OAH Roundup

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the UC Press booth at the Organization of Americans Historians annual meeting in St. Louis this year. We showcased a broad range of groundbreaking and award-winning titles in American history. Below are just some of the authors that stopped by to show off their books.

Scott Laderman, author of Empire in Waves: A Political History of Surfing
Scott Laderman, author of Empire in Waves: A Political History of Surfing

 

Fay A. Yarbrough, Adam Arenson, and Stephen Kantrowitz, of Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States
Fay A. Yarbrough, Adam Arenson, and Stephen Kantrowitz, of Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States

This is also a great opportunity to revisit the guest blog posts by our authors, published in advance of the annual meeting.

 


American History Unbound: Asians and Pacific Islanders

By Gary Y. Okihiro

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

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

 

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

 


Taboos and the American Civil War

By Adam Arenson

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

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

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

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

 

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

 


Interracial Marriage

By Emma Jinhua Teng

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 


Taboos

By Virginia Scharff

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

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

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

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

 

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

 


A Political History of Surfing

By Scott Laderman

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 


The Essential Cesar Chavez Day Reading List

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

Sal Si Puedes, by Peter Matthiessen

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

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

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

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

From the Jaws of Victory, by Matthew Garcia

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

Beyond the Fields, by Randy Shaw

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

Delano, by John Gregory Dunne

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


Join Us At The 2015 Organization of American Historians Meeting!

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

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

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

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

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

Follow #OAH2015 and @The_OAH for current meeting news.


Visit Us at the 2015 American Society for Environmental History Conference!

Join University of California Press this spring in the nation’s capital for the 2015 American Society for Environmental History Annual Meeting. The meeting convenes March 18-22 in Washington, DC.

Please visit our table in the Washington Marriott Georgetown to purchase our latest Environmental History publications for the following offers:

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

Our Environmental History list is comprised of a broad selection of titles ideal for research and courses. Our groundbreaking authors and award winning titles explore topics within natural history, geography, world history, and ecological studies.

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

Check out #aseh2015 and #envhist for current meeting news.


Skiing into Modernity

By Andrew Denning

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society for Environmental History conference in Washington, DC. UC Press authors share their research and stories that reflect on this year’s conference them, Turning Protest into Policy. Come back for new posts every weekday until March 19th.

Andrew Denning

When it comes to the sport—and business—of Alpine skiing, translating protest into policy has proven exceedingly difficult. From the earliest appearance of the sport, a cohort of skiers protested the deleterious effects of hundreds and thousands of skiers making their way down the mountainside. The sport presented a Faustian bargain: it connected skiers with nature, yet by virtue of its immense popularity, befouled the environment. Complaints about the alienation of the sport from nature only became more vociferous in the post-World War II era, when lift networks, landscape modifications, and mechanical snow production recast the sport as a consumable product for millions of middle-class tourists.

In the context of Alpine Europe, French communities proved particularly adept at catering to the needs of modern skiers, constructing purpose-built resorts such as Courchevel and Les Arcs to serve winter tourists. Traditionalist skiers, the directors of more established resorts in Switzerland and Austria, and environmental advocates alike lamented the alienation of the sport from nature, but the immense profitability of these French resorts muted such claims.

Protest only became policy when the market became saturated in the 1970s. As profits slowed, many began to question the refashioning of the French Alps to suit the needs of winter tourists. The French President, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing voiced these concerns in 1977 in a speech at the Alpine commune of Vallouise, stating, “If the human wasteland expands, the touristic attraction [of the mountains] will lessen considerably. The urbanite looks to the mountain for contact with untamed nature… Enough with technocratic visions for development in the mountains. Think of people, think of mankind.”

In the context of the more austere economic climate of the 1970s and growing questions about the impact of Alpine skiing on nature, the construction of new resorts has slowed from the industry’s halcyon days of France’s postwar trente glorieuses. Only after the economic incentives of unchecked development collapsed did environmental protest influence development policy.

 

Andrew Denning is a postdoctoral fellow in history at the University of British Columbia and the author of Skiing into Modernity. His work has been published at The Atlantic.