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David Lynch: The Unified Field Opens in Philadelphia

David Lynch is internationally renowned for his films and music, but he began his creative life as a visual artist and has maintained a devoted studio practice, developing an extensive body of painting, prints, photography, and drawing. The first major U.S. museum exhibition of his work, David Lynch: The Unified Field, opened at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) this weekend. The show is creating buzz in the New York Times, SlateArt in AmericaPhilly.com, and elsewhere.

Featuring work from all periods of Lynch’s career, David Lynch: The Unified Field, forthcoming from UC Press, documents the exhibition, which brings together works held in American and European collections and from the artist’s studio, many of which have rarely been seen in public.

 
Preorder David Lynch: The Unified Field now and save 30% with discount code 15W3183!

 
View a selection from the 95 paintings and drawings showcased in the exhibition:


Watch a preview of the exhibition:

 

Follow along with #PAFADavidLynch on Twitter:


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Judging a Book by Its Cover: Color Drenched Acts of Resistance

by Caitlin O’Hara

Can’t Catch a Break, publishing this month, is a brilliant book that teases out the nuanced relationship between gender, drugs, and jail in many women’s lives.

We asked coauthor Susan Starr Sered the story behind the cover image, which features an abstract image of bold colored stripes, dripping paint, and few hints as to how to contextualize what we’re seeing.

In an email, Susan describes her search in vain for appropriate images dealing with women and prison. The results depicted literal prison imagery that didn’t capture the range of experiences of the women her book profiles, or “disgustingly voyeuristic male-fantasy pornography.”

And then she came upon “this gorgeous image.” The piece is part of an installation by artist Markus Linnenbrink, at the JVA/Prison in Düsseldorf, in a 132 ft long underground tunnel that connects its security check to the visitors’ area. The artist explains that the JVA prison is considered “a model institution and has been designed to deal with security and humanity as best as possible, thus the desire for a unique approach [to its visitor entrance].” You can find more images and information about the project at this Colossal profile.

“It’s hard for me to describe why this image struck me so forcefully,” Sered writes. “Perhaps the vertical lines look like bars made out of women’s make-up and nail polish. The color dripping down from the horizontal stripes looks as if it’s weeping. The ambitious horizontal stripes decaying down into drips on the wall evoke, for me, the mess that’s come of the good intentions behind trying to cut down on crime, drug use and so on. And finally, people in prison spend so much time with nothing to do but stare at blank walls, so I love imagining those walls as color drenched acts of resistance.”

And with that, Sered cuts to the heart with precision, as she does so often throughout the book. Beyond interpretations of line, color, drip, and context, what captivates is the image’s undefinable power: inviting yet defiant; strong despite, and owing to, its imperfections. Just like the women this book profiles.

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Caitlin O’Hara is a Senior Publicist for UC Press. 

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Sheryl Sandberg and Marianne Cooper Discuss The Anxieties of Modern Families

Last week at San Francisco’s Castro Theater, the Commonwealth Club hosted a conversation with Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Lean In fame and Marianne Cooper, the lead researcher on Sandberg’s book and author of the new UC Press book Cut Adrift.

Cooper’s book explores what keeps Americans up at night. Through poignant case studies, she reveals what families are concerned about, how they manage their anxiety, whose job it is to worry, and how social class shapes all of these dynamics. Watch their conversation below:

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Bill Gates and David Christian Team Up to Bring Big History to the Masses

In a recent profile on Bill Gates, the New York Times explored the emerging subject of Big History, and Gates’ project with UC Press author David Christian to introduce Big History into high school curricula across the country. Christian, who pioneered the field, surveys the universe from the beginning of time to the present day in his book Maps of Time, integrating cosmology, geology, archeology, and population and environmental studies.

According to the Times, Bill Gates was an immediate fan of the approach, and “found himself marveling at the class’s ability to connect complex concepts. ‘I just loved it,’ he said. ‘It was very clarifying for me. I thought, God, everybody should watch this thing!’” Gates and Christian started slow, establishing Big History courses in just a few high schools at a time and letting the project grow organically. Now, writes the Times, “it will be offered free to more than 15,000 students in some 1,200 schools” this fall.

Read more about Gates’ ambitious plan to advance the field, and stay tuned for Teaching Big History, forthcoming in November 2014 from UC Press, a powerful and comprehensive guide for teaching Big History, as well for sharing ideas about the subject and planning a curriculum around it.

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How Insecure Is the American Family? Marianne Cooper talks with Bloomberg

Marianne Cooper, author of Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times recently discussed the financial security of American families on Bloomberg TV’s “Taking Stock” with Pimm Fox. Watch to find out how families are dealing with economic instability, and what the ripple effects are on the economy at large.

Cut Adrift makes an important and original contribution to the national conversation about inequality and risk in American society. Through poignant case studies, Cooper reveals what families are concerned about, how they manage their anxiety, whose job it is to worry, and how social class shapes all of these dynamics, including what is even worth worrying about in the first place.

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Farewell, ASA!

Thanks to everyone who came to see us at ASA’s annual meeting in San Francisco, Hard Times. For our parting shot, here’s Executive Editor Naomi Schneider with some of our illustrious authors:

(L-R) Timothy Black,  Annette Lareau,  Naomi Schneider, Marianne Cooper,  Mary Erdmans

(L-R) Timothy Black, Annette Lareau, Naomi Schneider, Marianne Cooper, Mary Erdmans

Till next year!

 

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Live from ASA

UC Press staff and editors are having a great time at the American Sociological Association (ASA)’s annual meeting, Hard Times: The Impact of Economic Inequality on Families and Individuals. Here are some of the authors who stopped by our booth to say hello:

Ana Villalobos with her new book, Motherload Making It All Better in Insecure Times

Ana Villalobos with her new book, Motherload
Making It All Better in Insecure Times

Yen Le Espiritu (R) with her new book, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees, and her daughter Maya, who designed the cover

Yen Le Espiritu (R) with her new book, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees, and her daughter Maya, who designed the cover

UC Press authors John Iceland (L) and Dalton Conley with Executive Editor Naomi Schneider

UC Press authors John Iceland (L) and Dalton Conley with Executive Editor Naomi Schneider

 

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Anxious Times in an American Suburb

by Rachel Heiman

One afternoon, while working as an “ethnographic babysitter” during fieldwork on middle class anxieties amid the lead up to the economic crisis, I was driving 11-year old Doug to soccer practice and then to guitar lessons. At one point I asked him the usual “How was school today?” question. In an overwhelmed voice he vented, “It’s so annoying that we have to go to school and be so busy when we’re young. Then, we have to spend the rest of our life working all the time.” I wasn’t surprised to hear these words from Doug. His extracurricular schedule was intense, and many parents in his suburban New Jersey town commuted three hours round trip to work each day—common occurrences among the insecure and aspiring middle classes. What did amaze me was what he uttered next: he wished we had “a society like communism because they don’t have to work so much.”

I wasn’t sure where Doug got his understanding of communism, though this potential seed of radicalism was striking. That is, until a few months later when he walked in from school and asked me for stock tips. His dad had just opened an E*Trade account for him to learn how to invest; his first mission was to make enough to buy a car for himself when he turned 17. I curiously asked Doug what happened to his interest in communism. He didn’t remember having made the comment. In fact, he seemed shocked that he would have said it since he’d rather be busy than bored.

Amid research for my forthcoming book, Driving After Class: Anxious Times in an American Suburb, I found many such moments when class anxieties fueled entrepreneurial sentiments, practices, and purchases that replaced longings for a supportive state. In its place emerged temporary feelings of security that often ultimately made families (and their neighbors) less secure. This is, in a way, the neoliberal culmination of the ideological plan for postwar suburbs. As famed homebuilder William Levitt infamously remarked during the Cold War, “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist. He has too much to do.”

 

Rachel Heiman is Associate Professor of Anthropology at The New School and author of Driving After Class: Anxious Times in an American Suburb, which will release in January 2015 and is now available for pre-order.

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It's Still Not Safe to be a Gay Teacher

by Catherine Connell

“This is going to say a lot about me, but I wish there were more openly gay men and lesbians in [education]. I’m not going to run out and out myself because I still believe my job here should be to be your science teacher, not your gay science teacher. But, no, that’s important though. Wow, listen to myself.” In these few sentences, Mauricio, a junior high science teacher, grapples with the contradiction at the heart of being a gay or lesbian schoolteacher. How do such teachers reconcile the dictates of gay pride, which expects them to be role models for queer and questioning youth, with the sexually and politically neutral demands of teaching professionalism? My book, School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers In The Classroom, demonstrates how this struggle plays out in the lives of public school teachers in the disparate policy contexts of California and Texas.

Gay and lesbian teachers like Mauricio face a no-win choice. Be “out and proud” but do so at the risk that your sexuality will overshadow your teaching accomplishments, or keep your sexuality hidden to preserve professional esteem but contend with the feelings of guilt or shame associated with the classroom “closet.” This dilemma is further complicated by race and gender and by the inadequacy of nondiscrimination protections – without a federal mandate barring employment discrimination on the basis of sexual identity or gender expression, teachers can be legally fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in states like Texas. Even in stronger policy contexts, like California’s, teachers often don’t know their rights or (rightly) fear covert retribution for coming out. These high stakes make gay and lesbian teachers an especially vulnerable group of workers in these already unstable economic times.

In the wake of the recent gay rights victories, from the declaration of the Defense of Marriage Act’s unconstitutionality to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it may feel as if LGBTs in this country have already won the battle for full equality. Yet looking at the experiences of gay and lesbian teachers shows just how many legal and cultural roadblocks still stand between here and the end of sexuality discrimination. For true progress, both the discriminatory atmosphere of workplaces like schools and the increasingly one-size-fits-all demands of the gay pride movement must be addressed.

 

Catherine Connell is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University. She is the author of the forthcoming book, School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom (December, 2014).

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Inequality and the Roots of the Great Recession

by John Iceland

What does income inequality have to do with the Great Recession? After all, wasn’t the recession mainly caused by hanky-panky in the financial sector (or, to put it more formally, the loosening of bank lending rules and rise of mortgage securitization with too little regulatory oversight), which led to a housing bubble that eventually burst?

As I describe in Portrait of America, income inequality was a critical factor contributing to the recession. For those of you who were thinking of buying a house in the 2000s, who doesn’t remember the importance of more bathrooms, granite kitchen tops, and large open-concept living space—popularized by and reflected in television shows featuring discerning home buyers? The average size of houses, for example, grew 15 percent to 2,277 square feet in just 10 years between 1997 and 2007. Among the aspiring middle class, home-buying, and even home-flipping, seemed like a good way to build wealth. Very little money down was required, and you could refinance with your growing home equity (driven by ever-rising home prices) if monthly payments got too big. Everyone was doing it.

The fact is that subjective well-being has a relative component. When you are not doing as well as your neighbors, you feel less well off. If everybody is buying their dream home, and they all can seem to afford it, shouldn’t you too? This issue does not simply boil down to envy. It is more about fitting in and being able to participate in one’s community. Everyone aspires to be in the middle class. The rising income and wealth of those in the upper portion of the income distribution raised the bar for everyone, even as incomes in the middle stagnated. Thus, while inequality was not the sole factor behind the Great Recession, it was a vital—and often underappreciated—one.

 

John Iceland is Head of the Department of Sociology and Professor of Sociology and Demography at Penn State University. His most recent book, A Portrait of America,  is the first book in the new series Sociology in the 21st Century. Conceived and written for courses, the books in this series will address major sociological issues in the United States today such as race, immigration, gender, the family, education, and social inequality.

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