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).


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.


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”


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.


Variants and Errors in Old Editions of Island of the Blue Dolphins

by Sara L. Schwebel, editor of Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Children’s Literature Association taking place June 22-24 in Tampa, FL and the American Library Association conference taking place June 22-27 in Chicago, IL. #ChLA17 / #ALAAC17


Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition

While preparing Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition, I was shocked to learn how significantly the text of individual copies of Scott O’Dell’s Newbery-winning novel differed. Island of the Blue Dolphins is not Sister Carrie, with its complicated publication history, or Walden, famous for its textual variants. It is a twentieth-century Newbery winner published with numerous printing but just three editions: the first (1960), a thirtieth anniversary edition (1990), and a fiftieth anniversary edition (2010). Given the availability of late twentieth-century computer software, I had thought the editions would be identical.

How wrong I was.

Houghton Mifflin first sold the paperback rights to Island of the Blue Dolphins in 1971, and this opened the floodgates to variants in U.S. editions. Dell retyped the first edition, and in doing so inserted a series of variants. The first printing of the first Dell paperback, for example, introduced 6 variants in punctuation, omitted one word (the pronoun “I,” in chapter 8), and made seven printing errors, ranging from a lower case “i” that is missing its dot to a lower case “m” that is only half printed.

In some but not all reprintings of this Dell paperback, errors were corrected. For example, the Laurel-Leaf Historical Fiction imprint published in 1978 corrects two missing periods and a missing comma, as well as the missing pronoun “I;” however, it inserts a different error (“though” for “thought,” in chapter 8). The 1987 Yearling paperback is identical to the 1971 Dell first printing with one exception: it corrects a missing open quotation mark in chapter 8. But bafflingly, the 1999 Newbery-Yearling imprint reverts to the original 1971 Dell paperback: no corrections are made at all. These variants, while slightly annoying, are largely insignificant. And this is where things stood until 1990.

Houghton Mifflin celebrated Island of the Blue Dolphins’ thirtieth birthday by issuing a gift edition of the book illustrated by Ted Lewin. This cloth edition made a series of welcome corrections to Houghton Mifflin’s first edition; most of these corrects are inconsequential (commas, subjunctive verbs, etc.), but three are interesting and substantive.

Continue reading “Variants and Errors in Old Editions of Island of the Blue Dolphins


Remembering Those at Pulse in Orlando: One Year Later

Today, we remember the 49 people who lost their lives at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, FL. It is the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter; the deadliest terrorist attack since September 11, 2011; and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history.

Survivors and family members pay tribute to those in the community who were lost yet always remembered.

This day brings to light the discrimination and homophobia that those in the LGBTQ community experience, and how gun violence—and lack of gun sense—contribute to such tragedies.

Homophobia, sadly, begins early on. C.J. Pascoe, author of Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School, notes in her Guest Viewpoint for The Register-Guard that homophobia is linked to our definition of  masculinity. Pascoe says that during her research, “[b]oys told me that homophobic epithets were directed at boys for exhibiting any sort of behavior defined as nonmasculine: being stupid, incompetent, dancing, caring too much about clothing, being too emotional or expressing interest (sexual or platonic) in other guys.”

And Pascoe notes in Dude, You’re a Fag that the “fag” insult “literally reduced a boy to nothing, “To call someone gay or fag is like the lowest thing you can call someone. Because that’s like saying that you’re nothing.”

Pascoe shares the story of Ricky, who “embodied the fag because of his homosexuality and his less normative gender identification and self-presentation.”

Even though dancing was the most important thing in his life, Ricky told me he didn’t attend school dances because he didn’t like to “watch my back” the whole time. Meanings of sexuality and masculinity were deeply embedded in dancing and high school dances. Several boys at the school told me that they wouldn’t even attend a dance if they knew Ricky was going to be there. In auto shop, Brad,a white sophomore, said, “I heard Ricky is going in a skirt. It’s a hella short one!” Chad responded, “I wouldn’t even go if he’s there.” Topping Chad’s response, Brad claimed, “I’d probably beat him up outside!” K.J. agreed: “He’d probably get jumped by a bunch of kids who don’t like him.” Chad said, “If I were a gay guy I wouldn’t go around telling everyone.” 

Pascoe later shares practical recommendations, focusing on schools to try and curtain homophobia in early settings. From ways administrators and teachers can take proactive steps to know about and enforce anti-discriminatory laws, modify the school’s curriculum and social organizations to be less homophobic, and reorganize highly gendered school rituals, Pascoe brings to the forth front ways we can help gay youth feel more included and be less preyed upon.

As both young Ricky and Pulse Night Club have shown us, homophobia is still a concern of life and death for many, even now. Despite the sadness that many feel today, we end on a note of hope, with the simple message that today is a day of love and kindness. #OrlandoUnitedDay

 


What’s Left of Pride?

By Emily K. Hobson, author of Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left

Commemorations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer resistance have not always held up the banner of “Pride.” Before the early 1990s, anniversaries of the Stonewall Riots were typically marked as rallies for “liberation” or as “Lesbian and Gay FreedomDay.” These earlier events were both celebrations and acts of protest — “marches” rather than “parades,” with advertisements nowhere to be seen.

When gay liberation emerged in the late 1960s, it sought to redefine sexuality through revolution, and vice versa. Gay liberationists and lesbian feminists claimed common cause with the anti-war movement and Black Power, and they insisted that straight radicals recognize sexual freedom as central to a just society. Across the 1970s and 1980s, a vibrant gay and lesbian left forged anti-capitalist, anti-militarist, and anti-imperialist sexual politics, demanding self-determination and organizing solidarity. Gay and lesbian leftists defended the radical underground, mobilized against the New Right, advanced anti-racism in queer communities, and helped build the Central America movement, among many other causes.

The gay and lesbian left holds strong echoes in current queer radicalism. Yet this politics met a downturn in the early 1990s, when many longtime activists died of AIDS and neoliberal agendas cohered. The language of “Pride” ascended, reflecting broader shifts in LGBTQ politics away from radical transformation and towards inclusion in the existing economy and state.

“Pride” aligned with these shifts because it expresses satisfaction with the present, rather than demands for change. Its closest analogues are patriotism and family — pride in one’s country, pride in one’s children. Like those analogues, LGBTQ “Pride” too often makes sameness and respectability the conditions for acceptance. It risks sending the message: be proud of who you are, as long as you make us proud. The language of Pride helps obscure the complexity of LGBTQ history by privileging heroism over critique. It celebrates gay military veterans but ignores queer opposition to militarism; reclaims figures such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson but brushes aside opposition to the presence of police. Small wonder that some queer radicals today mobilize Gay Shame, a network that calls out corporate sponsorship of Pride events and that seeks to prevent gentrification from hiding behind “inclusive values.”

We need joy, pleasure, and humor; we need rage, solidarity, and resistance. Do we need pride? The history of the gay and lesbian left calls on us to reconsider the sentiments we attach to our queer pasts and futures as well as our present. What happens after liberation? How will we live when we get free? This June, let’s use queer radical history to reimagine a future in which we don’t have to settle for less.


Emily K. Hobson is the author of Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left. She serves as Assistant Professor of History and of Gender, Race, and Identity at the University of Nevada, Reno.

 


On the Anniversary of the Six-Day War, Recommended Reading for Understanding the Occupation

Fifty years ago this week, the Six-Day War transformed the Middle East. Fought from June 5-10 in 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the conflict lasted just six days, yet its impact endures today. For Palestinians, this year marks fifty years of military occupation. During the war, Israeli forces captured east Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories — the West Bank and Gaza — as well as the Golan Heights and Sinai. In observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, we’ve selected a list of recommended titles for understanding the nature of the occupation, the reasons for its longevity, and its impact on Israeli and Palestinian lives, with the following deeply researched titles.


A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict by Gershon Shafir

“An indispensable guide for anyone who wants to understand the occupation that has blighted Israeli and Palestinian lives for fifty years.”Peter Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism

In these timely and provocative essays, Gershon Shafir asks three questions—What is the occupation, why has it lasted so long, and how has it transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? His cogent answers illuminate how we got here, what here is, and where we are likely to go. Shafir expertly demonstrates that at its fiftieth year, the occupation is riven with paradoxes, legal inconsistencies, and conflicting interests that weaken the occupiers’ hold and leave the occupation itself vulnerable to challenge.

This excerpt from the book, just published in Mondoweiss, asks the question: Why has the Occupation lasted this long?

Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom by Norman G. Finkelstein | available January 2018

“An exceptional, singular work that will stand as a vital contribution to the literature on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while also securing an essential place in the fields of international and human rights law.”—Sara Roy, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

Norman G. Finkelstein presents a meticulously researched and devastating inquest into Israel’s actions of the last decade, arguing that although Israel justified its violent assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions were cynical exercises of brutal power against an essentially defenseless civilian population. Based on hundreds of human rights reports, Gaza scrutinizes multifarious violations of international law Israel committed both during its operations and in the course of its decade-long siege of Gaza.

This week in Mondoweiss, Finkelstein discussed the history of the Six-Day War, its impact on U.S. Jewish life, and its mythology, saying, “It’s arguable that Israel became a different place after ’67. . .  If not a qualitative, then a quantitative transformation occurred in ’67.  Still, it’s perhaps not too late for Israel to repair some of the damage done to the indigenous population, and itself. Look at Germany and Japan.”

Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror by Gary Fields| available September 2017

“An original and eye-opening argument which places the dispossession of Palestinians by Israel within the age-old system of land enclosure—a broader and deeper logic typifying the political geography of modernity.”—Oren Yiftachel, Professor of Geography, Ben-Gurion University 

Enclosure marshals bold new and persuasive arguments about the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. Revealing the Israel-Palestine landscape primarily as one of enclosure, geographer Gary Fields sheds fresh light on Israel’s actions. He places those actions in historical context in a broad analysis of power and landscapes across the modern world. Examining the process of land-grabbing in early modern England, colonial North America, and contemporary Palestine, Enclosure shows how patterns of exclusion and privatization have emerged across time and geography.

Israel’s Occupation by Neve Gordon

“A powerful and convincing structural framework for explaining Israel’s changing methods of rule in the Palestinian territories from 1967 and until today. This book will change the debate on Israel and its occupation.”Yinon Cohen, Columbia University

This first complete history of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip allows us to see beyond the smoke screen of politics in order to make sense of the dramatic changes that have developed on the ground over the past forty years. Looking at a wide range of topics, from control of water and electricity to health care and education as well as surveillance and torture, Neve Gordon’s panoramic account reveals a fundamental shift from a politics of life—when, for instance, Israel helped Palestinians plant more than six-hundred thousand trees in Gaza and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds—to a macabre politics characterized by an increasing number of deaths.

Yesterday in The Nation, Gordon wrote about this shift from “a politics of life to a politics of death” which he covers in the book. He says: “To really understand Israel’s colonial project, it is crucial to examine the mechanisms of control.”

One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States edited by Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg

“A coterie of bold, open-minded international academics offers a fresh paradigm for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. . . . A visionary approach so daring that it could actually work.”Kirkus

One Land, Two States imagines a new vision for Israel and Palestine in a situation where the peace process has failed to deliver an end of conflict. “If the land cannot be shared by geographical division, and if a one-state solution remains unacceptable,” the book asks, “can the land be shared in some other way?”

Leading Palestinian and Israeli experts along with international diplomats and scholars answer this timely question by examining a scenario with two parallel state structures, both covering the whole territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, allowing for shared rather than competing claims of sovereignty.


Sustaining Conflict: Apathy and Domination in Israel-Palestine 
by Katherine Natanel

“In chapter after chapter, Natanel records the relentlessness of a kind of detachment that allows for Israelis to live a ‘normal’ life while only miles away from them a brutal apparatus of occupation attempts to pacify Palestinians.”Laleh Khalili, Professor of Middle East Politics, University of London

Sustaining Conflict examines how the status quo is maintained in Israel-Palestine, even by the activities of Jewish Israelis who are working against the occupation of Palestinian territories. The book shows how hierarchies and fault lines in Israeli politics lead to fragmentation, and how even oppositional power becomes routine over time. Most importantly, the book exposes how the occupation is sustained through a carefully crafted system that allows sympathetic Israelis to “knowingly not know,” further disconnecting them from the plight of Palestinians.

Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel edited by Mark LeVine and Gershon Shafir

“This wonderful volume illuminates the human dimensions of the complex and often painful history of modern Palestine/Israel by exploring how [individual] experiences have been profoundly shaped by the recurrent struggles over this land.”Zachary Lockman, New York University.

With contributions from a leading cast of scholars across disciplines, the stories here are drawn from a variety of sources, from stories passed down through generations to family archives, interviews, and published memoirs. This wide-ranging and accessible volume of personal narratives brings a human dimension to a conflict-ridden history, emphasizing human agency, introducing marginal voices alongside more well-known ones, defying “typical” definitions of Israelis and Palestinians, and, ultimately, redefining how we understand both “struggle” and “survival” in a troubled region.