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Archive for March, 2016

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

University Press Roundup

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

This week on Cambridge University Press’ blog, Iris Berger wrote about the representation of women in political offices throughout Africa. While many are expecting Hillary’s Democratic nomination, if she were to win this year’s general election, she would be following in the footsteps of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia since 2006, who was the first elected female president in any African country and the first female leader awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ellen’s position of leadership, as well as the high percentage of women in lower offices in places such as Rwanda, Senegal, and Mozambique, is a stark reminder of the under-representation of women in the U.S.’ Senate and House of Representatives.

At the Yale University Press blog, Jonathan H. Ebel explores how displays of devotion and awe towards the men and women who serve in the military are central to American civil religion. In short, as we gather up individual soldiers and pack them into a singular symbol of “the military,” which we then worship with narratives of triumphalism and sacrificial heroism, we are, in truth, glorifying American militarism. Ultimately, these symbolic soldiers are part and parcel of our national myth-making.

Recently at the University of Washington Press, Sylvanna M. Falcon was interviewed about her book Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activism inside the United Nations. After attending the 1995 U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing, Sylvanna became interested in transnational feminism and realized that if the U.N. was to advance women’s rights, its masculinized and racialized power had to be challenged. In her book as well as the interview, she discusses the importance of considering race and gender together in feminist activism.

At the University of Texas Press blog, Frederick Luis Aldama and Christopher Gonzalez explore the importance of Latin@ comic books as a way of crafting national literary imaginaries. The Latin@ comic landscape began in earnest with Los Bros Hernandez’ publication of Love & Rockets in the 1980’s, and has since expanded and become more inclusive. As Frederick and Christopher put it, Latin@s are the majority minority, and the form of comic books will only continue to grow as an expression and archive of Latin@ history and culture.

In the wake of Easter, Princeton University Press blog’s Eoghan Barry wrote about the formidable life of Countess Markievicz, née Constance Gore-Booth, who fought for Irish independence from Britain in the 1916 Rising. Although born into a family of landed gentry, she became a socialist and was eventually imprisoned for her role in the Rising. Although frequently hailed as a nationalist icon, her radical socialist past, including her work with the poor and her involvement in a militant woman’s organization, are often forgotten.

At Beacon Broadside, Fred Pearce examines who will deliver food to the world’s hungry in the age of climate change. El Niño inspired weather has led to severe droughts in places like India and South Africa, and it will only continue to threaten the food stability of nations around the globe. Yet, Fred warns against the pat assumption that large-scale and single-commodity commercial farming can feed the world and argues that it is many small family farms that have the potential to rescue us from the threat of hunger.

In the Blog of Harvard Education Publishing, Shayla Reese Griffin uses an anecdote of hearing her friend’s biracial daughter explain how she was excited that she will never have to experience segregation like Ruby Bridges did. Yet, when Shayla asked about the makeup of her classroom, she learned that it was racially homogeneous: there were only black students. While segregation was made illegal years ago, de facto segregation persists in education from an early age, perpetuating racial bias and failing to bring diversity to the social environment of children.

In From the Square, Tanya Golash-Boza evaluates the American deportation machine. With the precedent of large-scale deportations enacted under Bill Clinton and George Bush as backdrop, Obama has overseen record deportations since he first took office. Now, with 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States, Republicans like Trump and Cruz want them all gone. Tanya argues how such “proposals” are nothing but fantasy.

Thanks for reading! As always, we hope that you enjoyed the links. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

VIDEO: Jeffrey T. Kiehl on What Earth’s Past Tells Us About the Future of Climate Change

In the following video, Jeffrey T. Kiehl, author of Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future, discusses how we can learn about future climate from Earth’s deep past. He offers a warning about the current trajectory we are on in terms of climate change:

“If we don’t start seriously working toward a reduction of carbon emissions, we are putting our planet on a trajectory that the human species has never experienced. We will have committed human civilization to living in a different world for multiple generations.”


Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

New Book Tuesday: Altered States, A Political History of GDP, Jonas Mekas and More New Books!

Altered States

Our weekly listing of new titles now available:

Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America
Douglas Osto

The Power of a Single Number: A Political History of GDP
Philipp Lepenies

Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema, 1959-1971
Jonas Mekas; Foreword by Peter Bogdanovich; Introduction by Gregory Smulewicz-Zucker; With a new afterword by the author

The Future of Evangelicalism in America
Edited by Candy Gunther Brown and Mark Silk

Edo Kabuki in Transition: From the Worlds of the Samurai to the Vengeful Female Ghost
Satoko Shimazaki

The End of the West and Other Cautionary Tales
Sean Meighoo

On the Difficulty of Living Together: Memory, Politics, and History
Manuel Cruz. Translated by Richard Jacques

An Annotated Bibliography for Taiwan Film Studies
Edited by Jim Cheng, James Wicks, and Sachie Noguchi

Erich Lessing: The Pulse of Time—Capturing Social Change in Post-War Europe
Johannes Rambarter and Florian Knothe
(University Museum and Art Gallery, Hong Kong University)

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

The Psychology of Climate Change — Jeffrey T. Kiehl

Facing Climate Change, Jeffrey Kiehl

The following post is by Jeffrey T. Kiehl, author of Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future:

Our reliance on fossil fuels as the main source to address our energy needs is untenable. The burning of these fuels is causing carbon dioxide levels to rapidly increase and thus warm the planet via the greenhouse effect. The burning of coal is destroying local air quality and placing many thousands at direct health risk. We are experiencing human caused climate change now. If we continue on our current path, planetary warming will reach unprecedented levels within decades. We can no longer afford to deny, ignore or diminish the problem of climate change. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence for climate change we continue to burn these fuels and in the United States we continue to turn away from the warnings of what is happening to our world.

Denial is a classic way to avoid dealing with a disturbing issue. You can probably remember either consciously or unconsciously using this strategy to avoid or postpone action on a pressing problem. Disturbing information or situations evoke a sense of anxious dread within us. We feel overwhelmed by facing the situation and procrastinate. We all do this. Often when we actually do face the problem it turns out that addressing it was less painful than imagined. Our expectation of loss created a deep sense of fear that amplified the actual situation. Understanding the psychological processes that occur in situations of denial can actually help us penetrate the barriers preventing us from moving beyond the problem. This is why it is so important to explore the psychological dimensions of climate change. We can learn much from the experiences of clinical psychology, social psychology and neuroscience. These fields have delved into the many ways we make decisions and avoid making decisions. They shine a light of understanding on the darker shadow regions of denial, ignorance and diminishment. For example, the emotional reactions experienced around the issue of climate change mirror those of a physical or psychological trauma. Thus, the vast knowledge of trauma and its treatment can aid in dealing with the resistance to addressing the state of our climate system.

The physical, chemical and biological sciences have provided us with a comprehensive picture of climate change and our integral role in this problem. The manifold dimensions of psychology can provide ways to actually address the problem. By combining the studies of climate and psyche we not only see what is happening to our world and why, but also, how we can move beyond the problem to create a more flourishing world for future generations.

Monday, March 28th, 2016

What Kate Did — On the Legacy of Kate Millett’s “Sexual Politics”

Sexual Politics, Kate Millett

“What Millett’s work showed were the ways that political action and cultural expression interpenetrate. Both sites of struggle were necessary to bringing about the “altered consciousness” that, for Millett, would mark a sexual revolution and bring ‘a world we can bear out of the desert we inhabit.’ We’re not out of this desert yet; in some ways we are more lost than ever. But culture, Millett taught us, may help us find our way to a better land.”—Maggie Doherty, from her article “What Kate Did,” published in The New Republic

In reviewing the new edition of Sexual Politics, by Kate Millett, Maggie Doherty comments in The New Republic on the intense and immediate reaction to the book by both the mainstream press and her fellow radical feminists when it was first published in 1970:

The reactions of both camps went beyond anything Millett could have anticipated. Suddenly, she was wanted on every college campus. She was invited onto daytime talk shows. (Her Minnesotan mother warned her against appearing onscreen with unwashed hair.) Her book appeared in editorial cartoons. Her phone rang constantly. Her portrait, by the painter Alice Neel, graced the cover of Time; the magazine crowned her “the Mao Tse-tung of Women’s Liberation.”

As Maggie Doherty explains, Sexual Politics, which was Millett’s revised dissertation for a literature PhD., reflected her belief that “reading could produce a better way to live.” Millett’s analysis of the ways in which four writers—D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, and Jean Genet— shaped, or in Genet’s case, challenged, patriarchy offered a powerful critique of the existing political, cultural, and social views and treatment of women. Millett’s revolutionary work, presented with scholarly rigor, articulated ideas within the radical feminist movement regarding the sexual revolution, homosexuality, and monogamy and brought them to a mainstream readership.

Millett was somewhat unprepared for the intense reaction her book received and never saw herself as a public figure in the way that Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan did. Her book came under criticism from those who faulted it for not sufficiently addressing issues of class or race but as Doherty argues, the book’s ideas continue to resonate. Doherty concludes by speculating on the singularity of Millett’s achievement and its continuing legacy:

It’s hard to imagine any work of literary scholarship—let alone a Ph.D. dissertation—landing its author on the cover of Time today. While the contemporary academy has its share of public intellectuals, most of its scholars write for audiences of specialists (after all, they are employed to do just that). Millett, by contrast, was writing in the waning years of what Louis Menand has called the age of “heroic criticism,” a time when the stakes of literary debate seemed high. The books you preferred said something about your politics, even your morals. If you wanted to change the way people lived and loved, you might very well set out to change the way they read.

This faith in literature—in particular, this faith in the academic study of literature—is perhaps the thing that most marks Millett’s work as the product of another time. It’s striking that in the years after her first book’s release, when she was spending much of her time advocating for “gay liberation,” it occurred to her that the best thing she could do was not speak, or organize, or teach, but write a book of literary criticism, a “SexPol of gay and straight, a scholarly objective approach more convincing to the authorities.” She mapped it out one night at her farm-cum-feminist artist colony in Poughkeepsie: “First lay down a theory about the two cultures, our segregated society. Then find in homosexual literature the emotional truth of the experience as it was lived.” The book never came to be, but the dream of it tells us something about what it meant to be a literary scholar, and a radical feminist, in the early 1970s.

“Will future historians say that I blew it?” Millett asked in Flying. The answer has to be no. Sexual Politics may have its intellectual and political flaws, like any text that documents a way of thinking proper to the past. But what Millett’s work showed were the ways that political action and cultural expression interpenetrate. Both sites of struggle were necessary to bringing about the “altered consciousness” that, for Millett, would mark a sexual revolution and bring “a world we can bear out of the desert we inhabit.” We’re not out of this desert yet; in some ways we are more lost than ever. But culture, Millett taught us, may help us find our way to a better land.

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Book Giveaway! “Facing Climate Change,” by Jeffrey T. Kiehl

This week we are featuring Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future, by Jeffrey T. Kiehl.

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

We are also offering a FREE copy of Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, April 1 at 1:00 pm.

Here’s what Michael Mann says about the book:

Facing Climate Change is a must-read for anyone concerned about human-caused climate change and how we get past the psychological barriers standing between us and a solution to this existential threat.”

You can also read the chapter, “A Journey from Climate Science to Psychology”:

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Thursday Fiction Corner: The Blue Wolf by Inoue Yasushi, translated by Joshua Fogel

The Blue Wolf

Welcome to the Columbia University Press Thursday Fiction Corner! This week Russian Library editor Christine Dunbar muses on the (unfair) expectations readers put on translations after reading The Blue Wolf by Inoue Yasushi, translated by Joshua Fogel.

I am wary of treating literary texts as windows into the soul of a people. Presupposing the existence of the individual stable concepts of “soul” and “people” is bad enough; putting them together inevitably smacks either of nationalism or racism. I think of Dostoevsky’s 1880 Pushkin speech, where he calls Tatiana “the apotheosis of the Russian woman.” I find Belinsky’s equally political remark about Eugene Onegin—that it is “an encyclopedia of Russian life”—to be more congenial, if also limiting. (This is, after all, the same guy who told Gogol that his books could be aesthetically bad as long as they weren’t bad for society; not really an art for art’s sake type.) This is a very roundabout way of saying that I am so pleased that we published Joshua Fogel’s translation of Inoue Yasushi’s The Blue Wolf: A Novel of the Life of Chinggis Khan.

It could easily never have been translated. Originally serialized (I learned from the brief but informative Translator’s Note) in 1959-60, and immensely popular in Japan, it took almost 50 years for the book to appear in English. And I can imagine why. There’s something rather odd about the idea of translating a Japanese novel about Mongolia into English. But why is that?

I think some of it has to do with our tacit expectations of a translation. With some exceptions for genre fiction—Swedish crime novels, say—we expect a translation to be excellent literature; after all, a translated book has been elevated above its peers, one of the chosen few to appear on a world stage. But at the same time, we expect it to fulfill an anthropological function. We want to learn something about its country of origin. Our (well, my, at least) ignorance is so vast that the simplest of details becomes a revelation. We don’t read Wordsworth and think, “oh, so daffodils grow in the Lake Country, how interesting,” but we may well have such a thought about the flora of the steppe.

The Blue Wolf is remarkably effective in this way. There isn’t, granted, much discussion of flora, but in reading the novel I learned a great deal about social mores, battle tactics, and political maneuvering on the Mongolian plateau. As for any historical novel, these details are the result of painstaking research, not the chance-met details a reader might glean from reading something of foreign origin. According again to that very useful Translator’s Note, Yasushi was well regarded in the academic community for taking the time to get these details right. All that is missing is the reader’s feeling of delight (if we’re being charitable) or self-righteousness (if we’re not) in the immersive, two-for-one nature of reading something set in the same foreign locale that produced the author. That is, the feeling that you are increasing your knowledge not only of Japanese literature but also of Japan.

Perhaps a Japanist would feel comfortable drawing some kind of conclusion from the fact that this book was so popular. I do not. But I found it to be an enjoyable and fascinating look at the life of Chinggis Khan, and the book’s language of origin, in regard to that basic fact, is neither here nor there.

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

A Sort of Dessert

Eat This Book

“Some ethical vegetarians (not all and perhaps not the majority) can certainly be considered religious fundamentalists who attach the greatest importance to their convictions and believe that they must spread their gospel throughout the world.” — Dominique Lestel

This week, our featured book is Eat This Book: A Carnivore’s Manifesto, by Dominique Lestel, translated by Gary Steiner. For today’s post, we have excerpted Lestel’s afterword: “A Sort of Dessert.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Eat This Book!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

The Vegetarian’s Unacceptable Arrogance

The following is an excerpt from Eat This Book: A Carnivore’s Manifesto by Dominique Lestel and translated by Gary Steiner.

The Vegetarian’s Unacceptable Arrogance

Generally speaking, the vegetarian, like the humanist, adopts an attitude of unacceptable arrogance when she makes a moral judgment about how life ought to be and how other beings ought to behave, for in doing so she places herself above other beings

This vegetarian is an omnivorous animal who considers the dietary regimen of her species to be immoral. Such a “demonization” of the natural is not without precedent. We have seen movements campaign against sexuality (even though it is a normal form of behavior) and in favor of the subservience of women to men (even though, from a biopsychological point of view, women are perfectly autonomous and stand in need of no symbiosis with a human being). One may think that it is preferable not to eat meat, and that is perfectly acceptable; but it is only with difficulty that one can turn this position into a major ethical choice. The regime of meat eating is part of what it means to be human today, whether one likes it or not: we have an enzyme for digesting elastin, a fiber of animal origin, and we need vitamin B, a molecule produced exclusively by animals.

Donna Haraway makes the same point when she notes that in denying a specific feature of the living the vegetarian’s position is fundamentally a fatal ideology. As she argues, there is not nor has there ever been a living being that lives without exploiting at least one other living being. In this respect, the vegetarian purports to want to protect living beings at all costs but is in fact opposed to them.

As the American poet Gary Snyder says facetiously, “Everything that breathes is hungry”! Eating—that is, eating other living beings—is part of animal life, and the desire to change life reflects unacceptable vanity. Buddhism, whose adherents include Gary Snyder, is aware of the impossibility of eradicating all suffering, and it has never issued the demand that suffering be eliminated; it satisfies itself with the endeavor to reduce suffering within the limits of what is possible and reasonable for us to do, and it is especially concerned with eliminating needless suffering.

For the feminist Sharon Welch, we are not capable of changing in a unilateral way. The ethics of control, which seeks to reach its objective without taking others into account, needs to be replaced by an ethic of risk, which accepts the fact that our ability to change ourselves and the world is limited but also requires us to take full responsibility for our actions.

Vegetarians systematically overlook the fact that eating meat has a fundamental significance and that it teaches us a lesson about humility in that it reminds us of the interdependence of all living beings.

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

A Sort of Apéritif

Eat This Book

“The ethical vegetarian’s position is tenable only if it is radical, but its very radicality is completely unacceptable for the majority of vegetarians. For this position is antianimal. Here at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it revives the great frontier traced between human and animal by putting it into up-to-date terms, even though everything today shows any such frontier to be insubstantial. Nonetheless, the majority of vegetarians I know sincerely love animals. Such a contradiction poses a problem.” — Dominique Lestel

This week, our featured book is Eat This Book: A Carnivore’s Manifesto, by Dominique Lestel, translated by Gary Steiner. To start the feature, we are happy to present Lestel’s introduction, “A Sort of Apéritif,” in which he lays out his project and situates it in the appropriate intellectual space.

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

New Book Tuesday! Kosher Food in America, Fiction in the World

Kosher USA

Our weekly listing of new titles now available:

Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food
Roger Horowitz

The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction
M. A. Orthofer

Wiring the World: The Social and Cultural Creation of Global Telegraph Networks
Simone M. Müller

Faces of Identity and Memory: The Cultural Heritage of Central and Eastern Europe
Edited by Ewa Kocój and Lukasz Gawel
(Jagiellonian University Press)

Online/Offline: Between Text and Experience: Writing as a Lifestyle
Edited by Jaroslaw Pluciennik and Peter Gärdenfors
(Jagiellonian University Press)

Political Science in Europe at the Beginning of the 21st Century
Edited by Barbara Krauz-Mozer, Malgorzata Kulakowska, Piotr Borowiec, and Pawel Scigaj
(Jagiellonian University Press)

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Book Giveaway! Eat This Book: A Carnivore’s Manifesto

Why America Misunderstands the World

“Witty and comical yet always serious in its defense of meat eating, Eat This Book is a pure joy to read.” — Brett Buchanan, Laurentian University

This week, our featured book is Eat This Book: A Carnivore’s Manifesto, by Dominique Lestel, translated by Gary Steiner. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Eat This Book. 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, March 11th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

We Are All Cannibals — Claude Levi-Strauss

We Are All Cannibals, Claude Levi-Strauss

“So varied are the modalities of cannibalism, so diverse its real or supposed functions, that we may come to doubt whether the notion of cannibalism as it is currently employed can be defined in a relatively precise manner. It dissolves or dissipates as soon as one attempts to grasp it. Cannibalism in itself has no objective reality. It is an ethno­centric category: it exists only in the eyes of the societies that pro­scribe it.”—Claude Lévi-Strauss

The following is the title essay from We Are All Cannibals: And Other Essays, by Claude Levi-Strauss. The essay was first published as “Siamo tutti cannibali,” in La Repubblica.

Until 1932 the mountains in the interior of New Guinea remained the last totally unknown region on the planet. Formidable natural defenses prevented access to them. Gold prospectors, followed shortly thereafter by missionaries, penetrated them first, but World War II interrupted these attempts. It was only in 1950 that we began to realize that this vast territory held almost a million people, speaking different languages that all belonged to the same family. These peoples were unaware of the existence of whites, whom they mistook for dei­ties or ghosts. Their customs, their beliefs, and their social organiza­tion would open up an unimagined field of study to ethnologists.

And not only to ethnologists. In 1956 an American biologist, Dr. Carleton Gajdusek, discovered an unknown disease in the region. In small populations distributed among some 160 villages over a territory of about 250 square miles, about thirty-five thousand individuals in all, one person in a hundred died every year of a degenerative disease of the central nervous system. It manifested itself as uncontrollable shaking (hence its name, “kuru,” which means “tremble” or “shiver” in the language of the principal group concerned) and a gradual loss of coordination of voluntary movements, followed by multiple infec­tions. Gajdusek, having at first believed that the malady was genetic in origin, demonstrated that it was caused by a slow-acting, particularly resistant virus, which no one was ever able to isolate.

This was the first time that a degenerative disease caused by a slow-acting virus had been identified in humans, but animal diseases such as scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease, which recently ravaged Great Britain, are very similar. And in human beings, another degen­erative ailment of the nervous system, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, has appeared sporadically throughout the world. In showing that, as with kuru, apes could be infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Gajdusek dem­onstrated that kuru was identical to that disease (a genetic predisposi­tion is not ruled out). For that discovery, he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for 1976.

In the case of kuru, the genetic hypothesis was not a good match for the statistics. The disease struck women and young children much more often than adult men, so much so that in the villages most affected, there was only one woman for two or three, or sometimes even four, men. Kuru, which seems to have appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century, therefore also had sociological consequences: a reduction in the rate of polygamy, a larger proportion of single men and widowers caring for families, greater freedom for women in the choice of a husband.

But if kuru was infectious in origin, the carrier(s) of the virus and the reason for its uneven distribution between the sexes and among different age groups still had to be found. Nothing turned up as a result of inquiries into diet and the unhealthy living conditions of the huts where the women and children resided (their husbands and fathers lived apart from them in a collective house; sexual relations took place in the forest or in gardens).

When ethnologists entered the region in turn, they advanced a dif­ferent hypothesis. Before the groups that had fallen victim to kuru had come under the control of the Australian administration, they had indulged in cannibalism. The act of eating the corpse of certain close relatives was a means of demonstrating affection and respect for them. The flesh, viscera, and brains were cooked; the bones were ground up and served with vegetables. The women were in charge of cutting up the corpses and of the other culinary operations, and they were par­ticularly fond of these macabre meals. It may be supposed that they became infected while handling contaminated brains and that they infected their young children through bodily contact.

It seems that these cannibalistic practices began in the region around the same time that kuru made its appearance. Furthermore, ever since the presence of whites put an end to cannibalism, the inci­dence of kuru has steadily declined, and the disease has now almost vanished. A causal link may therefore exist. Caution is required, how­ever, since the cannibalistic practices, described by indigenous infor­mants with a remarkable wealth of details, had already disappeared when the investigations began. No direct observation or experience in the field allows us to say that the problem is definitively solved.


Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Book Giveaway! Claude Lévi-Strauss’s “We Are All Cannibals”

This week we are featuring We Are All Cannibals: And Other Essays, by Claude Lévi-Strauss, translated by Jane Marie Todd, with a foreword by Maurice Olender.

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

We are also offering a FREE copy of We Are All Cannibals to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, March 18th at 1:00 pm.

For more on the book, here is the chapter “Santa Claus Burned as a Heretic”:

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Brawn in Civilization — A History of Virility

A History of Virility

“For muscle is everywhere. It jumped over the walls of the stadium and the ropes of the ring a long time ago. It reigns absolute on screens large and small…. The claim on muscles has been democra­tized, the practice of bodybuilding now tends to be widespread, and anatomical power is displayed as a continuous, obsessive, universal spectacle.”—Jean-Jacques Courtine

In his chapter “Brawn in Civilization” (see below), in A History of Virility, Jean-Jacques Courtine examines the phenomenon of body building and hyper-masculinity. Beginning with the creation of Muscle Beach in Venice, California, to today’s ubiquitous GNC, Courtine examines the social, political, and economic contexts that shape our understanding of muscle and what it means for our understanding of masculinity:

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

New Book Tuesday: Dark Ecology, New York’s Yiddish Theater, and More New Books!

Dark Ecology, Tim Morton

Our weekly listing of new titles from Columbia University Press and our distributed presses:

Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence
Timothy Morton

New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway
Edited by Edna Nahshon

The Columbia Companion to Modern Chinese Literature
Edited by Kirk A. Denton

Socialism of Fools: Capitalism and Modern Anti-Semitism
Michele Battini. Translated by Noor Mazhar and Isabella Vergnano

Palestinians in Syria: Nakba Memories of Shattered Communities
Anaheed Al-Hardan

Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China (Now available in paper)
Sheila A. Smith

The Miracles of the Kasuga Deity
Royall Tyler

Assisting Reform in Post-Communist Ukraine, 2000–2012: The Illusions of Donors and the Disillusion of Beneficiaries
Duncan Leitch. Foreword by Kataryna Wolczuk
(ibidem Press)

Beckett, Lacan, and the Voice
Llewellyn Brown. Foreword by Jean-Michel Rabaté
(ibidem Press)

The Belzec Death Camp: History, Biographies, Remembrance
Chris Webb. Foreword by Matthew Feldman
(ibidem Press)


Monday, March 14th, 2016

Michael Marder on Trump Metaphysics

Michael Marder

“Trump trumps metaphysics.”—Michael Marder

Michael Marder, author of The Philosopher’s Plant among other books in plant studies, recently turned his attention to another kind of life form: Donald Trump. In Trump Metaphysics, a recent essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books Philosophical Salon, Marder looks at metaphysics as a way to understand Trump’s recent electoral success. More precisely, he examines how Trump’s refutation of traditional metaphysics has exposed the failings of conventional politics and broadened his own appeal. As Marder writes, “Trump trumps metaphysics.”

Marder begins the essay by asking three questions, which he relates back to some of the core debates in metaphysics but have recently been linked to the candidacy of Donald Trump: “How to distinguish the real from the fake? What level of ignorance is simply unacceptable in public affairs? How to view matters of principle, or something like ‘the inner essence,’ behind changing appearances?” In considering the controversy around Trump’s evasiveness on his positions as well as his dispute with Romney in which counter-charges of being a fake or phony were leveled, Marder comes back to metaphysics’ interest in the authentic self. Marder writes:

It is simply futile to chastise Trump from the standpoint of stale metaphysical values, because he embodies a system, which has a long time ago outgrown and abandoned these same values. What does it mean to decry a candidate for the office of president as a “fake” in a country where a Hollywood actor was president (more precisely, enacted the role of president), for two consecutive terms? Does it make sense to bemoan this candidate’s ignorance less than eight years after the end of George W. Bush’s terms in office? Where is the logic of accusing him of vulgarity when the official pick of the Republican establishment for the presidential race hints at differences in penis sizes as momentous for the outcome of the contest?


Monday, March 14th, 2016

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “A History of Virility”

This week we are featuring A History of Virility, edited by Alain Corbin, Jean-Jacques Courtine, Georges Vigarello; and translated by Keith Cohen.

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

We are also offering a FREE copy of A History of Virility 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, March 16th at 1:00 pm.

For more on the book, here is the chapter “Working-Class Virility,” by Thierry Pillon:

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Five Aftershocks in Japan: Five Years After the Fukushima Disaster

Today, in memory of the Fukushima disaster, marketing intern Kalle Mattila has delved into five aftershocks as described by Hideo Furukawa, author of a recent Columbia UP book: Horses, Horses in the End the Light Remains Pure.

Hideo Furukawa is a novelist from Fukushima, the center of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown that devastated northeast Japan on March 11, 2011. His new book, Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure: A Tale that Begins with Fukushima, is a fusion of fiction, history, and memoir in post-3/11 Japan.


“When someone from Fukushima tries to make a reservation at a hotel in a different prefecture, they’re told they can’t stay there. When they try to go to a gas station in another prefecture, they’re told that cars with Fukushima plates can’t fill up there. I’ve heard people say that women from Fukushima will have trouble getting married because of the belief that the radiation might affect their future children. The people who think this way might represent a minuscule minority of the whole country, but for me the saddest part is that because of the radiation leak we have lost that sense of unity that we had after the earthquake. As the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami, the people of Japan had the world’s sympathy. I still believed that if we joined together we could bring things back to the way they used to be.” (The Nation)


“All of the electric output from the Fukushima Nuclear plant was destined for Tokyo—indeed, the power plant is administered not by any local entity but by Tokyo Electric Power Company, which means that the most insidious changes from the radiation, which affect every aspect of the living beings of Fukushima, are caused solely by and for Tokyo.”


“I didn’t expect these sorts of horses: refugee horses, horses that had been driven out by the tsunami, injured horses. Some were in the pasture, some were in stables. The stables were being managed by an NPO. Young S had heard that volunteers were taking care of the horses. I realized only later that the horses being cared for here had been temporarily evacuated to a separate prefecture in a forced immigration, probably one step toward becoming permanent evacuees, outside Fukushima Prefecture.

“Hair loss. Easy to deduce that this was a symptom of stress. From fear, I assume. There was hair there on the tip of its muzzle. There was, of course, hair covering its body, and bangs, but also transparent hairs sticking out from its chin, like cat whiskers. Ten or so. I didn’t know that horses had hair like that, like whiskers.

“I assume he was frightened. I looked down at his feet. I could see that he was not using all the available area. He stayed in one space, the area right near the entrance, the space, that is, where he could be petted, where he could be in contact with those who came to visit. Back and forth, endlessly, in the confined space no larger than two square meters, kicking the ground with his hooves.”


“Twenty-eight elementary and preschools within the Kōriyama city limits would have the surfaces of their open schoolyards removed. They were going to remove of the top layer of soil on the playgrounds because they had become repositories of radioactive material. Although I didn’t hear about this through newspaper reports, I later learned that heavy machinery also entered the grounds of the elementary school where I had spent six years. I imagined what it must look like. A bulldozer is scraping the open spaces of my school. Layer upon layer.” (The Nation)

“One of the rituals of grade school in Japan is for the students to fill up a time capsule at graduation and bury it in the ground at school. They are supposed to dig it up in twenty years, but in my school the ground that held our memories was contaminated by radiation. The bulldozers carted it all away.”


“One positive, unexpected outcome of the 3.11 disaster was that it promoted another, or new, image of Japanese people to other countries. I think this was due simply to the fact that the disaster hit no other region but Tohoku, whose people are known for characteristics that surprised the foreign media: they are patient, extremely well-mannered, unselfish, cooperative, and so forth. Those virtues might not be the first image people in other countries have of ‘Japanese’ people before 3.11, though these are very Japanese in my view.” (Asymptote)

The Nation

Read an excerpt here.
See Furukawa’s NY author tour schedule here.

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

The American Prism

Why America Misunderstands the World

“A nation’s culture—which itself has been shaped by all of the physical, political, and historical circumstances that have made that nation what it is—powerfully influences its citizens’ perceptions. A culture determines much of what the people who are part of that culture take to be factual knowledge. American culture and everything that has gone into it constitute a prism that slants, distorts, and colors how Americans see what is around them. Sometimes the distortion is so great that they fail to see some things at all.” — Paul Pillar

This week, our featured book is Why America Misunderstand the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception, by Paul R. Pillar. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the first chapter, “The American Prism,” in which Pillar discusses how “the distorting and coloring prismatic effects of being an American … extend to how [Americans] perceive the world outside their national borders.”