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Archive for July, 2008

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Jewish Property Claims Against Arab Countries: Michael Fischbach on the History News Network

Jewish Property Claims Against Arab CountriesIn a recent post on the History News Network, Michael Fischbach, author of the forthcoming book, Jewish Property Claims Against Arab Countries, discusses the recent U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 185, which asks the United States government whenever mention is made of the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict to also address the existence of 800,000 Jews who left Arab countries at the same time.

A press conference regarding the resolution was held by the New York-based coalition Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), and Fischbach goes on to explain what he finds are disingenuous motives behind their support of the resolution.

But why had JJAC, established relatively recently in 2002, suddenly become active on behalf of the rights of ex-Arab Jews—called Mizrahi or Sephardic Jews, although both terms are problematic—decades after most of them left the Arab world to build new lives in relative obscurity? And why did the Resolution fail to call explicitly for Jewish property compensation or restitution? Furthermore, why did the Resolution, which JJAC helped to write, link the fates, rights, and avenues of possible redress of ex-Arab Jews with those of the Palestinian refugees from 1948, who were not responsible for the Jews’ dispossession in the first place? Were not the mass Jewish exodus from the Arab world and the resultant property losses important enough issues to merit congressional scrutiny on their own, without reference to the Palestinians?

In fact, Resolution 185 was not the result of efforts to demand compensation for Jewish property losses in the Arab world, but rather to assist the government of Israel to blunt Palestinian refugee claims in any final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Such claims include not only property compensation, but also what Palestinian refugees called their “right of return” to their pre-1948 homes in Israel—Israel’s nightmare scenario. Unlike the demands for Holocaust reparations, compensation, and restitution that Jewish groups and the State of Israel alike have pursued with vigor over the decades, JJAC went out of its way to state that its campaign on behalf of Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent was not seeking monetary recompense for property lost at the hands of Arab governments. Why have JJAC and other groups such as the World Jewish Congress (WJC) adopted this stance toward the claims of Jews from the Arab world?

A rebuttal to Michael Fischbach’s essay was posted on the site Point of No Return.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

The Man Behind “A Civil Action”

Phil Brown, author of Toxic Exposures

The August issue of Discover magazine features a profile and interview with Phil Brown, author of Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement.

The interview tells how Phil Brown’s work as a sociologist in the field of public health has led him to create unique partnerships between scientists and community groups concerned about disease clusters. The profile details the impact of his 1990 book No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action, which chronicles the efforts of scientists and citizens of Woburn, MA to discover the cause of the high rate of leukemia in the area. That work later became the basis of the movie, A Civil Action.

Phil Brown’s most recently published book, Toxic Exposures, follows up on the ground-breaking work begun in No Safe Place, but expands the investigation to breast cancer, asthma, and gulf-war related health conditions. He also tells how scientists can successfully work with community groups to the mutual benefit of both sides to investigate local health problems. The book is off to a great start, receiving rave reviews in publications and critical acclaim from his peers.

Read the reviews for Toxic Exposures or an excerpt from the book.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Interview with Alison Griffiths, author of Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinemas, Museums, and the Immersive View

Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinemas, Museums, and the Immersive ViewThe following is an interview with Alison Griffiths, author of Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinemas, Museums, and the Immersive View. Griffiths is associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Baruch College, City University of New York, and on the doctoral faculty of the Graduate Center. She is also the author of Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn of the Century Visual Culture:

Q:  The word “immersion” generates a lot of buzz in contemporary culture.  But what exactly is an “immersive view” and why do we need a book about it?

Alison Griffiths:  An immersive view is provided by an image or space such as a painting, photograph, film, or museum exhibit that gives the spectator a heightened sense of being transported to another time or place. Certain architectural forms can immerse visitors, including the Gothic cathedral, which creates a sense of the infinite and divine through the vaulted ceiling and other features. Immersive views take you out of the here and now, giving you the experience of having suddenly entered a new world, similar to virtual reality, but without the headgear. Cinema does this exceedingly well, especially large format films such as IMAX, which brands itself on the idea of virtual movement through space, that sense of being there that drives the marketing. But there is nothing new about the experience of immersion, as I explain in Shivers Down Your Spine:  panoramas (huge circular paintings extremely popular in the nineteenth century), planetariums, and museums of science and natural history have long exploited the phenomenon.  What this book provides is some much-needed context and theorization of the idea of immersion by drawing extensively from the historical archive.

Q:  Why do immersive views give us “shivers down our spine?”  Isn’t this a term associated more with horror films?

AG:  We get “shivers down our spine” because there’s a disjunct between what we see and feel and what we know is happening to us.  Giant panoramic paintings that I discuss in chapter two can take your breath way not only because you feel as if you’ve suddenly walked into the world of the paintings (you are enveloped by it), but because it’s an embodied experience which can give you shivers, tears, and sometimes vertigo or nausea.  It’s that jaw-dropping sense of awe, reverence, and perhaps a little fear that makes the comparison to the horror film fitting, although the line “shivers down your spine” was used by a panorama reviewer in 1799 to describe the effect of seeing panorama inventor Robert Barker’s spectacular painting The Battle of the Nile which represents the decisive battle between Napoleon’s French fleet and Admiral Nelson’s Royal Navy.

Q:   What are some of the most easily accessible immersive views in today’s culture?  Where can we go to experience this sensation?

AG:  Museums of natural history deliver “shivers down your spine” and immersion on two fronts: not only do the galleries feature exhibits that re-create natural environments such as the rainforest in the Hall of Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History, but they also frequently feature IMAX screens which are exemplary at delivering immersion.  Movie theaters showing IMAX films, especially the purpose built theaters with fifteen-story screens as opposed to retrofitted IMAX theaters, are the most convenient places to go to experience the “immersive view.”  The classic “phantom ride” shot when the audience feels they are flying through the air or hurtling on a rollercoaster is synonymous with the immersive view, and exploited most fully in theme park type thrill rides.  Immersive views can be long or short, loud or quiet, familiar or unsettling.  They are, however, almost always marked by a sense of the uncanny.


Monday, July 28th, 2008

More on The Measure of America

The Measure of AmericaPolicymakers and the media are continuing to react and respond to the publication of The Measure of America: American Human Development Report, 2008-2009:

* Kristen Lewis, one of the book’s co-authors, was recently invited by Charles E. Schumer to testify before the Joint Economic Committee for a hearing entitled “How Much More Can American Families Be Squeezed By Stagnant Wages, Skyrocketing Household Costs , And Falling Home Prices”.

Lewis discussed the report’s findings and highlighted particularly worrisome areas of vulnerability for different groups of Americans in today’s faltering economy. The Web page includes Lewis’s statement to the committee and a video of the hearing.

* NPR’s Day to Day recently had a fascinating program that focused on The Measure of America and interviewed residents of both Fresno County, which the report ranks as the least economically developed district in the country, and New York City’s Upper East Side, considered the most developed.

In addition to listening to the program, you can also read about it and follow a discussion on the NPR Blog, Daydreaming: Taking Stock of the California Dream.

* In the Falls Church News-Press, Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia’s 8th Congressional District noted that the district he represents was ranked the 2nd best district in the nation in terms of its human development index. However, he also pointed to the many disparities between the haves and have-nots that the report lays bare. Moran concludes:

This report is yet another wake-up call to America that our domestic strengths: ensuring everyone has access to a good education, is afforded quality healthcare and can obtain a job that is both meaningful and provides a decent standard of living are receding. Closing the gaps brought to life in this report should be a national priority. The billions we are sending overseas each day to Iraq for war and to oil producing nations for our energy would go a long way towards bringing new job, health and educational opportunities to the long-neglected regions of our country.

Friday, July 25th, 2008

The Best Documentaries of All Time: A Post from Jonathan Kahana

Jonathan KahanaJonathan Kahana is assistant professor of cinema studies at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and author of the just-published Intelligence Work: The Politics of American Documentary.

A few years ago, I was asked by a writer researching a piece for an in-flight magazine to create a list of the best documentaries of all time. One restriction was placed on my choices: they had to be available on DVD, and preferably from the usual points of sale or rental.

I was torn. Given the limited commercial appeal of many of the traditional subjects of documentary, relatively few documentary films reach large audiences. Any history of the form that depends upon the artifacts that have trickled down through decades of film and video to the home-use format of DVD is likely to misrepresent that history. On the other hand, as a long-time fan of SkyMall, I could appreciate the function of a shopping list. And since, like many scholars, I’ve done some of my best academic work – some of my best grading, anyway – on airplanes, I felt that this was a pay-it-forward sort of situation. So I produced the list.

(Since the magazine’s editors needed to make room for choices by Michael Renov, my fellow-traveler in the friendly skies of documentary film scholarship, and for a story about the best golf courses in the Southwest – or was it the best places to get a Thai massage in Denver? – only about half of my picks appeared. What follows is thus the DVD version: the original, plus outtakes and extras. Full disclosure: I have almost nothing to say about these films in Intelligence Work. So much for cross-promotion.):

Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1922): Considered by some the first documentary, this tale of an Inuit family’s battle with the Nature remains a historical and technical landmark. That filmmaker Flaherty fabricated many of the “authentic” events hardly detracts from the simple beauty of the landscape and the story.

Manhatta (Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, 1921) and Rain (Joris Ivens, 1929) [both on the Kino International DVD Avant-Garde and Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s ]: Two lyrical, experimental shorts about the atmosphere of cities, typifying one early tendency in documentary: to seek out unexpected visual poetry in the ordinary world. Manhatta is an homage to Walt Whitman and the skyscrapers of New York, composed in delicate black and white pictures. Rain – one of the first works by a filmmaker better known for his later political films – is a graceful and energetic study of water, as it transforms the look of buildings and streets.

The Man With A Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929): A film that was decades ahead of its time, Man With a Movie Camera is a dizzying, delirious travelogue through the revolutionary modern city (played here by a number of different Soviet locales). Fascinated by the meshing of machines and man, Vertov creates a world that could only exist on film. Makes MTV look slow.

Night and Fog (Alain Resnais, 1955): One of the first films to deal in a forthright way with a now-conventional theme in documentary, the Nazi concentration camps, Night and Fog is still shocking in its use of experimental techniques, including the combination of present-day color and past-tense black-and-white footage, its expressive musical score, and its chilling analysis of the trauma of the Holocaust and its significance for those who survived (or ignored) it.

Salesman (Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, 1969): A classic of the cinéma vérité style, Salesman follows hapless Bible salesmen on their rounds, giving us a glimpse into the ordinary humor and misery of work. Beautifully shot, it’s both a stunning record of the styles and voices of its age and a timeless story.

Harlan County, U.S.A. (Barbara Kopple, 1975) and American Dream (Barbara Kopple, 1991): Kopple’s two heart-breaking and Oscar-winning films about striking miners and meat-packers make an epic double-bill on the rise and fall of the labor movement in America. Kopple is the epitome of the committed filmmaker, rolling up her sleeves and joining the fray, helping out on the picket lines and getting shot at by vigilantes.

Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1986): A vast history of the Holocaust, nearly all of its eight-and-a-half-hours made up of stories – in graphic, moving detail – told by survivors, perpetrators, and bystanders. Overwhelming in its scope and its ambition, Shoah is one of the cinema’s greatest achievements.

The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1989): This gripping investigation of murder and injustice, set to a Philip Glass score, has as much story and style as ten films noir. Its often-imitated, never-duplicated use of color, close-ups, interviews and reenactments changed the look and form of documentary forever.

The Gleaners and I (Agnes Varda, 2000): A charmingly digressive film essay on garbage, scavenging, aging, French civil law, and home video, knit together by Varda’s funny, incisive, and deeply personal narration. One of the very best first-person documentaries.

Little Dieter Wants To Fly (Werner Herzog, 1998): One of Herzog’s studies of extreme characters, this is a remarkable, awful, hilarious story of accident, courage, and obsession. So traumatized by WWII that he resolves to become a military pilot – for the United States, during the Vietnam War – Dieter is shot down, taken prisoner, and tortured. His unbelievable story of survival is told in the first-person, in the actual locations it took place, and Herzog directs his performance in a cruel but  brilliant fashion.

The Corporation (Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar, 2003). A riveting, creative analysis of this fundamental modern institution, The Corporation manages to make macro-economics seem sexy. A smart and hard-hitting film that boldly poaches images and techniques from the very commercial propaganda it challenges, The Corporation charts new territory for the feature documentary. (To everyone’s surprise, the film actually made a huge profit from its theatrical, television, and DVD versions; but as Mark Achbar reports in the latest issue of POV, the baroque public-private funding structure of Canadian feature documentary production meant that the filmmakers actually saw much less of this profit than they were due.)

Bright Leaves (Ross McElwee, 2004): The latest in McElwee’s series of films (including Charleen, Sherman’s March and Time Indefinite) about family (his), the South, and filmmaking, Bright Leaves is a hilarious and moving personal history of Big Tobacco and other addictions.

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

India’s Growing Pains in the Global Economy: An Interview with Charles Calomiris

Columbia Business School Publishing

The Columbia Business School’s Web site Ideas at Work recently interviewed Charles Calomiris, the co-editor of Sustaining India’s Growth Miracle.

In the interview, Calomiris discusses how India’s growth and potential for growth compares with that of China; the challenges confronting India; and the shifting patterns of labor away from the agriculture and into the IT sector.

Here is an excerpt from the interview in which Calomiris discusses the political and economic impact of globalization on India:

How has India’s place in the global political field changed over the last several decades?

I think that global political economy and India’s ideological predisposition contributed to India’s isolation during the Cold War era. India was opposed to the kinds of things that have proved to be big parts of the solution to its poverty, especially participating in global markets. There was a protectionist view of the local industries and maintaining a commitment to workers’ rights rather than a commitment to creating jobs. If India were a rich country, that would be fine, but poor countries first need to find people jobs. That’s not saying that workers should not have rights, but that there is a need to balance the creation of jobs and the rights of workers who already have them; India’s lack of balance in this regard worked against its growth.

One could argue that part of what inspired India to change was China. When India saw China, the other huge and impoverished economy in the world, its very poor next-door neighbor, start doing great things, it took notice. In Latin America, similarly, the progress of Chile in the 1980s had a similar effect on Argentina in the early 1990s.

Globalization allows countries to learn from each other’s experience: a country can see the visible advantages of orienting itself toward being able to take advantage of participating in global markets to elevate its people out of poverty. Many people were skeptical of this back in the 1950s and the 1960s when socialist, protectionist dogma reigned in many developing economies. Now the successes of China and India make it evident that such skepticism is no longer reasonable. The main contribution of globalization in both countries has been to reduce extreme poverty and to create a burgeoning middle class.

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Conversational Reading reviews W. G. Sebald: Image, Archive, Modernity

W. G. Sebald: Image, Archive, ModernityScott Esposito at the always worthwhile and interesting Conversational Reading has a very good review of J. J. Long’s W. G. Sebald: Image, Archive, Modernity. Long’s book as you might have guessed from the subtitle views Sebald’s work in light of his efforts to understand and portray modernity in his work. Esposito writes:

A partial list of major topics [in Long's book]  will bring more detail if not more cohesion: (post-)colonialism, photography, the gaze, maps, archives, police/nanny states, the Holocaust, passports/travel, taxonomies, World War II, memory, identity, Foucault. In other words, the raw material of Long’s book is the raw material of modernity itself, which, Long contends, is also the major ingredient in Sebald’s literature. And so, modernity being a difficult bag to grasp, it’s hard to get too tight a hold on what sits between the covers of Long’s book.

Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to say that Long discusses how Sebald’s books attempt to bring together the disparate aspects of modernity through the technology of the archive, much as the modern state tried to do. Long contends that Sebald’s books are archival in nature, and he attempts to show how Sebald’s archival books present aspects of modernity ranging from wonder and spectacle to migration and dislocation.

Esposito concludes, writing:

Long is the editor of a collection of Sebald criticism … and here he demonstrates the great familiarity with and sensitivity to his subject that his position of editor of a collection on Sebald would suggest. I’ve found this book to be greatly useful in developing a more thorough approach to Sebald (as well as a number of authors with whom Sebald shares several affinities), and I think this will be a book I’ll be returning to often.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

More on The Measure of America: A Quiz and Article from the Social Science Research Council

As The Measure of America: American Human Development Report, 2008-2009 continues to garner attention for its truly eye-opening findings about the United States, the Social Science Research Council has decided to put you to the test.  The quiz they have assembled asks readers a series of questions to find out just how much they know about the nation’s well-being and the disparities and progress that characterize the country.

Five Subway Stops, A Half-Century DifferenceAlso while you’re there, you can read the startling new article entitled, “Five Subway Stops, A Half-Century Difference.”  In it, Dr. Mary-Lea Cox examines two districts — New York’s 14th and 16th Congressional Districts — on opposite ends of the human development scale. Perhaps most notable, however, is the fact that the two districts are separated by less than 3 miles and only five stops on the #6 train.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

“In Praise of Localism”: From American Pests

Following up on yesterday’s post about James McWilliams’s American Pests: Losing the War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT, here is an excerpt from the book that was posted on Celsias, which was recently named one of the top environmental Web sites by the Times of London.

In the book’s final chapter, McWilliams argues that the decision to move away from locally derived solutions to insect and pest control to centralized federally controlled responses, buttressed by powerful industrial and agricultural interests, has been a recipe for “environmental disaster.” McWilliams writes:

The scale and scope of this government-industry conglomerate had no tolerance for the genuinely democratic debates that had characterized insect management under more decentralized circumstances. As a result, a number of possibly effective control tactics – many nonchemical – were pushed to the periphery, while a single, simplistic, and widely applicable approach culminating in the use of DDT became standardized as the only viable way to survive as a profit-minded commercial grower in the United States. Rachel Carson could change the way we think about ecology, but her work, for all its impact, had little infl uence on the perspective and practices of the federal agencies that continue to oversee and promote an influential and largely monolithic approach to insect control. . . . This behavior, seen from a benign angle, is consistent with the main currents of American history – a history of innovation, entrepreneurship, ambition, greed, and a belief that happiness comes through a better material standard of living (however superficially conceived). But, from a more ominous perspective, it also points to a discouraging and persistent view of the environment.

The solution, McWilliams suggest is a return to the methods developed in local contexts where innovation, civic involvement, and entrepreneurship are allowed to thrive.

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Catch Jimmy McWilliams in Person Discussing the History of American Attempts to Kill Pests

James E. McWilliams, American PestsIt’s that time of year again, with the hot weather driving us all outdoors, Americans are encountering insects in their backyards, at the local park, and splattered on the windshield of their cars. In his new book, American Pests: The Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT, Jimmy McWilliams discusses the history of American attempts to eradicate insect life from their homes and farms, and the sometimes disastrous effects that followed. Catch McWilliams in person at three upcoming events as he discusses the fascinating history behind man vs. insect.

First McWilliams will appear at his hometown bookstore BookPeople in Austin, TX on July 22nd for the kickoff book launch event.

Then he’ll be traveling to Atlanta, GA on July 31st when he discusses the book at Wordsmiths in Decatur.

Lastly, he’ll appear at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR on September 12th

Can’t make it to an event? You can watch a video of McWilliams discussing the book, or take a quiz.

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Views on the Beijing Olympics

http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-15490-1/beyond-the-final-score/webFeaturesEarlier this week, the Columbia University website posted an interview with Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science on what the upcoming Beijing Olympics means for China. Nathan is a co-editor of How East Asians View Democracy, which is being published in August. You can see the video and read the transcript of the interview here.

Also forthcoming in January is Victor Cha’s assessment of the history of sports in Asia, Beyond the Final Score, which includes a chapter on the Beijing Olympics. You can read some of Victor’s recent posts about the upcoming Olympics here and here.

Look for more commentary to come on our site about the Olympics from these two notable experts on Asia…..

Friday, July 18th, 2008

The Highest and Lowest-Ranking Districts in the U.S.: More from The Measure of America

In separate articles, New York’s Daily News and the Huffington Post look at findings from The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009 that determine the best and worst Congressional Districts in the United States in terms of such factors as health, education, and income. The highest ranking Congressional District is New York’s 14th, which encompasses New York City’s Upper East Side while the worst is California’s 20th Congressional District located in the San Joaquin Valley.

Here’s a comparison between the two districts looking at some key indicators:

Life expectancy at birth: CD 14, New York (81.6); CD 20, California (77.1)

At least a High School Diploma:  CD 14, New York (90.4%); CD 20, California (52.6%)

At least a Bachelor’s Degree: CD 14, New York (62.6%); CD 20, California (6.5%)

Median Earnings (2005 Dollars): CD 14, New York ($51, 139); CD 14, California ($16,767)

The Measure of America also highlights the difference between the 14th Congressional District and the New York’s 16th Congressional district which are separated by only five stops on the #6 train. Looking at a range of data the report concludes that “These two districts have a fifty-six year gap in human development. Separated by more than 2 miles, they might just as easily be located in different hemispheres.”

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

The Measure of America

The Measure of America: American Human Development Report, 2008-2009Yesterday, at a press conference in Washington D.C., the authors of The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009 discussed the results of their groundbreaking study on the health and well-being of the United States.The report reveals some of the huge disparities in health, income, education, and living standards that exist in the United States.

You can find out much more about the report at the very impressive Web site, www.measureofamerica.org. The site lists key findings from the report (some of which are below), a Well-O-Meter which allows you to approximate your own human development index by answering a series of question, interactive maps, and tables.

Finally, you can also download a podcast interview with the authors Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis.

Some key findings from the The Measure of America:

* The U.S. ranks #24 among the 30 most affluent countries in life expectancy – yet spends more on health care than any other nation.

* One American dies every 90 seconds from obesity-related health problems.

* Fourteen percent of the population – some 30 million Americans – lacks the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks like understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.

* Educational expenditures vary significantly by state; New Jersey and New York spend around $14,000 per pupil, Utah spends less than $6,000 per pupil.

* African American students are three times more likely than whites to be placed in special education programs, and only half as likely to be placed in gifted programs.

* The top 1 percent of U.S. households possesses a full third of America’s wealth.

* Nearly one in five American children lives in poverty, with more than one in thirteen living in extreme poverty.

* In every racial/ethnic group, men earn more than their female counterparts.

* Over the course of a year, at least 1.35 million children are at some point homeless.

* The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s people – but 24 percent of the world’s prisoners.

* African Americans are imprisoned at six to eight times the rate of whites; the rate is much higher for African Americans who do not graduate high school; by age thirty-five, 60 percent of African American high school dropouts will have spent time in prison.

* In 98 countries, new mothers have 14 or more weeks of paid maternity leave. The U.S. has no federally mandated paid maternity leave.

* The U.S. ranks forty-second in global life expectancy and first among the world’s twenty-five richest countries in the percentage of children living in poverty.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

The Los Angeles Times reviews Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success

Dubai: The Vulnerability of SuccessThe Los Angeles Times just ran a very favorable review of Christopher Davidson’s Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success.

As the review points out, Dubai’s wealth and booming economy does not come from oil but from trade, luxury tourism, high technology, and real estate investments. As Davidson’s title suggests there is another side to Dubai’s recent success. Dubai remains a closed political system and its patronage system often encourages complacency among the future leaders of the country. It also has a growing underground economy and has become a hub for gunrunning, money laundering, and human trafficking. Finally, questions continue to linger about the government’s possible ties to Al Qaeda.
Here is an excerpt from the review:

The book defines Dubai as a new breed of political and urban animal, equal parts Las Vegas and Singapore. Nominally Islamic but increasingly Western on its public face, Dubai combines laissez-faire economic policies with an unapologetically closed political system. As a place to run an international business, Dubai has few peers, as was demonstrated last year when defense contractor Halliburton, to Washington’s chagrin, relocated its corporate headquarters there from Houston. As a political entity, Davidson writes, “Dubai is still an autocracy, where real evidence of an opening for true democracy proves hard to find, and where far less political reform has occurred than in neighboring Gulf states, including even Saudi Arabia.”

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The New Yorker Cover Controversy and the History of Editorial Cartoons

While the New Yorker Obama cover has been dominating the news cycle for the past 24 hours, disputes and controversies regarding editorial cartoons are hardly new. Here are a couple of books that offer some historical perspective:

In her forthcoming book, All the News That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t): Inside the New York Times Op-Ed Page, Jerelle Kraus offers a first-hand account of the many debates among the editorial board at the paper about whether or not to publish a potentially offensive cartoon.

In Drawn to Extremes: The Use and Abuse of Editorial Cartoons, Chris Lamb explores the long and frequently tumultuous history of editorial cartoons in the United States. Lamb argues that editorial cartoonists have used irony and ire to reveal the naked truths about presidents, business leaders, and other public figures. Since the founding of the republic, cartoonists have both made an important contribution to and offered a critical commentary on our society.

In describing the work of editorial cartoonists, Lamb writes, “Editorial cartoonists must point out what is wrong, often by making it look ridiculous. They must challenge the government or whatever need changing, whether the reader agrees or even cares. This sometimes requires producing an image so startling that it reaches up from the newspaper and grabs the reader by the collar and shakes them out of their slumber.”

Of course whether the New Yorker went too far will surely be discussed in the coming days and Lamb writes that some cartoonists see controversy as a sign that their work might have missed the mark:

“Some editorial cartoonists believe that any cartoon that upsets its readers is automatically a good cartoon. But this is not necessarily true. ‘If outrage inspired by a cartoon is based on its misinterpretation, then the cartoonist did not do his or her job,’ [cartoonist] Bennett said. ‘Is controversy a sign of a good cartoon? Not always. Sometimes it’s a just a sign of poor communication.’”

Obama New York

Monday, July 14th, 2008

What’s Different About the Immigration Problem We Face Today — And What Can Be Done About It?: A Post by Phil Kretsedemas

Phil Kretsedemas, Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement TodayThere is an interesting article by Phil Kretsedemas, co-editor of Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement Today, on History News Network which looks at the history of immigration policy and how the United States has defined the concept of “illegal alien.” The article also offers suggestions for creating a more realistic and effective policy toward undocumented migrants that considers changes in migration patterns and the changing demands of the global economy.

Part of the problem, Kretsedemas suggests, is that current policies and the national conversation surrounding undocumented migrants relies on an older understanding of migration patterns that “still seems to be lodged in a paradigm that is organized around border control.” What this misses is the massive increase in temporary visitors who enter the United States every year. These visitors, include tourists, workers and students with visas, and undocumented workers, most of whom are vital participants in the U.S. global economy and are found in almost every employment sector, including health services, child care, manufacturing, and agriculture.

At the end of the article, Kretsedemas offers a multi-pronged strategy for reducing the undocumented population. He cites four areas that require special focus:

* Tracking and decriminalizing legal status violations

* Revisiting current immigration quotas

* Eliminating exploitative hiring practices

* Cross-national planning

Friday, July 11th, 2008

A Crock Pot Lamp?: Two Columbia University Press Employees Explain

Now that you are ready to crack open one of the newest titles from Columbia University Press, you’ll need a light to read to read it under and it just so happens that we have a great suggestion for where to find stylish, imaginative, and well-crafted lamps. Two Columbia University Press employees, Kirsten Olson and John Babcock, have been creating lamps from found materials such as a crock pot from the 1970s, an ice bucket, a Saarinen Tulip chair, and other detritus from all corners of New York City and Europe.

John and Kirsten explain the thinking behind their company ilampe:

It’s a sin to waste. Also we recognize the need for imaginative, well-crafted pieces that function as charismatic, unique lighting. We achieve our end result with chair bases, rolls of wire, dress forms (well, parts of), discarded lamps, fire engine plates, and other reusable scraps. Why let a perfectly good piece of garbage end up in a landfill when it can be repurposed?

Below are a couple of examples but you can find out more at www.ilampe.com and John and Kirsten were also recently featured in Time Out New York. As for myself, I’ve already put in an order for a hanging lamp!



Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Lights, Camera, Action at University Presses

James McWilliams, author of American PestsIn a marvelous moment of navel-gazing we’d like to draw your attention to a recent article at the Chronicle of Higher Education that reports on the new trend of University Press publishers producing videos to promote their books. We’re proud to say our video of James McWilliams’s American Pests is discussed in the article along with recent videos produced at some of our fellow university presses.

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Gary Francione on Vegan Freak, Part II

This ran a few days ago but we forgot to mention that the second part of Gary Francione’s interview with Vegan Freak is now available. (Click here for the first part.)

The book has received a lot of notice from animal rights and animal studies blogs and sites. The following is a selected list of sites thatreviewed or mentioned the book and are also definitely worth exploring if you are interested in animal rights or the burgeoning scholarly field of animal studies: An Animal Friendly Life, Animalblog.co.uk, Animal Inventory, Animal Person, Animal Rights Malta, Practical Ethics, and Theoria: Blog.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Pests and Presidents: On the Air with Alan Schroeder and James McWilliams

James McWilliams

You can read excerpts from James McWilliams’s American Pests: The Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT and Alan Schroeder’s Presidential Debates: Fifty Years of High-Risk TV but you can also listen to them thanks to NPR.

In addition to a certain ex-president, the Aspen Ideas Festival also invited James McWilliams (see picture above), who spoke about the history of insect control and his new book American Pests. You can listen to his talk courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio and of course you can also see him speak about the book in this video.

Alan Schroeder was recently interviewed by both All Things Considered and On the Media. During his appearance on All Things Considered, Schroeder was asked if he was a consultant to McCain and Obama what advice would he offer. According to Schroeder, McCain needs to watch his temper and allow his sense of humor to come through. While Obama should try and rattle McCain but also emphasize his own ability to empathize.