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November 21st, 2014

University Press Roundup



University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

While there were two high-profile accidents in the private space industry over the past few months, Chris Dubbs and Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, writing at the University of Nebraska Press Blog, argue that “private industry can operate space services better and more cheaply than a government agency.” They believe that NASA would do better to focus on the parts of space exploration for which there is no commercial market, leaving typical launch services to private companies like Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences, and SpaceX.

One of the most difficult parts of academic publishing is knowing how to classify, market, and price different book projects. At the Sydney Publishing blog of The University of Sydney Press, Agata Mrva-Montoya has a post in which she takes on difficult issues publishing issues, from commissioning trade nonfiction to distinguishing between monographs and trade books.

At the JHU Press Blog, Annemarie Goldstein Jutel claims that one of the most important parts of combating a disease like Ebola is generating reasonable and informed discourse. She points out that discussions of Ebola have often used military language: “We have a war to win against Ebola and an Ebola Czar to help us do so. We try to bring the outbreak under full control to neutralize the virus,” and argues that this way of talking about the disease actually hurts the public goal of eradicating the virus.

It’s now been over two years since Hurricane Sandy came through New Jersey, New York, and other Eastern seaboard states, doing a stupendous amount of damage. At the Princeton University Press Blog, Stuart Schwartz writes that in the course of looking back at public reaction to the storm, he found something both interesting and unexpected: in his post-storm public speeches over the past two years, NJ Governor Chris Christie has been echoing those of Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the aftermath of Hurricane Flora, which devastated Cuba in 1963.

Ancient libraries, and the Library of Alexandria in particular, have long occupied near-mythic places in the public imagination as repositories of lost knowledge. However, as George W. Houston notes at the UNC Press Blog, only recently have there been serious scholarly attempts to discover traces of that lost knowledge and to reconstruct what an ancient library might have actually contained.

One of the biggest problems in regions that have been struck by disasters of any kind is reestablishing (or establishing for the first time) clean and effective systems of sanitation, a problem exacerbated in regions that are already struggling with poverty. At From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Sara Fanning and Rob Curran discuss a possible solution to the sanitation problem in Haiti in a post honoring World Toilet Day.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and at the OSU Press Blog, Penelope S. Easton has a moving guest post in which she looks back at her time visiting remote hospitals in Alaska. In particular, she talks about her discovery of the mismanagement of the food supply to the Kanakanak Hospital, and how the staff and patients had to be creative in coming up with a Thanksgiving meal.

In more temperate parts of the United States, the approach of Thanksgiving means the onset of Christmas decorations, Christmas music, and Christmas sales. In a post at the Florida Bookshelf of the University Press of Florida, Ronald D. Lankford, Jr. talks about the ever-lengthening Christmas season and wonders whether the whole process is a good or a bad thing.

There have been a number of high-profile cases in which athletes have committed crimes involving domestic violence on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years. At the OUPblog, Mike Cronin looks at the case of Ched Evans, who was convicted of rape, served a prison term, and is now looking to get back into professional football (soccer), prompting widespread debate about whether teams should offer him a contract. Cronin argues that “[t]hose who govern the world of male professional sport have to realise that they administer not simply their games, but they are also responsible for the meaningful creation of men with positive values who can act, in the best ways, as role models.”

Ever wonder who had the idea for creating a Top 40 radio station? Want to learn more about how the Top 40 has changed over time? The Chicago Blog of the University of Chicago Press has a fascinating excerpt from Eric Weisbard’s Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music in which Weisbard takes a closer look at what “Top 40″ has actually meant over the years.

John Brown’s attempt to try to violently overthrow the institution of slavery in 1859 has long been a hot topic in American history. As Ted Smith points out at the Stanford University Press Blog, Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry has been used by such diverse figures as Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Eugene V. Debs, the Weather Underground, Timothy McVeigh, Christopher Hitchens, and Cornel West in comparisons for good or bad with current events.

Finally, wine is commonly associated with France; sugar, perhaps not so much. However, at fifteeneightfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press, Elizabeth Heath argues that the way that both commodities have been treated over the years by French government officials can tell us a great deal about French domestic and colonial policy. Heath looks at recently discovered documents from colonial Guadaloupe to reach some surprising conclusions about what the French thought about citizenship and colony in the Third Republic.

November 21st, 2014

George Packer on The New Censorship by Joel Simon



Joel Simon, The New Censorship

In Why the Press is Less Free Today, a recent article in The New Yorker, George Packer discussed some of the key issues and arguments raised in The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom, by Joel Simon.

Packer’s article and Simon’s book come at a time when journalists are increasingly under threat. As Packer writes, between 2002 and 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (C.P.J.), five hundred and six journalists were killed worldwide, as opposed to three hundred and ninety in the previous decade. Packer comments on the seeming contradiction of more journalists being killed at a time when other freedoms seem to be proliferating:

It seems strange to speak of growing censorship in an era when elections are common around the world, private freedoms have expanded even in repressive countries like China, the Internet and social media swamp our brains with indiscriminate information every nanosecond, and anyone with a Twitter account or a Facebook page can be a journalist. But Simon makes a persuasive case that the global trend is toward less, not greater, freedom of the press. “Deluged with data, we are blind to the larger reality,” he writes. “Around the world new systems of control are taking hold. They are stifling the global conversation and impeding the development of policies and solutions based on an informed understanding of the local realities. Repression and violence against journalists is at record levels, and press freedom is in decline.”

Read the rest of this entry »

November 20th, 2014

Joel Simon Discusses The New Censorship on The Leonard Lopate Show



Yesterday, Joel Simon, author of The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom appeared on The Leonard Lopate Show to talk about the book and the increasing threats to journalists. Simon warns that these threats are leading to a shortage of the news reports we need to make sense of our globalized world and to fight against human rights abuses, manage conflict, and promote accountability.

November 20th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Julia Kristeva and St. Teresa



Julia Kristeva, Teresa My Love

Today’s fiction corner features Julia Kristeva’s new novel Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila. While Kristeva first made her name as a philosopher and critic, she has also written several novels, including Murder in Byzantium and The Old Man and the Wolves.

In her newest novel Teresa, My Love, Kristeva mixes fiction, history, psychoanalysis, and personal fantasy. The novel follows Sylvia Leclercq, a French psychoanalyst, academic, and incurable insomniac, as she falls for the sixteenth-century Saint Teresa of Avila and becomes consumed with charting her life. Traveling to Spain, Leclercq, Kristeva’s probing alterego, visits the sites and embodiments of the famous mystic and awakens to her own desire for faith, connection, and rebellion.

Below is an excerpt from the novel:

November 19th, 2014

The Seven Things Obama Can Do to confront the New Censorship



Joel Simon, The New CensorshipThe following post is by Joel Simon, author of The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom:

The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media covers events and trends from an international perspective. But some of the questions I’ve gotten from audience members at recent events have to do with the Obama administration and its policies. Below I will look at what Obama has done so far and what still needs to be done.

1. Advocate for the rights of individual journalists. One the simplest and most effective strategies that the Obama administration can implement is to raise the cases of persecuted journalists in bilateral meetings, public statements, and through diplomatic channels. In fact, the administration has a good record of doing this. Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciordone repeatedly spoke out about the imprisonment of Turkish journalists, much to the annoyance of the government in Ankara. U.S. officials have also raised the cases of imprisoned Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai (who was recently released and is now in the United States), the so-called Zone 9 bloggers in Ethiopia, and the Al Jazeera journalists currently imprisoned in Egypt. How’s the administration doing so far in this area? Reasonably well. I would give it a B+.

2. Formulate policies that clearly articulate the balance between U.S. strategic interests and the promotion of human rights. The limitation of advocating on behalf of individual journalists is that the administration has not clearly articulated how far it will push the human rights agenda when it clashes with national security interests. For example, in Turkey, while the embassy and the state department spoke out, President Obama did not, and this was interpreted in Turkey as a signal that U.S. strategic interests would take precedence. The same is true in Ethiopia, which has been a key ally in confronting Islamic militantism in the Horn of Africa; and in Egypt, which despite its unbearable repression is seen as a bulwark against growing regional instability. These countries have effectively resisted U.S. pressure on protecting journalists because they view human rights and press freedom as something that can be negotiated. In other words, the more valuable you are as a strategic ally of the United States the more repression you can get away it. How has Obama done so drawing the line on press freedom violations? I would give him a C.

3. Limit surveillance. The staggering revelations made by Edward Snowden blew the lid on NSA program global surveillance, which we now know operates on scale that is difficult comprehend. Much has been made of the implications of surveillance in a domestic context, and the questions regarding the legality of U.S. spying need to be urgently addressed. But it is important to keep in mind that there are no legal restrictions on surveillance outside the United States, and as a former NSA official recently told me, a non-U.S. journalist speaking to a confidential source would make an ideal target for NSA spying. The scope of the NSA surveillance effort not only has a chilling effect on journalists around the world, it normalizes the efforts of country’s like China and Iran that routinely surveil both domestic critics and their perceived international adversaries (including journalists). When it comes to spying on journalists, the U.S. needs to put in place policies that carefully balance intelligence needs with the negative impact they might have on global freedom of expression. How’s the administration doing far? Poorly. I give it a D.

4. Defend the Internet. The Internet was developed by U.S. computer scientists and even though it is now a global system much of the core infrastructure that makes the Internet function is still based in the United States. For the most part, the U.S. has been a responsible global steward, and the administration has actively promoted the “right to connect” as a form of freedom of association. However, the political environment now requires that the U.S. modulate its role in Internet governance as a means of countering challenges from countries like China that seek to put the global Internet at service of state interests. China’s most compelling argument is that the U.S. is exploiting its privileged position to undermine rival powers by pumping in destabilizing information and carrying out massive surveillance. This is why the best way to ensure that the Internet remains a viable, shared global resource is for the U.S. to further internationalize governance. To its credit, the administration has been seeking to do this in the least few years. How is the administration doing on this critical front? Pretty well. I give the administration an A-.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 19th, 2014

Marc Lynch on the Arab Uprisings and Their Aftermath



“The pan-Arab revolutionary unity of early 2011 has long since given way to sectarianism, polarization between Islamists and their enemies, and horror over the relentless images of death and despair in Syria, Iraq and Libya.”—March Lynch

The Arab Uprisings Explained, Marc Lynch

In The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East, edited by Marc Lynch, leading scholars and observers of the Middle East examine the causes, dynamics, and effects of the Arab uprisings. Marc Lynch discussed some of the conclusions from the book in a Washington Post blog post from this summer and also discusses the failure of political scientists to predict the uprisings in the first place.

In a follow up, Lynch examines how experts, including himself, responded to and analyzed events that occurred during the Arab Spring and its aftermath. Lynch’s article comes out of a recent study in which he asked the contributors to The Arab Uprisings Explained to write short memos assessing their contributions after having another year to reflect on what has transpired since they wrote their original pieces. (free PDF available here)

In summarizing the contributors critiques of their own work and their failures to understand some of the dynamics of the Arab Uprisings, Lynch writes:

We paid too much attention to the activists and not enough to the authoritarians; we understated the importance of identity politics; we assumed too quickly that successful popular uprisings would lead to a democratic transition; we under-estimated the key role of international and regional factors in domestic outcomes; we took for granted a second wave of uprisings, which thus far has yet to materialize; we understated the risk of state failure and over-stated the possibility of democratic consensus.

Lynch admits that he and his colleagues might have become “too emotionally attached to particular actors or policies. Caught up in the rush of events, and often deeply identifying with our networks of friends and colleagues involved in these politics, we may have allowed hope or passion to cloud our better comparative judgment. That’s a fine quality in activists, but not so helpful for academic rigor.”

Lynch also revisits some of his own positions and analyses from the past three years since the Arab Spring. Specifically, he looks at the destabilizing effects of U.S. and Allied intervention in Libya, an action Lynch initially supported. Lynch concedes:

It is impossible to look at Libya’s failed state and civil war, its proxy conflict and regional destabilization, and not conclude that the intervention’s negative effects over the long term outweigh the short-term benefits. Moammar Gaddafi’s fall, combined with the prominence of armed militias, left Libya without a functioning state and little solid ground upon which to build a new political order. The likelihood of such an outcome should have weighed more heavily in my analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 18th, 2014

An Interview with Joel Simon, author of The New Censorship



“This is the most deadly and dangerous time for journalists in decades”—Joel Simon
Joel Simon, The New CensorshipThe following is an interview with Joel Simon, author of The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom. On November 11 at Book Court in Brooklyn, there was a launch for a book and a discussion with Simon and George Packer of The New Yorker. Packer later wrote about a commentary based on the book on Why the Press is Less Free Today. For more on the book you can also read an excerpt from the chapter News of the Future (and the Future of News).

Question: Why did you write this book?

Joel Simon: As always there were a mix of personal and professional reasons. From a professional perspective, I hope to draw attention to the crisis that we are confronting around global free expression. This is the most deadly and dangerous time for journalists in decades, with record numbers being killed and imprisoned. Around the world, according to all available data, press freedom is in decline and the information we depend on makes sense of our globalized world is not flowing as freely as people believe. I hope the book draws attention to this urgent threat, helps readers understand its origins and consequences, and to points toward strategies that can help mitigate the impact.

From a personal perspective, I have always loved to tell stories. This is in large measure why I became a journalist and since my day job is a running an international nonprofit it is not something I generally able to do. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to take a step back, and consider the big picture, and sit, write, and contemplate.

Q: The book is called The New Censorship. How is this different from the old censorship?

JS: Traditional censorship is based on hierarchies of control. In its most rigid formulation, a country’s political leadership determines what people can know and state directives are executed by actual censors who occupy newsrooms and prevent the publication of prohibited material. In other words, people don’t know what they don’t know. This kind of censorship is anachronism in a globalized, networked world in which even autocratic regimes have to integrate into the international financial and information systems. So unless you want to ban the Internet—something only a handful of countries do these days—you need to find a way to manage information rather than relying on simple repression. In the book, I look at a variety of strategies focusing on new breed of elected autocrats who I dub the “democratators.” I look at the Chinese system for managing the Internet, and also explore the way that terror and criminal groups are using social media to disseminate message of fear and intimidation.

Q: You use this term, global citizen. What do you mean by that?

JS: One of the primary themes I explore in the book is the way that technology has transformed the global information system, including the global media. I use the term global citizen to represent all those who recognize that their interests transcend national boundaries. In order to make informed decisions about matters that affect their lives, global citizens require access to global information. It is true that technology makes it possible to access information from around the world in ways that would have not even been conceivable a few decades ago. But the glut of information blinds us to the huge gaps in our knowledge of global events, gaps produced by pressure from authoritarian governments, murderous violence perpetrated by criminal and terrorist groups, smothering surveillance of our online communication, and clear deficiencies in the media structures. By definition censorship itself transcends national boundaries, since it prevents people from outside the country where the censorship is taking place from accessing information that may be essential for their own lives. One of the primary arguments for press freedom in a national context is that it necessary for good governance and accountability. But there is no effective mechanism to ensure that news and information produces accountability at the global level.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 18th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Best Business Writing, Coney Island, and More!



The Best Business Writing 2014Our weekly listing of new titles now available:

The Best Business Writing 2014
Edited by Dean Starkman, Martha M. Hamilton, and Ryan Chittum

A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion
Edited by Louis J. Parascandola and John Parascandola

Inheriting Dance: An Invitation from Pina
Edited by Marc Wagenbach and The Pina Bausch Foundation

Art/Commerce: The Convergence of Art and Marketing in Contemporary Culture
Maria A. Slowinska

The Intelligible Metropolis: Urban Mentality in Contemporary London Novels
Nora Pleßke

Studying Early and Silent Cinema
Keith Withall

Talk Radio, the Mainstream Press, and Public Opinion in Hong Kong
Francis L. F. Lee

Understanding South Asian Minorities in Hong Kong
John Nguyet Erni and Lisa Yuk-ming Leung

Exploring Lung Fu Shan: A Nature Guide
Lung Fu Shan Environmental Education Centre

November 17th, 2014

Sex and World Peace: What’s Next



“Empower women and you enhance security in all its dimensions. Disempower women, and you undermine that security.”—Valerie Hudson

Sex and World Peace, Valerie Hudson

The following post if from Valerie Hudson, co-author of Sex and World Peace.

My co-authors and I are very grateful that Gloria Steinem found Sex and World Peace to be an important read. How the insecurity of women creates insecurity for the broader collective, whether at the local, national, regional, or international levels, is a vital topic of concern not only to scholars, but to policymakers and policy advocates as well. In a very real way, whether we speak of food security, economic security, demographic security, security and governance, security and health, or any one of a numbers of interlocked aspects of collective security, women are the great pivot. Empower women and you enhance security in all its dimensions. Disempower women, and you undermine that security.

We are often asked what will follow Sex and World Peace and its initial efforts to demonstrate those linkages that are often invisible in our security discourse. To date, we are engaged in two research projects, one nearing completion and one just getting underway.

Scheduled for publication in June 2015 by Columbia University Press is the forthcoming volume, The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy. In that book, journalist Patricia Leidl and I examine how attention to the situation of women has become, in the words of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “a cornerstone of our foreign policy.” Certainly women have not been seen as such until very recently. How as a nation did we come to the point where a Secretary of State could openly claim “the subjugation of women is a direct threat to the security of the United States”? We call this new understanding “The Hillary Doctrine” after its most eloquent exponent.

Furthermore, what then did the United States do, as a nation, to implement that vision through foreign policy? How did the White House, State Department, Defense, USAID, and other elements of the federal government craft policies and programming to attend to the Hillary Doctrine? And what was the result? What can we learn from the track record of successes and failures that would be of use to an incoming presidential administration?

Read the rest of this entry »

November 17th, 2014

Book Giveaway: The New Censorship, by Joel Simon



This week our featured book is The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom by Joel Simon.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The New Censorship to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, November 21 at 1:00 pm.

“No one understands better than Joel Simon the reasons that press freedom is now in decline nearly everywhere in the world. In The New Censorship, he brings us riveting and powerfully moving accounts from the front lines. For anyone who wants to understand the peril that independent media faces around the world today, this is a distressing, essential piece of work” — Jacob Weisberg, Chairman, The Slate Group

Read an excerpt from the chapter, “News of the Future (and the Future of News)”:

November 14th, 2014

Francisco Varela and Waking, Dreaming, Being



Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. In today’s post on the final day of our feature, we are happy to post an excerpt from a fascinating interview of Thompson conducted by Joy Stocke at the Wild River Review. In the interview, Stocke and Thompson discuss the importance of his upbringing to his work, the influence of Francisco Varela, and the Dalai Lama, among many other topics, though we’ve chosen to focus on the discussion of Francisco Varela for this excerpt.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

WRR: Your book, ultimately, is a meditation on consciousness. Is consciousness wholly dependent on the brain or does it transcend the brain

Thompson: That’s the fundamental question of the book. I felt compelled to write about it because it kept coming up for me in different ways, some of which were personal and some intellectual. On a personal level I thought about the question a lot when I was working intensely with my friend and mentor, Chilean neuroscientist, Francisco Varela, just before he died. He was terminally ill and we knew that at some point soon he was going to die.

I write about the last real conversation I had with him, how it centered on consciousness and the question of its transcendence. It was fall of 2000 and Cisco and I were in my dad’s apartment in New York on the Upper West Side, writing a scientific article about consciousness and the brain. We weren’t raising that question at all in the article but we were talking about it a lot when we weren’t working. Cisco was a Buddhist, and knew that he was going to die soon, so transcendence was something he was contemplating. From a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, consciousness is the most fundamental luminous nature of awareness, underlying more ordinary cognitive forms of the mind, and it’s not considered to be brain dependent. Cisco took this perspective very seriously, but he was a neuroscientist, so he was also skeptical and doubtful.

The experience of talking to Cisco about this and watching him die and feel the loss intensified the question for me. It was a question that I had always thought about, having studied Asian and Western philosophy, but also having grown up in the New Age and yoga world where it was just taken for granted that people had multiple lives and that consciousness carried on after physical death. Read the rest of this entry »

November 14th, 2014

The University Press Roundup Manifesto: A #UPWeek 2014 Blog Tour Post



It’s the final day of University Press Week 2014! All week long university presses have been participating in the UP Week Blog Tour. We are thrilled to participate, and excited about today’s blog post theme: Follow Friday.

Make sure you check out the other presses posting today: University of Illinois Press, University of Minnesota Press, University of Nebraska Press, NYU Press, and Island Press!

The University Press Roundup Manifesto

One of the most popular and longest-running series of posts on the Columbia University Press blog is our weekly University Press Roundup, a list of links to interesting posts from the blogs of other academic publishers. The Roundup is also an exceptionally enjoyable post to write. It’s hard to go wrong with a morning spent reading through articles from our ever-growing list of scholarly publishing blogs and explaining the most interesting ones. But in addition to the fun we have writing it (and, we hope, that others have reading it), the Roundup has a more serious raison d’etre: by showing the diversity and quality of posts on academic publishing blogs, we hope to help demonstrate the role of university presses in bringing scholarly conversations into the public sphere, and to show that this facilitation happens through the blogs of scholarly publishers as well as through our books. Read the rest of this entry »

November 13th, 2014

Waking, Dreaming, Being



Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. Dreaming is one of the key parts of the human experience that Thompson examines in his book (it’s right there in the title, after all), and in today’s post, crossposted from the Huffington Post Blog, Thompson discusses the importance of dreaming to his work as a scholar, and to understanding what the concept of a “self” actually means.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

Waking, Dreaming, Being
Evan Thompson

Dreaming and waking up have puzzled and fascinated humanity since prehistoric times. Paleolithic cave paintings, according to some art historians, depict mental images from dreams and the borderland between sleep and wakefulness. The ancient Indian texts called the Upanishads describe three states of the self — waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. The early Chinese Daoist philosopher, Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu, 369-298 B.C.E.), wrote that only after one is “greatly awakened” does one realize that it was all a “great dream,” while the fool thinks that he is awake. The word “Buddha” means “Awakened One.”

Lucid dreaming — being aware of dreaming while you’re dreaming — is a vivid way to experience waking up and dreaming at the same time. You wake up within the dream without waking up from the dream. In the 1980s scientists showed that lucid dreaming is a real and unique state of consciousness in sleep. In the past four years, brain-imaging experiments have been done with lucid dreamers. Instead of cave art depicting the dream world, we now have images of the dreaming brain. Read the rest of this entry »

November 12th, 2014

Joseph Stiglitz and Others Help to Launch the Kenneth J. Arrow Series



Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

Next week there will be two great events relating to the Arrow Lectures and our book series. Both events are free and open to the public:

On Monday, November 17th, Columbia University Faculty House will be hosting a book launch for The Kenneth J. Arrow Series to celebrate the books in the series, including the just-published Moral Hazard in Health Insurance, by Amy Finkelstein. The event will include a roundtable discussion with a remarkable group of economists and scholars, including Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University; Scott Barrett, Columbia University; Patrick Bolton, Columbia University; Bruce C. Greenwald, Columbia University; Geoffrey Heal, Columbia University; Eric Maskin, Harvard University and IAS; Bernard Salanié, Columbia University; José A. Scheinkman, Columbia University; and Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University. This event will be moderated by Jan Svejnar, Columbia SIPA.

The 7th Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture itself will take place the next night and be delivered by Paul Milgrom, Shirley and Leonard Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University, will focus on prices and resource allocations in computationally challenging environments. Discussants will include Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University; Jay Sethuraman, Columbia University; Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University.

For more, here is Joseph Stiglitz on the creation of the Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series.

November 12th, 2014

Evan Thompson talks to Tricycle Magazine



Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. Recently, Thompson spoke to Tricycle Magazine about his book, his view of the mind, and mindfulness as an object of scientific scrutiny. We’ve excerpted parts of this interview below.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

Almost two and a half decades ago, in The Embodied Mind, you critiqued a notion of mind that was already prevalent then and that continues to frame much of the current neuroscience research on meditation. What is that view, and what is wrong with it?
We criticized the view that the mind is made up of representations inside the head. The cognitive science version says that the mind is a computer—the representations are the software, and the brain is the hardware. Although cognitive scientists today don’t think the brain works the way a digital computer does, many of them, especially if they’re neuroscientists, still think the mind is something in the head or the brain. And this idea shows up in the neuroscience of meditation. But this idea is confused. It’s like saying that flight is inside the wings of a bird. The mind is relational. It’s a way of being in relation to the world. You need a brain, just as the bird needs wings, but the mind exists at a different level—the level of embodied being in the world.

What’s your alternative view of the mind?
The alternative view we put forward is that cognition is a form of embodied action. “Embodied” means that the rest of the body, not just the brain, is crucial; “action” means that agency—the capacity to act in the world—is central. Cognition is an expression of our bodily agency. We inhabit a meaningful world because we bring forth or enact meaning. We called this view “enaction” or the “enactive approach.”

In the enactive approach, being human is a matter of inhabiting the human world of culture and shared bodily practices. Of course we need our brain to do this, but we also need that world to be in place in order for the human brain to develop properly. The brain is what philosophers call a necessary “enabling condition” for mind and meaning, while enculturation is a necessary enabling condition for the brain. What’s important is not just what is inside the brain but what the brain is inside of—the larger space of the body and culture. That is where we find mind and meaning. Read the rest of this entry »

November 11th, 2014

The Dalai Lama’s Conjecture



Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. Thompson’s prologue was recently excerpted at the Mind & Life institute, and we are happy to present the final section of that excerpt here.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

Staying with the Open Question
Evan Thompson

Shortly before his death, Francisco Varela talked about the Tibetan Buddhist notion of “subtle consciousness” in an interview with Swiss filmmaker Franz Reichle (see Reichle’s film, Montegrande: What Is Life?, and also the Mind & Life Institute). Subtle consciousness isn’t an individual consciousness; it’s not an ordinary “me” or “I” consciousness. It’s sheer luminous and knowing awareness beyond any sensory or mental content. It’s rarely seen by the ordinary mind, except occasionally in special dreams, intense meditation, and at the very moment of death, when one’s ordinary “I” or “me” consciousness falls apart. It’s the foundation for every other type of consciousness, and it’s believed to be independent of the brain. Neuroscience can’t conceive of this possibility, while for Tibetan Buddhists it’s unthinkable to dismiss their accumulated experience testifying to the reality of this primary consciousness.

Varela’s position is to suspend judgment. Don’t neglect the Buddhist observations and don’t dismiss what we know from science. Instead of trying to seek a resolution or an answer, contemplate the question and let it sit there. Have the patience and forbearance to stay with the open question. Read the rest of this entry »

November 11th, 2014

Stephen Batchelor’s Foreword to Waking, Dreaming, Being



Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor that we are proud to present below as the first post of the feature.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

November 11th, 2014

New Book Tuesday! Maya Deren, The Orphan of Zhao, and More New Books



Maya DerenThe following is a list of titles now available:

Maya Deren: Incomplete Control
Sarah Keller

The Orphan of Zhao and Other Yuan Plays: The Earliest Known Versions
Translated and introduced by Stephen H. West and Wilt L. Idema

Bio-pics: A Life in Pictures
Ellen Cheshire

They Live
D. Harlan Wilson

November 10th, 2014

University Press Week Begins!



University Press Week

Today kicks off the beginning of University Press Week! The slogan for this year’s celebration is “Great Minds Don’t Think Alike,” and the week-long focus on university presses includes book giveaways; an online discussion about the future of scholarly publishing; a collaborative projects gallery featuring 79 fascinating examples of how collaboration can succeed in scholarly communications; and a blog tour.

Today’s blog posts focus on the theme of collaboration and include posts from the following university presses: University of California Press, University of Chicago Press, University Press of Colorado, Duke University Press, University of Georgia Press, Project MUSE/Johns Hopkins University Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Texas A&M University Press, University of Virginia Press, Yale University Press.

November 10th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson



Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, November 14th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!