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November 18th, 2016

University Press Roundup: #UPWeek 2016 Edition

It’s University Press Week 2016! In celebration of this year’s excellent UP Week Blog Tour, we are happy to present a special University Press Week UP Roundup. You should check out our contribution to the week on the innovative South Asia Across the Disciplines series, and, from a previous year’s UP Week, take a look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do our Roundup posts every Friday.

Northwestern University Press’s blog celebrates its partnership with the Evanston Historical Society through honoring Charles Gates Dawes. Dawes was awarded the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize, served as Vice President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge, and was a proud citizen of Evanston. Charles Gates Dawes: A Life, by Annette Dunlap, was recently published.

Rutgers University Press’s blog commemorates the 250th anniversary of Queen’s College, which would later come to be known as Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey. Rutgers University Press reflects on their eventful year, reminding readers of the publication Rutgers: A 250th Anniversary Portrait, an illustrated survey highlighting Rutgers’ achievements and history, in addition to Rutgers Since 1945: A History of the State University of New Jersey and Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History.

Fordham University Press’s blog emphasizes the importance of community through discussing the book Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930′s to the 1960′s. This book is an extension of the “Bronx African American History Project,” which has recorded over 300 interviews in its 14 years of existence. The experience of writing this book “affirmed our vision of this book as a true community product, one which people whose lives were highlighted in the book could claim as a window into the world they grew up in, and still look back upon with great affection and respect,” says co-author Mark Naison.

University of Toronto Press’s blog celebrates its partnership with the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. The post focuses on the importance of history and its role in education. “The Higher Education Division at University of Toronto Press believes in sharing knowledge by publishing accessible books for generations of students. The MNJcc believes in providing accessible programming for older generations. Together, these two communities have joined forces to provide accessible programming devoted to the sharing of knowledge.” Read the rest of this entry »

November 18th, 2016

Richard Plunz on Housing in New York City

A History of Housing, Richard Plunz

We conclude our week-long feature on New York City books with A History of Housing in New York City, by Richard Plunz, who recently appeared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the book.

In the interview, Plunz discussed the unique historical situation that New York City confronts today with a combination of a housing shortage and an affordability crisis. As Plunz explains, the efforts of Mayors Bloomberg and DeBlasio have largely been frustrated for a variety of political and economic reasons. With new little land in the City to build upon, solutions to the problem are somewhat elusive.

Plunz also talked about the future of public housing and ways in which neighborhood can become more integrated. Needless to say, the city’s most famous real-estate figure was also discussed and Plunz expressed skepticism that the president-elect would pay much attention to housing for those not in the upper classes.

Finally, Plunz considers his favorite part of the book, which was Bronx in the 1920s. It was during this period that many immigrants moved out of the Lower East Side and built great housing in the Bronx and created a vibrant community of associations and neighborhoods.

November 17th, 2016

The Prehistory of Brooklyn Bridge Park

A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park

We are continuing our focus on New York City books with A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park: How a Community Reclaimed and Transformed New York City’s Waterfront, Nancy Webster and David Shirley.

In the introduction, Webster and Shirley examine the prehistory to the park and how the area, which was once a bustling pier fell into disuse. By the 1970s, the piers had become abandoned and it was at this point that the Brooklyn community stepped in to imagine the space as a possible park on the water.

At the end of the introduction, we’ve included some images from how the park looks today.

November 17th, 2016

The SAAD Series and Collaborative Publishing: A #UPWeek 2016 Blog Tour Post


It’s the penultimate day of University Press Week 2016! All week long university presses have been participating in the UP Week Blog Tour. As always, we are thrilled to participate, and excited about our take on today’s blog post theme, “Throw Back to the Future.” In looking back over the history of the innovative South Asia Across the Disciplines series, a Mellon-funded collaborative project of Columbia University Press, the University of Chicago Press, and the University of California Press, we hope to potentially spark some thought about the future of collaborative projects between university presses in the future.

Make sure you check out the blogs of other presses posting today: Yale University Press, Indiana University Press, Seminary Co-op Bookstores, University of Michigan Press, IPR License, MIT Press, University of Toronto Press Journals, and the University of Georgia Press!

The SAAD Series and Collaborative Publishing

In 2008, Columbia University Press, the University of Chicago Press, and the University of California Press were awarded a grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create a new series of books showcasing exciting scholarship about South Asia across a wide range of fields. The South Asia Across the Disciplines series has published groundbreaking first monographs that aim to raise new questions for the field of South Asian studies for eight years.

While the series’ mission of publishing in an underserved scholarly field is a point of pride for all three of the contributing presses, so too is the unorthodox and innovative way that the series approaches the publication process. Scholars interested in submitting manuscripts for possible inclusion in the series submit their manuscript to the series rather than to any one of the three presses. Projects are considered by an editorial board of scholars from all three member institutions and are then published by the press whose expertise, backlist, and presence in the field will best serve the author and the book. Editors at all three presses help make this determination and then guide the projects through the publication process.

The SAAD series is, unfortunately, at something of a crossroads, as its funding is running short. We thought it would be particularly appropriate, then, to take this opportunity to take a look back at the series from a variety of points of view, including series editorial board members, authors, and editors who worked with books in the series, in order to showcase the way that this innovative project helped foster communities of scholars in the field of South Asian Studies, but also how it helped foster a unique publishing community. In a time when university presses are looking for new and exciting ways to collaborate with each other and with their institutions, the unique experience of publishing books in the SAAD series may provide a direction for presses to explore in their desire to continue to foster scholarly communities.

Sheldon Pollock is a member of the SAAD editorial board, the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia University, and author of many books, including A Rasa Reader: Classical Indian Aesthetics:

South Asia across the Disciplines was designed to address a series of opportunities and challenges specific to the organization, character, and production of knowledge about the subcontinent in American universities.

Organizationally, scholarship on South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) has been cultivated in depth at relatively few universities and has been published by relatively few presses. Combining the faculty resources of three of the strongest programs and presses for identifying outstanding new work, reviewing and editing manuscripts, and bringing them to the public has been one of SAAD’s most prominent innovations.

Conceptually, South Asia as an object of study has been divided up—not always beneficially—between disciplines and area programs for the past fifty years. SAAD has offered a way to transcend this diffurcation, and not only by its very existence as a series. The editors have actively encouraged scholarship that seeks to combine disciplinary and areal approaches, or to move beyond old dichotomies. This conceptual reorientation has been the hallmark of some of our most successful volumes.

Given the nature of academic publishing today, a substantial number of the first books that have appeared in SAAD—especially those in the hardest to publish domain, the non-modern humanistic–might never have received a hearing at these leading publishers in the absence of an endowed series. That several of these books have won major prizes from learned societies shows how justified that hearing has been.

Gauri Viswanathan is also member of the SAAD editorial board, Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities, and author of several books, including Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India

SAAD represents a unique collaboration between the three major university presses of Columbia, Chicago, and California, and between the South Asian faculty affiliated with them. The series arose out of a concern that the best South Asian scholarship, particularly by first-time authors, was either being marginalized or not getting published at all by a market driven US publishing industry. A generous grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, along with book subventions from the South Asia centers at Columbia, Chicago, and California, helped ensure the ongoing publication of the most outstanding scholarship on South Asia, spanning a wide array of academic fields. “Across the Disciplines” in our series title is not a mere characterization of disciplinary range but prioritizes the ability to speak to disciplines other than one’s own and perhaps even challenge their accepted categories.

A collaboration like SAAD has not been done before, to the best of my knowledge, and it has set the standard for the sharing of scholarly resources among universities. While we three series editors read all the manuscripts and discuss them among ourselves, which includes writing detailed comments for the benefit of the authors, we also solicit readings from our faculty in cases where their expertise bears directly on an author’s specialisation. The intention is to have the strongest possible manuscript in order to ensure press approval, which of course is dependent on outside readers reports. Admittedly, this is a long process, and we’ve struggled to cut down on the time without compromising on quality or rejecting manuscripts out of hand.

Personally, I must say that reading the books for this series has been one of my most rewarding academic experiences. I have learned a lot and been continually impressed with the cutting-edge work of young scholars, who boldly push boundaries to throw unexpected new light on well traversed areas of study. Other young scholars have unlocked new areas of research by turning their gaze on insufficiently studied figures, whose texts enable the writing of an expansive cultural historiography of South Asia. The impressive list of top prizes won by SAAD authors has been one of the crowning achievements of this series.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 16th, 2016

An Interview with Gayle Rogers, author of “Incomparable Empires”

Gayle Rogers, Incomparable Empires

“But we should ask ourselves why we (and anyone, globally) might wish to study foreign literatures? To make ourselves better, more well-rounded humans? That’s a lofty and often immeasurable goal. To understand better the cultures that we fear, the cultures of the markets our country is entering, to understand our own syncretistic pasts? All complicated, too. And then, how much is enough?”—Gayle Rogers

The following is an interview with Gayle Rogers, author of Incomparable Empires: Modernism and the Translation of Spanish and American Literature:

Question: What was the role of empire in shaping how Americans saw themselves and their culture over the past century?

Gayle Rogers: I have always had a profound interest in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the “splendid little war” that set into motion many trends that are still unfolding in our contemporary moment. I came across this amazing speech from 1899 by William Graham Sumner, a famous sociologist and anti-imperialist. It was called—and this is not a typo—“The Conquest of the United States by Spain.” Sumner believed that this new stage of American imperialism, marked by the country’s first overseas interventionist war, would ultimately ruin the country, just like imperialism had ruined Spain over the course of several centuries. He claimed that the United States had “beaten Spain in a military conflict” but was “submitting to be conquered by her on the field of ideas and policies.” In other words, we were on a course to become the new Spain—a formerly great empire that had gradually lost all of its foreign territories (including large swaths of the United States itself) and, at the turn of the twentieth century, found itself bankrupt, broken, and largely forgotten on the world stage.

This notion that a growing empire would cause America’s cultural ruin led me to the larger issues that this book takes up: namely, the relationship between geopolitical power (often exercised through imperialism) and literary eminence. A common narrative holds that the United States was a minor or second-rate literary scene at least until the late 1800s—that we were derivative, that we mostly imported British and French texts that held higher and more enduring cultural value. And then, we emerged onto the global literary stage right around the moment that we began acquiring overseas territories, consolidating our new territories and states in the west and southwest, and intervening all across the western hemisphere. In essence, against Sumner’s claims, American empire meant the birth of a globalized American literature.

Q: So, greater empire, greater literary prominence?

GR: The Spanish-American War looks like a well-placed axis in which the United States surges and Spain declines, with geopolitical and literary fortunes neatly yoked together in both cases. Of course, it’s not so simple, and as I knew from reading a good deal of literature of the early twentieth century, many leading authors believed that such a narrative was either horribly misleading or, if accurate, the signal of a terrible future for America in particular.

Q: To what extent are the imperial fortunes of Spain and the United States unique, or how do they speak to larger cultural or literary questions?

GR: I realized that this case study—the U.S. and Spain—actually framed a host of larger issues about the way we write literary histories: the models and assumptions we rely on, the trajectories and paths we follow in them. The modernist author John Dos Passos looked at the state of literature in the mid-1910s and concluded that great eras of empire actually strangle fruitful literary production, and so, he hoped that America’s new empire would quickly collapse in order to allow its literature to truly flourish. He saw a model in post-imperial Spain, where his peers like the novelist Pío Baroja were headlining what he believed was a new golden age of Spanish letters in the wake of an empire’s collapse.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 15th, 2016

A 19th Century Populist Revolt Against NYC’s Elite — An Excerpt from “In Pursuit of Privilege”

In Pursuit of Privilege, Clifton Hood

“The draft riots were carried out by desperate people who had serious grievances against the established order yet who lacked access to political and social channels for seeking redress for their grievances. Resorting to force because they had few alternatives, the rioters conducted reprisals against members of social groups and institutions whom they blamed for their suffering.”—Clifton Hood, In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis

One of the most violent challenges to New York City’s elite was during the Draft Riots in 1863. Clifton Hood writes about the riots in his new book In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis. In the passage below, Hood describes how white working-class frustrations led to violence against African Americans and the elite:

Irish immigrants lived in appalling poverty and endured ethnic and religious discrimination from the Protestant majority. In the six months since President Lincoln had made the abolition of slavery an official war aim by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, speeches by Fernando Wood and other Peace Democrats had stoked Irish fears that the freed slaves would compete for jobs and drive down wages. And now, with the passage of a conscription law designed to rectify the manpower shortages caused by the wartime slaughter, the federal government proposed to tear working-class men from their families and send them to the butcher’s yard, all, it seemed, to elevate African Americans above white workers.Worse yet was a provision of the conscription law permitting anyone who had been drafted to secure an exemption by paying a $300 waiver fee, a stipulation that put the burden of combat on the poor.

The draft riots were carried out by desperate people who had serious grievances against the established order yet who lacked access to political and social channels for seeking redress for their grievances. Resorting to force because they had few alternatives, the rioters conducted reprisals against members of social groups and institutions whom they blamed for their suffering. Mobs assaulted sites associated with the Republican Party, such as the offices of the New York Tribune and the home of its editor, Horace Greeley, and symbols of police and military authority, like police stations and draft offices. Yet their prime targets were African Americans. A large crowd attacked the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue, clubbing to death a nine-year-old girl who was discovered hiding under a bed. African American men were beaten and sometimes killed and mutilated. The bodies of African American men were hung from trees and lampposts. Their homes were destroyed. By the time that five regiments dispatched from the Gettysburg battlefield could restore calm, at least 105 people died and another 2,000 were injured.

To read more:

November 15th, 2016

New Book Tuesday: Russian Library, Love Letters from Golok, the Reagan Era, and More!

Between Dog and Wolf

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Between Dog and Wolf
Sasha Sokolov. Translated and annotated by Alexander Boguslawski.
(Russian Library)

Strolls with Pushkin
Andrei Sinyavsky. Translated by Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy and Slava I. Yastremski.
(Russian Library)

Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet
Holly Gayley

New in paperback
The Reagan Era: A History of the 1980s
Doug Rossinow

New in paperback
Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel
Héctor Hoyos

New in paperback
Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction
Thom van Dooren

Lesbian Decadence: Representations in Art and Literature of Fin-de-Siècle France
Nicole G. Albert. Translated by Nancy Erber and William A. Peniston.
(Harrington Park Press)

The Great Tradeoff: Confronting Moral Conflicts in the Era of Globalization
Steven R. Weisman
(Peterson Institute for International Economics)

Rich People Poor Countries: The Rise of Emerging-Market Tycoons and Their Mega Firms
Caroline Freund. Assisted by Sarah Oliver.
(Peterson Institute for International Economics)

Crafting a Global Field: Six Decades of the Comparative and International Education Society
Edited by Erwin H. Epstein
(Comparative Education Research Centre, Hong Kong University)

November 14th, 2016

Book(s) Giveaway! 3 New Books on New York City!

This week we are very excited to be featuring three new titles in New York City history: In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis, by Clifton Hood; A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park: How a Community Reclaimed and Transformed New York City’s Waterfront, by Nancy Webster and David Shirley; and the revised edition of A History of Housing in New York City, by Richard Plunz with a foreword by Kenneth T. Jackson.

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 each book to one lucky winner! To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, November 18 at 1:00 pm.

November 14th, 2016

Happy University Press Week!

University Press Week

Today kicks off the beginning of University Press Week 2016! The theme for this year’s celebration is Community,” and the week-long focus on university presses includes “How to Publish with a University Press,” an event at BookCulture in Manhattan presented by Columbia University Press and Fordham University Press, in which editors and authors from both presses will give a complete picture of what it takes to be published by a scholarly press; “Serious Books for the Serious Reader,” a webinar on how good books get from author to reader; “Scholars and Editors on Social Media,” which brings together editors and scholars to discuss the communities that form online via social media; a collaborative projects gallery featuring fascinating examples of how AAUP members contribute to many different communities; and a blog tour.

Today, the blog tour centers around “The People in Your Neighborhood,” and it includes posts from the following university presses: Northwestern University Press, Rutgers University Press, Fordham University Press, University of Toronto Press, University of Toronto Press Journals, Seminary Co-op Bookstores, Athabasca University Press, and the University of Florida Press.

November 11th, 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 (or, in this case, Monday).)

University of California Press’s blog features a post by Molly Dragiewicz, co-author of Abusive Endings: Separation and Divorce Violence against Women. This book examines domestic violence and the abuse that persists even after a relationship is dissolved. “One of the most pernicious misconceptions about woman abuse is that it ends when the couple breaks up,” says Dragiewicz. Dangerous attitudes surrounding violence against women can also be attributed to what Dragiewicz calls, “structural failures.” The tendency to blame victims for their role in their assault is often embedded in the perpetuation of language such as “it takes two to tango; she was asking for it; she made me do it.” In this post, Dragiewicz emphasizes the fact that domestic violence not only outlives a relationship, but also often escalates as a result of separation. Dragiewicz seeks to raise awareness of this issue and aims to “help move popular and professional discourse to take the next step on from awareness, recognizing the complexity of woman abuse as well as how it changes across the span of relationships.”

Amacon Book’s blog features an interview with Stephen Wunker, one of the authors of Jobs to Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation. “What’s great about using Jobs to be Done is that it gives you a common language to help build that culture of innovation, even where one has never existed before,” says Wunker, who seeks to strengthen relationships between companies and customers. Wunker’s advice for achieving a more innovative future is threefold: “First, get outside the office and talk to real customers. That gets overlooked way too often. Second, start thinking about how you might build a process to both understand and respond to customers’ jobs. If success isn’t repeatable, you’re going to waste a lot of resources on failure. Third, drop your industry-specific or product-specific way of looking at things.”

Anne M. Blankenship, author of Christianity, Social Justice, and the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II, recently published a post on the University of North Carolina Press’s blog. In this post, Blankenship writes about the importance of pilgrimage and the way in which it provides us with a connection to both the past and present. “Pilgrimages have become sites of resistance not only by reshaping the memory of an ethnicity’s disenfranchisement, but by employing remembrance in the fight for the civil rights of first themselves and then others.” A perfect example of this conception of pilgrimage is the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, where groups are able to discuss and share memories of the experiences of incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II. Not only is this pilgrimage significant in honoring the communal memory of Japanese American incarceration, but it also serves to support the experiences of other minority groups. According to Bruce Embrey, co-chair of the Manzanar Pilgrimage, “Remembering is not passive. We must act on our memories. We must stand, today, with all those who face civil rights abuses, stand with those who are unjustly accused or persecuted simply because of their faith, their birthplace, or ancestry.” Representatives from local Native American tribes and the Muslim Public Affairs Council have delivered speeches at Manzanar ceremonies, and in 2002, “verses from the Qur’an were read alongside Buddhist and Christian scripture during the 2002 memorial services.” Embrey’s words have been put into action.

University of Michigan Press’s blog recently posted an interview with William Cheng, author of Just Vibrations: The Purpose of Sounding Good and the recipient of this year’s Philip Brett Award from the American Musicological Society. Cheng is the youngest and the first two-time winner of this award. “My view is that music should be treated as neither a necessary nor sufficient entity for being human and humane. Too often, however, we witness dehumanizing and ableist rhetoric piled upon peers who do not showcase narrow conventions of musical taste, proclivity, or capability.” Cheng challenges us to approach our interactions with others in the way we would sample new music. “The next time you hear someone say something that you think is nonsense or uninformed or inarticulate, listen again, if you’re so inclined. It’s what we’d do with a piece of music or with a poem. Our peers in society deserve no less.”

Coll Thrush, author of Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of the Empire, composed a post on Yale University Press’s blog. In this post, Thrush sheds light on London’s rich Indigenous fabric and discusses the close relationship between London’s Urban and Indigenous histories. John Dee, who gave rise to the term “The Brytish Empyre,” is Thrush’s primary example of the interplay between Urban and Indigenous spheres. “Among [John Dee’s] possessions was an obsidian mirror that somehow found its way from the Aztec Empire to Dee’s London home. From before its inception, London’s colonial project was deeply linked to Indigenous people, places, and things.” Thrush’s post highlights the diverse group of individuals who travelled to London. Some were captives, others were diplomats. Even performers who looked to pursue a career on London’s main stages, contributed to its Indigenous history. “Their stories show how even in a place like London, we can find Indigenous history—past, present, and future—and even rethink the history of one of the world’s great cities.”

Oxford University Press’s blog features a post on the evolution of memory and its relationship to the brain. The cerebral cortex has been the long-standing explanation for our ability to retain memories and form perceptions; however, this post suggests an alternate approach in studying the role of the brain in human memory. “Evolution has led to different parts of the cortex specializing in distinct kinds of neural representations.” These representations “correspond to the information processed and stored by a network of neurons, and they underpin our memories as well as our ability to perceive the world and control our actions.” The authors of this post present a list of representational systems in the brain. This post also highlights the importance of studying evolutionary history in order to understand more about biological function. “By embracing all of our ancestors we can both enlarge our identity and develop a deeper appreciation of how evolution produced our memories, our complex cultures, and the stories of our lives.”

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

November 11th, 2016

Introducing “The Antiegalitarian Mutation”

The Antiegalitarian Mutation

“Can democracy fail to resist the increase in inequality and poverty without becoming distorted? And for how long will democracy be able to withstand the pressure of all the political movements that call for the exclusion, rather than the inclusion, of entire segments of the world population without transmuting into something other than itself? And finally, why is it in the name of pre-political entities, such as ethnicity, the ancestral bond with a territory, or blind allegiance to a specific interpretation of a sacred text, that exclusion is desired?” — Nadia Urbinati

This week, our featured book is The Antiegalitarian Mutation: The Failure of Institutional Politics in Liberal Democracies, by Nadia Urbinati and Arturo Zampaglione, translated by Martin Thom. Today, we are happy to present a short essay introducing Urbinati’s project.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Antiegalitarian Mutation!

Over a span of a hundred years, two vastly different U.S. presidents chose Osawatomie, a small settlement located at the confluence of two rivers in southern Kansas, as an emblem of their country’s bond of solidarity. In Osawatomie, whose name is a compound of two Native American tribes, the Osage and the Pottawatomie, both presidents spoke of the common good as a higher value than the preferences of the isolated individual. In a speech that is often quoted as an example of presidential eloquence, on August 31, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, for the first time explicitly warned the United States against its libertarian temptations: only a strong government, he argued, would be able to regulate the economy and guarantee social justice. It was again in Osawatomie that, on December 6, 2011, Barack Obama, a Democratic president, voiced his most passionate denunciation of rising economic inequality. “This is the defining issue of our time,” Obama thundered, to rapturous applause. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.” Read the rest of this entry »

November 10th, 2016

Public Reason, Public Schooling, and Walls

The Antiegalitarian Mutation

“Those who raise anti-immigration walls, like the one California has built on the Mexican border, think that they will be able to preserve their privileges large and small if, and for so long as, only they enjoy them. They bring out one of the most flagrant contradictions that afflict our affluent democratic societies: that which sees, on the one hand, a refined culture that shares universalistic and cosmopolitan values and that nonetheless remains the appanage of a minority, often a snobbish one; but that sees, on the other hand, a widely diffused popular culture that, though intoxicated by global consumerism, is terrified by globalization and objectively weak in front of the challenges arising through the opening of borders to cheap labor.” — Nadia Urbinati

This week, our featured book is The Antiegalitarian Mutation: The Failure of Institutional Politics in Liberal Democracies, by Nadia Urbinati and Arturo Zampaglione, translated by Martin Thom. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the first chapter, in which Urbinati and Zampaglione discuss public reason and public education, the significance of anti-immigration walls, and the “new nationalisms” that arise with the unchecked growth of a financial and economic global power.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Antiegalitarian Mutation!

November 10th, 2016

Interview with Donal Harris, author of “On Company Time”

Donal Harris, On Company TIme

“New media technologies and working conditions re-balance the relationship between journalism and literary writing.”—Donal Harris

The following is an interview with Donal Harris, author of On Company Time: American Modernism in the Big Magazines. In the book, Harris tells the story of American modernism from inside the offices and on the pages of the most successful and stylish magazines of the twentieth century, looking at the careers of writers such as Willa Cather, W. E. B. Du Bois, Jessie Fauset, James Agee, T. S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway.:

Question: How did your interest in journalism begin?

Donal Harris: My first white-collar job during and after college was at a local weekly newspaper. I started as a reporter and feature writer, and I eventually served in just about every possible capacity: copy editor, section editor, page designer, managing editor. I even made a couple (unsuccessful) advertising calls. I was better at some of those jobs than others, but they showed me that producing a paper every week is exhausting, exhilarating work that requires a special approach to reading and writing. It also exposed me to the wide range of work that gets lumped under a term like “journalism.”

Q: How did the literary element come in?

DH: That begins with James Agee, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Death in the Family, and co-authored an extremely strange book about Alabama sharecroppers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Famous Men explicitly denounces how newspapers and magazines represented the plight of poor folks during the Great Depression, so I was surprised when I discovered that the original idea for the book was assigned to him as a story for Fortune magazine. Fortune was published by Time Incorporated, at the time the largest media company in the United States, and it turns out that Agee worked at Time Inc. in some capacity for most of his adult life. On Company Time, at least in part, began as my attempt to make sense of how Agee’s and other writers’ (including Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, W. E. B. Dubois, and T. S. Eliot) day jobs fed into their attitudes about “serious” writing outside of work.

Q: But Agee deeply resented working for Time Inc., right? Is that a common theme in the writers you discuss, that they disparage their experiences in journalism?

Donal Harris: We’d miss a lot of what’s interesting about the intersection of journalism and literature in the twentieth century if we took the writers at their word.

Agee did often badmouth Time Inc. and especially Henry Luce, its co-founder. But Agee also often bragged about how good he was at the job, and how generous the company was in regards to pay (and paid leave). While digging through his files at the University of Tennessee, I found an office memo, on Time Inc. letterhead, that touted a cover story Agee wrote as the ideal piece of Time writing. I think it says a lot about his relationship with Time that, first, the memo exists and, second, that he saved it.

Your larger point is valid, though. Agee’s showy anti-journalistic stance is one note in a long chorus about the terrible effects of journalism—or more generally “mass culture” writing—on literary writing. Journalism is commercial so it privileges sensationalism; it’s presentist so it doesn’t understand history; it’s focused on information, so the style is boring. It’s worth noting that the feeling of superiority works the other way, too. There are obvious claims one could make about the “usefulness” of journalistic work and writing – journalism is the fourth pillar of democracy, right? But, in the period I cover, there are also a number of arguments about the superiority of journalism’s style. It strives for clear and transparent language, while novels and poems in the early twentieth century are often purposefully difficult.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 9th, 2016

Mother Teresa’s Miracles

The Miracle Myth

“How should one go about justifying belief in miracles? As the Vatican approaches this question, one must look for evidence that, first, some event has occurred for which there is no scientific explanation; and second, that the event occurred as a result of prayer to the deceased candidate for sainthood. Philosophers have a name for the inference involved in this kind of search. We call it an inference to the best explanation.” — Larry Shapiro

This week, our featured book is The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified, by Larry Shapiro.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Miracle Myth.

Mother Teresa’s Miracles
By Larry Shapiro

Nothing against Mother Teresa, whose elevation to sainthood seems as deserving as any, but I think a condition for sainthood – the performance of at least two miracles – is about as silly as they come. To understand why, let’s begin with a crucial distinction – a distinction between the existence of a miracle and the justification for believing in a miracle. Some event may have occurred and yet believing so could still be unjustified. Perhaps it rained on this date in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Still, we are not justified in believing that it did. Why not? We lack any evidence for the occurrence. No archaeologist has discovered a scrap of papyrus on which was scrawled “Today, September XX, 16 a.d. in Jerusalem it rained.” Nor is there a record of testimony to the event. There’s simply no reason to think that it did rain in Jerusalem on this day 2000 years ago.

With respect to miracles, this distinction between an event’s occurring and justification for believing that the event has occurred plays out like this. Perhaps Mother Teresa did perform two miraculous healings. However, we may still ask whether anyone is justified in believing so. More specifically, we should wonder whether the investigators whom the Vatican assigned to research the case for Mother Teresa’s canonization were justified in their eventual belief that she had performed the miracles attributed to her. Obviously, if they were not justified, then their conclusions should be disregarded. Read the rest of this entry »

November 9th, 2016

Book Giveaway! The Antiegalitarian Mutation, by Nadia Urbinati and Arturo Zampaglione

The Antiegalitarian Mutation

“Nadia Urbinati is one of the most original thinkers of representative democracy in our time. In this set of wide-ranging and stimulating conversations, she uses theory and insights drawn from across the history of political thought to illuminate the profound challenges to political equality that we are witnessing in both Europe and the Americas today.” — Jan-Werner Müller, author of Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe

This week, our featured book is The Antiegalitarian Mutation: The Failure of Institutional Politics in Liberal Democracies, by Nadia Urbinati and Arturo Zampaglione, translated by Martin Thom. 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.

November 8th, 2016

Introducing “The Miracle Myth”

The Miracle Myth

“[M]ore people believe in heaven than in hell not because they have reasons to believe in one and not the other but because they want it to be true that there’s a heaven and don’t want it to be true that there’s a hell. In other words, the people who believe in heaven but not hell have abandoned reason and instead hang their belief on nothing more than hope—hope that because the idea of heaven is so nice, it must exist, and hope that because the idea of hell is so horrible, it must not exist.” — Larry Shapiro

This week, our featured book is The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified, by Larry Shapiro.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Miracle Myth.

November 8th, 2016

New Book Tuesday: The Best American Magazine Writing 2016, The Bhagavata Purana, Columbia in Manhattanville, and More!

The Best American Magazine Writing 2016

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

The Best American Magazine Writing 2016
Edited by Sid Holt for the American Society of Magazine Editors. Introduction by Roger Hodge, national editor of The Intercept.

Little Magazine, World Form
Eric Bulson

The Bhagavata Purana: Selected Readings
Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey

A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism
Edited by Eric Hayot and Rebecca L. Walkowitz

The Intimate Universal: The Hidden Porosity Among Religion, Art, Philosophy, and Politics
William Desmond

New in paperback
Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites: Religion, Politics, and Conflict Resolution
Edited by Elazar Barkan and Karen Barkey

Columbia in Manhattanville
Edited by Caitlin Blanchfield
(Columbia Books on Architecture and the City)

November 7th, 2016

Book Giveaway! The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified

The Miracle Myth

“Shapiro does more than hammer some more nails in the coffin of miracles that David Hume fashioned. He marshals much of what we have learned about inference to the best explanation and Bayes’s theorem in the 270 years since Hume’s inquiry. Yet he does it with Hume’s lightness of touch, a wealth of relevant examples of contemporary credulousness, and no equations. It is a book to enjoy and then pass on to friends given to wishful thinking.” — Alex Rosenberg, author of The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions

This week, our featured book is The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified, by Larry Shapiro. 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.

November 4th, 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 (or, in this case, Monday).)

MIT Press’s blog features an interview with Keith E. Stanovich, Richard F. West, and Maggie E. Toplak, authors of the book The Rationality Quotient: Toward a Test of Rational Thinking. This book explores our understanding of cognitive functions in addition to the way in which rational thinking and intelligence can be measured. Stanovich, West, and Toplak clarify their aim in writing this book. “Our goal always has been to give the concept of rationality a fair hearing— almost as if it had been proposed prior to intelligence.” The authors also explain the dangers behind labelling all forms of thought as “intelligent.” “Rational thinking skills vanish under permissive definitions of intelligence. Rationality assessments become part of intelligence if the latter is conceptualized broadly.”

This week, Johns Hopkins University Press published a post by Dinah Miller, instructor in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and co-author of Committed: The Battle over Involuntary Psychiatric Care. While some patients are grateful for involuntary care, others view the experience as restricting, traumatizing, and humiliating. According to Miller, “the issue is not black-and-white and we hope to start a discussion that will not be so polarized and will allow all voices to be heard at the table.” Miller features these voices through the highly personal nature of her book. “I wanted a book about the human beings and their stories– who they are and how forced care touched the lives of patients, family members, doctors, the police officers who brought the patients to the ER and the judges who retained them.” How did she go about compiling all of these experiences? “I cajoled people into talking to me, made call after call which sometimes led to dead ends, trolled message boards, shadowed a variety of psychiatrists, judges and a crisis intervention police officer, attended legislative hearings, and sat in on government work groups,” says Miller. “We finally realized we had to pick a point and just stop writing, knowing that it would be impossible to get the book out completely up to date because the target of involuntary care and its related aspects move every day.”

Oxford University Press’s blog recently published a post by Jon Montgomery and David Bodznick, authors of the book Evolution of the Cerebellar Sense of Self. In this post, Montgomery and Bodznick discuss the cerebellum’s function, in addition to its role in our understanding of human identity. The authors approach the development of the cerebellum from a biological perspective. “Early lineages, like lamprey, have cerebellum-like structures in their hindbrain, but no cerebellum. Sharks and rays have both cerebellum-like structures and a true cerebellum. So cerebellum evolved in concert with jaws and paired fins.” This post also examines the relationship between biological functions and our sense of self. “The idea of ‘cerebellar sense of self’, captures the key elements of distinguishing self and other in our sensory interactions with the world. Both in the way that the shark distinguishes ‘prey’ from ‘self’ in its electrosensory system, but also in the way we distinguish the sensory consequences of what we do, from sensory consequences of what is done to us.”

The University of North Carolina Press’s blog features a post by John Mac Kilgore, the author of Mania for Freedom: American Literatures of Enthusiasm from the Revolution to the Civil War. In this post, Kilgore comments on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular Broadway musical, Hamilton. According to Kilgore, Alexander Hamilton’s portrayal in the musical was skewed. “Hamilton is the voice of ‘the 1%’ par excellence. This is a man who wanted to create a ‘fiscal-military state.’ A man who opposed a Bill of Rights. A man who desired to integrate banking interests, patrician power, and the ‘federal government.’” Kilgore views Hamilton’s portrayal of Alexander Hamilton as one that “relies heavily on the portrait of Hamilton as an immigrant himself, a self-made man of humble origins, as if this bootstrap narrative were crucial to his political identity.”

The life of Arthur Johnson, a sixty-four year old man who spent thirty-seven years in solitary confinement, is the subject of a recent Yale University Press blog post. This post was written by Keramet Reiter, the author of 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Reiter begins her post by reminding readers that Johnson’s horrifying experience in solitary confinement “is disturbingly common.” She addresses this issue through highlighting the injustices faced by inmates, like Johnson, who were sentenced to a life in prison at a very young age. “States have only recently began to reconsider whether human brains are fully developed at seventeen or eighteen, and whether kids of that age should be eligible for such long sentences,” she states. Attempts to advocate on behalf of Johnson’s liberation have increased over the years. Bret Grote, an attorney with the Abolitionist Law Center in Pennsylvania, argued on behalf of Johnson’s liberation, on the grounds that “Johnson’s constitutional rights had been violated.” His efforts led to Johnson’s release. Is progress being made? According to Reiter, “the question is whether these reforms will be sustainable in light of the pervasive and persistent practice of solitary confinement across the United States.”

Beacon Broadside Press’s blog features an interview with Adrienne Berard, the author of the book Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South. This book recreates the untold story of the Lum family, a family of Chinese immigrants who played a key role in the desegregation of Southern schools during the 1920s. Berard’s connection to this family is highly personal. “My grandmother went to school in the same district as the case I explore in the book,” says Berard. In discussing her methods of research, Berard calls our attention to the limitations of existing historical documents. “Some crucial records were never kept, and the accuracy of the records that exist is questionable. The racism of their time affected how their story was remembered, or in this case, not remembered.” When asked about the Lum family’s relevance to current issues, Berard states, “The rhetoric surrounding immigrants today, the efforts of entire political parties to stoke a fear of immigrants, mirrors the kind of xenophobia and racism the Lum family would have experienced in the 1920s. It would be great to say that the issues brought forward by the Gong Lum v. Rice case have no relevance today, but unfortunately the case is more relevant than ever.”

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

November 3rd, 2016

Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize for Literature

The Scandal of Reason

The following is a guest post from Albena Azmanova, author of The Scandal of Reason: A Critical Theory of Political Judgment:

Awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for literature was an excellent idea – to give him the opportunity to turn it down.

The commotion around Bob Dylan’s winning the Nobel Prize for literature has been centered on whether the literary merits of his art justified the Nobel committee’s choice. As Peter Godwin put it, ‘judged purely on their literary merit, other American contenders, Philip Roth and Don DeLillo for example, are, I think, more deserving candidates.” However, as he grudgingly admits, “Nobel committee members were within their rubric to consider Dylan’s oeuvre. And some of his lyrics, at their best, do enter the literary realm’. The psychedelic humanism of ‘Sad Eyes Lady of the Lowlands’ might not be to everybody’s taste. But those who only reluctantly endorse the surprising choice of the Nobel committee overlook an important point — the criteria for the prize go beyond literary merit, they require also a ‘strong idealistic dimension’, and ‘benefit to humanity’. Here, few measure up to Dylan’s oeuvre (“A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’, ‘Blowin in the Wind’) and the place it held in the anti-war and civil-rights battles of the 60s and 70s.

The No camp extended its objections to the impact of the award on society, as an NYT editorial alleged that “When the Nobel committee gives the literature prize to a musician, it misses the opportunity to honor a writer”. Driven by a concern with the decline in reading in general, the author notes that failing to give the award to a ‘real’ writer results in a failure to boost much-needed sales of good literature. Moreover, it is also a missed opportunity to properly educate the young, the argument goes: the young listen and watch, they don’t read, the Nobel committee’s choice of a writer who delivers his/her work via music seems to encourage the process of destruction of the literary form.

These lamentations contain two dangerous implications that need to be openly refuted. First: the reproach that an award for literature is given to a musician is afflicted by a reverence to professionalization which has done much damage to creativity in the arts and sciences. Second, the regrets about the Nobel Committee’s missing the opportunity to educate the young contain the presupposition that a private body with a specialized mandate (as is the Nobel Foundation), should go beyond, and maybe against its mandate to take care of something that is not it’s business to determine – the public good. Thankfully, the Nobel Committee understands that it is neither its prerogative nor its duty to steer policy and fix social problems, but to reward achievement according to a limited, be it not very clear, set of standards. And so it has done its job competently and independently of the prejudices of public opinion when bestowing the Prize for literature on Bob Dylan.

Yet Dylan should refuse the magnanimous prize for two solid reasons. The first is consistency to the dislike he has expressed to veneration. “I was sick of the way my lyrics had been extrapolated, their meanings subverted into polemics and that I had been anointed as the Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest, the Czar of Dissent, the Duke of Disobedience, Leader of the Freeloaders, Kaiser of Apostasy, Archbishop of Anarchy, the Big Cheese,” he writes in his memoir (Chronicles: Volume One).

Second, and more importantly: the very idea of an arms manufacturer (as Alfred Nobel was), bestowing awards on people who confer the “greatest benefit on mankind” is sardonic, and acutely so in the case of Dylan – the prominent anti-war voice of a whole generation. The prize should be boycotted by those to whom it is offered, if they do believe their works to be of benefit to mankind. Otherwise they become complicit with the ‘merchant of death’, as Alfred Nobel was described in an obituary erroneously issued while he was alive. The argument that money does not smell might be logically sound but it is ethically rotten.

After a pregnant spell of silence, Bob Dylan has reportedly committed to attending the ceremony in December. There is still hope that he might refuse and publicly renounce the prize. Preferably with a song titled “Trinkets from the Merchant of Death – No Thanks.”