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.

Religious freedom and what it entails has been at the forefront of the American consciousness over the last few weeks, as the Supreme Court has considered two important religious freedom cases. In both Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Supreme Court decided “in favor of conservative Christian plaintiffs seeking exemptions from the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act.” This week, the Chicago Blog of the University of Chicago Press featured an article by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan on the “rotten core at the heart of all religious freedom laws”: what she calls the difference between “small ‘r’ religion” and “big ‘R’ Religion.” In explaining this difference, Sullivan demands that we consider what religious freedom is really designed to protect.

Another important recent Supreme Court case was Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, in which the Court upheld Michigan’s ban on race- and sex-based affirmative action in public hiring and education. Writing at the UNC Press Blog, Marc Stein discusses the case, and in particular the divide between the opinions written by Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The World Cup is drawing to a close, with only the third place game and the Final still to be played. Duke University Press has continued their series on the Cup with a couple of fascinating posts from Orin Starn and Marc Hertzman. Starn is watching the games from “a shantytown in desert Peru,” and he explains how the World Cup both isn’t (“There’s little pan-Latin American solidarity in football fandom”) and is (the Neymar-style haircuts of some of the children, for example) a big deal in the poor areas of Peru. Meanwhile, Hertzman focuses instead on the gender issues at play in Brazil at the moment. One notable example: while the aforementioned Neymar got the great majority of the press as the best Brazilian player, Hertzman points out that the most decorated current Brazilian player has not been mentioned much at all. Marta is the star of Brazil’s women’s team, and has “on or finished second as FIFA’s women’s Player of the Year an amazing nine times.”

While the World Cup has, once again, been a wildly popular spectacle, Susan Kneebone points out that it has also put the spotlight firmly on the problematic preparations for the 2022 World Cup scheduled to take place in Qatar. Writing at the OUPblog, Kneebone looks at the plight and frequent mistreatment of the estimated 500,000 migrant workers Qatar is depending on to build the infrastructure necessary for the World Cup to take place. She is particularly careful to point out that this dependency on migrant workers is not unique to Qatar during their preparations, but that it is a fairly common practice throughout the Gulf States region, and, indeed, throughout the world.

At the University of Minnesota Press Blog, Eric Avila argues that, while “freeway and the automobile, after all, were built upon a uniquely American premise of freedom,” the ways that freeways were planned and constructed in cities in the 1950s and 1960s sometimes divided and hurt poor, nonwhite communities, even while offering convenient and ostensibly democratic means of transportation.

How far can ISIS go? At the JHU Press Blog, Mark N. Katz takes a close look at the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, pointing out that, while nobody saw them expanding so quickly, they are encountering three problems common to most revolutionary movements (and these problems are exacerbated by the fact that they did expand so quickly): “1.) regional opposition; 2.) reaction to repression; and 3.) rifts among the radicals.”

“In India’s recent national elections, a single party gained the majority of the seats in the lower house of parliament for the first time since 1984.” The Bharatiya Janata Party that controls that majority, is a consistently Hindu nationalist party, and, at the Stanford University Press Blog, Narendra Subramanian believes that the BJP is likely to “vigorously promote Hindu hegemony” and support unequal economic growth at the expense of the poorer elements of the population, and that these policies “may damage democratic citizenship that much more as the constraints they face are rather weak.”

How did the tradition of sports teams with names referencing Native American culture begin? Using the current furor over the name of the Washington Redskins as a jumping-off point, Kate Buford, in a post at the University of Nebraska Press Blog, looks at the history of Native Americans as team names and mascots. She traces the practice back to the famous football coach Glenn S. “Pop” Warner, whose Carlisle Indian Industrial School football team (the Indians) was hugely successful in the early 1900s, led by Jim Thorpe. Buford also, however, looks at the history of the fight against demeaning sports team names, and in particular the successful 1972 petition by Native American students at Stanford that led to the university changing its mascot from the Indians to the Cardinal.

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo, a volcano located about 90 kilometers from Manila in the Philippines that had not been thought of as active, produced the largest volcanic eruption in living memory–the ash from the explosion formed a mushroom cloud that grew to an area the size of France. At the nineteenfourteen blog (the temporarily renamed version of Cambridge University Press’s fifteeneightyfour blog), Clive Oppenheimer writes about the immense eruption and about what its aftermath can teach us about disaster management and climate change.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with an article from Beacon Broadside Press about a very different kind of ecological disaster. Instead of looking at a single moment of environmental trauma like the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Brad Tyer looks at the history of the Clark Fork, “one of the most badly abused rivers in the United States.” Tyer walks readers through the river’s history, from the harm done by copper mining to the strange industrial accidents that have damaged the river (including multiple Boeing airplane fuselages and harmful collections of chemicals), and warns of the potential for enormous environmental disaster if the contaminated waters of the “Yankee Doodle tailings” above the river were allowed to escape into the river.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

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