Tools of the Trade: Anthropologists

As part of our “Tools of the Trade” blog series, we’re highlighting resources for social science scholars and educators to aid in your research, writing, and prep work this summer. Look no further for a refresher of methods that you can use in your own work or share with your students.

Enrich Your Ethnographic Research

Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, Thirtieth Anniversary Edition by Paul Rabinow

In this landmark study, Paul Rabinow takes as his focus the fieldwork that anthropologists do. How valid is the process? To what extent do the cultural data become artifacts of the interaction between anthropologist and informants? Having first published a more standard ethnographic study about Morocco, Rabinow here describes a series of encounters with his informants in that study, from a French innkeeper clinging to the vestiges of a colonial past, to the rural descendants of a seventeenth-century saint.

 

How Forests Think: Toward and Anthropology of Being Human by Eduardo Kohn

Can forests think? Do dogs dream? In this astonishing book, Eduardo Kohn challenges the very foundations of anthropology, calling into question our central assumptions about what it means to be human—and thus distinct from all other life forms. Avoiding reductionistic solutions, and without losing sight of how our lives and those of others are caught up in the moral webs we humans spin, this book skillfully fashions new kinds of conceptual tools from the strange and unexpected properties of the living world itself.

 

The Extended Case Method: Four Countries, Four Centuries, Four Great Transformations, and One Theoretical Tradition by Michael Burawoy

In this remarkable collection of essays, Michael Burawoy develops the extended case method by connecting his own experiences among workers of the world to the great transformations of the twentieth century—the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and its satellites, the reconstruction of U.S. capitalism, and the African transition to post-colonialism in Zambia. These essays, presented with a perspective that has benefited from time and rich experience, offer ethnographers a theory and a method for developing novel understandings of epochal change.

 

Being There: The Fieldwork Encounter and the Making of the Truth edited by John Borneman and Abdellah Hammoudi

Challenges to ethnographic authority and to the ethics of representation have led many contemporary anthropologists to abandon fieldwork in favor of strategies of theoretical puppeteering, textual analysis, and surrogate ethnography. In Being ThereJohn Borneman and Abdellah Hammoudi argue that ethnographies based on these strategies elide important insights.

 

Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization by Khiara Bridges

Reproducing Race, an ethnography of pregnancy and birth at a large New York City public hospital, explores the role of race in the medical setting. Khiara M. Bridges investigates how race—commonly seen as biological in the medical world—is socially constructed among women dependent on the public healthcare system for prenatal care and childbirth.

 

 

Driving after Class: Anxious Times in the American Suburb by Rachel Heiman

“Rugged entitlement” is Heiman’s name for the middle class’s sense of entitlement to a way of life that is increasingly untenable and that is accompanied by an anxious feeling that they must vigilantly pursue their own interests to maintain and further their class position. Driving after Class is a model of fine-grained ethnography that shows how families try to make sense of who they are and where they are going in a highly competitive and uncertain time.

 

They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers by Sarah Bronwen Horton

They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields takes the reader on an ethnographic tour of the melon and corn harvesting fields of California’s Central Valley to understand why farmworkers suffer heatstroke and chronic illness at rates higher than workers in any other industry. Through captivating accounts of the daily lives of a core group of farmworkers over nearly a decade, Sarah Bronwen Horton documents in startling detail how a tightly interwoven web of public policies and private interests creates exceptional and needless suffering.

 

Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South by Angela Steusse

Based on the author’s six years of collaboration with a local workers’ center, this book explores how Black, white, and new Latino Mississippians have lived and understood these transformations. Activist anthropologist Angela Stuesse argues that people’s racial identifications and relationships to the poultry industry prove vital to their interpretations of the changes they are experiencing


Tools of the Trade: Resources for Social Scientists

As part of our “Tools of the Trade” blog series, we’re highlighting resources for social science scholars and educators to aid in your research, writing, and prep work this summer. Look no further for a refresher of methods that you can use in your own work or share with your students.

How to Think Critically

Critical Thinking: Tools for Evaluating Research by Peter Nardi

This book prepares readers to thoughtfully interpret information and develop a sophisticated understanding of our increasingly complex and multi-mediated world. Peter M. Nardi’s approach helps students sharpen critical thinking skills and improve analytical reasoning, enabling them to ward off gullibility, develop insightful skepticism, and ask the right questions about material online, in the mass media, or in scholarly publications. Students will learn to understand common errors in thinking; create reliable and valid research methodologies; understand social science concepts needed to make sense of popular and academic claims; and communicate, apply, and integrate the methods learned in both research and daily life.

Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data, Updated and Expanded by Joel Best

Are four million women really battered to death by their husbands or boyfriends each year? Is methamphetamine our number one drug problem today? Alarming statistics bombard our daily lives. But all too often, even the most respected publications present numbers that are miscalculated, misinterpreted, hyped, or simply misleading. This new edition contains revised benchmark statistics, updated resources, and a new section on the rhetorical uses of statistics, complete with new problems to be spotted and new examples illustrating those problems. Joel Best’s bestseller exposes questionable uses of statistics and guides the reader toward becoming a more critical, savvy consumer of news, information, and data. See also Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists, Updated Edition.

Methodology

Data Mining for the Social Sciences: An Introduction by Paul Attewell and David Monaghan

We live in a world of big data: the amount of information collected on human behavior is staggering, and exponentially greater than at any time in the past. Powerful algorithms can churn through seas of data to uncover patterns. This book discusses how data mining substantially differs from conventional statistical modeling. The authors empower social scientists to tap into these new resources and incorporate data mining methodologies in their analytical toolkits. This book demystifies the process by describing the diverse set of techniques available, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches, and giving practical demonstrations of how to carry out analyses using tools in various statistical software packages.

The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies, With a New Introduction by Charles C. Ragin

The Comparative Method proposes a synthetic strategy, based on an application of Boolean algebra, that combines the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative sociology. Elegantly accessible and germane to the work of all the social sciences, and now updated with a new introduction, this book will continue to garner interest, debate, and praise.

“While not everyone will agree, all will learn from this book. The result will be to intensify the dialogue between theory and evidence in comparative research, furthering a fruitful symbiosis of ‘quantitative’ and ‘qualitative’ methods.”—Theda Skocpol, Harvard University

Time Series Analysis in the Social Sciences: The Fundamentals by Youseop Shin

 This book is a practical and highly readable, focusing on fundamental elements of time series analysis that social scientists need to understand so they can employ time series analysis for their research and practice. Through step-by-step explanations and using monthly violent crime rates as case studies, this book explains univariate time series from the preliminary visual analysis through the modeling of seasonality, trends, and residuals, to the evaluation and prediction of estimated models. It also explains smoothing, multiple time series analysis, and interrupted time series analysis. With a wealth of practical advice and supplemental data sets, this flexible and friendly text is suitable for all students and scholars in the social sciences.

Regression Models for Categorical, Count, and Related Variables: An Applied Approach by John P. Hoffmann

Sociologists examining the likelihood of interracial marriage, political scientists studying voting behavior, and criminologists counting the number of offenses people commit are all interested in outcomes that are not continuous but must measure and analyze these events and phenomena in a discrete manner.

The book addresses logistic and probit models, including those designed for ordinal and nominal variables, regular and zero-inflated Poisson and negative binomial models, event history models, models for longitudinal data, multilevel models, and data reduction techniques.

A companion website includes downloadable versions of all the data sets used in the book.

Presenting Your Data

Principles of Data Management and Presentation by John P. Hoffmann

The world is saturated with data in words, tables, and graphics. Assuming only that students have some familiarity with basic statistics and research methods, this book provides a comprehensive set of principles for understanding and using data as part of a research, including:
• how to narrow a research topic to a specific research question
• how to access and organize data that are useful for answering a research question
• how to use software such as Stata, SPSS, and SAS to manage data
• how to present data so that they convey a clear and effective message

A companion website includes material to enhance the learning experience—specifically statistical software code and the datasets used in the examples, in text format as well as Stata, SPSS, and SAS formats.

 


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 www.jailcare.org/.


Why Jail Can Become a Safety Net for Pregnant Women

As discussions about reproductive justice and women’s rights as human rights continue, we mustn’t forget that these same rights should apply to pregnant women behind bars.

Carolyn Sufrin, author of Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars, recently discussed how the repeal of the Affordable Care Act could negatively affect pregnant women in prison—many of whom are women of color and come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Despite a 1976 Supreme Court Case stating that prisons and jails are constitutionally mandated to provide health care to incarcerated persons, pregnant incarcerated women are still neglected and mistreated.

Many imprisoned women are in jail and prison for non-violent crimes, most times involving drugs. Most recently in an interview with Rewire, Sufrin states: “With the criminalization of drug use during pregnancy, although there was some recent encouraging news in Wisconsin, we have to be concerned that we’re going to see these laws and enforcement increase. Instead of investing in drug treatment and mental health treatment, women are going to be criminalized. The appointment of Jeff Sessions [Attorney General of the United States] and his commitment to roll back the progress of criminal justice system reform are deeply tied to the rollback on health-care reforms and reinvesting in safety net programs. It’s all tied together and only going to make things worse for women in the criminal justice system.”

In Jailcare, Sufrin writes:

Since the 1980s’ escalation of “the war on drugs,” the United States has seen an exponential rise in the number of people behind bars, from 501,886 in 1980 to 2,173,800 in 2015. The U. S. holds only 5 percent of the world’s population, but more than 20 percent of the world’s prisoners. We incarcerate more women than Russia, China, Thailand, and India combined. Blacks have been disproportionately targeted, imprisoned at a rate that is more than five times that of whites, a statistical fact which reflects the continuities between racist criminal justice system policies and plantation slavery and Jim Crow segregation. Amid this expansion, women are the fastest-growing segment of the prison population. And yet incarcerated women and their health needs remain consistently excluded from public discussions of mass incarceration.

Numerous scholars have chronicled the rise of mass imprisonment, arguing that the phenomenon reflects not a response to a rise in violent crime, but the “penal treatment of poverty.” Put simply, where the state once had a strong moral and financial investment in robust public services for the poor, it now invests in an increasingly large and punitive penal system to manage them. The public safety net has failed to help millions of people stabilize lives made precarious by inequality and trauma.

Sufrin believes that “it’s possible to advocate for improved health care inside jails at the same time we advocate for improved services and criminal justice reforms outside of jail. … We can advocate for those kinds of changes while also ensuring that the care [pregnant incarcerated women] receive while they’re in jail meets the community standard of care and is comprehensive. This does not mean that we should make jails less safe or less resourced to provide health care so that we can make communities more resourced. We need to work on both at the same time.”


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


The Regional Roots of Transnational Digital Activism

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Elisabeth Jay Friedman, author of Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America

Latin American digital border crossers have much to teach us about “the way transnational flows of people and ideas have shaped Latin America,” a theme of this year’s Latin American Studies Association conference. Such transnational flows have gone in both directions on the internet, as I have learned from the Argentine, Brazilian, and Mexican feminist and queer activists whom I interviewed for my book, Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America.

The conversion of a technology supposedly invented by the US military into a strategic tool for activists around the world is often taken for granted. But how did it happen? A closer look reveals that progressive computer engineers, programmers, and administrators, all dedicated to expanding digital resources beyond the politically powerful, economically fortunate, and socially advantaged, ensured that social change organizations and movements would be some of the earliest adopters. In Latin America, communities emerging out of the fiercely repressive regimes of the 1970s and 1980s embraced and expanded new communications technologies. For example, Brazil’s AlterNex became the first non-academic internet provider in all of Latin America, even before the military left power. Housed at IBASE, one of Brazil’s most important and durable civic organizations, it was connected to the public data network – run through the state telephone company. The company knew enough to be suspicious of IBASE’s oppositional efforts, and periodically would cut off their telephone service. But IBASE had enough clout to insist that it be restored.

In the 1990s, many feminists also seized on the still-evolving internet. They had been creating alternative media for well over a century, using it to connect transnationally: activists eagerly engaged extra-regional ideas while they contemplated their own pathways towards improving women’s status and rights. As in later periods, editors and writers often literally carried these ideas across borders in their suitcases. Take for example the 19th century Argentine writer Juana Manuela Gorriti, whose travels and passions led her to found both an Argentine and a Peruvian newspaper. In the late 20th century, contextually rooted border crossing continued. Projects such as Modemmujer in Mexico connected national audiences to each other and fostered transnational discussions through an early listserv, initially founded to monitor developments at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

Throughout the decades since then, Latin American feminist and queer communities have interpreted the internet into their own vernacular. They have built chains of access across seemingly unbridgeable chasms of inequality, such as race, geography, and class. And they have hacked the intentions of popular applications, making distribution lists into interactive spaces and blogs into historical archives. Latin American activists have long taken part in transnational flows of ideas, and have appropriated global technology to serve their own ends.


Elisabeth Jay Friedman is Chair and Professor of Politics and Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of Unfinished Transitions: Women and the Gendered Development of Democracy in Venezuela, 1936–1996 and the coauthor of Sovereignty, Democracy, and Global Civil Society: State-Society Relations at UN World Conferences.


In Conversation: Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

UC Press is proud to have so many of our authors speaking at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend, April 22-23, at the University of Southern California campus. The event is free and open to the public but do require tickets. Be sure to attend the conversations with our UC Press authors.

SATURDAY, APRIL 22

10:30am: Bill Boyarsky, author of Big Daddy, will moderate The Women Behind the Power

Big Daddy is a highly engaging biography that tells the story of an American original, California’s Big Daddy, Jesse Unruh (1922-1987), a charismatic man whose power reached far beyond the offices he held. Unruh became a larger-than-life figure and a principal architect and builder of modern California—first as an assemblyman, then as assembly speaker, and finally, as state treasurer. He was also a great character: a combination of intelligence, wit, idealism, cynicism, woman-chasing vulgarity, charm, drunken excess, and political skill. Bill Boyarsky gives a close-up look at this extraordinary political leader, a man who believed that politics was the art of the possible, and his era.

10:30am: Lawrence Weschler, author of True to Life and Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Seesis in conversation in The Artist as Muse 

In True to Life,  Weschler chronicles David Hockney’s protean production and speculations, including his scenic designs for opera, his homemade xerographic prints, his exploration of physics in relation to Chinese landscape painting, his investigations into optical devices, his taking up of watercolor—and then his spectacular return to oil painting, around 2005, with a series of landscapes of the East Yorkshire countryside of his youth. These conversations provide an astonishing record of what has been Hockney’s grand endeavor, nothing less than an exploration of “the structure of seeing” itself.

11:00am: David L. Ulin, author of Sidewalkingwill moderate Fiction: The Storytellers

In Sidewalking, Ulin offers a compelling inquiry into the evolving landscape of Los Angeles. Part personal narrative, part investigation of the city as both idea and environment, Sidewalking is many things: a discussion of Los Angeles as urban space, a history of the city’s built environment, a meditation on the author’s relationship to the city, and a rumination on the art of urban walking. Exploring Los Angeles through the soles of his feet, Ulin gets at the experience of its street life, drawing from urban theory, pop culture, and literature. For readers interested in the culture of Los Angeles, this book offers a pointed look beneath the surface in order to see, and engage with, the city on its own terms.

12:00pm: Corey Fields, author of Black Elephants in the Room, is in conversation
in The Grand Old Party 

Black Elephants in the Room considers how race structures the political behavior of African American Republicans and discusses the dynamic relationship between race and political behavior in the purported “post-racial” context of US politics. Drawing on vivid first-person accounts, the book sheds light on the different ways black identity structures African Americans’ membership in the Republican Party. Moving past rhetoric and politics, we begin to see the everyday people working to reconcile their commitment to black identity with their belief in Republican principles. And at the end, we learn the importance of understanding both the meanings African Americans attach to racial identity and the political contexts in which those meanings are developed and expressed.

12:00pm: Manuel Pastor, author of Equity, Growth, and Community, is in conversation in Walls and Lines in the Sand: The Shifting Landscapes of Immigration  

A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s new open access publishing program for monographs.

In the last several years, much has been written about growing economic challenges, increasing income inequality, and political polarization in the United States. This book argues that lessons for addressing these national challenges are emerging from a new set of realities in America’s metropolitan regions: first, that inequity is, in fact, bad for economic growth; second, that bringing together the concerns of equity and growth requires concerted local action; and, third, that the fundamental building block for doing this is the creation of diverse and dynamic epistemic (or knowledge) communities, which help to overcome political polarization and help regions address the challenges of economic restructuring and social divides.

12:30pm: Rebecca Solnit, editor of the city atlas series: Infinite CityUnfathomable Cityand Nonstop Metropolis, will be in conversation in Nonfiction: The Future is Female

Nonstop Metropolis, the culminating volume in a trilogy of atlases, conveys innumerable unbound experiences of New York City through twenty-six imaginative maps and informative essays. Bringing together the insights of dozens of experts—from linguists to music historians, ethnographers, urbanists, and environmental journalists—amplified by cartographers, artists, and photographers, it explores all five boroughs of New York City and parts of nearby New Jersey. We are invited to travel through Manhattan’s playgrounds, from polyglot Queens to many-faceted Brooklyn, and from the resilient Bronx to the mystical kung fu hip-hop mecca of Staten Island. The contributors to this exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated volume celebrate New York City’s unique vitality, its incubation of the avant-garde, and its literary history, but they also critique its racial and economic inequality, environmental impact, and erasure of its past. Nonstop Metropolis allows us to excavate New York’s buried layers, to scrutinize its political heft, and to discover the unexpected in one of the most iconic cities in the world. It is both a challenge and homage to how New Yorkers think of their city, and how the world sees this capital of capitalism, culture, immigration, and more.

1:30pm: David Kipen, of California in the 1930s, Los Angeles in the 1930s, San Francisco in the 1930s, and San Diego in the 1930sin conversation in Writing California and Beyond 

Los Angeles in the 1930s returns to print an invaluable document of Depression-era Los Angeles, illuminating a pivotal moment in L.A.’s history, when writers like Raymond Chandler, Nathanael West, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were creating the images and associations—and the mystique—for which the City of Angels is still known. Many books in one, Los Angeles in the 1930s is both a genial guide and an addictively readable history, revisiting the Spanish colonial period, the Mexican period, the brief California Republic, and finally American sovereignty. It is also a compact coffee table book of dazzling monochrome photography. These whose haunting visions suggest the city we know today and illuminate the booms and busts that marked L.A.’s past and continue to shape its future.

2:00pm: Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Managed Heart and So How’s the Family, in conversation in President Trump

In So How’s the Family, a new collection of thirteen essays, Hochschild—focuses squarely on the impact of social forces on the emotional side of intimate life. From the “work” it takes to keep personal life personal, put feeling into work, and empathize with others; to the cultural “blur” between market and home; the effect of a social class gap on family wellbeing; and the movement of care workers around the globe, Hochschild raises deep questions about the modern age. In an eponymous essay, she even points towards a possible future in which a person asking “How’s the family?” hears the proud answer, “Couldn’t be better.”

SUNDAY, APRIL 23

10:30am: William Deverell, author of Water and Los Angeles with Nayan Shah, author of Stranger Intimacy and Josh Kun, editor of the forthcoming The Tide Was Always High in conversation in California Dreams: A Tribute to Kevin Starr  

William Deverell

Water and Los Angeles: A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program for monographs.

Los Angeles rose to significance in the first half of the twentieth century by way of its complex relationship to three rivers: the Los Angeles, the Owens, and the Colorado. The remarkable urban and suburban trajectory of southern California since then cannot be fully understood without reference to the ways in which each of these three river systems came to be connected to the future of the metropolitan region. This history of growth must be understood in full consideration of all three rivers and the challenges and opportunities they presented to those who would come to make Los Angeles a global power. Full of primary sources and original documents, Water and Los Angeles will be of interest to both students of Los Angeles and general readers interested in the origins of the city.

Nayan Shah

Stranger Intimacy: In exploring an array of intimacies between global migrants Nayan Shah illuminates a stunning, transient world of heterogeneous social relations—dignified, collaborative, and illicit. At the same time he demonstrates how the United States and Canada, in collusion with each other, actively sought to exclude and dispossess nonwhite races. Stranger Intimacy reveals the intersections between capitalism, the state’s treatment of immigrants, sexual citizenship, and racism in the first half of the twentieth century.

 

Josh Kun

Black and Brown in Los AngelesThe first book to focus exclusively on the range of relationships and interactions between Latinas/os and African Americans in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, the book delivers supporting evidence that Los Angeles is a key place to study racial politics while also providing the basis for broader discussions of multiethnic America. Readers will gain an understanding of the different forms of cultural borrowing and exchange that have shaped a terrain through which African Americans and Latinas/os cross paths, intersect, move in parallel tracks, and engage with a whole range of aspects of urban living. Tensions and shared intimacies are recurrent themes that emerge as the contributors seek to integrate artistic and cultural constructs with politics and economics in their goal of extending simple paradigms of conflict, cooperation, or coalition. The book features essays by historians, economists, and cultural and ethnic studies scholars, alongside contributions by photographers and journalists working in Los Angeles.

10:30am: Jon Lewis, author of Hard-Boiled Hollywood and Kenneth Turan, author of Sundance to Sarajevo in conversation in Nonfiction: Hooray for Classic Hollywood 

Jon Lewis

Hard-Boiled Hollywood: The tragic and mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of Elizabeth Short, or the Black Dahlia, and Marilyn Monroe ripped open Hollywood’s glitzy façade, exposing the city’s ugly underbelly of corruption, crime, and murder. These two spectacular dead bodies, one found dumped and posed in a vacant lot in January 1947, the other found dead in her home in August 1962, bookend this new history of Hollywood. Short and Monroe are just two of the many left for dead after the collapse of the studio system, Hollywood’s awkward adolescence when the company town’s many competing subcultures—celebrities, moguls, mobsters, gossip mongers, industry wannabes, and desperate transients—came into frequent contact and conflict. Hard-Boiled Hollywood focuses on the lives lost at the crossroads between a dreamed-of Los Angeles and the real thing after the Second World War, where reality was anything but glamorous.”

Kenneth Turan

Sundance to Sarajevo is a tour of the world’s film festivals by an insider whose familiarity with the personalities, places, and culture surrounding the cinema makes him uniquely suited to his role. Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times, writes about the most unusual as well as the most important film festivals, and the cities in which they occur, with an eye toward the larger picture. His lively narrative emphasizes the cultural, political, and sociological aspects of each event as well as the human stories that influence the various and telling ways the film world and the real world intersect.

12:00pm: Gabriel Thompson, author of America’s Social Arsonistin conversation in Lost Stories of the West
Raised by conservative parents who hoped he would “stay with his own kind,” Fred Ross instead became one of the most influential community organizers in American history. His activism began alongside Dust Bowl migrants, where he managed the same labor camp that inspired John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. During World War II, Ross worked for the release of interned Japanese Americans, and after the war, he dedicated his life to building the political power of Latinos across California. Labor organizing in this country was forever changed when Ross knocked on the door of a young Cesar Chavez and encouraged him to become an organizer. Until now there has been no biography of Fred Ross, a man who believed a good organizer was supposed to fade into the crowd as others stepped forward. In America’s Social Arsonist, Gabriel Thompson provides a full picture of this complicated and driven man, recovering a forgotten chapter of American history and providing vital lessons for organizers today.

3:00pm: William Deverell, author of Water and Los Angeles and Eden by Designin conversation in Nonfiction: Tragedies of Our Past

In 1930 the Olmsted Brothers and Harland Bartholomew & Associates submitted a report, “Parks, Playgrounds, and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region,” to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. After a day or two of coverage in the newspapers, the report dropped from sight. The plan set out a system of parks and parkways, children’s playgrounds, and public beaches. It is a model of ambitious, intelligent, sensitive planning commissioned at a time when land was available, if only the city planners had had the fortitude and vision to act on its recommendations.

“Parks, Playgrounds, and Beaches” has become a highly valued but difficult-to-find document. In this book, Greg Hise and William Deverell examine the reasons it was called for, analyze why it failed, and open a discussion about the future of urban public space. 

3:30pm: Mugambi Jouet, author of Exceptional America, in conversation in What’s Up with America 

Why did Donald Trump follow Barack Obama into the White House? Why is America so polarized? And how does American exceptionalism explain these social changes?

Jouet describes why Americans are far more divided than other Westerners over basic issues, including wealth inequality, health care, climate change, evolution, gender roles, abortion, gay rights, sex, gun control, mass incarceration, the death penalty, torture, human rights, and war. Raised in Paris by a French mother and Kenyan father, Jouet then lived in the Bible Belt, Manhattan, and beyond. Drawing inspiration from Alexis de Tocqueville, he wields his multicultural sensibility to parse how the intense polarization of U.S. conservatives and liberals has become a key dimension of American exceptionalism—an idea widely misunderstood as American superiority. While exceptionalism once was a source of strength, it may now spell decline, as unique features of U.S. history, politics, law, culture, religion, and race relations foster grave conflicts. They also shed light on the intriguing ideological evolution of American conservatism, which long predated Trumpism. Exceptional America dissects the American soul, in all of its peculiar, clashing, and striking manifestations.

3:30pm: David L. Ulin, author of Sidewalking and Josh Kun, author of Black and Brown in Los Angeles in conversation in Nonfiction: The Culture of Southern California 

David Ulin

Sidewalking: “In this brief but engaging book, Ulin chronicles his wanderings through the streets and his conversations with friends, entrepreneurs, and officials, and he makes it clear that he has read every book and seen every movie on his subject. Those who know the city will have the advantage, but Ulin casts his net widely, so most readers will enjoy his observations of Los Angeles in literary and popular art as well as his thoughtful personal views.”—Kirkus

 

Josh Kun

Black and Brown in Los Angeles“Exceeds [its] categories and adds to an emerging corpus of comparative knowledge . . . the book shows what interdisciplinary scholarship can do for America’s understanding of itself, especially when it comes to culturally promiscuous, ethnically heterogeneous megapolises like LA.”—Ryan Boyd The Los Angeles Review

 

 


Human Rights and Geography: Our Authors at AAG

One of the themes in this year’s American Association of Geographers conference (occurring in Boston from April 5 – 9) is Mainstreaming Human Rights and Geography. Many geographers and scholars from all disciplines are concerned about human rights and seek meaningful ways to act on their values. Below are a list of some of our authors participating in an Author Meets Critics sessions.

Author Meets Critics Sessions

A Relational Poverty with Ananya Roy, author of Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World

Friday, 4/7/2017, 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM in Fairfax A, Sheraton, Third Floor

Encountering Poverty is a genre-busting book, hybrid critical textbook and scholarly monograph, that pushes the reader to reflect on her or his preconceptions about, and desire to redress, global poverty. Its provocative arguments and deployment of innovative teaching tools will stimulate the most seasoned poverty scholar-educator.”—Eric Sheppard, coauthor of A World of Difference: Encountering and Contesting Development

And read more from Ananya in her piece, In “Defense of Poverty.” 

States of Disease with Brian King, author of States of Disease: Political Environments and Human Health

Friday, 4/7/2017, from 5:20 PM – 7:00 PM in Boylston, Marriott, First Floor

“Social scientists have increasingly applied new analytical approaches to the study of health—yet the discipline of geography has largely been on the sidelines. States of Disease sharpens the cutting-edge tools of political ecology to argue persuasively that ecological conditions are integral to the politics and spatiality of disease and wellness. In contributing to multilayered understandings of HIV/AIDS, the book challenges dominant biomedical approaches.”—Mark Hunter, author of Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender, and Rights in South Africa

And read more from Brian on climate change and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

 

Other Sessions

1413 Checking in on the failures and accomplishments of green capitalism
with Gregory L. Simon, author of Flame and Fortune in the American West: Urban Development, Environmental Change, and the Great Oakland Hills Fire

Wednesday, 4/5/2017, from 12:40 PM – 2:20 PM in Room 202, Hynes, Second Level

Flame and Fortune in the American West cover“It’s been a while since anyone has developed such a sustained critique of the fire-capitalist development complex, but Gregory Simon has done it in a way that will attract readers to the argument and issues that he tackles. Few other people could write this, and none could write it in this style. This is a book that needs to be read.”—Eric Perramond, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Southwest Studies at Colorado College

 

1623 Spatial Narrative in the GeoHumanities: Aesthetics, Methods, and Theory
with Nicholas Bauch, author of A Geography of Digestion: Biotechnology and the Kellogg Cereal Enterprise

Wednesday, 4/5/2017, from 4:40 PM – 6:20 PM in Room 303, Hynes, Third Level

“Nicholas Bauch navigates the reader from the microscale of bodily organs and bacteria to the macroscale of the nation. Written in engaging and lucid prose, A Geography of Digestion blurs the boundaries between inside and outside, between the inner geographies of the human body and their projection on the landscape. Thoroughly researched, captivating, and compellingly geographical, this is one of those rare academic books you will find hard to put down.”—Veronica della Dora, Royal Holloway, University of London

Radicalizing the politics of ‘living with’: enacting race, ethnicity, and difference in animal geography scholarship with Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism and Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California

Thursday, 4/6/2017, from 3:20 PM – 5:00 PM in Massachusetts, Marriott, Fifth Floor

Weighing In is filled with counterintuitive surprises that should make us skeptics of all kinds of food — whether local, fast, slow, junk or health — but also gives us the practical tools to effectively scrutinize the stale buffet of popularly-accepted health wisdom before we digest it.” —Paul Robbins, professor of Geography and Development, University of Arizona

 

 


Alien Ocean Wins the 2017 J.I. Staley Prize

We are delighted to announce that Stefan Helmreich was awarded the J.I. Staley Prize for his book, Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas on behalf of the School for Advanced Research.

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The School for Advanced Research (SAR) presents the J. I. Staley Prize to a living author for a book that exemplifies outstanding scholarship and writing in anthropology. By recognizing groundbreaking books and their authors through the J. I. Staley Prize, SAR seeks to stimulate the best in anthropological research and writing.

Published by the press in 2009, Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas has received considerable praise from reviewers, and we’re proud that Stefan’s work has earned this significant recognition.

“Unique [and] innovative. . . . Captures the excitement and crucial nature of oceanographic research. . . . Perhaps Alien Ocean will inspire the next generation to fulfill the promise of environmental genomic sequencing.” —Nature

“Erudite, widely ranging account of currently important aspects of marine microbiology and their broader implications.” —A. J. Kohn, Choice


The Shameful Neglect of Pregnant Women Behind Bars

This guest post is published as part of a series in relation to the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference, which occurred from March 21 – 25 in Kansas City, MO, and in recognition of Women’s History Month. #ACJS2017 #WomensHistoryMonth

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

March is Women’s History Month, created to celebrate women’s often overlooked contributions to history. But the celebratory tone must also recognize the tenacious, exclusionary gender oppressions and knowledge omissions of the present. Let’s consider this for the U.S.’s penal system: the number of males in the criminal justice system far outnumbers the number of females in the U.S., with females comprising 14% of the jail and 7% of the prison. Reflecting this numerical proportion, we have seen public discourse, policies, and even scholarship overlook the experiences incarcerated women, an omission which implicitly equates male and female incarcerated individuals while simultaneously disregarding how correctional systems are already deeply gendered. Yet we know the pathways and collateral consequences of incarcerating women are different than for men, especially considering that two-thirds of incarcerated women are mothers and the primary caregivers for young children. And we know that the war on drugs and welfare restructuring have disproportionately affected the rate of incarcerating women.

If incarcerated women in general are overlooked, then pregnant women behind bars are even more so. Though data are scarce, it’s estimated that about 1,400 women give birth while in custody every year, and thousands of pregnant women pass through our nation’s prisons and jails. With no mandatory national standards for pregnancy care in correctional settings, these women have astonishingly variable experiences of adequate to shamefully dangerous prenatal care, of being denied their legal right to abortion, of being shackled in labor, of being separated from their newborns after birth. Amid this variability, incarcerated pregnant women and mothers are also enshrouded in derisive, punitive cultural narratives of being “bad mothers,” without regard for broader circumstances structuring their pathway to incarceration.

These are not new injustices. But the policies and sentiments of the current administration, with its renewed “tough on crime” rhetoric, its punitive disdain for “deviant” women (such as President Donald Trump, as a candidate, declaring that women should be punished for having an abortion), its rounding up of undocumented immigrants (many of whom will linger in jails and detention centers), will likely exacerbate conditions in a system that is already ill equipped for and, in many cases, dangerous for pregnant women. If Women’s History Month amplifies that classic feminist project of consciousness raising, then we must engage and respond to the experiences of pregnant women behind bars—one of the most overlooked groups of women in the country.


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


Last Church Standing: Resisting Demolition in Ho Chi Minh City

by Erik Harms, author of Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in New Saigon

This guest post is published in conjunction with the Association for Asian Studies conference in Toronto. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on March 19th.

Since January of this year, Ho Chi Minh City residents and intellectuals have been increasingly rallying around the fate of the Thủ Thiêm Catholic Church and the neighboring convent of the Lovers of the Holy Cross. These architecturally and religiously significant structures currently face the prospect of demolition. The church, which still fills its pews with worshippers at its regular Sunday masses, and the convent, which is still home to an active congregation of nuns who have diligently maintained their historic buildings and grounds, both stand in the middle of a major urban redevelopment scheme called the Thủ Thiêm New Urban Zone. Surrounded by the rubble of mass eviction, the story of these religious structures provides a useful counterpoint to the story of more than 14,500 individual households who have been displaced by the project over the course of more than a decade.

 

Thủ Thiêm Catholic Church and Convent of the Lovers of the Holy Cross, viewed from Ho Chi Minh City’s District One. Once surrounded by dense neighborhoods, all of which have been demolished, the church is itself threatened by demolition. Photo by Erik Harms. June 2016.

 

In 2010 the pace of eviction and demolition picked up rapidly in Thủ Thiêm as many residential areas were reduced to rubble. Photo by Erik Harms. September 2010.

 

The story of the Thủ Thiêm New Urban Zone is detailed in the recent UC Press book, Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon. This new urban development, which is being built directly across the Saigon River from Ho Chi Minh City’s central commercial and shopping District, has been saddled with controversy. Throughout the project’s development, the biggest dispute surrounding its construction has swirled around the amount of compensation being offered to individual households who were asked to give up their homes and land to make way for the project. Luxury and Rubble details the ways in which the compensation process itself gradually drew residents into a largely monetized mode of negotiation with project authorities. This process, in turn, transformed how people in the area conceived of land and rights. Their negotiations over land-use rights framed their understanding of rights by focusing on “money and meters,” that is, how many square meters residents would be compensated for and how much money each square meter was deemed to be worth. In the process, evicted residents learned to fight for their right to receive just compensation based on market values. But in doing so, they also started to think of land primarily in terms of its monetary value, which in turn conflates the act of fighting for one’s rights with gaining the market-based value of land.

By contrast, the fight to preserve the Thủ Thiêm Catholic Church and the convent of the Lovers of the Holy Cross employs a very different idiom. Instead of focusing on the monetary value of the land, this fight is has been framed in terms of preserving the cultural and religious value of the structures. For example, in a post to its facebook page on January 12th, the Consulate General of Canada in Ho Chi Minh City posted the question: “Do you think it’s a good idea to demolish something that is even older than Canada?” In a follow-up post on January 25th, the consulate page noted: “Nearly 100% of comments made were in favour of integrating historic buildings such as the Thu Thiem Convent and Parish Church into new urban developments.”

The fact that the Thủ Thiêm church remains standing, while all the individual houses surrounding it have been demolished, makes it worth considering what strategies might be most successful in helping to resist eviction. In this case, resistance is most successful when it rejects the marketized idioms of land compensation and instead focuses on alternative idioms of justice that cannot be calculated in terms of money and meters.


Erik Harms is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Southeast Asia Studies at Yale University and the author of Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City.

Luxury and Rubble is currently available as a free, open access eBook as part of our Luminos program. Read it online now.