About

Twitter

Facebook

CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:
e-newsletters

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Roy Harris / Pulitzer's Gold

Natalie Berkowitz / Winealicious

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs

AAUP

University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri

MIT

University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

Archive for December, 2015

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

It’s OK to be Ambivalent about Your Siblings During the Holidays

Adult Sibling Relationships

“It is during the holidays … that the specter of disharmony looms.”—Geoffrey L. Greif and Michael E. Woolley

For many of us, the holidays inevitably bring us together with family. This, of course, has its upsides and its downsides. This is particularly true for adults when they get together with their siblings. Affection and warmth are part of the equation but so can ambivalence and lingering difficulties from childhood.

In a recent op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Geoffrey L. Greif and Michael E. Woolley, authors of Adult Sibling Relationships describe the two-sided nature of this dynamic:

Siblings are with us throughout life, longer than our parents, our partners or most friends. They can be our best friends, people with whom we share our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows. In adulthood, siblings can hold an extended family together after the incapacity or death of parents and help pass down a heritage of Hallmark closeness to future generations.

However, siblings can also cause hurt feelings and emotional estrangement, leaving us wondering how we could have possibly grown up in the same home. Why struggle to stay close with someone who may have hurt us when we were young and may continue to cause us pain by having few boundaries, acting unkindly, or being too withholding or too dependent?

(more…)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

New Book Tuesday! Law and Literature and Axel Honneth!

Practice Extended

Our weekly listing of new titles now available:

Practice Extended: Beyond Law and Literature
Robert A. Ferguson

Freedom’s Right: The Social Foundations of Democratic Life (now available in paper)
Axel Honneth

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Group Efforts, a New Book from Columbia Books on Architecture and the City

The following images are from Group Efforts: Changing Public Space, recently published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, and edited by Gavin Browning. The book is an illustrated chronicle of projects organized by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in collaboration with Elastic City.

The first three slides are from a project by Hayal Pozanti and Todd Shalom entitled in “Subjective Contours.” On Saturday, October 13, 2013 Pozanti and Shalom led two groups of twelve on Subjective Contours, a participatory walk through Manhattan’s West Village, at 2pm and 5pm. The walk lasted eighty-five minutes and required the following materials: acetate film, a camera, colored tape, envelopes, markers, stamps, and springs.

In “Analog Shopping,” participants were asked to:

1. Circle the building and find the best angle.
2. Create a frame on the transparency using a marker.
3. Sketch the contours, such as the outlines of buildings. Forget depth; envision the world flat like on a screen.
4. Fill the contours with color or patterns

In “Listen,” participants were given the following instructions and had ten minutes to complete:

1. Find a partner and decide who wants to have their eyes closed and who wants to have their eyes open.
2. Person with your eyes closed: walk toward what you want to listen to. Your ears are microphones. Feel free to take the arm or hand of your partner.
3. Person with your eyes open: please take care of your partner. Make sure they do not walk into traffic or bump into anything.
4. Do not talk to each other unless it’s urgent.
5. We will walk straight down this street to its end, then reverse roles

In “Occupy Space,” participants had five minutes and were asked to:

1. Enter the cavity of this building.
2. Using just your bodies, fill as much space as possible.
3. Create a web with your arms and legs.

(more…)

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Sacred Knowledge: Hopkins Playlist for Psilocybin Studies

Sacred Knowledge

“As consciousness is returning to ordinary awareness after intense experiences of a mystical, visionary, or psychodynamic nature, most any style of music can be explored with delight.”

Psychedelics and music have long been linked, but at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where William A. Richards conducts research, music plays an important part in ensuring the stability off entheogen study participants. In this excerpt from Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, Richards explains the role of music in his work. The excerpt is followed by the playlist Richards compiled.

Part of a new guide’s orientation at Johns Hopkins entails becoming familiar with the supportive music used in a particular research study and the rationale for its selection. We have learned that in high-dose sessions, especially during the onset and intense period of entheogen effects, the supportive structure of the music is more important than either the guide’s or the volunteer’s personal musical preferences. In states of ego transcendence, the everyday self as the perceiver of music may no longer exist, having entered into a unitive awareness that is claimed to be quite independent of whatever sonic frequencies are coming into the ears through the headphones or loudspeakers. As the ego approaches its dissolution and when it begins to be reconstituted, however, the nonverbal structure of the music may provide significant support. Thus, sensitivity to the therapeutic potential of carefully selected music may be an important factor in enhancing psychological safety.

One playlist that has been carefully developed through trial and error and has been found to work well with many different people over time is included at the end of this book. It includes a significant amount of classical music, symphonic and choral, as well as some Hindu chant, in the intense portions of the session and lighter selections near the return to everyday reality at the end of the day. We discovered in early research in the 1960s, notably with some alcoholics who had never appreciated classical music, that Brahms symphonies and similar works resonated deeply within them and proved highly effective in providing nonverbal structure and support. Many of those people not only discovered an appreciation of classical music within themselves, but went out and purchased records, tapes, or compact disks to facilitate the continuing integration of their experiences and for future enjoyment. It may be noted that, as consciousness is returning to ordinary awareness after intense experiences of a mystical, visionary, or psychodynamic nature, most any style of music can be explored with delight. At this time, one’s personal favorite selections may be enjoyed with fresh appreciation.

A HOPKINS PLAYLIST FOR PSILOCYBIN STUDIES (2008 VERSION)

States of Consciousness Research

Antonio Vivaldi. Guitar Concerti. Los Romeros, Iona Brown, Academy of St. Mar­tin in the Fields. Philips 412–624–2
Andante, Concerto RV532 in G Major for 2 guitars, strings, and continuo, 3:30
Largo, Concerto RV93 in D Major for guitar, strings, and continuo, 3:53
Largo, Concerto RV356 in A Minor, 2:20

Paul Horn. Inside the Taj Mahal. Kuckuck 11062–2
“Mumtaz Mahal,” 3:21

“Shah Jahan,” 5:36

Ron Korb. Flute Traveller: A Musical Journey Across Five Continents. Oasis Produc­tions, SOCAN NHCD 205
“Alto Flute,” 2:16

Russill Paul. PM Yoga Chants Gaiam. Relaxation 3142. CD included with the book The Yoga of Sound. Novato, Calif.: New World Library, 2004
“By the Stream,” 10:54
“Om Namah Shivaya,” 2:27

Edward Elgar. Enigma Variations. Leonard Bernstein. BBC Symphony. The Artist’s Album. DGG 457 691–2
No. 9, “Nimrod,” 6:08

Morten Lauridsen. A Robert Shaw Christmas: Angels On High. Robert Shaw. Shaw Chamber Singers. Telarc20 CD-80461
“O Magnum Mysterium,” 6:13

Russian Orthodox Chant. Sacred Treasures III, Hearts of Space. St. Petersburg Cham­ber Choir, 025041111423
“Alleluia, Behold the Bridegroom,” 5:29

Henryk Górecki. Symphony 3, Op. 36. Dawn Upshaw. David Zinman. London Sin­fonietta. Elektra Nonesuch 9 79282–2
Lento—Sostenuto Tranquillo ma Cantabile, 26:25

Johannes Brahms. Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45. Herbert Blomstedt, San Francisco Symphony and Chorus. London 443 771–2
“Selig sind die, da Leid tragen,” 10:36
“Denn alles Fleish, es ist wie Gras,” 14:33

Johannes Brahms. Symphony 2 in D Major, Op. 73. Leonard Bernstein. New York Philharmonic. Sony. SMK 61829
Adagio non Troppo, 10:08

Johannes Brahms. Ein Deutches Requiem, Op. 45. Herbert Blomstedt. San Francisco Symphony and Chorus. London 443 771–2
“Wie lieblich sind Deine Wohnungen,” 5:34

J. S. Bach. Mass in B Minor. Robert Shaw. Atlanta Symphony and Chamber Chorus. Telarc CD-80233
Kyrie I, 10:21
Kyrie II, 4:24

Samuel Barber. String Quartet, Op. 11. Leonard Bernstein. New York Philharmonic. Sony SMK 63088
Adagio for Strings, 9:54

Antonio Vivaldi. Gloria in D Major, R589. Robert Shaw. Atlanta Symphony and Chamber Chorus. Telarc CD-80194
“Gloria in Excelsis,” 2:22

“Et in terra pax,” 5:58

J. S. Bach. Bach Stokowski. Leopold Stokowski. EMI CDM 7243 5 66385 2 5
“Komm süsser Tod,” BMV 478, 5:51

W. A. Mozart. Vesperae solennes de confessore, K/KV339. Kiri Te Kanawa. Sir Colin Davis. London Symphony and Chorus. Philips 412 873–2
“Laudate Dominum,” 5:11

Johannes Brahms. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77. Jascha Heifetz. Fritz Reiner. Chicago Symphony. HMG 09026-61742–2
Adagio, 8:12

Henryk Górecki. Symphony 3, Op. 36. Dawn Upshaw. David Zinman. London Sinfonietta. Elektra Nonesuch 9 79282–2
Lento e Largo—Tranquillissimo, 9:22

Edward Elgar. Serenade for String Orchestra, Op. 20. Mark Elder. Hallé Symphony. CDHLL 7501
Larghetto, 6:29

Gabriel Fauré. Requiem, Op. 48. Choir of St. John’s College. Cambridge. George Guest. London 436 486–2
“In Paradisum,” 3:41

W. A. Mozart, Clarinet Concerto in A Major, KV 622. Jacques Lancelot. Jean-François Paillard. Orchestra de Chambre Jean-François Paillard. Erato 2292–45978–2
Adagio, 7:04

Arvo Pärt. Sanctuary. Richard Studt. Bournemouth Sinfonietta. Virgin Classics. CSC 7243 5 45314 2 2
“Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten,” 6:10

Bohuslav Matéj Cernohorsky. Cernohorsky Religious Works. Czech Madrigal Singers. Frantisek Xaver Thuri. Gioia Della Musica. Supraphon 11 1598–2 931
“Quare Domine, iraceris—Memento Abraham,” 8:58

Ludwig van Beethoven. Piano Concerto 5 (Emperor), Op. 73. Leon Fleisher. George Szell. Cleveland Orchestra. Sony SBK 46549
Adagio un Poco Moto, 8:25

Charles Gounod. St. Cecelia Mass. Barbara Hendricks. Georges Prêtre. French Radio New Philharmonic. EMI, CDC 7 47094 2
Sanctus, 5:18
Benedictus, 3:16

Russill Paul. The Yoga of Sound, Shakti Yoga. Relaxation, CD 3133
“Om Namah Shivaya,” 17:35

Richard Wagner. Tristan and Isolde. Jesús López-Cobos. Cincinnati Symphony. Telarc CD-80379
Prelude and Liebestod, 17:24

W. A. Mozart. Grosse Messe C-Moll. Leonard Bernstein. Chor und Symphonie­-orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Deutsche Grammaphon 431 791–2
“Ave Verum Corpus,” KV618 3:56

Gustav Mahler. Symphony 5. Lorin Maazel. Vienna Philharmonic. Sony SBK 89850
Adagietto, Sehr Langsam, 10:33

Alan Hovhaness. Symphony 2, Op. 132: Mysterious Mountain. Gerard Schwarz. Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Telarc 80604
Andante con Moto, 7:42

Joseph Canteloube. Songs of the Auvergne. Dawn Upshaw. Kent Nagano. Orchestre de l’Opèra National de Lyon. Erato 0630–17577–2
“Bailèro,” 5:36 “Perl’èfon,” 3:09

Richard Strauss. Death and Transfiguration. André Previn. Vienna Philharmonic. Telarc CD-80167
Moderato, 2:20
Tranquillo, 6:03

Russill Paul. The Yoga of Sound, Nada Yoga. Relaxation CD 3133
“Evening Shadows Fall,” 23:29

J. S. Bach. Bach Stokowski. Leopold Stokowski. CDM 7243 5 66385 2 5
Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BMV 582, 14:51

Enya. Watermark. Reprise 9 26774–2
“Storms in Africa II,” 2:59

Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Shaka Zulu. Warner Brothers Collection. Rhino/ WEA 081227998622
“King of Kings,” 4:07

Adiemus. Pure Moods. Virgin 724384218621
“Adiemus,” 3:59

John Lennon. The John Lennon Collection. Abbey Road Capitol 077774644624
“Here Comes the Sun,” 3:03

Gipsy Kings. Mosaique. Nonsuch 075596089227
“Caminando Por la Calle,” 4:22

Mercedes Sosa. Polygram International, Serie Millennium, 042283231429
“Gracias a La Vida,” 4:22

Leontyne Price. The Essential Leontyne Price: Spirituals, Hymns, and Sacred Songs. RCA 090266815722
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” 3:24

Louis Armstrong. What A Wonderful World. Intercontinental 600 607707405826
“What a Wonderful World,” 2:21

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Sacred Knowledge: The Mystical Experience Questionnaire

Sacred Knowledge

“You are convinced now, as you look back on your experience, that in it you encountered ultimate reality (i.e. that you “knew” and “saw” what was really real).”

This week, our featured book is Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, by William A. Richards.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Sacred Knowledge!

In Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, William A. Richards uses the potential of entheogens to occasion mystical experiences to call for their responsible medical use. In the New Yorker, Michael Pollan detailed the psychological evidence for this claim, based in part on a Mystical Experience Questionnaire co-developed by Richards, a 2006 version of which is reproduced below.

Thirty-six volunteers, none of whom had ever taken a hallucinogen, received a pill containing either psilocybin or an active placebo (methylphenidate, or Ritalin); in a subsequent session the pills were reversed. “When administered under supportive conditions,” the paper concluded, “psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences.” Participants ranked these experiences as among the most meaningful in their lives, comparable to the birth of a child or the death of a parent. Two-thirds of the participants rated the psilocybin session among the top five most spiritually significant experiences of their lives; a third ranked it at the top. Fourteen months later, these ratings had slipped only slightly.

Furthermore, the “completeness” of the mystical experience closely tracked the improvements reported in personal well-being, life satisfaction, and “positive behavior change” measured two months and then fourteen months after the session. (The researchers relied on both self-assessments and the assessments of co-workers, friends, and family.) The authors determined the completeness of a mystical experience using two questionnaires, including the Pahnke-Richards Mystical Experience Questionnaire, which is based in part on William James’s writing in “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” The questionnaire measures feelings of unity, sacredness, ineffability, peace and joy, as well as the impression of having transcended space and time and the “noetic sense” that the experience has disclosed some objective truth about reality. A “complete” mystical experience is one that exhibits all six characteristics.

The questionnaire, a scientific research document, asks participants to reflect on their experience.

States of Consciousness Questionnaire and Pahnke-Richards Mystical Experience Questionnaire

Instructions: Looking back on the extended session you have just experienced, please rate the degree to which at any time during that session, you experienced the following phenomena. In making each of your ratings, use the following scale:

0 – none; not at all. 1 – so slight cannot decide 2 – slight 3 – moderate 4 -strong (equivalent in degree to any previous strong experience or expectation of this description) 5 – extreme (more than ever before in my life and stronger than 4)

Items and Scoring: There are 100 items in the States of Consciousness Questionnaire. Forty-three items on this questionnaire comprise the Pahnke-Richards Mystical Experience Questionnaire which provides scale scores for each of seven domains of mystical experiences: Internal Unity (6 items); External Unity (6 items); Transcendence of Time and Space (8 items); Ineffability and Paradoxicality (5 items); Sense of Sacredness (7 items); Noetic Quality (4 items); and Deeply-Felt Positive Mood (7 items). Data on each scale are expressed as a proportion of the maximum possible score. The remaining 57 items in the questionnaire served as distracter items and were not scored. Numerals associated with each item indicate the numerical sequence of the items.

I. Internal Unity
26. Loss of your usual identity.
35. Freedom from the limitations of your personal self and feeling a unity or bond with what was felt to be greater than your personal self.
41. Experience of pure Being and pure awareness (beyond the world of sense impressions).
54. Experience of oneness in relation to an “inner world” within.
77. Experience of the fusion of your personal self into a larger whole.
83. Experience of unity with ultimate reality.

II. External Unity

14. Experience of oneness or unity with objects and/or persons perceived in your surroundings
27. With eyes open, seeing something in your surroundings more and more intensely and then feeling as though you and it become one.
47. Experience of the insight that “all is One”.
51. Loss of feelings of difference between yourself and objects or persons in your surroundings.
62. Intuitive insight into the inner nature of objects and/or persons in your surroundings.
74. Awareness of the life or living presence in all things.

III. Transcendence of Time and Space

2. Loss of your usual sense of time.
12. Feeling that you experienced eternity or infinity.
15. Loss of your usual sense of space.
29. Loss of usual awareness of where you were.
34. Sense of being “outside of” time, beyond past and future.
42. Feeling that you have been “outside of” history in a realm where time does not exist.
48. Being in a realm with no space boundaries.
65. Experience of timelessness.

IV. Ineffability and Paradoxicality
6. Sense that the experience cannot be described adequately in words.
19. Experience of a paradoxical awareness that two apparently opposite principles or situations are both true.
23. Feeling that you could not do justice to your experience by describing it in words.
59. Sense that in order to describe parts of your experience you would have to use statements that appear to be illogical, involving contradictions and paradoxes.
86. Feeling that it would be difficult to communicate your own experience to others who have not had similar experiences.

V. Sense of Sacredness
5. Experience of amazement.
8. Sense of the limitations and smallness of your everyday personality in contrast to the Infinite.
31. Sense of profound humility before the majesty of what was felt to be sacred or holy.
36. Sense of being at a spiritual height.
55. Sense of reverence.
73. Feeling that you experienced something profoundly sacred and holy.
80. Sense of awe or awesomeness.

VI. Noetic Quality
3. Feeling that the consciousness experienced during part of the session was more real than your normal awareness of everyday reality.
9. Gain of insightful knowledge experienced at an intuitive level.
22. Certainty of encounter with ultimate reality (in the sense of being able to “know” and “see” what is really real ) at some time during your session.
69. You are convinced now, as you look back on your experience, that in it you encountered ultimate reality (i.e. that you “knew” and “saw” what was really real).

VII. Deeply-Felt Positive Mood
10. Experience of overflowing energy.
18. Feelings of tenderness and gentleness.
30. Feelings of peace and tranquility.
43. Experience of ecstasy.
50. Feelings of exaltation.
60. Feelings of universal or infinite love.
87. Feelings of joy.

Source: RR Griffiths, WA Richards, U McCann, R Jesse. 2006. “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance.” Psychopharmacology (Berl). 187(3), 268-83, commentaries 284-292. Available on the Council of Spiritual Practices’ Psilocybin Research page (pdf).

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Mysterious Molecules: The Sacred Knowledge of Entheogens

Sacred Knowledge

“How can we not explore this, if it can recalibrate how we die?”

This week, our featured book is Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, by William A. Richards. Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Sacred Knowledge!

In Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, William A. Richards argues that, if used responsibly and legally, psychedelics have incredible potential to assuage human suffering and constructively contribute to the quality of life on our planet. Richards’ book comes at a time when many are questioning the blanket prohibition on and demonization of such substances. In the New Yorker this February, Michael Pollan’s article “The Trip Treatment” delved into the ongoing second wave of psychedelics research, with an assist from Richards. And in an interview with Noah Berlatsky in The Guardian, Richards explains the promise of his research.

As the drug war subsides, scientists are eager to reconsider the therapeutic potential of these drugs, beginning with psilocybin… The effects of psilocybin resemble those of LSD, but, as one researcher explained, “it carries none of the political and cultural baggage of those three letters.” LSD is also stronger and longer-lasting in its effects, and is considered more likely to produce adverse reactions. Researchers are using or planning to use psilocybin not only to treat anxiety, addiction (to smoking and alcohol), and depression but also to study the neurobiology of mystical experience, which the drug, at high doses, can reliably occasion. Forty years after the Nixon Administration effectively shut down most psychedelic research, the government is gingerly allowing a small number of scientists to resume working with these powerful and still somewhat mysterious molecules.

As I chatted with Tony Bossis and Stephen Ross in the treatment room at N.Y.U., their excitement about the results was evident. According to Ross, cancer patients receiving just a single dose of psilocybin experienced immediate and dramatic reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements that were sustained for at least six months. The data are still being analyzed and have not yet been submitted to a journal for peer review, but the researchers expect to publish later this year.

“I thought the first ten or twenty people were plants—that they must be faking it,” Ross told me. “They were saying things like ‘I understand love is the most powerful force on the planet,’ or ‘I had an encounter with my cancer, this black cloud of smoke.’ People who had been palpably scared of death—they lost their fear. The fact that a drug given once can have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding. We have never had anything like it in the psychiatric field.” (more…)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

One Discovery of Transcendence – William Richards, “Sacred Knowledge”

Sacred Knowledge

“For the first time, I had encountered the limitations of language in trying to express mystical forms of consciousness.” — William A. Richards

This week, our featured book is Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, by William A. Richards.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Sacred Knowledge!

In Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, William A. Richards argues that, if used responsibly and legally, psychedelics have incredible potential to assuage human suffering and constructively contribute to the quality of life on our planet. In the preface, he recounts what transpired during his “first deep foray into transcendental forms of awareness.”

When my own first intense encounter with mystical consciousness occurred, I was a twenty-three-year-old graduate student of theology and psychiatry. Studying at the University of Göttingen in Germany, formally known as the Georg-August Universität, I had volunteered to participate in a research project with a drug I had never heard about called psilocybin. Synthesized and distributed to psychiatric researchers and clinicians by the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company in Switzer­land, this new drug was the primary psychoactive substance in the psilocybe genus of mushrooms that indigenous peoples had called “magic” or “sacred” and appear to have used in their religious practices for at least three thousand years and perhaps since as long ago as 5000 BCE. On this date in the modern world, December 4, 1963, however, the dark ages of psychedelic research still prevailed and, in the context of Western psychopharmacological investigations, drugs like psilocy­bin usually were administered without preparation or guidance.

At the time, it was hoped that the radically different, sometimes disorganized or psychotic states of consciousness that often ensued, fortunately temporary in duration, would advance our understanding of schizophrenia and similar states of mind. Hanscarl Leuner, the professor of psychiatry conducting the investigations in the Nervenklinik in Göttingen, just had published a scientific monograph on his observations titled Die experimentelle Psychose (The Experimen­tal Psychoses). In those days psychedelic drugs were freely available to qualified researchers in Europe and in the United States, sent through the mail. Psilocybin was marketed as Indocybin. The distribution of LSD, known as Delysid, as stated in a 1964 Sandoz pamphlet, was simply “restricted to psychiatrists for use in mental hospitals and psychiatric clinics.”

Not only did I know nothing about psilocybin, LSD, or mescaline, I had not yet even heard the term “psychedelic,” though it had been coined seven years earlier by Humphrey Osmond, a British psychiatrist, in a letter to Aldous Huxley. However, two of my new friends reported to me that they had volunteered for an interesting research project in the nearby psychiatric clinic that entailed receiving an experimental drug. Its name was hard to remember, but it was reputed to provide some insights into early childhood. One friend had experienced himself sitting in his father’s lap and, since his father had been killed in World War II, this was profoundly comforting and meaningful to him. The other had seen visionary imagery of Nazi SS soldiers marching in the streets that he called “a hallucination.” I was intrigued and, being curious about the psychodynamic processes in my early childhood and having never seen a “real hallucination,” decided to walk over to the clinic and inquire whether I also could qualify as a participant in the research project. I viewed my own mind as a psychological laboratory in those days, took myself much too seriously, and sometimes went without breakfast to write down my dreams in the morning. Somewhat pompously, I called this discipline “collecting my phenomenological data.” (I was fond of big words then! In retrospect I realize that a healthy breakfast might have done me much more good.) (more…)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

New Book Tuesday! Chaos Imagined, Sex Trafficking, Calypso Jews, and More!

Chaos Imagined

Our weekly listing of titles now available:

Chaos Imagined: Literature, Art, Science
Martin Meisel

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Beyond Victims and Villains
Alexandra Lutnick

Calypso Jews: Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination
Sarah Phillips Casteel

Freedom’s Right: The Social Foundations of Democratic Life (Now available in paper)
Axel Honneth

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences

Sacred Knowledge

Sacred Knowledge is not only timely and relevant to a whole host of current social/legal issues, but also addresses, with seemingly effortless ease, many of the deeper/subtler metaphysical implications of psychedelics—their therapeutic and spiritual potential. Richards’ clear prose makes articulating such difficult topics look easy.” — G. William Barnard, Southern Methodist University

This week, our featured book is Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, by William A. Richards. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Sacred Knowledge. 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, December 18th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, December 11th, 2015

The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates — Best American Magazine Writing 2015

The Best American Magazine Writing 2015

“If a number makes people feel safe, then why not give it to them?”—A Chicago police officer

Recent events have shone a light on the Chicago police department and the ways in which they fail to share information with the public. However, as David Bernstein and Noah Isackson powerfully demonstrate in their article “The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates,” included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2015, the Chicago Police Department has been underreporting murders and crimes in an effort to mislead the public. The following is an excerpt from that article:

I. Dead Wrong

It was a balmy afternoon last July when the call came in: Dead body found inside empty warehouse on the West Side.

Chicago police officers drove through an industrial stretch of the hardscrabble Austin neighborhood and pulled up to the 4600 block of West Arthington Street. The warehouse in question was an unremarkable-looking red-brick single-story building with a tall barbed-wire fence. Vacant for six years, it had been visited that day by its owner and a real-estate agent—the person who had called 911.

The place lacked electricity, so crime scene technicians set up generators and portable lights. The power flickered on to reveal a grisly sight. In a small office, on soggy carpeting covered in broken ceiling tiles, lay a naked, lifeless woman. She had long red-streaked black hair and purple glitter nail polish on her left toenails (her right ones were gone), but beyond that it was hard to discern much. Her face and body were bloated and badly de­composed, her hands ash colored. Maggots feasted on her flesh.

At the woman’s feet, detectives found a curled strand of tele­phone wire. Draped over her right hand was a different kind of wire: thin and brown. The same brown wire was wrapped around each armrest of a wooden chair next to her.

The following day, July 24, a pathologist in the Cook County medical examiner’s offi ce noticed something else that had been obscured by rotting skin: a thin gag tied around the corpse’s mouth.

Thanks to some still-visible tattoos, detectives soon identified this unfortunate woman: Tiara Groves, a twenty-year-old from Austin. She was last seen walking alone in the wee hours of Sun­day, July 14, near a liquor store two miles from the warehouse. At least eight witnesses who saw her that night told police a similar story: She appeared drunk and was upset—one man said that she was crying so hard she couldn’t catch her breath—but refused offers of help. A man who talked to her outside the liquor store said that Groves warned him, excitedly and incoherently, that he should stay away from her or else somebody (she didn’t say who) would kill him too.

Toxicology tests showed she had heroin and alcohol in her system, but not enough to kill her. All signs pointed to foul play. According to the young woman’s mother, who had filed a missing-person report, the police had no doubt. “When this de­tective came to my house, he said, ‘We found your daughter. . . . Your daughter has been murdered,’ ” Alice Groves recalls. “He told me they’re going to get the one that did it.”

On October 28, a pathologist ruled the death of Tiara Groves a homicide by “unspecified means.” This rare ruling means yes, somebody had killed Groves, but the pathologist couldn’t pin­point the exact cause of death.

Given the finding of homicide—and the corroborating evi­dence at the crime scene—the Chicago Police Department should have counted Groves’s death as a murder. And it did. Until Decem­ber 18. On that day, the police report indicates, a lieutenant overseeing the Groves case reclassified the homicide investiga­tion as a noncriminal death investigation. In his write-up, he cited the medical examiner’s “inability to determine a cause of death.”

That lieutenant was Denis Walsh—the same cop who had played a crucial role in the alleged cover-up in the 2004 killing of David Koschman, the twenty-one-year-old who died after be­ing punched by a nephew of former mayor Richard M. Daley. Walsh allegedly took the Koschman file home. For years, police officials said that it was lost. After the Sun-Times reported it miss­ing, the file mysteriously reappeared.

But back to Tiara Groves. With the stroke of a computer key, she was airbrushed out of Chicago’s homicide statistics.

The change stunned officers. Current and former veteran de­tectives who reviewed the Groves case at Chicago’s request were just as incredulous. Says a retired high-level detective, “How can you be tied to a chair and gagged, with no clothes on, and that’s a [noncriminal] death investigation?” (He, like most of the nearly forty police sources interviewed for this story, declined to be identified by name, citing fears of disciplinary action or other retribution.)

Was it just a coincidence, some wondered, that the reclassifi­cation occurred less than two weeks before the end of the year, when the city of Chicago’s final homicide numbers for 2013 would be tallied? “They essentially wiped away one of the murders in the city, which is crazy,” says a police insider. “But that’s the kind of shit that’s going on.”

(more…)

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Mary Helen Washington Receives Honorable Mention for MLA Award

Congratulations to Mary Helen Washington, whose book The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s, received an honorable mention for the competition for the Modern Language Association’s William Sanders Scarborough Prize for an Outstanding Scholarly Study of Black American Literature.

In praising the book, the prize committee wrote:

Elegantly written and richly historical, The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s is Mary Helen Washington’s long-awaited study of the left’s impact on the intellectual and political lives of African American writers during the 1950s. Washington eloquently reconstitutes the Black Popular Front, a fascinating case of how the Communist Party and other leftist associations informed literary and political discourses on race relations in the United States. She probes the aesthetic strategies and racial-political networks belonging to canonical authors such as Gwendolyn Brooks and to lesser-known writers such as Lloyd L. Brown, Alice Childress, and Frank London Brown. The Other Blacklist is a crowning achievement in Washington’s long-standing quest to put the black left at the center of African American literary history.

And for more on the book, here is a video of a talk between Mary Helen Washington and Farah Jasmine Griffin from earlier this year at the Schomburg Center:

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Evan Ratliff on the Best American Magazine Writing of 2015

The Best American Magazine Writing 2015

“Great writers will keep finding the wherewithal to chase the bold ideas, and great editors will keep finding ways to say yes.”—Evan Ratliff

The following is an excerpt from Evan Ratliff’s introduction to The Best American Magazine Writing 2015:

Now, of course, the Internet has decimated the tattered remains of our attention span. Worse, we’re told that it has paradoxically fostered a new scourge for great magazine writing: more of it. In just the last five years, websites and magazines new and old— from Nautilus to BuzzFeed to Grantland to Th e Atavist, which I edit—have engaged in an ambitious resurgence in long, serious magazine writing. While this might seem like a sign of life, critics have explained that in fact such efforts are diminishing this great craft. Terms like “long-form” and hashtags like #longreads— through which readers recommend work they appreciate to other potential readers—only serve to dilute what was once the purview of discriminating enthusiasts alone. “The problem,” Jonathan Mahler wrote in the New York Times in 2014, “is that long-form stories are too often celebrated simply because they exist.” It was bad enough when our capacity to produce and read great stories collapsed. Now it seems we’ve turned around and loved maga­zine writing to death.

I don’t mean to make light of the real financial and even existen­tial conundrums facing magazines today, of course. I only mean to observe that they have existed as long as magazines them­selves. (Except that last one; complaints about too much maga­zine writing, and what we label it, seem to be this century’s peculiar, philistines-in-the-country-club anxiety.) In truth, I have my share of worries about the future of serious long-form journalism—who wouldn’t, knowing its history? But when it comes to explanations, I’m partial to one from the great Ian Frazier. It appeared in a 2002 essay introducing The Fish’s Eye, a collection of his writing on fishing, with pieces dating back to the 1970s. In those days, Frazier wrote:

Magazines regularly ran long nonfiction pieces, ambitious in style and content, that originated in the thoughts of individ­ual writers, in their experiences and sensibilities, and in what they believed was important to say. . . . I’m not sure why this emphasis on writers took hold. Maybe it had to do with the fact that in those years America had recently and unexpect­edly come unglued; perhaps people suspected that a writer out walking around in the midst of it would know more of what was going on than an editor behind a desk in New York. Neither do I know why that writers’ era should disappear. But it pretty much has, in magazines at any rate.

Frazier’s speculation—that perhaps the role of writers changes in relation to how often a chaotic world forces itself onto editors’ desks—strikes me as more believable than most. I would argue that the trend is not linear, however, but cyclical. Just as great magazines have always come and gone, so, too, have the periods where editors were more or less willing and able to assign ambi­tious stories.

(more…)

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

The Legacy of Eve Sedgwick

Eve Sedgwick, Between Men

On the heels of the recent publication of the Thirtieth Anniversary edition of Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, The New Yorker‘s blog, The Page Turner, posted a piece on the book and Eve Sedgwick’s legacy.

The article by Jane Hu, “Between Us: A Queer Theorist’s Devoted Husband and Enduring Legacy,” begins by describing how her husband, Hal, is preserving Sedgwick’s archive to insure that her work endures. As the piece points out, at least in the immediate future there is little danger that Sedgwick’s ideas and influence fading away. Scholarly journals continue to devote issues to her and there are or have been multiple conferences dedicated to her book, including a recent one at the CUNY Grad Center on Between Men.

In addition to citing Sedgwick’s scholarly impact, Hu also describes Sedgwick’s intellectual and personal bravery. Critics from all directions — feminists, gay men, etc. — asked her to account for herself. Her writing, unlike much academic work, would often be very personal and even confessional, and has served as an inspiration to other scholars and critics.

In describing the influence of Between Men and the recent conference on Between Men, Jane Hu writes:

Hal [Eve Sedgwick's husband] showed me around Eve’s archives the day after the most recent of these conferences, celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of “Between Men,” a groundbreaking book that popularized the term “homosocial.” At the conference, Jennifer Crewe, the president of Columbia University Press, recalled how typists working on it constantly rendered the word as “homosexual” because of just how unusual the term was in 1985.

“Between Men” not only put Sedgwick on the map as a queer theorist, it helped to establish the field of queer literary analysis. Sedgwick became, as Rolling Stone once put it, “the soft-spoken queen of the constructionists.” (A speaker at the conference noted the shocking disjunction between Sedgwick’s quiet speaking voice and the bold statements she made in print.) The book was published during a heated period of the gay liberation movement; as Wayne Koestenbaum notes in his forward to a new edition, the H.I.V. retrovirus had been isolated a year before, and ACT UP was formed just two years afterward.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Michael Mann on the Assault on Climate Science

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, Michael Mann

“Let’s end the McCarthy-like assault on science led by the Lamar Smiths of the world. Our nation is better than that.”—Michael Mann, New York Times

Yesterday, we linked to Michael Mann’s important op-ed in the New York Times on social media but also wanted to feature it here on our blog. In his piece, The Assault on Climate Science, Mann describes the recent efforts of Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, to challenge and obfuscate the findings of scientists regarding climate change. Smith, a climate-change-denier, has “issued various subpoenas to Kathryn D. Sullivan, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, demanding all internal notes, emails and correspondence concerning a study its scientists published in the journal Science.” As Mann argues that while Smith is entitled to ask for all pertinent scientific data and findings — and should do so — asking for correspondence between scientists risks the confidentiality that is crucial for frank discourse.

As Mann points out, this kind of intimidation of scientists is not new — Mann himself was the victim of it in 2005. At the time, many politicians — both Republicans and Democrats — came to his defense. The picture in 2015 is far bleaker as Republicans have done nothing to rein in the actions of Lamar Smith.

Mann concludes by writing:

While there is no doubt climate change is real and caused by humans, there is absolutely a debate to be had about the details of climate policy, and there are prominent Republicans participating constructively in that discourse. Let’s hear more from these sensible voices. And let’s end the McCarthy-like assault on science led by the Lamar Smiths of the world. Our nation is better than that.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Laborers Who Keep Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed — Best Business Writing 2015

Best Business Writing 2015

Recent terrorist incidents have focused attention on the role of social media in recruiting members. In his piece, “The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed,” first published in Wired and now included in The Best Business Writing 2015, Adrian Chen takes a closer look at the process of removing objectionable images from social media sites and the toll it takes on moderators. The following is an excerpt from the article:

The campuses of the tech industry are famous for their lavish cafeterias, cushy shuttles, and on-site laundry services. But on a muggy February afternoon, some of these companies’ most important work is being done 7,000 miles away, on the second floor of a former elementary school at the end of a row of auto mechanics’ stalls in Bacoor, a gritty Filipino town thirteen miles southwest of Manila. When I climb the building’s narrow stairwell, I need to press against the wall to slide by work­ers heading down for a smoke break. Up one flight, a drowsy security guard staffs what passes for a front desk: a wooden table in a dark hallway overflowing with file folders.

Past the guard, in a large room packed with workers manning PCs on long tables, I meet Michael Baybayan, an enthusiastic twenty-one-year-old with a jaunty pouf of reddish-brown hair. If the space does not resemble a typical startup’s offi ce, the image on Baybayan’s screen does not resemble typical startup work: It appears to show a super-close-up photo of a two-pronged dildo wedged in a vagina. I say appears because I can barely begin to make sense of the image, a baseball-card-sized abstraction of flesh and translucent pink plastic, before he disappears it with a casual flick of his mouse.

Baybayan is part of a massive labor force that handles “con­tent moderation”—the removal of offensive material—for U.S. social-networking sites. As social media connects more people more intimately than ever before, companies have been con­fronted with the Grandma Problem: Now that grandparents routinely use services like Facebook to connect with their kids and grandkids, they are potentially exposed to the Internet’s pan­oply of jerks, racists, creeps, criminals, and bullies. They won’t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video. Social media’s growth into a multi-billion-dollar in­dustry and its lasting mainstream appeal have depended in large part on companies’ ability to police the borders of their user-generated content—to ensure that Grandma never has to see im­ages like the one Baybayan just nuked.

So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them—a vast, invis­ible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief se­curity officer of MySpace who now runs online-safety consultancy SSP Blue, estimates that the number of content moderators scrub­bing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000”—that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly fourteen times that of Facebook.

(more…)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Dean Starkman on the Current State of Business Journalism

The Best Business Writing 2015

“This collection of brilliant journalism … is a testament to business journalism’s resilience in an age of extreme disruption in its own business — media — and to the fact that the business-news ocean is vast and full of unexpected discoveries.”—Dean Starkman

In his introduction to The Best Business Writing 2015, Dean Starkman looks at this year’s excellent crop of stories and analyzes the current state of business journalism:

This collection of brilliant journalism, the fourth in a series, is a testament to business journalism’s resilience in an age of extreme disruption in its own business — media — and to the fact that the business-news ocean is vast and full of unexpected discoveries. It is a particularly rich collection this year; readers will find an astonishing range of topics across an equally astonishing range of outlets. Marcus Stern and Sebas­tian Jones tell of how the combination of volatile crude oil mov­ing across aging railroad infrastructure has put towns across the continent in danger of disasters like one that happened in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, not long ago. That piece represents the joint efforts of relatively new players on the business-investiga­tive scene, InsideClimate News and the Weather Channel. Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic uses Google’s ambitious, and unnerving, drone-development problem to explore how the search giant really thinks and where it’s going. Jordan Weissmann off ers a delicious take on the surprising economics of Katz’s, the legendary New York deli, for Slate, which by now is a digital-news elder statesman.

It’s also true that one prominent and important new outlet, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, is not represented here—despite publishing some of the most remark­able business journalism of recent years, including 2014’s devastating exposé of the British Swiss banking giant, HSBC. Based on a trove of 60,000 leaked files with details on more than 100,000 HSBC clients, a team of journalists from more than 50 countries unearthed secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, and others, including prominent politicians and celebrities. The series, which evoked a clear mea culpa and promise of change from a humbled HSBC, doesn’t appear here only because two of the three editors of this volume were deeply involved in producing the series for ICIJ (hint: I wasn’t one of them). Their argument that the conflict of interest was too great to include in Best Business Writing 2015 won out over my strenuous objections, but at least readers should be aware of ICIJ’s presence as a new force in journalism.

But it is also true that so-called legacy news organizations are well represented in this volume. The estimable Gretchen Mor­genson of the New York Times argues trenchantly that the over­weening size of the financial sector not only puts taxpayers at risk of “too big to fail” bank collapses but also imposes insidious costs on the real economy by allocating capital not to its highest use but to bubble-prone sectors like real estate. The Wall Street Journal’s highly regarded veterans Mark Maremont and Leslie Scism de­liver a scintillating read on the fall of a young insurance magnate whose investments included a Caravaggio. Let’s not forget Frank­lin Foer’s trenchant explanation of why the Amazon monopoly is bad for the republic, published in the century-old New Republic (from which Foer has since resigned over disagreement about its direction). And Bloomberg, founded in the early 1980s, emerged as a global journalism force last year with several enormously interesting stories, led by Zach Mider’s exploration of how the richest among us pay so little in taxes. It is correctly headlined, “The Greatest Tax Story Ever Told,” and is certainly the only one that includes a tax loophole set to an operetta.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Earlier exultations about a flower­ing of journalism in the age of the Internet have given way to more sober assessments about the difficulties of supporting a full-fledged newsroom on the meager returns from digital sources. A Pew study last year ran the numbers and found that the thirty largest all-digital operations—Vice, Buzzfeed, Vox, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and other famous names— account for only 3,000 journalism jobs combined. That is a fifth of what has been lost in the newspaper industry, which still remains backbone of American newsgathering—even in its shrunken, desiccated infirmity. Newspaper advertising is now at the lowest levels on record, considering inflation. And newspapers continue to struggle with declining print revenues and no growth engine to off set the losses. Newspaper subscription revenue fell 3 percent last year, Pew says, throwing cold water on hopes that digital pay-walls and other reader-pay devices would provide a floor under revenue declines.

(more…)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

New Book Tuesday: The Wheel, Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine, Reimagining the Sacred, and More!

The Wheel

The following is a list of titles now available:

The Wheel: Inventions and Reinventions
Richard W. Bulliet

Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine
Elizabeth A. Wood, William E. Pomeranz, E. Wayne Merry, and Maxim Trudolyubov
(Woodrow Wilson Center Press / Columbia University Press)

Reimagining the Sacred: Richard Kearney Debates God with James Wood, Catherine Keller, Charles Taylor, Julia Kristeva, Gianni Vattimo, Simon Critchley, Jean-Luc Marion, John Caputo, David Tracey, Jens Zimmermann, and Merold Westphal
Edited by Richard Kearney and Jens Zimmermann

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Beyond Victims and Villains
Alexandra Lutnick

Holocaust Cinema in the Twenty-First Century: Images, Memory, and the Ethics of Representation
Edited by Gerd Bayer and Oleksandr Kobrynskyy
(Wallflower Press)

Dead of Night
Jez Conolly and David Owain Bates
(Auteur)

Suspiria
Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
(Auteur)

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Announcing the Columbia University Press Holiday Sale!

Columbia University Press Holiday Sale

Happy Holidays! We are pleased to announce that all books on the Columbia University Press website are on sale at 40% off their list price* from December 7, 2015 through January 6, 2016. The discount will apply automatically on checkout; just find and order the books you like and save 40%!

*Customers in Europe and the Middle East who would like to receive the discount please contact customer@wiley.com

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Book Giveaway! The Best Business Writing and Best American Magazine Writing

The Best Business Writing 2015  The Best American Magazine Writing 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, we are featuring two books that help provide some perspective on the year that was: This week one of our featured books is The Best Business Writing 2015, edited by Dean Starkman, Martha M. Hamilton, and Ryan Chittum and The Best American Magazine Writing 2015, edited by Sid Holt for the American Society of Magazine Editors, and and introduction by Evan Ratliff, editor of The Atavist.

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

We are also offering a FREE copy of After the American Century to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Wednesday, December 11th at 1:00 pm.

Friday, December 4th, 2015

The Resurgence of American Orientalism — Brian T. Edwards

After the American Century, Brian Edwards

“The persistence of Orientalist patterns of representing the Middle East and North Africa is visible in a staggering quantity of representations of the region in contemporary U.S. literature, television serials, comedy, and consumer culture … American Orientalism has been not only renewed but also extended and exaggerated.”—Brian T. Edwards

In After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East, Brian Edwards considers what happens to American culture as it circulates in the Middle East. In the book’s epilogue, “Embracing Orientalism in the Homeland,” Edwards discusses the ways in which Middle Eastern and North African culture is received in the United States, and how they reflect a renewal of Orientalism.:

So what does make it back to the United States? What works do U.S. publishers and distributors circulate? The sad truth is that when creative works by authors from the Middle East and North Africa have reached larger audiences in the United States during the first decade and a half of the twenty-first century, they have tended to confirm prevailing and debilitating stereotypes about the region. As noted in earlier chapters, Ali Behdad and Juliet Williams identify a recent phenomenon they call “neo-Orientalism”: texts about the Middle East published in English by writers with origins in the region whose “self-proclaimed authenticity sanctions and authorizes their discourse.” In their important essay, Behdad and Williams focus on the high number of memoirs by Iranian women published in English in the first decade of the twenty-first century, such as the best-selling Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) by Azar Nafisi and Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran (2004) by Roya Hakakian. Such works are explicitly political in their intent and either explicitly or implicitly justify U.S. intervention in the region through what Behdad and Williams call their “ahistorical historicism.” Namely, these authors purport to teach American readers the history of some aspect of the region that has gone wrong while at the same time making historical errors or misleading statements—say, Nafisi’s inaccurate history of veiling in Iran before the revolution—and suggest that outside assistance is required to set Iran back on its correct course.

For Behdad and Williams, Marjane Satrapi’s wonderful graphic novel Persepolis—written and first published in Paris in 2000—was the excep­tion that proved the rule in large part (in their analysis) because of the ways in which Satrapi refused a New York Times reporter’s attempt to essentialize her as a Muslim invested in “denounc[ing] Islamic fanaticism.” (In her interview with Deborah Solomon in the New York Times Magazine, Satrapi turned Solomon’s questions on themselves. Solomon disagreed with Satrapi when the latter claimed that Iranian veiling and Western unveiling of women are “equally reductive” of women. Satrapi then called out the West­ern hypocrisy around body image and plastic surgery: “If in Muslim coun­tries they try to cover the woman, in America they try to make them look like a piece of meat.”) One might go further and note that within her comics themselves, Satrapi is able efficiently to critique both Iranian contradictions in the obsession with the dangers of American culture and the shallow ways in which the West regards Iran. Her simple, even naive style of draw­ing allows her, via her autobiographical character Marji, to reveal the par­adoxes inherent in both Iran’s and the West’s regard of each other.

(more…)