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March 9th, 2017

Reconstructing Strangelove



Reconstructing Strangelove

The following is an interview with Mick Broderick, author of Reconstructing Strangelove: Inside Stanley Kubrick’s “Nightmare Comedy”:

What attracted you to this project and how did it evolve over time?

I grew up in Australia during the 1960s, so I was a cold war kid. The year I was born (in Melbourne), Stanley Kramer brought Gregory Peck, Ava Gardiner, Fred Astair, Anthony Perkins and Donna Anderson to town to film On the Beach. It was a big deal for the Australian postwar generation as it seemed to put Melbourne on the map. At that time Australia was awash with the cultural – and increasingly the political – influence of America, from Hollywood movies and rock and roll to controversially partnering with the USA in the war in Vietnam. As a child I was fascinated by the science fiction and espionage shows that Australian television ran. I saw endless re-runs of programs such as The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. I was also part of the ‘sick’ generation, growing up with Mad magazine and the deliberate campiness of the Batman series. At some point I realized that many of these TV programs involved plots about nuclear weapons and related atomic technologies. Sometime in the 1970s while in my early teens I saw Dr. Strangelove on commercial television and remember being simultaneously enthralled by the suspense, and simultaneously amused by the comic antics and sexual jokes that my pubescent mind strove to make sense of. Later, repeated viewings of Kubrick’s film on TV during the era of Watergate, rapprochement with China and the Soviets, and the withdrawal from Vietnam confirmed for me the outrageous hilarity of Strangelove’s script and its ongoing relevance.

The idea for a comprehensive, historical book on Dr. Strangelove stemmed from merging my twin interests in nuclear history and screen studies. In 1982 I had written a large undergraduate thesis on auteurism and Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre. I followed this up with a postgraduate thesis that analyzed what I called “nuclear movies” as a genre, including a chapter on Dr. Strangelove. In 1988 I published the first detailed reference work on atomic themes in cinema, Nuclear Movies, and updated this in 1991, cataloguing nearly a thousand feature-length dramas from around the world. I dedicated the book to Kubrick, “who taught me to start worrying”. Of all the nuclear movies I watched Strangelove seemed unsurpassed in capturing the essence of the nuclear mindset, not only throughout the cold war but a mindset still with us today.

What was your biggest surprise in writing the book?

I was staggered to learn that Kubrick had made concrete plans to relocate to Australia with his family in order to avoid what he anticipated would be a thermonuclear war between the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. in the early 1960s. This was no flight of fancy. While deeply immersed in the vexed problem of the “thermonuclear dilemma,” Kubrick saw the rising tensions in Berlin and what led to the Cuban Missile Crisis as the most dangerous period in humankind, and he was right! Throughout 1961-62 Kubrick liaised with Australian embassy officials, banks and tax advisors on his imminent move ‘downunder.’ He sought out information concerning possible projects, including the story of Ned Kelly, a notorious 19th Century bush-ranger. Kubrick calculated that Perth (the capital of Western Australia, where I currently live), would be the least likely location affected by fallout or prone to a Soviet attack. He established bank accounts and transferred funds. He obtained visas for himself, his wife and three daughters and was all set to go. Famous for not flying, Stanley had bought tickets on a cruise ship, but when he found out that he would have to share a bathroom, the trip was off! Apparently the idea of spending months at sea sharing toilet space with complete strangers was intolerable; he would much rather face thermonuclear war. But as his wife Christine recalled with some amusement, by that point the tension in Berlin has subsided.

I’ve pondered as a counterfactual history, in some parallel quantum universe, that Kubrick made it to Australia in late-1962 and set about producing a Strangelove-esque satire, but as he entered pre-production, the northern hemisphere was tragically and ironically engulfed in a thermonuclear war sparked by mistakes made in Berlin or Cuba. Had Kubrick completed such a film from the relative safety of Australia, his primary audience would no longer exist to see it.

The book draws from a considerable range of primary materials. How did you get access to these?

A year or two after Stanley Kubrick’s death in 1999, I contacted his eldest daughter, Katharina, through a newsgroup dedicated to Kubrick’s work. Katharina had engaged with this list to publicly dispel various rumors and factual errors about her father that had long circulated in the media. Katharina kindly arranged for me to pitch my manuscript proposal to her mother, Christiane, who accepted the idea and after the estate had managed to begin cataloguing the voluminous boxes of the filmmaker’s files and documents, I spent a fortnight researching at the family home north of London in April 2005. Around the same time I undertook research in the USA where I interviewed Kubrick’s early career producer-partner, James B. Harris, and his long-time attorney, Louis C. Blau. I also met and interviewed screenplay co-author Terry Southern’s wife Carol and son Nile. This led to further interviews with Strangelove film editor Anthony Harvey and titles and “pie fight” cut-up advertising artist Pablo Ferro. While in the U.K. I interviewed David George, the son of co-screenplay author Peter George (aka Peter Bryant), who had written the source novel for the movie (Red Alert aka Two Hours to Doom). Both David George and Nile Southern generously provided assistance in accessing their respective father’s archives.

Tell us something about your book’s historical veracity?

One of the benefits of Reconstructing Strangelove’s long gestational development was that as the years passed more and more historical material came to light from multiple, and sometimes unexpected, sources. From the late-1990s I had been following the post-cold war document declassifications being released online by the wonderful National Security Archive in Washington DC. When I learned in 2001 that President Dwight Eisenhower had issued a Top Secret pre-delegation authority to lower echelon commanders permitting them to “expend” nuclear weapons, it became crystal clear to me that George and Kubrick had legitimately premised their story upon an entirely plausible scenario – one where a paranoid U.S. Air Force general could unilaterally order his wing of B-52s to bomb Russia with thermonuclear weapons.

Another fundamental element of the Strangelove plot involved the concept of a special code used to safeguard nuclear weapons and that a dedicated radio communications device aboard the B-52 would interact with the arming mechanism. At the time of the film’s development through to theatrical release this officially unacknowledged mechanism was highly sensitive information and classified. The U.S. Air Force persuaded Columbia Pictures, the film’s backer and distributor, to add a silent rolling title at the beginning of the film boldly stating that the Air Force safeguards would prevent the events depicted in the film from ever occurring. We know now, from repeated declassifications of important departmental and agency records, and from oral histories, that this claim was patently false.

As part of his extensive research Kubrick had amassed a substantial library of works on nuclear and military strategy. He had met with key theorists in the field, including Thomas Schelling, Alastair Buchan and former RAND Corporation analyst Herman Kahn. Alongside Peter George’s practical military experience and service contacts in NATO, Kubrick had the ear of numerous experts but he had himself become highly proficient in comprehending and communicating the paradoxical, if not absurd, complexities of nuclear brinkmanship. A good deal of the genius of Dr. Strangelove, and its continued relevance today, stems from the film’s attention to detail, not only in historical accuracy and production design, but in the perverse and pervasive discourse of nuclear strategy.

March 7th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: Badiou and Cassin on Lacan, Islam as an American Religion, and More!



There's No Such Thing as a Sexual Relationship

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

There’s No Such Thing as a Sexual Relationship: Two Lessons on Lacan
Alain Badiou and Barbara Cassin. Translated by Susan Spitzer and Kenneth Reinhard. Introduction by Kenneth Reinhard.

Islam: An American Religion
Nadia Marzouki. Foreword by Olivier Roy.

Posthumous Life: Theorizing Beyond the Posthuman
Edited by Jami Weinstein and Claire Colebrook

Ghalib: Selected Poems and Letters
Ghalib. Translated by Frances W. Pritchett and Owen T. A. Cornwall.

Lust, Commerce, and Corruption: An Account of What I Have Seen and Heard, by an Edo Samurai, abridged edition
Edited and with an introduction by Mark Teeuwen and Kate Wildman Nakai. Translated by Mark Teeuwen, Kate Wildman Nakai, Fumiko Miyazaki, Anne Walthall, and John Breen.

The Levittowners: Ways of Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community
Herbert J. Gans. Foreword by Harvey Molotch.

Socialist Cosmopolitanism: The Chinese Literary Universe, 1945-1965
Nicolai Volland

Pier Paolo Pasolini: Performing Authorship
Gian Maria Annovi

March 3rd, 2017

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.)

In current affairs news, the Beacon Broadside Press cross-posted a piece by Jonathan Rosenblum, the author of the forthcoming Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement, on how it has been the politics of resistance, rather than necessarily the power of judiciary, which has obstructed President Trump’s travel ban. At the Yale University Press blog Amalia D. Kessler, author of A Revolution in Commerce: The Parisian Merchant Court and the Rise of Commercial Society in Eighteenth-Century France, asked whether we can equate adversarial politics with the pursuit of justice and inclusion. The Temple University Press cross-posted a Huffington Post piece by their author Crystal Marie Fleming (Resurrecting Slavery: Racial Legacies and White Supremacy in France) on the complicated state of racial-political discourse in France, which is characterized by what she calls “pretty words and magical thinking.”

To wrap up Black History Month, the University of Chicago Press blog hosted a fun resource: a list of black restauranteurs who worked in Charleston between 1880 and 1920, drawn from the research of David S. Shields, whose book The Culinarians: Lives and Careers from the First Age of American Fine Dining, is forthcoming in fall 2017. To celebrate the start of Women’s History Month in March, the NYU Press blog featured a guest post by Jill Norgren, author of Rebels at the Bar: The Fascinating, Forgotten Stories of America’s First Women Lawyers (2013), about Lavinia Goodell, the first woman to officially practice law in the state of Wisconsin.

For the theme of women’s history and coinciding with last weekend’s Academy Awards, the Cambridge University Press had a post by Michael J. Hogan, author of The Afterlife of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, about the building of the Kennedy brand and the surprisingly unfavorable view of the famous First Couple portrayed in Pablo Larraín’s recent film Jackie. There were also a few more anniversaries celebrated this week: the University Press of Kentucky commemorated the birthday of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) by sharing some wonderful Appalachian nursery rhymes, and the Oxford University Press unpacked why no-one tends to celebrate Michelangelo’s birthday.

From the grab-bag of the eye-catching and the odd: the University of Washington Press hosted a photo essay of how polar bears have been kept in zoos over the last two centuries. The Princeton University Press announced a trailer for their forthcoming translation of Andrea Carandini’s Atlas of Ancient Rome. And if you’re in Georgia (or, indeed, anywhere else), the University of Georgia Press posted an announcement of their new effort with Georgia Public Broadcasting: the Innovative Virtual Book Club.

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

March 3rd, 2017

A Media Roundup for Tainted Witness



Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

“Now that America has elected as its president a man who denigrates women and their bodies, who thinks women who exercise their reproductive rights should be “punished” and who spouts xenophobic and racist views, Gilmore’s insights are more pressing than ever. Tainted Witness is an important and timely book. If ever we needed evidence that the work of feminism is not yet done, this is it.” — Laura Frost

This week, we are featuring two exciting new books from our Gender and Culture Series: Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman, and Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore. Today, we have collected links and short excerpts from some of the great media attention Tainted Witness has received.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of both books!

In The Washington Post, Jill Filipovic believes that Tainted Witness “is a timely and necessary defense of the women whose voices are so often drowned out or shouted down”:

“Tainted Witness” arrives at the right time, at the front end of a rapidly building anti-feminist backlash. The ease with which so many Americans disregard or disbelieve women’s testimony was on clear display in November, when millions voted for Trump despite the accusations against him and his own claim, caught on video, that he had sexually assaulted women. This book provides a crucial feminist critique of the impossible and ever-shifting standards to which women who offer life testimony are held, along with guidance on how to navigate a path forward….

These are crucial observations and excellent rebuttals to the faux legalism that so often dominates the public discourse around high-profile sexual assault cases. We are entering an era when malevolent sexism and entrenched mistrust in women are not only tacitly approved but actively modeled by the man in the Oval Office, and when many of our most valued institutions and even the very concept of truth are under fire. Not in recent memory have the ideas Gilmore elucidates been so necessary, which is why I wish her work was more accessible to a wider audience. Still, this is a sharp work of feminist scholarship, unflinching in its insistence that women’s testimony about our own lives is a potent and often threatening force undercut by those who accurately assess its power. In a country soon to be led by a very loud man who ran a campaign of aggrieved masculinity, “Tainted Witness” is a timely and necessary defense of the women whose voices are so often drowned out or shouted down.

In the Times Higher Education, Laura Frost gave an excellent close look at Tainted Witness, which was named the THE Book of the Week:

The tautological observation that women are thought to be untrustworthy because they are women invites speculation about its genesis. While a definitive answer lies outside the scope of Tainted Witness, Gilmore is especially astute when she shows how “bodies and story move in a choreography of testimony”. For example: “The instant Anita Hill saw a barrage of flashbulbs erupt the first time she altered position in her seat, she knew that in photographs of her testimony, her body could be made to tell a story that would compromise her.” These and other somatic moments in Tainted Witness show how profoundly female embodiment influences the reception of women’s words. If harassment and assault are a means of denigrating women’s power, might the charge of fabrication – in the sense of deceit – conceal an anxiety about fabrication in the sense of making or creating, and perhaps the most fundamental power of reproduction?

Now that America has elected as its president a man who denigrates women and their bodies, who thinks women who exercise their reproductive rights should be “punished” and who spouts xenophobic and racist views, Gilmore’s insights are more pressing than ever. Tainted Witness is an important and timely book. If ever we needed evidence that the work of feminism is not yet done, this is it.

In the Boston Globe, Katie Tuttle quotes Gilmore on the timeliness of Tainted Witness:

“My hope in the book,” she said, “is if we can become familiar with these patterns for undermining women’s testimony, and undermining women’s credibility, then I think we can begin to anticipate where and how these attacks will take place and maybe we can try to stay a step ahead of them.”

As we face the results of an election that included examples of this dynamic (Hillary Clinton, Gilmore said, “has been a tainted witness for almost her entire career”), we stand at a moment of possible change. “On one hand, this seems like the era of welcome for women’s testimony. We seem to be hearing more stories from more places around the world from women,” she said. “But at the same time, the mechanisms for tainting women’s witness are swifter and more effective than ever.”

Finally, we look back to two articles written by Leigh Gilmore at The Conversation reflecting on two of the most apparent cases of disbelief of a woman’s testimony. First, she asked, in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, why ‘“Crooked Hillary” [was] a more compelling figure than “Fundamentally Honest Hillary”?’

I’d argue that the media’s portrayal of Clinton has less to do with her actions than with the persistent tainting of female witnesses based on gender bias. In short, my research shows that women are doubted. Women are seen as threatening stability when they show ambition and seek power. Their success threatens the association of masculine power with order.

From Eve to Clytemnestra to Lady Macbeth, powerful female figures stir up deep-seated and irrational fears of women’s proximity to power. They prompt anxieties about masculinity. These fears can be exploited and directed against particular women, as far-right Steven Bannon’s campaign against Clinton demonstrates.

These narratives and others like them align the act of doubting women with rationality and objectivity, making them feel legitimate. In other words, it is not only traditionalists who feel that women can’t be trusted with power; cultural narratives of blame make it feel right in general to doubt women.

This old story prevents other narratives from emerging. When the media recycled anecdotes that discredited Clinton instead of reframing their coverage to address the emergent themes of her historic run, they ensured that Clinton’s untrustworthiness would remain the story.

And finally, she explained what the Brock Turner sexual assault case, both Turner’s actions and, particularly, his defense team’s approach to the court case, show us about biases that work against women in state courts and in the court of public opinion:

Phrases like “he said/she said” or “no one knows what really happened” are used commonly to describe rape as a matter of interpretation. Such phrases actively harm women’s credibility in general and erode our capacity to engage with the truth of specific cases. They allow savvy defense teams to substitute bias against women for the facts of actual cases and to turn sympathy towards perpetrators.

Because these stereotypes have entered the law and permeate everyday life, doubt has become a legal weapon that can be used against any woman who testifies about rape. And in criminal cases, like rape, reasonable doubt is the standard the evidence must meet.

Yet even when the facts in a case confirm guilt, as they did in the case against Brock Turner, who was caught in the act of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, defense teams can rely on bias: that women send “mixed signals” about sex, that women say no and mean yes, that women regret sex and cry rape.

None of these cliches is grounded in evidence. Overwhelmingly, women tell the truth about sexual violence. The majority of rapes will never be prosecuted and, when they are prosecuted, the majority of rapists will not be convicted.

Why, then, are the stereotypes that women “cry rape” so durable? When the crime is rape, why are women doubted?

March 2nd, 2017

Whose Identity? Which Politics?



Desegregating the Past

“Even when museums like the NMAAHC explore into painful content like racial violence and terrorism, it is seen as delving for the purpose of presenting a resilient identity narrative. And they do. But so does the National Museum of American History in its presentation of Americana, from Dorothy’s ruby red slippers to the two hundred year-old flag from the American Revolution. The relegation of museums like the NMAAHC to the stuff of identity politics neutralizes those driven by white nostalgia.” — Robyn Autry

The following is an excerpt from an article by Robyn Autry, author of Desegregating the Past: The Public Life of Memory in the United States and South Africa, originally posted at the Huffington Post.

Whose Identity? Which Politics?
By Robyn Autry

In the weeks following the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in late September, a historic presidency ended, and then hundreds of thousands of people converged on the National Mall as another shocking one began. The NMAAHC hosted a widely popular alternative inauguration organized by Busboys and Poets, increasing its symbolic power as a place of resistance and celebration. How can we make sense of the throngs of people still flocking to the Mall to visit that nation’s first black history museum in a political climate openly hostile to so-called identity politics?

The NMAAH is not an identity museum per se. Neither is the National Museum of the American Indian, nor the Latino and Asian Pacific history museums also under consideration. Or, at least they are no more driven by the desire to celebrate identity than the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum or the National Museum of American History, or even the National Air & Space Museum. In fact, all historical products, whether they be national museums or history textbooks, contain facts and fictions about who we are, or dream of being in relation to lives already lived and lost and those still in the making. In effect, they all offer different interpretations of how great America was (or wasn’t) and how we can all do better.

While there is nothing wrong with projects aiming to interpret or represent collective identities, ‘identity-driven’ is a label used to distinguish them from those museums viewed as more objective or less biased. Museums dedicated to representing the lives and cultures of people of color are seen as self-affirming celebrations that some see as divisive and fixated on what makes us different. Critics also charge that these museums offer less historical context and material evidence or artifacts, relying instead on personal testimonies, multimedia displays, and sweeping summaries. In short, they are thought to be touchy-feely. Even when museums like the NMAAHC explore into painful content like racial violence and terrorism, it is seen as delving for the purpose of presenting a resilient identity narrative. And they do. But so does the National Museum of American History in its presentation of Americana, from Dorothy’s ruby red slippers to the two hundred year-old flag from the American Revolution. The relegation of museums like the NMAAHC to the stuff of identity politics neutralizes those driven by white nostalgia.

After decades of political maneuvering, fundraising, and development, the NMAAHC opened on September 24, 2016. Televised and streamed online, the extraordinary occasion was marked by heartfelt words from President Obama, Congressperson John Lewis, Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith, and musical performances of Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and Angélique Kidjo. Even more noteworthy, were the 30,000 ordinary people who visited the first weekend, and the tens of thousands who have followed them. With lines circling the building, the museum has been so popular that timed-passes are still being used to manage crows and to allow more people to traverse the 350,000 square foot museum. The passes available online are booked through June 2017, with a limited number being offered for same-day visitors.

How can we account for such keen interest in the museum, from the millions of dollars raised to the thousands of people clamoring to get inside? It’s as much about an insistence that identity is indeed political, as it is about collective yearnings to see that which has been kept off limits, to venture into those spaces that unsettle official accounts and expose the social fissures we already fully know exist.

Read the article in full at the Huffington Post.

March 2nd, 2017

Extreme Domesticity



Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

“I use the term “extreme” to jar us out of the common assumption that domestic spaces are always stable, banal, and conventional—invested in traditional family values and complacently bourgeois. The goal of my book is to trouble our stereotype of domestic life by exploring versions of home at odds with the normative ideal. I do so by looking at the non-conforming households of gender rebels, the marginal households of those dealing with dislocation and economic insecurity.” — Susan Fraiman

This week, we are featuring two exciting new books from our Gender and Culture Series: Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman, and Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore. Today, Susan Fraiman answers questions about what exactly she means by “extreme domesticity,” the importance of acknowledging the labor and skill of domestic labor while avoiding romanticizing the concept, and how she uses literature to examine conceptions of domesticity.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of both books!

Question: I’m curious about your title. What do you mean by “extreme domesticity”? Are you talking about a return to pre-technological, labor-intensive homemaking—as in making our own clothes, growing our own food?

Susan Fraiman: Definitely not. In fact, I would distance myself from what is sometimes called the “new domesticity”: a zealous return to artisanal housewifery, extreme crafty-ness, often understood in counter-cultural or even feminist terms. What I do have in common with this impulse is my appreciation for the labor, skill, and potential for creativity involved in keeping house, whether or not you take a DIY approach. At the same time, I would never want simply to romanticize domestic labor or lose sight of the way women have historically been oppressed by unpaid work in their own homes or low-paid work in someone else’s.

Q: In that case, how exactly is the domesticity of your book “extreme”?

SF: I use the term “extreme” to jar us out of the common assumption that domestic spaces are always stable, banal, and conventional—invested in traditional family values and complacently bourgeois. The goal of my book is to trouble our stereotype of domestic life by exploring versions of home at odds with the normative ideal. I do so by looking at the non-conforming households of gender rebels, the marginal households of those dealing with dislocation and economic insecurity. So “extreme” has a number of meanings for me. It refers to homemakers seen as immoderate or outlandish, whose gender/sexuality is stigmatized as dangerously eccentric. It also refers to those in extreme circumstances, whose home life is precarious as a result of poverty, violence, and/or immigrant status. I consider a wide range of domestic figures, but they’re all outsiders of some kind. A few are even literally out-of-doors.

Q: Your book spans several centuries, multiple genres, and brings together a number of unlikely suspects. Who are some of the “outsider” women and men you discuss?

SF: I should start by noting that I’m a literary and cultural critic, not a social scientist. All of my examples are drawn from texts (as opposed to ethnographic research). As such they are images of domesticity, at one remove from actual lives. They do, however, tell us a good deal about how we conceive of the domestic. In addition to reflecting our views, images also have the ability to shape them. As for which texts I discuss, many are novels: from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848) to Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues (1993) and Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Blu’s Hanging (1997). I also take up Edith Wharton’s classic design guide, The Decoration of Houses (1897), as well as depictions of Martha Stewart, that delightfully bad girl of good housekeeping. A last chapter draws on memoirs and participant-observer accounts of homelessness.

Q: Can you say more about the last chapter? I know you mentioned literal outsiders, but aren’t homeless women and men defined as such because they’re lacking in domesticity? If they have no homes, how do they count as domestic subjects?

SF: I would put it a bit differently. If you have no reliable shelter, your domesticity is broken up and embattled, but it doesn’t cease to exist. You still need to eat something, sleep somewhere, store your stuff, struggle to achieve a bit of personal safety, privacy, and coziness. If anything, when you can’t take “home” for granted, your domestic efforts are that much more urgent, ongoing, and visible. The figures discussed in this chapter include a mother in a welfare hotel, a guy camping out with his dog, a woman and her shopping cart, along with several robust subcultures of “homeless” people. The latter provide examples of collaboration as well as violence, political activism as well as poor conditions, and the chapter as a whole offers many examples of domestic agency as well as difficulty. If homelessness puts enormous pressure on domestic needs and routines, it also serves to highlight the aspects of everyday life shared across the board, whether or not we are securely housed.

Q: I have one last question. You describe this as a feminist project, but you’ve already noted the historical confinement of women in domestic spaces, restricting them to the drudgery of domestic labor. In what sense is your largely “appreciative” approach to domesticity a feminist intervention?

SF: As I say, my goal is not to romanticize housekeeping. It’s also true that the ideology of proper domesticity generally serves to enforce norms of gender, class, sexuality, and race. That said, it’s too often the case that domestic figures, practices, concerns, and spaces are the objects of condescension and blanket dismissal. Because women continue to be primarily responsible for household labor, everything associated with houses and housekeeping is strongly feminized and consequently trivialized (and this is true even when men are involved). In other words, the bias against all aspects and forms of domestic life is strongly tied to biases against women and phenomena identified as “feminine.” By stressing the diversity of domestic arrangements, by appreciating housekeepers of all genders, and by valuing the gestures that go into making a home, I am hoping to push back against that bias.

March 1st, 2017

Introducing Extreme Domesticity



Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

“My goal in the following pages is to sever domesticity from the usual right-wing pieties and the usual left derision. I am out to kill the Angel in the House once and for all—but not by shunning houses and housekeepers altogether. My strategy instead is to decouple domestic spaces, figures, and duties from a necessary identification with conservative ‘family values.’” — Susan Fraiman

This week, we are featuring two exciting new books from our Gender and Culture Series: Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman, and Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from both the introduction and the sixth chapter of Extreme Domesticity.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of both books!

March 1st, 2017

Post-Fascism



Left-Wing Melancholia

This post is part of an ongoing series in which Columbia University Press authors look at the implications of the result of the 2016 presidential election. Today, Enzo Traverso, author of Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory, argues that labelling Donald Trump a fascist is unhelpful, as “interpreting him through old categories [cannot] help us to understand the novelty he embodies”:

Post-Fascism
By Enzo Traverso

Is Donald Trump a fascist? Answering this question, frequently put in both Europe and the US, means speculating about what fascism would look like in the twenty-first century. Historical comparisons allow us to sketch analogies rather than homologies, and Trump is as far from classical fascism as Occupy Wall Street, los Indignados, and La nuit debout are from twentieth-century communism. This is a historical analogy, not a genealogy.

A few months ago, Robert O. Paxton, one of the most important historians of European fascism, ironically (and pertinently) affirmed that Trump probably never read any single book on Mussolini or Hitler. In other words, speaking of Trump’s fascism is not a matter of establishing a historical continuity. He does not come from this political tradition and this distinguishes him from most European far-right movements that come from this matrix, sometimes proudly claiming it—mostly in Central Europe—and sometimes trying to achieve respectability rejecting or distancing it, like the Front National of Marine Le Pen in France.

During his electoral campaign, Trump revealed many fascist traits: a charismatic conception of politics, authoritarianism, hatred for pluralism, nationalism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and a populist style that considers citizens only as a crowd to mesmerize and mislead. His campaign reproduced some features of fascist anti-Semitism, which defined a mythical, ethnically homogeneous national community by opposing it to its enemies: for the Nazis this was the Jews, but Trump enlarged the spectrum, including Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and non-White immigrants. In Trump’s rhetoric, the “Establishment” reproduced the old anti-Semitic cliché of a virtuous community rooted in land and tradition opposed to the anonymous, corrupted, intellectual, and cosmopolitan metropolis. Read the rest of this entry »

February 28th, 2017

Tainted Witness in Testimonial Networks



Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

“Women are often seen as unpersuasive witnesses for three related reasons: because they are women, because through testimony they seek to bear witness to inconvenient truths, and because they possess less symbolic and material capital than men as witnesses in courts of law.” — Leigh Gilmore

This week, we are featuring two exciting new books from our Gender and Culture Series: Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman, and Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore. Today, to start the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from Gilmore’s introduction to Tainted Witness.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of both books!

February 28th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: the Science and Ideology of Intelligence, Political Uses of Utopia, and More!



Genes, Brains, and Human Potential

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Genes, Brains, and Human Potential: The Science and Ideology of Intelligence
Ken Richardson

Political Uses of Utopia: New Marxist, Anarchist, and Radical Democratic Perspectives
Edited by S. D. Chrostowska and James D. Ingram

Taming the Wild Horse: An Annotated Translation and Study of the Daoist Horse Taming Pictures
Louis Komjathy

Tackling Child Poverty in Latin America: Rights and Social Protection in Unequal Societies
Edited by Alberto Minujin, Mónica González Contró, and Raul Mercer
(ibidem Press)

The Instrumentalisation of Mass Media in Electoral Authoritarian Regimes: Evidence from Russia’s Presidential Election Campaigns of 2000 and 2008
Nozima Akhrarkhodjaeva
(ibidem Press)

The Sarcophagus of Identity: Tribalism, Nationalism, and the Transcendence of the Self
James M. Skelly
(ibidem Press)

Latvia—a Work in Progress?: 100 Years of State- and Nation-Building
Edited by Matthew Kott and David J. Smith
(ibidem Press)

Informal Healthcare in Contemporary Russia: Sociographic Essays on the Post-Soviet Infrastructure for Alternative Healing Practices
Yulia Krasheninnikova. Foreword by Vasily Vlassov
(ibidem Press)

February 27th, 2017

In memoriam: Kenneth J. Arrow



Kenneth J. Arrow

Like many others, we were incredibly saddened to learn of the recent passing of Kenneth J. Arrow. Arrow’s work has so deeply shaped the course of economics for the past sixty years that, in a sense, every modern economist is his student. His ideas, style of research, and breadth of vision have been a model for generations of the boldest and most creative economists. Columbia University Press has been honored to publish the Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, which highlights economists whose work builds on Arrow’s scholarship as well as his innovative spirit.

Read Arrow’s commentary on Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald’s work on learning and knowledge from the first volume of the Arrow Lecture Series, Creating a Learning Society, below:

February 27th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness



Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

“In Extreme Domesticity, Susan Fraiman continues to perform the crucial task of challenging—in lucid, fervent prose—the “habitual, unthinking” conflations and repudiations which keep women, or the feminized, at the bottom of hierarchies of value.” — Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts

“Rarely does an academic book address its moment so precisely as Tainted Witness…. An important and timely book. If ever we needed evidence that the work of feminism is not yet done, this is it.” — Times Higher Education

This week, we are featuring two exciting new books from our Gender and Culture Series: Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman, and Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore. 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.

February 24th, 2017

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.)

We have a rapid-fire round of links to the university press world for you this week. First, continuing the theme of Black History Month, the Oxford University Press and Arthur Knight, Associate Professor of American Studies and English at the College of William and Mary, celebrated the 90th birthday of Sidney Poitier, the pioneering African-American actor and cultural icon.

Film history was also on the docket of the University Press of Kentucky, which featured an excerpt from their new book Harry Langdon: King of Silent Comedy, by Gabriella Oldham and Mabel Langdon. The University of Texas focused on a smaller screen, posting an interview with author Stanley Corkin about his new book Connecting The Wire: Race, Space, and Postindustrial Baltimore.

As new challenges arose this week to immigration and deportation standards in the United States, Yuliya Komska, author of The Icon Curtain: The Cold War’s Quiet Border (2015), wondered what role ordinary citizens can play in ameliorating the harsh, often arbitrary dividing lines of international borders for the University of Chicago Press blog.

Continuing our recent theme of education on how the American government functions technically and legally, Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard University, wrote about “The Substance of the Constitution: Rights, Structures, and Conventions” for the Yale University Press.

At the Stanford University Press blog, author and novelist Bahiyyih Nakhjavani wrote a fascinating post on the “Language of Nowhere,” a phenomenon she sees as an essential feature of a fractured political world in which slips of the tongue become true and then false, and words “are a shifty lot, a bunch of two-faced turncoats that can say and gainsay in a single breath, swear and forswear, equate and equivocate.”

The University of North Carolina Press featured a guest post by Kristina Jacobsen, author of The Sound of Navajo Country: Music, Language, and Diné Belonging (2017), about the incredibly creative and syncretic culture she sees at the Gallup (Na’nízhoozhí) flea market in Navaho Nation.

And finally, looking behind the curtain of the university press scene, the Island Press asked Where Are They Now? about the many interns they’ve had over the years. (Your neighborhood CUP intern wishes you all a fantastic weekend!)

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

February 22nd, 2017

Spectacles Vehement and Untutored and Rude: Reading David Foster Wallace in the Age of Trump



David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books, Jeffrey Severs

“Wallace is chief among the contemporary U.S. writers who deserve careful re-reading in the age of Trump.”—Jeffrey Severs

The following post is by Jeffrey Severs, author of David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books: Fictions of Value:

On the night of November 8, 2016, walking home from a sorrowful bar, I tried easing the pain by pausing to post on Facebook: “Dawn of a new age of grim apocalyptic satire? Searching for a bright side.” Soon a British friend and fellow scholar of contemporary fiction offered “Trump means fart in the UK—does this help?” Then another scholar-friend said he was reminded of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Johnny Gentle, a cheesy, idiot lounge-singer-turned-politician, “the first U.S. President ever to swing his microphone around by the cord during his Inauguration speech.” I’d also been thinking of Gentle’s precedent. This germaphobe’s major geopolitical achievement is to turn much of New England and Quebec into a waste dump, disastrously imposing his irreality and obsessive-compulsive habits on North American policy.

Wallace’s novel of grim apocalyptic satire, published in 1996, is set during Subsidized Time, when numbered years have been replaced by corporate sponsorships, but careful reading reveals the setting is the 2010s. So here we were, more or less on schedule, an entertainment- and consumption-addicted society, more swayed by image than substance in all things and now climbing into the (tiny) hands of a boorish, hateful star of reality TV (a genre Wallace also analyzed brilliantly—see his late story “The Suffering Channel”).

Wallace is chief among the contemporary U.S. writers who deserve careful re-reading in the age of Trump. Re-reading Wallace should be followed by Pynchon, Morrison, DeLillo, Wideman, Coover, Mailer, Vollmann—we have a lot to learn about American fascism from our novelists. Wallace set his unfinished novel The Pale King (2011) in the 1980s but still captured forty years of past and future Republican presidencies with lines about electing “a symbolic Rebel against his own power . . . We’ll have a tyranny of conformist nonconformity presided over by a symbolic outsider whose very election depends on our deep conviction that his persona is utter bullshit.” The Pale King uses the hatred of taxes to explain how Americans view civic duty in childish terms, like adolescent rebels against parental authority who are still happy to use Daddy’s credit card. The future leader that IRS workers conjure in The Pale King will “do what corporate pioneers have discovered works better” than outright lying to the populace: “He’ll adopt the persona and rhetoric that let the people lie to themselves.” Nation of self-deceiving kids, meet your man-child narcissist-in-chief.

Wallace, who grew up in Illinois and taught there for many years, understood the perennial appeal of conservatism to middle America. Indeed, as D.T. Max’s 2012 biography revealed, Wallace himself, a late convert to the left, voted for Ronald Reagan (Gentle’s model, with a dash of Bill Clinton playing the sax on late-night TV thrown in) and for proto-Trump Ross Perot. In his essays about Illinois, John McCain, and right-wing radio, Wallace took seriously and saw the depths of what coastal elites have been scrambling to parse since November: how the white, rural, working-class folks of various fly-over zones think about their country, how their cynicism about government can be ruthlessly exploited with the techniques of the entertainment-industrial complex. Wallace can’t help us much with the jingoism, racism, and xenophobia that led to Trump’s win, but he did give us visceral evidence that, as one of his essays quoted from de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, “spectacles vehement and untutored and rude,” aiming “to stir the passions more than to gratify the taste,” continue to be the American way.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 21st, 2017

New Book Tuesday: the Limits of Materialism, American Power in the Asia Pacific, and More!



The Incorporeal

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism
Elizabeth Grosz

By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783
Michael J. Green

Religion Within Reason
Steven M. Cahn

After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation
Erika Balsom

An Archaeology of the Political: Regimes of Power from the Seventeenth Century to the Present
Elías José Palti

Essays on the Essay Film
Edited by Nora M. Alter and Timothy Corrigan

Faithful to Secularism: The Religious Politics of Democracy in Ireland, Senegal, and the Philippines
David T. Buckley

I-Docs: The Evolving Practices of Interactive Documentary
Edited by Judith Aston, Sandra Gaudenzi, and Mandy Rose

February 21st, 2017

An Interview with Jeffrey Severs, Author of “David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books”



David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books

“Immersive reading of literary fiction, especially in Wallace’s ragged, tangential, footnoted forms, reminds us that the minds of others are wonderfully textured, unpredictable places—and forgetting that underlies nearly every ethical problem we encounter, as Wallace demonstrates again and again.”—Jeffrey Severs

The following is an interview with Jeffrey Severs, author of David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books: Fictions of Value:

Question: How do you account for the continuing popularity of David Foster Wallace in 2017, especially his novel, Infinite Jest?

Jeff Severs: Infinite Jest has certainly become the book on which many young intellectuals test their reading mettle, much like Gravity’s Rainbow was for me when I was in college in the mid-1990s. Many of my most ambitious undergraduates often come to my courses already in love with Infinite Jest or some of his essays and wanting to read the books that inspired Wallace. Certain parts of Infinite Jest have become quite apt descriptions of how we entertain ourselves and communicate in the 21st century: Wallace’s “InterLace” network of film-cartridge distribution predicted the rise of Netflix and supposedly total “choice” over TV, and his deadly Entertainment is an exaggeration that exposes how unhealthy our everyday media habits can be—think of what we’re saying by making the bodily metaphor of “binge-watching” commonplace. Whenever I feel weird about where I’m looking (camera or screen?) during a Skype call, I think of Infinite Jest’s hilarious account of the demise of video-telephony. He understood how machines would continue to make being in touch easier but never resolve fundamental anxieties about communication, like “Does this person truly understand me?” and “Am I just narcissistically talking to myself here in the guise of a conversation?”

Q. Wallace has experienced an upsurge in critical interest since his 2008 suicide. How does his untimely death figure in the culture’s reception of him and your own appreciation of him?

JS: If you’ve ever been through depression or addiction yourself or been close to someone with those struggles, Wallace’s work offers illuminating descriptions of how those states can frame every thought and comprise the air of every breath. Those who love Wallace’s work and find wisdom in it tend to recognize that his intimate descriptions of the mind consuming itself are absolutely heroic. Immersive reading of literary fiction, especially in Wallace’s ragged, tangential, footnoted forms, reminds us that the minds of others are wonderfully textured, unpredictable places—and forgetting that underlies nearly every ethical problem we encounter, as Wallace demonstrates again and again.

It’s very difficult to say anything about Wallace’s suicide in relation to his writing that seems simultaneously true, right, respectful, and attentive to his complex understanding of authorship, autobiography, fiction, and the ability of language to represent feeling. Beyond being sad that we will see no more books from him, I prefer to think of writing and thinking about him after his death as an opportunity to be the kind of active, involved reader he was obsessed with cultivating—a way of helping make his work into a nuanced, communal dialogue that doesn’t begin and end with him. That’s what he seemed to want most.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 20th, 2017

Book Giveaway! David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books



David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books

“Since its inception, David Foster Wallace studies has focused on a relatively small set of themes—irony, sincerity, addiction, and the mass media—often centered on Wallace’s own descriptions of his literary project in interviews and essays. Severs’s insightful new study builds on and challenges this critical orthodoxy, revealing how Wallace was a careful economic, political, and historical thinker. Wallace’s writing, as Severs shows in a series of original and bracing chapters that cover the author’s whole career, engaged provocatively with the New Deal, the social-welfare state, the monetary system, and the history of neoliberalism. Severs uncovers a new domain of questions that will dominate debates about Wallace’s legacy and the meaning of his important art for decades to come.” — Lee Konstantinou

This week, our featured book is David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books: Fictions of Value, by Jeffrey Severs. 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.

February 17th, 2017

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.)

Climate change proved to be an important theme to a few presses this week. As efforts continue to organize a Climate March and maintain the recent Paris Agreement, the Island Press has summarized a visit made by their staff to Congressional offices in Washington, promoting The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change (2014) by Yoram Bauman and Grady Klein. Elsewhere, the University of Minnesota Press features a guest post by Caitlin DeSilvey, author of Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving (2017), on potential ways the National Parks Service and other agencies may ethically and productively deal with the potential loss of the territories and monuments under their care due to climate change or human action.

This week’s political entries include Aviva Chomsky blogging about the crucial role undocumented immigrants play in the United States’ economy for Beacon Broadside, and David Williams, author of Milton’s Leveller God (2017), writing at the McGill-Queen’s University Press blog about the historical parallels of many crises of liberal democracy. The Indiana University Press blog also features a lengthy interview with journalist Douglas A. Wissing, author of the recent Hopeless but Optimistic: Journeying through America’s Endless War in Afghanistan.

In other disciplines, Duke University Press celebrated World Anthropology Day on February 16th with a roundup of their titles in that field. The subject of artificial intelligence, which we highlighted briefly last week, was picked up at the Cambridge University Press, where John Suler, author of Psychology of the Digital Age (2016) writes about his recent, startling acquisition of Amazon’s Alexa device. Black History Month is continuing at the Harvard University Press blog with a post by Syd Nathans, author of A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland (2017) about the phenomenon of African-Americans who chose to stay in the American South during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries when so many others were moving north.

Finally, from the grab-bag of the eye-catching and the odd: Oxford University Press lists ‘Ten facts about the accordion‘; Sydney Publishing looks back at the wisecracks of Australian comedian Lennie Lower; and at Johns Hopkins, Steve Huskey, author of The Skeleton Revealed: An Illustrated Tour of the Vertebrates (2017) writes about the joy of hearing his students say “I think of you when I see roadkill.”

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

February 16th, 2017

Boom and bust returns as oil market loses its swing



Crude Volatility

“While it is possible the unmanaged interplay of supply and demand will yield more stable prices in coming years and decades, it is more likely future trends will resemble the past, featuring surprising shifts, sustained imbalances, and upheaval.” — Robert McNally

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. Today, we are happy to repost an article by Robert McNally that “>originally appeared in the Financial Times:

Boom and bust returns as oil market loses its swing: For the first time in years, the global oil market is lacking a swing producer
By Robert McNally

Even in these hyper-partisan times, loathing for Opec still unites most Americans. Yet paradoxically, over four decades from the early 1930s to early 1970s, the United States was Opec, and much better at oil supply manipulation and price fixing than today’s Opec ever was.

Up until 1972, independent US oilmen and oil states like Texas acquiesced to heavyhanded government regulations over oil, imposing monthly quotas on producers. This was all done to vanquish chronic booms and busts that vexed the oil industry, consumers, investors, and officials.

This paradox bears directly on the epic, structural shift currently under way in the global oil market, with far-reaching repercussions not only for oil and energy, but also economic growth, security, and the environment. Wildly gyrating oil prices over the past decade mark the demise of Opec as an effective supply manager and the return of free crude oil markets. The resulting unwelcome and likely protracted return of boom-bust oil prices constitutes a major and under-appreciated financial, economic, and geopolitical risk to consumers, businesses, the incoming administration and governments worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

February 15th, 2017

Old Numbers, New Data



Crude Volatility

“I decided to write this book to explore more deeply how oil’s history can clarify recent trends and shed light on tomorrow’s path, and to present my findings to the general reader as well as the energy expert.” — Robert McNally

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. In today’s post, we feature an excerpt from the preface to Crude Volatility, with some illuminating graphs. (Click on the images to see them full-size!)

Tackling this topic presented formidable challenges, not the least of which was getting good historical data and information. For “barrel counters,” the search for better data is a never-ending and arduous quest. Historical data on prices and spare production capacity—central to this book—are especially scarce and patchy. I am therefore delighted and proud that my able research assistant Fernando Ferreira and I were able to unearth historical data and present two novel data sets, neither of which (to my knowledge) existed until now.

The first data set is a continuous, market-based price series for U.S. crude prices extending back to 1859 and continuing to the present on a monthly basis. Constructing this series entailed digging up prices based on field quotations, exchange-traded pipeline certificates (a proxy for crude oil prices), prices paid by Standard Oil’s purchasing agency, and data from the American Petroleum Institute and the Energy Information Administration.

The key issue here is frequency of the data. BP helpfully publishes historical crude oil prices back to 1859 on an annual basis. But annual averages fall short of illustrating boom-bust price trends as more frequent and dramatic price swings—daily, weekly, monthly—get lost in the annual average. Unless otherwise noted, all prices cited in this book, including this new monthly historical price series, are in nominal instead of real or inflation-adjusted terms. Using real prices would not change the story from a volatility perspective, but I decided to use nominal prices to better connect the prevailing historical narrative with price changes…

The second unique data set developed for this book is for U.S. spare production capacity extending back to 1940 and continuous data on U.S. and global spare capacity since 1955 (that is, including the Seven Sisters until the early 1970s and OPEC afterward). This entailed exhuming information from various government and industry reports and publications. Currently, EIA’s published OPEC spare production capacity extends back to 2003.

My goal is to contribute to our understanding of the economic and political forces that shaped oil prices in history so as to better understand them today and tomorrow. Whether I have succeeded I leave to you, dear reader, to judge…

(Click on the images to see them full-size!)

Oil Disruptions, Spare Capacity, and Crude Prices

Nominal Crude Oil Prices

Monthly Crude Oil Price Ranges