American History Unbound: Asians and Pacific Islanders

By Gary Y. Okihiro

This guest post is published in advance of the Organization of American Historians conference in St. Louis. UC Press authors share their research and stories that reflect on this year’s conference theme, Taboos. Come back for new posts every weekday until April 17.

Gary Y. OkihiroAsians and Pacific Islanders, indeed, people of color have transformed the history of the United States.  When seen from their perspective, American history is revealed in new light. The narrative begins not with the nation but with the world. The U.S. emerged from Europe’s oceanic search for Asia. Engulfed were Africa, Asia, and America in that expansion, which involved material relations and discourses that created Europe. At first, a periphery of the British Empire, the settler colony later emulated the core as an imperial power; extra-territorial conquests and colonization are central features of U.S. history. Land, taken from native peoples on the continent and on islands in the Caribbean and Pacific, and labor, supplied by enslaved, indentured, and wage laborers, were the resources that built the nation. From the start, “free white persons” delimited the republic’s members. When nonwhites, including Asians and Pacific Islanders, became U.S. citizens with rights, they instigated an American revolution.


Gary Y. Okihiro is Professor of International and Public Affairs and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University. He is the author of ten books, including his latest two, Island World: A History of Hawai’i and the United States (2008) and Pineapple Culture: A History of the Tropical and Temperate Zones (2009), both from UC Press. He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Studies Association, received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Ryukyus, and is a past president of the Association for Asian American Studies.


Taboos and the American Civil War

By Adam Arenson

This guest post is published in advance of the Organization of American Historians conference in St. Louis. UC Press authors share their research and stories that reflect on this year’s conference theme, Taboos. Come back for new posts every weekday until April 17.

Adam ArensonWas the American Civil War about more than slavery? Did it begin before the firing on Fort Sumter, and end long after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox? And was the ultimate outcome of the Civil War and Reconstruction shaped more by events in the American West than on the battlefields of the South?

As the Civil War sesquicentennial concludes, we can see how certain explanations of the Civil War Era might remain taboo: the argument that the Confederacy cared more for its American Indian allies than the Union did; that, as late as 1865, President Lincoln and other Republicans still hoped to send African Americans away from the United States; that the nature of U.S. citizenship would be determined more by challenges from Spanish-speaking men in California and white women in Wyoming than by actions in the former Confederacy. And counterfactual history has its own taboos: Can we truly evaluate what would have happened if the Confederacy took New Mexico, and reached San Diego? Civil War WestsOr if Confederate sympathizers had invaded Washington Territory from British Columbia?

These controversial ideas appear when we consider the histories of the Civil War Era and the American West in one frame, as part of an era of larger tests of U.S. sovereignty, and as fights over the nature of incorporation of a vast, diverse continent under one government. Rejected, affirmed, and mulled upon, these taboos find their place in the exciting new volume Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States.


Adam Arenson is Associate Professor of History and Director of Urban Studies at Manhattan College, author of The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War (2011), and coeditor of Frontier Cities: Encounters at the Crossroads of Empire (2013).


Interracial Marriage

By Emma Jinhua Teng

This guest post is published in advance of the Organization of American Historians conference in St. Louis. UC Press authors share their research and stories that reflect on this year’s conference theme, Taboos. Come back for new posts every weekday until April 17.

Emma TengFew things have been more taboo in American history than interracial marriage. Before a 1967 Supreme Court decision declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, paving the way for a “biracial baby boom,” marrying across certain racial lines was illegal in many states, and where not illegal was often punished by disinheritance or ostracism. Americans also transported this taboo abroad, using it to guard the boundaries of their expatriate communities — in Shanghai of the interwar years, for example. Those who dared to defy convention, like George Sokolsky and Rosalind Phang in 1922, might find themselves shut out of expatriate social circles, or their children turned away from exclusive private schools.

Interracial marriage was equally taboo in colonial Hong Kong. When Eric Peter Ho (1928 –) first learned that his grandfather was European, he recalls, he was “told solemnly not to disclose these family secrets to anyone.” “Half-caste” and “gwei-jai” were fighting words.

Given these entrenched attitudes, it might seem surprising that back in 1875 the Rev. Joseph Twichell, Mark Twain’s pastor, encouraged his Chinese friend, Yung Wing, to wed an Anglo-American woman — “glorying in” his marriage to Mary Kellogg as a union of East and West. It might seem equally surprising that in 1914 Chinese diplomat Wu Ting-fang declared that the intermarriage of the “yellow” and “white” races would be “productive of good to both sides.”

It turns out that the notion that “intermarriage was taboo” can take us only so far in understanding the rich and complex history of Sino-American cross-cultural encounters. My book, Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842-1943, tries to tell a more nuanced story by examining not only the obstacles faced by mixed families on both sides of the Pacific, but also the emergence of ideas supporting Sino-American intermarriage as “productive of good” on social, political, or biological grounds. I demonstrate how Eurasians navigated a complex world in which they faced contradictions between exclusionary and inclusive ideologies of race and nationality, and between overt racism and more subtle forms of prejudice that were counterbalanced by partial acceptance and privilege.


Emma Jinhua Teng is a MacVicar Faculty Fellow and the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations and Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at MIT and the author of Taiwan’s Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Travel Writing and Pictures, 1683-1895 (Harvard, 2004).



By Virginia Scharff

This guest post is published in advance of the Organization of American Historians conference in St. Louis. UC Press authors share their research and stories that reflect on this year’s conference theme, Taboos. Come back for new posts every weekday until April 17.

Can we talk about shards of American history that seem vaguely forbidden? About a family of abolitionists bent on slaughter, Native American slaveholders, heroes of the Union who commit Indian massacres, woman suffrage advocates who favor the vote for white women to counterbalance the votes of black men, a Navajo woman, once a captive, meeting the President of the United States, Hispanic households reliant on unfree domestic labor, long after Emancipation? Can we talk about the deep contradictions and complexities of seeing the American struggle over freedom as a continental story?

If you don’t mind history that embraces unpleasant truths, then you are ready for the stories you’ll find in Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West, companion volume to the exhibition opening at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles this spring. Eleven historians offer essays inspired by revealing objects. Consider the double-edged Bowie knife given to Cherokee leader Stand Watie, commissioned a colonel in the Confederate army, who would become the last Confederate general to surrender. Or perhaps you’d be interested in the papers carried by Chinese immigrants to prove their legal status, the flag sewn by Jessie Benton Fremont for her husband to carry on expeditions of continental conquest, the rifle they called a “Beecher’s Bible” when it was shipped by devout New England partisans to antislavery warriors joining the arms race in Bleeding Kansas.

These objects and the stories they illuminate show us how our two great national epics, the struggle over slavery and freedom, and the quest for continental dominion, are really one story. It’s a story across prairies and mountains and deserts and innumerable cultural divides, shocking and multifarious and indivisible, with liberty and justice still to come.


Virginia Scharff is Distinguished Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Southwest at the University of New Mexico. She is the co-curator (with Carolyn Brucken) of the “Empire and Liberty” exhibition at the Autry National Center, where she serves as Women of the West Chair. Her previous works include Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement, and the WestThe Women Jefferson Loved; and Home Lands: How Women Made the West (with Carolyn Brucken).


A Political History of Surfing

By Scott Laderman

This guest post is published in advance of the Organization of American Historians conference in St. Louis. UC Press authors share their research and stories that reflect on this year’s conference theme, Taboos. Come back for new posts every weekday until April 17.

Surfing and politics don’t mix. I must have heard this dozens of times growing up in California. I always found it a strange and problematical assertion, as it was usually stated by one group of surfers in response to another group of surfers’ concerns about South African apartheid.

South Africa, for those who don’t know, is a major center of global surf culture. It has produced three professional world champions (Shaun Tomson, Wendy Botha, and Martin Potter, the last of whom is a Durban-raised British national) and numerous amateur champions, and it remains a perennial presence on surfing’s world tour. So in the 1980s, when some of the world’s most highly regarded professionals decided to boycott South Africa, it was generally considered a big deal.

When I interviewed a handful of these professionals for my Empire in Waves: A Political History of Surfing, I was struck by their frequent refusal to see their decision in political terms. Boycotting the apartheid state was about taking a “humanitarian stand,” Tom Carroll, an Australian two-time world champion, told me. It was most assuredly not political, insisted Martin Potter.

What the statements suggest, I believe, is many surfers’ concern that a descent into “the political” might contaminate the presumed purity of their pastime. This purity matters to them, as countless surfers equate the natural communion of human and wave with the spiritual experiences afforded by most religions. The ocean can be surfers’ temple.

But just as we recognize the politics of religion, so, too, must we recognize the politics of surfing. Popularized under conditions of empire, globalized with the expansion of American power, and industrialized under neoliberal capitalism, the sport could never escape the larger social forces that have shaped our modern world. The history of modern surfing is inevitably a political history. Surfers would do well to recognize as much.


Scott Laderman is Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.


Collabra. Changing the rules of Open Access journal publishing

We are pleased to announce the launch of Collabra, our new Open Access journal. We are now open for submissions in three core fields of study: Life and Biomedical Sciences; Ecology and Environmental Science; Social and Behavioral Sciences. We aim to have a different model, one that gives back to the research community. Here’s a look at the process behind the creation of Collabra:

Why did UC Press decide to get into Open Access? Because the idea of Open Access — making important scientific and scholarly work accessible to anyone — aligns perfectly with our mission. We believe in driving progressive change, and we decided we were in a great position to do something interesting and new.

There are many Open Access journals out there, how is Collabra different? Collabra is the first Open Access journal created to not only share the research but also the value contributed by the research community through the review process. More often than not, all the direct value and revenue in scholarly publishing flows only to publishers. We aim to change that. When people volunteer their time and expertise as an editor or reviewer, their efforts will generate a tangible value, and they can decide what to do with it. We offer the option of either receiving payment for the work provided or paying that value forward to the research community. Importantly, the decision of how the funds will be used is left to the editors and reviewers, not Collabra.

How do you fund these payments to editors and reviewers? Our Article Processing Charge (APC) is $875. Of that sum, $625 goes toward publishing and other operational costs. The remaining $250 is paid into an account from which funds are made available to editors and reviewers for all work on the journal — regardless of decisions to accept or reject articles.

Editors and reviewers can choose to either keep their earnings or pay them forward to the Collabra Waiver Fund or to their institution’s OA APC fund. The Collabra Waiver Fund is there for authors who do not have the funds to pay the APCs, and pays the APC on their behalf. (So it’s really a sponsorship fund.)

How do your Article Processing Charges compare to other OA journals?
We’ve made it more affordable. We started from scratch and worked up, covering our costs, rather than matching our APC to what we think the market can bear or matching against what other journals charge. Our APC of $875 USD is one of the lowest in the industry.

Does Collabra have a particular area of focus? Our initial launch will include 3 core fields of study: Life and Biomedical Sciences, Ecology and Environmental Science, Social and Behavioral Sciences. Over the next several years, we plan to expand into disciplines across science, humanities, and other important areas of research.

If you are interested in becoming a reviewer or editor, or would like to submit an article please visit

Want to know more? We have a video just for you.


The EITC Safety Net

By Kathryn Edin

Kathryn Edin
Kathryn Edin, author of It’s Not Like I’m Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World

Tax season is upon us, apparent in the stream of H&R Block TV commercials (“Get your billions back America!”), the line on many middle-class families’ to-do lists—“find tax docs”—that keeps getting pushed to next weekend (until a mad scramble as the April 15th deadline looms), and the sign spinners drawing attention to Liberty Tax, Jackson Hewitt, and many a local store that pops up this time of year. While some of us approach tax time with a sense of dread—paperwork, possible audits, paying taxes, oh my!—others look forward to tax time as “better than Christmas.” Why? Because filing taxes means the arrival of the much-anticipated tax refund check, a source of financial relief and hope for many lower-income working parents.

A single parent of two children who works full time, all year, at a minimum wage job is eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit of $5,460. Those who earn much less or much more are eligible for a smaller credit (with the credit size shrinking until it disappears for those earning around $44,000 a year). On top of this, the parent’s refund check may also include the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit and the return of any over withholding from her paychecks. And if she lives in one of the 25 states that has a state EITC, she’ll also be getting a smaller state refund check too. The value of the EITC alone is worth more than a quarter of her annual earnings. The EITC pushes more than six million families above the poverty line each year. It’s no wonder that tax time is so eagerly awaited.

This year marks the 40th birthday of the EITC and, in the midst of dueling tax proposals from the political right and left, it’s a good time to examine how the EITC is working. At this policy’s creation in 1975, the intention was to reduce the tax burden on lower earners, with a maximum benefit of a few hundred dollars. Over the years, Congress has increased the income eligibility limits and benefit levels, transforming this income tax offset into a major government assistance program. Most recently, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress raised the income limits, particularly for married couples, and made higher benefits available to larger families (those with three or more children); these provisions will sunset in 2017 unless there is Congressional action.

As we reflect on the EITC’s past and future, we must be mindful of both its successes and shortcomings. Through the government, we support lower-income workers like never before. But we’ve left behind many others. Over the past two decades, the number of families living in deep poverty—living on $2 per person per day—has risen steeply. While we do more to reward work, those who are without work are in a difficult situation, without either a wage income or the support of work-contingent benefits like the EITC. Further, many workers struggle with variable work schedules, unable to get the dependable hours or full time work they desire. These aren’t all problems the EITC can solve, although some creative thinking is occurring. There are policy experiments underway and proposals on the table that consider other ways of expanding the EITC program to those it currently does not reach, such as childless workers and noncustodial parents. We need to evaluate what we know about the EITC to make informed decisions about continuing the ARRA expansions of the EITC and pursuing extensions of the EITC to new groups.

It's Not Like I'm PoorOur research demonstrates that the EITC provides an essential source of financial and psychological relief to lower-income working parents. After scraping by for most of the year, the arrival of tax season means being able to meet all of the family’s needs and even indulging in some of its wants too. Although they are cash-strapped for most of the year, parents use their refund checks in ways most Americans would deem financially responsible: paying current expenses (rent, groceries, child care), getting caught up on debts (medical bills, student loans, credit card bills), buying some big-ticket items (used cars, furniture, home improvements), putting some away in savings, and indulging in a few simple luxuries (birthday presents for the kids, a meal at a sit-down restaurant, a barbeque for the extended family). Though parents only allocate approximately 10% of refund dollars to this last category of “treats,” the meaning this spending has to them is huge. They get to be “real Americans” and give their children the feeling of being “ordinary kids.” In a consumer culture such as ours, purchases such as these can be of enormous importance. And there are two other impacts of the EITC that we see in our study, one financial and one psychological.

Families are able to use their refund dollars to build a personal safety net for themselves. By paying down debts, accumulating some assets, and stockpiling food and other items at tax time when their bank accounts are relatively flush, they’re better able to weather the tough times that inevitably arrive later in the year, as unexpected expenses or drops in income arise. And what is perhaps most remarkable is that all of these benefits come from a government assistance program. The reason this is so noteworthy is that many such programs provide financial support but at a psychological price. Applying for cash welfare or food stamps (now called SNAP) carries the connotation that you are a dependent, a taker, a drain on society. The EITC, through its connection to work and parenthood and its delivery through the complex tax system, is more incorporating than alienating. It helps, as President Clinton said, to “make work pay.” It emphasizes those roles of responsible parent and provider that are valued and rewarded in our society. For families benefiting from the EITC, there is no trade-off between dignity and a hand up. As you search for your W-2s and 1099s, that’s certainly something to be thankful for this tax season.


Kathryn Edin is Distinguished Bloomberg Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. She is the coauthor of It’s Not Like I’m Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World, Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City, Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage, and Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work.

Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference Recap

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the UC Press booth at the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference, which took place in Chicago at the end of March. We showcased a range of groundbreaking and award-winning titles in Asian history, cultural anthropology, and religion. Below, some of our authors show off their books:

Michael Dylan Foster, author of The Book of Yokai
Michael Dylan Foster, author of The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore


Miriam Kingsberg, author of Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History
Miriam Kingsberg, author of Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History


Srimati Basu, author of The Trouble with Marriage: Feminists Confront Law and Violence in India
Srimati Basu, author of The Trouble with Marriage: Feminists Confront Law and Violence in India


Rae Yang, author of Spider Eaters: A Memoir
Rae Yang, author of Spider Eaters: A Memoir


Todd Henry, author of Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945
Todd Henry, author of Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945


The Essential Cesar Chavez Day Reading List

This Tuesday, March 31 marks Cesar Chavez Day. The University of California Press is proud to have published broadly on this important labor and civil rights leader. From first-hand accounts of working side-by-side with Cesar Chavez to an examination of the charismatic leader as a religious figure, the books here present the full and rich life of one of our nation’s most important labor and civil rights figures.

Sal Si Puedes, by Peter Matthiessen

In the summer of 1968 Peter Matthiessen met Cesar Chavez for the first time. They were the same age: forty-one. Matthiessen lived in New York City, while Chavez lived in the Central Valley farm town of Delano, where the grape strike was unfolding. This book is Matthiessen’s panoramic yet finely detailed account of the three years he spent working and traveling with Chavez, including to Sal Si Puedes, the San Jose barrio where Chavez began his organizing. Matthiessen provides a candid look into the many sides of this enigmatic and charismatic leader who lived by the laws of nonviolence.

A new foreword by Marc Grossman considers the significance of Chavez’s legacy for our time. As well as serving as an indispensable guide to the 1960s, this book rejuvenates the extraordinary vitality of Chavez’s life and spirit, giving his message a renewed and much-needed urgency.

The Political Spirituality of Cesar Chavez, by Luis D. León

This book maps and challenges many of the mythologies that surround the late iconic labor leader. Focusing on Chavez’s own writings, León argues that La Causa can be fruitfully understood as a quasi-religious movement based on Chavez’s charismatic leadership, which he modeled after Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. By refocusing Chavez’s life and beliefs into three broad movements—mythology, prophecy, and religion—León brings us a moral and spiritual agent to match the political leader.

From the Jaws of Victory, by Matthew Garcia

This is the most comprehensive history ever written on the meteoric rise and precipitous decline of the United Farm Workers, the most successful farm labor union in United States history. Based on little-known sources and one-of-a-kind oral histories with many veterans of the farm worker movement, this book revises much of what we know about the UFW.

Beyond the Fields, by Randy Shaw

Much has been written about Chavez and the United Farm Worker’s heyday in the 1960s and ’70s, but left untold has been their ongoing impact on 21st century social justice movements. This book describes how Chavez and the UFW’s imprint can be found in the modern reshaping of the American labor movement, the building of Latino political power, the transformation of Los Angeles and California politics, the fight for environmental justice, and the burgeoning national movement for immigrant rights.

Delano, by John Gregory Dunne

In September 1965, Filipino and Mexican American farm workers went on strike against grape growers in and around Delano, California. More than a labor dispute, the strike became a movement for social justice that helped redefine Latino and American politics. The strike also catapulted its leader, Cesar Chavez, into prominence as one of the most celebrated American political figures of the twentieth century. More than forty years after its original publication, Delano: The Story of the California Grape Strike, based on compelling first-hand reportage and interviews, retains both its freshness and its urgency in illuminating a moment of unusually significant social ferment.

Join Us At The 2015 Organization of American Historians Meeting!

The University of California Press steamboat is chugging up the Mississippi River to the 2015 Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting. The meeting convenes April 16-19 in St. Louis.

Please visit us at booth 315 in America’s Center to purchase our latest American history publications for the following offers:

  • 30% conference discount and free worldwide shipping
  • Submit exam copy requests for course adoption for your upcoming classes
  • Win $100 worth of books! Join our eNews subscription

While at our booth, explore our new and award winning titles in United States history for your research and courses. We’ll also offer subscription rates for our history journals.

Please see our conference program ad for our latest offerings. Acquisitions and marketing staff will be available for your publishing questions.

Follow #OAH2015 and @The_OAH for current meeting news.