, we do not see disabled characters except for the villain Ulysses Klaue who has a prosthetic hand—a representation that aligns with the trope of disability as a symbol or cause of evil. In A Wrinkle in Time, although there are messages about self-love (especially for black people, women and girls) embedded throughout, from Meg’s self-consciousness about her naturally curly hair to Oprah Winfrey’s character Mrs. Which rhetorically asking “Is there such thing as the wrong size?”, disability makes no appearance in the film. Further, in Black Panther CIA operative Everett Ross is shot in the spine but is completely healed by Wakandan technology. This choice suggests that disability has been eliminated in Wakanda. In Chapter 3 of Bodyminds Reimagined, I discuss the role of disability and technology in representations of the future, particularly in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series. There I explain that western visions of the future are typically disability-free futures, like that suggested in Black Panther. Despite the fact that advances in human technology are often used for violence and war (especially against people of color) and despite the fact that technology increasingly allows people to live with more severe and varied disabilities than in the past, we continue to hold onto the ideal of a technologically-created able-bodied, able-minded future in which disabled people cease to exist. The belief in and hope for such a future or fantasy world is based on ableist notions that disabled lives are inherently worse than non-disabled lives and that disabled people do not contribute to the world in important ways.

The lack of positive disability representation (that is, disabled characters who aren’t villains, especially ones played by actually disabled actors) in the increasingly diverse world of speculative film demonstrates that there is still more work to be done. In Bodyminds Reimagined, I analyze how black women writers reimagine the possibilities and limits of bodyminds by creating complex, interesting, and powerful representations of disabled characters. With the release and success of films like Get Out, Black Panther, and A Wrinkle in Time, it seems that speculative film is beginning to catch up the speculative fiction in terms of race and gender, but not as much in terms of disability. By highlighting the role of disability alongside race and gender in black women’s speculative fiction, I hope that Bodyminds Reimagined contributes to this powerful moment in black speculative representations so that perhaps in the Black Panther sequel and other future films, we might see the kind of engagement with and embrace of disability identity that we have begun to see around blackness and womanhood as well.

Pick up Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined for 30% off using coupon code E18BODYM at dukeupress.edu.

Popular Culture: A Call for Papers from JMEWS

MEW-logoAs part of our month-long series highlighting the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, we’re excited to share this call for papers for an upcoming issue of the journal. JMEWS is the official journal of the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies. This interdisciplinary journal advances the fields of Middle East gender, sexuality, and women’s studies through the contributions of academics, artists, and activists from around the globe working in the interpretive social sciences and humanities.
Call for Papers: Popular Culture

The Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies invites sexuality and gender scholars working in any discipline or interdisciplinary area in the interpretive social sciences and humanities to submit area-focused manuscripts of no more than 10,000 words on any topic related to popular culture for an issue to appear in 2019.

Competitive manuscripts 1) substantiate a thesis based on original scholarship; 2) are
conceptually coherent and clear; 3) are grounded in primary sources (literary, visual, archival, textual, ethnographic, artistic, legal, and so on); and 4) engage with pertinent questions that emerge from region-focused or transnational feminist and sexuality scholarship. Possible foci within the broad domain of popular culture include but are not limited to girl studies, masculinity studies, aesthetics and art, music, social media production, television (talent shows, talk shows, soap operas, game shows, serials), film, refugee studies, tourism, graffiti, advertisements, and consumer culture.

Submission guidelines may be found at jmews.org. Manuscripts are due on June 15, 2018 to the journal’s online submission system: www.editorialmanager.com/jmews. Questions may be directed to the editorial office.

Do you want to learn more about the journal? Sign up for latest issue alertssubscribe to the journal, and follow along with the JMEWS blog series.

Journals Designer Sue Hall Retires after 23 Years at Duke University Press

sue-hallToday we’re sharing the bittersweet news that Duke University Press Journals Designer Sue Hall will retire this month after 23 years of working at the Press.

Sue has won numerous design awards for her work from the Association for University Presses (AUP) and the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ). Her most recent awards include the CELJ 2015 Award for Best Journal Design for the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, and the AUP 2017 Book, Jacket, and Journal Show awards for the interior and cover design for volume 67 of Archives of Asian Art and the cover design of volume 29 of Public Culture. She has contributed a chapter about journals design to Rich Hendel’s 2013 book, Aspects of Contemporary Book Design.

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Sue began working at Duke University Press in 1995 and immediately started to work with editors all over the world to design and redesign their journals’ covers and interiors. She found the process of redesigning an existing journal or designing a new one from scratch to be a positive and synergistic one. In a previous interview with Sue and former Journals Designer Kelly Andrus, Sue explained the process of redesigning a journal: “I enjoy the redesign process because I feel like I’m collaborating with a couple of people. One is the original designer of the journal, because I try to retain the things I think are successful and workable. I like the idea of the redesign being an evolution and not just a sudden change. To make it feel like an evolution, it needs to have a sense of continuity.” She also believes that  a complete reboot and overhaul of a journal’s design is sometimes needed to signal a change of direction in editorial mission or to reach a new audience.

miriam cooke, co-editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, shared her experience of redesigning the journal with Sue: “We had extraordinary conversations with Sue Hall about how to design the journal about things that never would have occurred to us. The care that every single page elicited from the design team was extraordinary. The way the journal looks externally is really important. What Duke does so well is to really work on the presentation of the journal and to make it change each time, which then becomes fun for the editors; it’s enormous fun.”

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Over the years, editors have called attention to Sue’s work for being innovative, award-winning, superb, beautiful, gifted, and meaningful. She takes pride in the trust and teamwork that she has been able to build over the years with journal editors. “I’ve discovered that there are a lot of nice pluses, one of which is working with Sue Hall, the journals designer, who is a really important collaborator for us because so much of our creative journal is conveyed through the art,” Tom Sellar, editor of Theater magazine, shared about working with Sue. “Sue has a great eye and great instinct for the photo that will really pull you into an article or to a feature, or how to position a cover in such a way in that it is an utterly alluring object to pick up.”

Sue has been integral to the ability of the Journals Production team to embrace two decades of inevitable and necessary changes to publishing, the department, and our vendor processes and workflows. She has been part of a team that has kept Duke University Press at the forefront of journal production and design with her ability to innovate and keep up with a challenging and changing publishing industry.

Throughout her tenure at Duke University Press, Sue has mentored several designers, and her design aesthetic can be seen not just in journal covers and interior designs, but in our marketing materials and online presence. She was a part of the teams who developed the Press’s original web presence and our new brand identity, and enjoyed the different iterations of design that she participated in while working at the Press.

Sue will be retiring from Duke University Press to resume her freelance design company, Number Nine, which she had been running when she originally started to do freelance work for the Press. While we are sad to see Sue leave, we are so excited to continue to follow her career and wish her the best in her future endeavors!

World Water Day

wwd-generiq-cmjn_en_2017_square-01-e1521487552747.pngToday is World Water Day, coordinated by the United Nations to draw attention to the importance of water and to the water-related challenges we face today. Our scholarship on water and ocean studies has been steadily growing, and we’re happy to take this occasion to share some of it with you.

978-0-8223-7040-6Matthew Vitz’s A City on a Lake, forthcoming in April, explains Mexico City’s transformation from a forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity plagued by environmental problems and social inequality. Watering the Revolution by Mikael D. Wolfe addresses Mexican agrarian reform through a history of water management in the Laguna region, and Shaylih Muehlmann’s Where the River Ends is a moving look at how the Cucapá people of northwest Mexico have experienced and responded to the diversion of the Colorado River.

ddrhr_116Co-winner of the 2013 award for Best Special Issue from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, Radical History Review‘s “Water: History, Power, Crisis,” examines the historical processes that shape contemporary water issues. Contributors focus on how state-sponsored water programs, from sewage treatment to irrigation to damming, radically transform local communities. Topics include caste legacies and waste management in India, dam building in nineteenth-century Egypt, North African emigration and municipal water policy in Paris, and contested water management programs in the Ecuadorean highlands. Collectively, in essays and photos, the authors investigate how water or its absence has affected human societies and seek to historicize the politics of the struggle to control one of our most crucial natural resources. Read the introduction, made freely available.

In Hydraulic City Nikhil Anand explores the politics of Mumbai’s water infrastructure to demonstrate how citizenship emerges through the continuous efforts to control, maintain, and manage the city’s water. Lisa Björkman’s Pipe Politics, Contested Waters shows how an elite dream to transform Mumbai into a “world class” business center has wreaked havoc on the city’s water pipes.

ddpcult_28_2We live in the age of extremes, a period punctuated by significant disasters that have changed the way we understand risk, vulnerability, and the future of communities. Violent ecological events such as Superstorm Sandy attest to the urgent need to analyze what cities around the world are doing to reduce carbon emissions, develop new energy systems, and build structures to enhance preparedness for catastrophe. The essays in “Climate Change and the Future of Cities: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Social Change on an Urban Planet,” a special issue of Public Culture, illustrate that the best techniques for safeguarding cities and critical infrastructure systems from threats related to climate change have multiple benefits, strengthening networks that promote health and prosperity during ordinary times as well as mitigating damage during disasters. The contributors provide a truly global perspective on topics such as the toxic effects of fracking, water rights in the Los Angeles region, wind energy in southern Mexico, and water scarcity from Brazil to the Arabian Peninsula. Read the introduction, made freely available.

Hough-Snee and Sotelo EastmanBy showing how the waters of the Nile are constantly made and remade as a resource by people in and outside Egypt, Jessica Barnes, in Cultivating the Nile, demonstrates the range of political dynamics, social relations, and technological interventions that must be incorporated into understandings of water and its management.

The Critical Surf Studies Reader, a collection edited by Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee and Alexander Sotelo Eastman, refocuses the history and culture of surfing, paying particular attention to reclaiming the roles that women, indigenous peoples, and people of color have played in surfing. Ulrich Oslender’s The Geographies of Social Movements proposes a critical place perspective to examine the activism of black communities in the lowland rain forest of Colombia’s Pacific Coast region.

978-0-8223-6235-7In The Undersea Network Nicole Starosielski follows undersea Internet cables from the ocean depths to their landing zones on the sandy beaches of the South Pacific, bringing them to the surface of media scholarship and making visible the materiality of the wired network.

Eating the Ocean by Elspeth Probyn is an ethnographic journey around the world’s oceans and fisheries, centering oceans as the site of the entanglement of multiple species and enabling us to realize that we cannot escape the food politics of the human-fish relationship.

 

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.

Dissident Subjects: In Honor of miriam cooke

MEW-logoAs part of our month-long series highlighting the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, we’re excited to share a special section titled, “Dissident Subjects: In Honor of miriam cooke,” featured in the most recent issue of the journal (volume 14, issue 1).

This section features seven original essays and one poem honoring the contributions of JMEWS co-editor miriam cooke, Braxton Craven Professor Emerita of Arab Cultures at Duke University, on the occasion of her retirement. The pieces in this section build on cooke’s concerns or reflect her multifaceted career, which includes intellectual production and institution building.

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Topics include

Do you want to learn more? Sign up for latest issue alerts, subscribe to the journal, follow along with the JMEWS blog series, and watch this video with miriam cooke talking about the journal.

JMEWS is the official journal of the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies. This interdisciplinary journal advances the fields of Middle East gender, sexuality, and women’s studies through the contributions of academics, artists, and activists from around the globe working in the interpretive social sciences and humanities.

Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2018 Conference

We had a great time in Toronto at the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies last week, selling books and journals and meeting authors and editors.

Queer Cinema in the WorldCongratulations to Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt, whose book Queer Cinema in the World won the Katherine Singer Kovacs award for outstanding scholarship in cinema and media studies.

We enjoyed a wine and cheese party celebrating the relaunch of our Camera Obscura book series (which is associated with our journal of the same name. Archiveology by Catherine Russell and Sisters in the Life edited by Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz are the most recent books in the series.

Pamela Wojcik served as president of SCMS this year. She stopped by our booth to pose with her 2010 book The Apartment Plot. Her new edited collection, The Apartment Complex, is out in October.

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It’s always great to welcome authors and editors to the booth. Here are Lynn Comella, Rielle Navitski, Catherine Russell, and Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz.

If you missed the meeting, you don’t have to miss the sale! Shop all our great media studies titles now and save 30% using coupon code SCMS18.

Colonialism, Imperialism, and War

MEW-logoAs part of our month-long series highlighting the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, we’re excited to share a “Colonialism, Imperialism, and War” mock syllabus from the JMEWS, curated by the editors. JMEWS is the official journal of the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies. This interdisciplinary journal advances the fields of Middle East gender, sexuality, and women’s studies through the contributions of academics, artists, and activists from around the globe working in the interpretive social sciences and humanities.

Colonialism, Imperialism, and War

 

The Age of the Applied Economist

hope_49_5The Age of the Applied Economist: The Transformation of Economics since the 1970s,” a supplement to the 2017 volume of History of Political Economy, focuses on how applied work in economics came to be dominated by theory after the 1950s. 

Since the 1970s, economics has changed from a field in which the highest-status activity was abstract theorizing to one where doing good applied work is seen as paramount, whether that applied work consists of analyzing data, solving practical problems or giving policy advice. This volume defends this claim. It is now commonplace to argue that empirical work in economics has been transformed by the use of modern computers and the availability of large data sets, and that there is more empirical work in the journals. Against this, contributors argue that, though very important, the changes in economics run deeper and wider. The main change is in the status attached to applied work, not the quantity of applied work, which has always been large, and computing may have been important but it did not determine the outcome. And economics has become more deeply embedded in the process of policy making.

To learn more, read the introduction made freely available.

New article looks at the rise and fall of Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board

ddjhppl_42_3“Technocratic Dreams, Political Realities: The Rise and Demise of Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board,” an article by Jonathan Oberlander and Steven B. Spivack in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law (volume 43, issue 3), offers a groundbreaking, in-depth look at the troubled history of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), enacted as part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and repealed in February 2018 when President Donald Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

This article addresses technocracy and healthcare through IPAB, a board of healthcare experts hailed for its innovation and designed to formulate Medicare policy recommendations based on evidence and reason rather than politics. Authors Oberlander and Spivack explore why Congress initially enacted IPAB, how we understand its broad appeal to the health policy community, and why IPAB failed to live up to its original hype and remained in political purgatory, paralyzed by controversy and partisanship.

Most health policy experts supported IPAB. The board was an ambitious way to combat the influence of interest groups and the health care industry on Medicare policy. It was also seen as an antidote to legislative inertia and Congress’s inability to manage Medicare. Experts, as well as some members of Congress, agreed that lawmakers could not make difficult decisions about Medicare and envisioned the board as an instrument of health services research and congressional self control. After the board’s establishment, industry groups attacked it, while many Republicans and some Democrats criticized IPAB and supported its repeal. Instead of realizing its aspirations, the board was mired in irrelevance. Prior to its repeal, IPAB existed as a shell under a presidential administration opposed to its existence.

“IPAB’s brief, troubled history offers a cautionary tale about the role of evidence, expertise, and independent panels in US health policy making,” Oberlander and Spivack write. “IPAB’s establishment reflected good intentions: to restructure Medicare governance so that program policy making was driven more by evidence and less by interest group pressures; to compel policy makers to consider and ultimately make difficult choices in Medicare reform; to prevent Congress from micromanaging and mismanaging Medicare; to ensure that, if Congress did not act, steps were still taken to restrain Medicare spending; and to create safeguards against excessive spending. Yet the aspirations to rationalize Medicare through IPAB have floundered against political realities.”

For more information regarding the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, please visit dukeupress.edu/jhppl.

Read the full article here.