Marketing a Queer San Francisco

adapted from Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 by Nan Alamilla Boyd

Each year at the end of June, San Francisco fills with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) tourists. The Castro Theater in San Francisco’s gay neighborhood screens a week-long lesbian-gay-themed film festival, the city flies multicolored gay pride flags from poles stretching the length of Market Street, and crowds of up to half a million gather for the annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade on the last Sunday in June.

June is a lucrative month for gay-owned businesses. Gay bars, restaurants, and hotels fill to capacity, and stores catering to gay tourists do a brisk trade in pride rings, necklaces, and T-shirts. While gay tourism is good for gay businesses, the revenue generated from gay tourism reaches beyond the GLBT community. Of the 4.2 million hotel guests who made San Francisco a destination in 1999, 4.6 percent dined in the Castro district at least once, bringing almost $10 million in revenue to the city in restaurant business alone.

As was the case in the postwar years, the ability of the GLBT community to draw tourist dollars to the city affects its strength in relation to city politics. In the 1940s and 1950s, San Francisco’s tourist economy gave gay bars a foothold in San Francisco’s North Beach district. Currently, as gay tourism draws millions of dollars to San Francisco each year, gay, lesbian, and transgender community representatives from San Francisco serve both elected and appointed positions within municipal, state, and federal government offices.

Today, large corporations with familiar brand names are eager to capitalize on gay dollars and gay spending power. While this phenomenon— niche marketing to gay and lesbian shoppers—promises to open up new modes of visibility (and presumed social acceptance), the large-scale and corporate commercialization of queer culture threatens to transfer the control of representations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from the hands of activists and community members to large corporations.

Along with homophile movement activism, the culture of gay, lesbian, and transgender bars and nightclubs contributed significantly to the form and function of a resistant queer social movement. In fact, in its prideful assertion of difference, bar culture transmitted the progressive idea of minority rights (or rights based in the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause) to the larger lesbian and gay movement for social change. Initially, gay and lesbian bar owners resisted prohibitions against serving a homosexual clientele simply to protect their livelihood— the quintessentially American “right to make a buck.”

However, as the harassment of gay and lesbian bars continued, bar owners shifted their strategy. Leaning on the Bill of Rights, lawyers representing the interests of bar owners, bartenders, and patrons argued that homosexuals should not be denied access to public accommodation. In this way, bar-based communities asserted their fundamental right to association and assembly. Because these arguments resonated with other minority-based civil rights campaigns, most notably the African American Civil Rights Movement, legal challenges to the harassment of gay and lesbian bars were successful in securing limited civil rights for queers.

In its fundamental differences from mainstream society, gay and lesbian culture was strong. It was the strength of difference and the historic projection of a unique sexual culture that enabled— and continues to enable—queer life in San Francisco to forcefully assert gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights.

Nan Alamilla Boyd is Professor of Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University. She is the author of Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 and co-editor of Bodies of Evidence, the Practice of Queer Oral History (Oxford, 2012).

Jailcare Launches at Potter’s House in Washington, D.C.

By Carolyn Sufrin, author of Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars

Earlier this month, the book launch event for Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars was held at The Potter’s House in Washington, D.C., a progressive non-profit bookstore and café with roots in social justice.

It was an apt community space to host a discussion of this book, which describes some of the everyday realities of mass incarceration in our country and how the failures of society to care for women on the margins have created a situation where jail has become an integral part of the safety net for these women.

I was fortunate to speak in front of a standing room-only, engaged audience from an array of backgrounds—health care providers, lawyers, activists, students, anthropologists and other researchers, as well as people from the Department of Justice, Planned Parenthood, local non-profits, and others.

Carolyn Sufrin (L) with Amy Fettig (R).

Amy Fettig, Deputy Director at the ACLU’s National Prison Project, moderated the event and shared an overview of incarceration and health care behind bars. Fettig herself has successfully litigated many cases to improve health care conditions for incarcerated people. After I read a few excerpts from Jailcare, Fettig asked questions that got to the heart of the nuances and contradictions of jailcare, such as how jail workers approach pregnant women as deserving—or not deserving—of care. This sparked a lively discussion about the paradoxes of the constitutional requirement that prisons and jails must provide health care.

A question from the audience built on this requirement, specifically the idea of keeping prisoners alive through health care with a probing reminder of the connections with slavery—“Once you become incarcerated you become property of the state. And then the system has a responsibility to keep you alive”—similar to plantation owners needing to keep their slaves alive to continue to exploit their labor.

The discussion also included some practical strategies for shifting the role of jail and incarceration in managing social problems. For example:

  • Comprehensive bail reform: filling jails with people who are not a safety or flight threat puts undue pressure on the system. The issue of people being held in jail for long periods of time because they cannot afford small bail amounts helped people recognize the role that poverty plays in incarceration.
  • Neighborly community interaction: An audience member suggested that we, as neighbors, rethink the reasons for why we call the police to come to our neighborhoods and consider alternative strategies that make the police more community members rather than those policing the community.
  • Helping the helpers: we discussed the importance of making social safety net services higher quality by trying to address staff burnout, thereby improving their investment and relationships they have with the people whom they are attempting to help.

Carolyn Sufrin is a medical anthropologist and an obstetrician-gynecologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Learn more about Jailcare at

Grace Lee Boggs & Immanuel Wallerstein: A Dialogue Between Two Visionaries

By Scott Kurashige, author of The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the U.S. Political Crisis Began in Detroit

This guest post is part of a blog series of contributions by authors in American Studies Now, an e-book first series of short, timely books on significant political and cultural events. 

In this post, Scott Kurashige reflects on the seventh anniversary of a key event that shaped the thinking behind his new book, The Fifty-Year Rebellion.

One of the greatest honors in my life was the opportunity to moderate a historic conversation between the renowned historical sociologist, Immanuel Wallerstein, and the late philosopher-activist, Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015). It took place in Detroit on June 24, 2010, before a boisterous crowd of seven hundred people during the United States Social Forum.

The recorded conversation gives a sense of the visionary quality of these radical and profound thinkers. Long before Brexit, Trump, Corbyn, and Sanders made headlines, Wallerstein addressed the rise of “right-wing populism” and “electoral fluctuations.” Quoting Hegel, Boggs implored the audience to think dialectically about the volatile times we live in. Because progress does not occur in a “straight line,” we must accept the challenge “to use the negative as a way to advance the positive.” Their phenomenal exchanges are a wonderful place to start as we try to make sense of the economic, political, and epistemological crises we face in 2017.

Surveying the grand sweep of history, Wallerstein reminded us that “historical systems do not go on forever.” While it undoubtedly caused immense suffering and exploitation, the capitalist system had functioned well on its own terms for decades but “has moved far away from equilibrium and gotten into what we call a structural crisis.” When a system is stable it takes a tremendous amount of force to move it slightly in one direction or the other. However, once a system is out of equilibrium, the “free will factor” becomes paramount. Thus, we are currently locked in a struggle to determine whether capitalism will be replaced over the next three to four decades by a relatively more egalitarian and democratic system or a more oppressive system that is even worse than what we have known.

“It’s a fantastic period,” Boggs emphasized, because we are at “that time on the clock of the universe where we face our evolution to a higher humanity or the devastation and the extinction of all life on earth.” Detroit, she asserted, is the ideal place to witness the devastation of racism and deindustrialization alongside the rise of grassroots movements that are making the city “the national and international symbol of a new kind of society.”

Continue reading “Grace Lee Boggs & Immanuel Wallerstein: A Dialogue Between Two Visionaries”

Challenges and Approaches to World History Teaching and Scholarship

This post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the World History Association taking place June 22-24 in Boston. #TheWHA17

As the World History Association meets in Boston, we’re highlighting The New World History: A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers, a volume of forty-four essays that address the history, methodology, criticism, and pedagogy of the field. Edited by Ross E. Dunn, Laura J. Mitchell, and Kerry Ward, the selections focus on issues that confront the modern history professional as the field grows broader and deeper.

In the book, the editors recognize the transformation of the field, which has been shaped through conversations in formal panels as well as social situations, such as at the meeting of the WHA. “Without the WHA,” the editors say, “the intellectual engagements necessary for this kind of book would not have been possible.”

From the introduction, they discuss the growth of the field and some of the challenges—and approaches—to teaching and researching in it:

The world history research and educational project today encompasses a potentially immense range of topics to investigate. The richness and diversity of the field is evident in the essays that follow in this book. It is also manifested in journals (the Journal of World History, the Journal of Global History, and World History Connected) and in scholarly meetings of the World History Association, its American affiliates, and the organizations that have emerged in other parts of the world. In short, the aim of the world history project is not only, or even mainly, to construct histories of the world.

Nevertheless, educators have faced continuing challenges in devising conceptual frameworks for introductory world history that match the narrative coherence of Western Civ…. educators have agonized over how to build and then properly position conceptual platforms from which to explicate the human past in all its variety and confusion.

World history, as opposed to European, Moroccan, or Iroquoian history, lacks an assumed, coherent cultural frame, however mythical such cultural uniformity may be…. Border posts between countries or geographical markers between continents should not predetermine the scope of the investigation. Over the millennia humans have formed all sorts of aggregates— migrating bands, marching armies, commercial caravans, religious missionaries, big corporations— that act in time and space without regard to the geographical conventions— nations, culture areas, continents— that scholars decided, in some cases a century or two ago, should be the proper and even exclusive vessels for historical inquiry. The movement for a new world history has given researchers leave to break out of national and regional shells, and as they have done this, they have discovered a wealth of new historical questions to explore.

In the introductions to each thematic chapter, the editors include their insights and offer approaches that teachers and scholars can take to stretch and deepen their own understanding. Each chapter also includes an annotated reading list of additional works to further advance teaching and scholarship in a field that is increasingly expanding in breadth and depth.

Ross E. Dunn is Professor Emeritus of History at San Diego State University, author of The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century, and coauthor of Panorama: A World History.

Laura J. Mitchell is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, author of Belongings: Property, Family, and Identity in Colonial South Africa, and coauthor of Panorama: A World History.

Kerry Ward is Associate Professor of History at Rice University and author of Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company.

BRUCE CONNER wins the 2017 Dedalus Foundation Exhibition Catalogue Award

The Dedalus Foundation Exhibition Catalogue Award is awarded annually to the author or authors of an outstanding exhibition catalogue published in a given calendar year that makes a significant contribution to the scholarship of modern art or modernism. This award is given in addition to, and as the complement of, the prestigious Robert Motherwell Book Award.

We are proud to announce the 2017 award went to BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE by Rudolph Frieling and Gary Garrels, published in association with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“The historic exhibition catalogue BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE offers a rigorous accounting and analysis of a pivotal American artist whose pioneering work in various media, including film and video, works on paper, assemblages, photographs and photograms, performance, and more, continues to exert tremendous influence on artists working today.

The catalogue offers a highly anticipated contemporary perspective on Conner, providing a definitive examination of his output and place in postwar art. It features a wide range of artworks and ephemeral materials never before published.”

To learn more about the exhibition, listen to the Modern Art Notes podcast interview with curator Gary Garrels.

Save 30% on the catalogue with online purchase—enter discount code 16W6596 at checkout.

Big History Will Not Destroy History

by Richard B. Simon, co-editor of Teaching Big History

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the World History Association taking place June 22-24 in Boston. #TheWHA17

Over several years of teaching and promoting Big History, a young field in which we bend the beginning of history back 13.8 billion years to the Big Bang, I’ve heard healthy skepticism from many quarters — including from hard scientists who object to non-scientists teaching scientific concepts from an imperfect understanding, and from humanities scholars who fret that when we bring astrophysics and geology into the seminar classroom, we risk further marginalizing the arts and human cultural endeavor.

What’s been particularly enlightening is hearing the concerns of historians.

One such critique is that because Big History covers the origin of the universe, the formation our solar system and Earth, the evolution of life on Earth and of our species, and the story of human culture from hunter-gatherer societies to our global digital civilization — it’s no longer history — because it is no longer centered on humans.

Another concern is that treating humans as part of the natural world removes human agency, and thus the core of the historian’s passion.

There’s an intimacy to what historians do, poring over objects that another human being, distant in time and space, touched, manipulated, folded, creased, marked, licked — and thus affected the outcome of our human story. That intimacy, that loving act of trying to get inside another person’s head to understand her, his, or their actions and how those actions led to the unfolding of events in our shared human story, seems to be what some historians fear will be lost when we do history with rock hammers and space-based telescopes rather than in archives and document troves. That when we zoom out too far, we risk losing our humanity.

But as big as the Big History metanarrative is, it is ultimately a story told by humans on Earth about how we came to be who we are today, and how we came to know what we think we know. It is, at this point, necessarily anthropocentric.

Continue reading “Big History Will Not Destroy History”

Meet Psychology Editor Christopher Johnson at SPSSI

It’s been about 6 months since we last caught up with Christopher Johnson, Executive Editor for Psychology. Here, we learn more about what has been unfolding for the UC Press’ newest discipline—Psychology. 

It’s been an exciting few months. How have your projects been developing for the Psychology list?

I’ve been at the Press for about 18 months and it’s great to have projects at various stages of development.

  • My first book at UC Press is publishing this SeptemberSeeing: How Light Tells Us About the World by noted cognitive psychologist Tom Cornsweet (Emeritus Professor at UC Irvine).
  • My newest textbook signing is a wonderful treatment of creativity by Robert Weisberg (Temple University). This book joins two other innovative textbook signings from earlier this yearone for the psychology of adjustment course by Robert Innes and a second for the testing and measurement course by Lisa Hollis-Sawyer.
  • I’m particularly excited to be working with pioneering psychologist Ravenna Helson (Professor Emerita UC Berkeley) and coauthor Valory Mitchell on a book that traces the evolution of Helson’s groundbreaking Mills Longitudinal Study.
  • New proposals have been keeping me busy. From a new textbook for the psychology of religion course, to a thoughtful and innovative look at the evolution of the self in the digital age, to a much needed new text for the psychology of the self course. I really want to hear from authors interested in reaching audiences in undergraduate and graduate psychology courses.

Are you specializing in a particular area of psychology?

Absolutely! The UC Press has traditionally championed books that examine social issues: race, class, gender, conflict, poverty, social justice, the environment, etc. The topics are well represented in our world-class sociology, criminology, history, anthropology, and other catalogs. Psychological science sheds an indispensable light here and I’m eager to work with authors who want their research to influence the national dialog. To that end, I welcome proposals for related textbooks, scholarly works and trade books.

Join UsAnd Meet Christopher at SPSSI! 

Interested in publishing your work with Christopher and UC Press? Contact Christopher at And set up a time to meet with him at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) conference in Albuquerque, NM this  June 23-25.

And learn more about the Higher Education Program.

A Queer History Reading List

#PrideMonth is upon us, and while we are out celebrating we must not forget the past and what has brought us to this important moment in queer history. Jump into the past, ranging from gay L.A. to the AIDS years in New York City, with these selected titles.

Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left by Emily K. Hobson

LGBT activism is often imagined as a self-contained struggle, inspired by but set apart from other social movements. Lavender and Red recounts a far different story: a history of queer radicals who understood their sexual liberation as intertwined with solidarity against imperialism, war, and racism. Bringing together archival research, oral histories, and vibrant images, Emily K. Hobson rediscovers the radical queer past for a generation of activists today.


Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons

The exhortation to “Go West!” has always sparked the American imagination. But for gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, the City of Angels provided a special home and gave rise to one of the most influential gay cultures in the world. Drawing on rare archives and photographs as well as more than three hundred interviews, Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons chart L.A.’s unique gay history, from the first missionary encounters with Native American cross-gendered “two spirits” to cross-dressing frontier women in search of their fortunes; from the bohemian freedom of early Hollywood to the explosion of gay life during World War II to the underground radicalism set off by the 1950s blacklist; and from the 1960s gay liberation movement to the creation of gay marketing in the 1990s.


The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman

In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Schulman takes us back to her Lower East Side and brings it to life, filling these pages with vivid memories of her avant-garde queer friends and dramatically recreating the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a political insider.


An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk’s Speeches and Writings edited by Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris

Harvey Milk was one of the first openly and politically gay public officials in the United States, and his remarkable activism put him at the very heart of a pivotal civil rights movement reshaping America in the 1970s. An Archive of Hope is Milk in his own words, bringing together in one volume a substantial collection of his speeches, columns, editorials, political campaign materials, open letters, and press releases, culled from public archives, newspapers, and personal collections.


Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 by Nan Alamilla Boyd

Wide-Open Town traces the history of gay men and lesbians in San Francisco from the turn of the century, when queer bars emerged in San Francisco’s tourist districts, to 1965, when a raid on a drag ball changed the course of queer history. Bringing to life the striking personalities and vibrant milieu that fueled this era, Nan Alamilla Boyd examines the culture that developed around the bar scene and homophile activism.

Tools of the Trade: Resources for History Scholars and Educators

As part of our “Tools of the Trade” blog series, we’re showcasing resources and reference materials for educators and scholars to help you in your research, writing, and prep work this summer. Here are a few titles that cover the ongoing intellectual questions and ideas that have shaped the field.

Advance Your World History Teaching and Scholarship

The New World History: A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers
Edited by Ross E. Dunn, Laura J. Mitchell, and Kerry Ward

This comprehensive collection of essays will enrich your teaching or scholarship in the rapidly expanding field of world history.

These forty-four essays, together with the editors’ introductions to thematic chapters, encourage educators and students to reflect critically on the development of the field and to explore concepts, approaches, and insights valuable to their own work. The selections are organized in ten chapters that survey the history of the movement, the seminal ideas of founding thinkers and today’s practitioners, changing concepts of world historical space and time, environmental history, the “big history” movement, and globalization.

Plan Your Big History Curriculum

Teaching Big History
Edited by Richard B. Simon, Mojgan Behmand, and Thomas Burke

A powerful analytic and pedagogical resource, this is your comprehensive guide for teaching Big History and planning a curriculum around it.

Weaving the myriad threads of evidence-based human knowledge into a master narrative that stretches from the beginning of the universe to the present, the Big History framework helps students make sense of their studies in all disciplines by illuminating the structures that underlie the universe and the connections among them. Includes teaching materials, examples, and detailed sample exercises.


Explore the Depths of Human History

Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present
By Andrew Shryock and Daniel Lord Smail

This breakthrough book brings science into history to offer a dazzling new vision of humanity across time.

Written by leading experts in a variety of fields, it maps events, cultures, and eras across millions of years to present a new scale for understanding the human body, energy and ecosystems, language, food, kinship, migration, and more. Combining cutting-edge social and evolutionary theory with the latest discoveries about human genes, brains, and material culture, Deep History invites scholars and general readers alike to explore the dynamic of connectedness that spans all of human history.


Cultivate Your Craft

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive
By Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne C. Tedeschi

Carlo Ginzburg’s brilliant essay collection explores the questions of truth in history and fiction.

What constitutes historical truth? How do we draw a boundary between truth and fiction? What is the relationship between history and memory? How do we grapple with the historical conventions that inform, in different ways, all written documents? Ginzburg peels away layers of interpretations that envelop every text to make a larger argument about history and fiction. Interwoven with compelling autobiographical references, Threads and Traces bears moving witness to Ginzburg’s life as a European Jew, the abiding strength of his scholarship, and his deep engagement with the historian’s craft.

Techniques and Approaches to Writing About History

Historians across Borders: Writing American History in a Global Age
Edited by Nicolas Barreyre, Michael Heale, Stephen Tuck, and Cecile Vidal

A highly original study that explores the impact of writing American history from abroad.

Arguing that historical writing is conditioned, crucially, by the place from which it is written, this volume identifies the formative impact of a wide variety of institutional and cultural factors that are commonly overlooked. Examining how American history is written from Europe, the contributors shed light on how history is written in the United States and, indeed, on the way history is written anywhere. Designed for students in historiography, global and transnational history, and related courses in the United States and abroad, for US historians, and for anyone interested in how historians work.

Earth Science Meets World History

The Birth of the Anthropocene
By Jeremy Davies

A fascinating introduction to the origins and philosophies surrounding the Anthropocene.

Carbon dioxide levels have reached heights not seen for three million years, and the greatest mass extinction since the time of the dinosaurs appears to be underway. Such far-reaching changes suggest something remarkable: the beginning of a new geological epoch. Linking new developments in earth science to the insights of world historians, Jeremy Davies shows that as the Anthropocene epoch begins, politics and geology have become inextricably entwined.

The Case for Case Studies

By Wil Burns, Editor-in-Chief of Case Studies in the Environment

What is a case study, and how can case studies positively impact critical thinking and knowledge acquisition, as well as inform research in academia and training in professional practice? In this post, Case Studies in the Environment Editor-in-Chief Wil Burns explains what case studies are, and how they can provide an important bridge to understanding important environmental issues.

What is a “Case Study?”

In its most distilled form, a “case study” involves investigation of “real-life phenomenon through detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions, and their relationships.” The “case” may focus upon an individual, organization, event, or project, anchored in a specific time and place. Most cases are based on real events, or a plausible construction of events, and tell a story, often involving issues or conflicts which require resolution. They also frequently include central characters and quotations and dialogue. Often the objective of a case study approach is to develop a theory regarding the nature and causes of similarities between instances of a class of events. More broadly, case studies seek to illustrate broader, overarching principles or theses. In recent years, researchers have increasingly embraced the study method in recognition of the limitations of quantitative methods to provide in-depth and holistic explanations of social problems.

Case Studies in the Classroom

Case studies can play an extremely important role in the classroom. Research surveying faculty and student learning results associated with the use of case studies demonstrate significant increases in student critical thinking skills and knowledge acquisition, as well as enhanced ability to make connections between multiple content areas and to view issues from different perspectives. Case studies can also promote active learning, which has been proven to enhance learning outcomes. Case studies can help to facilitate learning by deductive learners by helping them to reason from examples, analogies, and models, as well as from basic principles.

In the specific context of environmental studies and science courses, case studies have proven to be a valuable component of teaching by fostering critical transdisciplinary perspectives conductive to addressing environmental issues. The case study method has also been employed in an effort to foster engaged learning in environmental studies and science courses by “flipping the curriculum.”

Case Studies in the “Real World”

Case studies are also a valuable tool for environmental practitioners. They can provide guideposts for best practices, as well as lessons learned by others in any given professional sector, including in the environmental arena. The case study method has proven to be an effective tool to assist environmental professional in developing effective recommendations and policy prescriptions. Also pertinent to the environmental sector, case study research can also help to identify relevant variables to facilitate subsequent statistical research. Moreover, case studies can be employed in organizations for training purposes to foster problem-based learning and the ability to formulate solutions.

Case Studies in the Environment

Case Studies in the Environment is a new online journal published by the University of California Press. It seeks to foster the development of a substantial compendium of case studies by the environmental academic and professional communities. The journal focuses on environmental cases studies in the following categories:

It is our hope that Case Studies in the Environment will help to develop a community of scholars and practitioners that can leverage the benefits of case studies on behalf of our efforts to combat some of the most imposing environmental issues of our time. Learn more at, or sign up for Case Studies in the Environment news alerts.