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

 

 


Tax Reform and Who It Benefits: A Tax Day Reading List

While some prepare to file their taxes on or before April 18, others prepare to protest during Tax Day Marches, calling upon President Donald Trump to release his tax returns and commit to a fair tax system for all Americans.

Some see this day as an opportunity to take back the discussion on tax reform and the middle class. And others note that any recent tax reform discussions will still benefit the richest 1% more than the poor and middle class.

As discussions continue on how tax reform affects all Americans, below is a list of suggested readings.

Public Debt, Inequality, and Power: The Making of a Modern Debt State by Sandy Brian Hager

“[W]ho actually owns the debt inside America? Hager has done some fascinating and path-breaking research to answer that question, and concluded that the ownership pattern is surprisingly concentrated—and unequal—and this may have implications for how the entire debt debate develops in the coming years. This is an illuminating work that deserves wide attention.”—Gillian Tett, Financial Times

A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program for monographs. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.

 

How Big Should Our Government Be? by Jon Bakija, Lane Kenworthy, Peter Lindert, Jeff Madrick

“An Important new book . . . goes deep into this question of government footprint and growth.”—Jared Bernstein, The Washington Post

“If you would like a low-key, reasonably argued, nonideological discussion of the economic role of the government in the United States, one based on facts and on research using the facts, this is just the book for you.”—Robert Solow, Nobel Laureate in Economics and Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

Hollowed Out: Why the Economy Doesn’t Work without a Strong Middle Class by David Madland

“[I]t is time to mount a political challenge to the economic theories—namely, supply-side, or trickle-down economics—that have provided cover for the unparalleled growth in inequality over the past three decades. . . . A dramatic and clearly delineated outline of ‘how the stage has been set for transformative political conflict.'”—Kirkus

“When will we learn that an economy that works just for the wealthy just doesn’t work? David Madland explains with clarity and eloquence why trickle-down economics can’t keep its promise of rapid growth—and why a more just economy will provide better results for everyone.”—E. J. Dionne Jr., Brookings Institution, Georgetown University, and author of Our Divided Political Heart

Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class, With a New Preface by Robert Frank

“The arguments here are powerful and multidisciplinary. The crux is explaining how rising economic inequality causes harm to the middle class. It also offers a policy reform—a progressive consumption tax—that serves to mitigate this harm. This is a gem of a book.”—Lee S. Friedman, University of California at Berkeley

“Robert Frank explains exactly how and why an unequal society leaves almost all its members worse-off, including most of those who objectively are doing ‘better.’ This is a very important application of economic logic to modern America’s main domestic problem.”—James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly

 

It’s Not Like I’m Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World by Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, Jennifer Sykes

“An important contribution to poverty policy scholarship.”—Vanessa D. Wells Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

It’s Not Like I’m Poor inspires one to wonder whether there are existing educational interventions that, with changes to their delivery method, might lead to better experiences and outcomes for children and families… Not only did their work dispel many of the negative stereotypes of welfare -reliant mothers and present an honest picture of the financial realities these families faced, it also helped forecast the relative hardships families would face when the effects of welfare reform took shape.”—Celia J. Gomez Harvard Educational Review

Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged by Katherine S. Newman and Rourke O’Brien

“An impressive volume that makes a straightforward, compelling, and well-documented point. This is an important book—for lots of reasons.”—Daniel T. Lichter, Cornell University

Taxing the Poor makes extremely important points that are not now—but must be—part of the American discussion of poverty and social policy. The authors make these points with fascinating details on the history of how we got to this place. Bravo to Newman and O’Brien for thoroughly laying out a politcal economy of taxation.”—Robin Einhorn, author of American Taxation, American Slavery

 

The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem by Joel Best and Eric Best

“Probably the best and clearest book on the United States’ complex student debt problem.”—Tyler Cowen TLS

“In this fully documented—but highly readable—study, Joel and Eric Best parcel out the blame among politicians, educational institutions, and the students themselves. Importantly, they propose timely actions to take ‘before this latest financial bubble bursts.'”—Richard J. Mahoney, Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government and Public Policy, Washington University, St. Louis

“Edgy and astute. . . . This engaging book will appeal to a broad audience of interested general readers.”—John Iceland, Penn State University


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.


Polemics and Patronage in the City of Victory

By Valerie Stoker, author of Polemics and Patronage in the City of Victory: Vyasatirtha, Hindu Sectarianism, and the Sixteenth-Century Vijayanagara Court

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.

The fall of 2016 was an interesting time to publish a book on the relationship between religion, identity, and politics. As we know, the United States elected a president in November who ran on an openly Islamophobic platform and who, within the first weeks of his administration, has made dramatic changes to American immigration policy.

Trump’s election is part of a general 21st-century wave of resurgent nationalism, populism, militarism, and religious and ideological conflict that are responses to broader social and economic change. My book, Polemics and Patronage in the City of Victory, looks at a time and place quite removed from our contemporary lives: the South Indian empire of Vijayanagara in the early 1500s. But, not unlike recent reality, this empire was marked by high levels of immigration, foreign trade, a rapidly changing economy, and new patterns of religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Much as in today’s world, these changes generated both anxiety and opportunity. I wrote this book in part to elucidate how Vijayanagara’s leaders managed these changes and what impact this management had on traditional social units like Hindu monasteries. How did people understand the differences between themselves and others and how did the machinations of the state affect these processes of identity formation?

To explore these issues, my research focused on the relationship between the Vijayanagara Empire’s most famous king, Kṛṣṇadevarāya, and the Hindu monastic leader, Vyāsatīrtha. In the field of Indian religious history, Vyāsatīrtha is best known as a sectarian polemicist who wrote several texts devoted solely to criticizing the views of rival religious traditions. But my work shows that he was also an agent of the Vijayanagara state who worked closely with rival religious communities on projects that helped Kṛṣṇadevarāya expand the state’s functional apparatus. This type of collaboration between religious rivals, who were often also linguistically and regionally distinct, was something the Vijayanagara court actively patronized for many reasons. Such collaboration created cosmopolitan nodes throughout the empire that became hot-beds of economic activity as well as cultural and intellectual exchange. My book re-reads Vyāsatīrtha’s polemical works as an attempt, not solely to criticize other systems of thought, but to engage with them in order to clarify both the boundaries and commonalities between different religious traditions. I argue that this very clarity provided the basis for successful collaboration in daily life.

Thus, by creating a religious cosmopolitanism that was inextricably linked to a variety of practical endeavors, Kṛṣṇadevarāya and his agents shaped a social environment that not only avoided religiously based conflict but supported socio-economic mobility in highly diverse settings. Of course, not everyone flourished within this framework. Because the Vijayanagara court’s patronage was selective, it was also exclusive. And there was plenty of militarism in Vijayanagara statecraft, directed both at rival polities to the north and recalcitrant groups within the empire. Nevertheless, the approach of the sixteenth-century Vijayanagara court to ideological and other differences provides a striking contrast to today’s political rhetoric and reminds us of the value in studying India’s past.


Valerie Stoker is Associate Professor of South Asian Religions and Director of the Master of Humanities Program at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

Polemics and Patronage in the City of Victory is currently available as a free, open access eBook as part of our Luminos program. Read it online now.


Challenging the Notion of “Globalization” as a 21st Century Phenomenon

by George Dutton, author of A Vietnamese Moses: Philiphê Binh and the Geographies of Early Modern Catholicism

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.

In the second decade of the twenty-first century it has become a truism that we have finally entered the era of the “globalized.” It takes little effort for historians to produce a wide range of evidence to suggest that this is not the case, and that the phenomenon of “globalization” is one found already in the ancient worlds. This is particularly true with respect to the various “world religions” that emerged between the 5th century BCE and the 7th century CE, each of which gradually, and occasionally rapidly, travelled to distant corners of the globe. A particularly good example is Roman Catholicism, whose initial spread was relatively modest, but which then took advantage of the sailing ships of the “Age of Discovery” to span the globe. Unlike the other world religions, Catholicism has developed an elaborated ecclesiastical hierarchy that reaches around the world with implications for local Christian communities.

Over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, agents of the Christian church reached the farthest corners of Asia and slowly built up communities of local Catholics. One of these groupings was founded in the coastal reaches of the Red River in the northern part of what is today Vietnam, and was then often called Tonkin. Initiated by Portuguese Jesuits, this community of Catholics grew to several hundred thousand in less than half a century. These mission fields soon drew the attention of other orders – Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and secular mission societies – and priests from a range of nations – Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, among others.

The Christians in coastal Tonkin found themselves both served by the European priests that were in their midst, and profoundly shaped by ecclesiastical conflicts and decisions emanating from the Catholic centers of power in Rome and the Iberian Peninsula. While local Christians experienced a substantial measure of autonomy imparted by distance and the logistics of communication, they were still subject to church politics in Europe. Thus, the papal recall of all Jesuits priests in Tonkin in 1678 sent shockwaves through the community. The order to divide Tonkin into two vicariates that same year further shook the local Catholic communities, who found themselves now experiencing elements of their faith in ways shaped by differentiated approaches to ritual and emphasis. A century later the formal dissolution of the entire Jesuit Order in 1773 further rattled Tonkinese Catholics, now finding themselves subject to new ecclesiastical leadership whose dictates and expectations were often at variance with their long-standing traditions.

While those loyal to the deep rooted Portuguese Jesuit tradition defied their new overseers, this was not sustainable and in 1796 they dispatched one of their own, the recently ordained Vietnamese priest, Father Philiphê Binh, to Portugal on their behalf. This community understood the global forces of Catholicism, and the nuances of its politics. They became active participants in defense of their traditions and sending their emissary to Europe was an indication of their engagement in the church politics of the period. Vietnamese Catholics recognized, far more than most Vietnamese, the degree to which they themselves lived in an era of “globalization.” What happened beyond their borders in remote political capitals had profound and measurable impacts upon both their material and spiritual lives.

Father Binh’s emergence as a priest and representative of his community on a journey half way around the world to defend its spiritual traditions is the subject of my book. While in substantial measure it is the story of a particular man and the complex contours of his life, it is also very much a tale of the ways in which eighteenth-century religious globalization had profound repercussions for Catholics in Tonkin. It is thus a reminder that peoples in seemingly remote corners of the globe were already then active participants in a world where the reach of ideas and politics was no less extensive than in the twenty-first century, even if it travelled at the speed of sailing ships rather than fiber optics.


George E. Dutton is Professor of Vietnamese History in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A Vietnamese Moses is currently available as a free, open access eBook as part of our Luminos program. Read it online now.


Heading to OAH? Save 40% on These U.S. History Titles

If you’re headed to the annual Organization of American Historians conference next month in New Orleans (April 6-9), be sure to visit UC Press at booth #219 for a 40% discount on our U.S. history titles. During the conference, follow @ucpress and  on Twitter as we share guest posts from our authors, exploring the ways in which the historical events of our past continue to shape our current day policies, politics, and culture.

Want to get a headstart on the conference? Take 30% off today on these new and bestselling titles, a selection of just some of the books you’ll find at the conference. Enter discount code 16W6596 at checkout.*

Continue reading “Heading to OAH? Save 40% on These U.S. History Titles”


Anti-Discrimination Legislation: A Report from France

by Marie Mercat-Bruns, author of Discrimination at Work: Comparing European, French, and American Law

9780520283800_mercat-brunsSince the publication of Discrimination at Work, a comparative study and critique of European, French and American anti-discrimination law, France has been the focus of continuous debates on discrimination in and outside of the workplace. In 2016, despite new terrorist attacks and the rising popularity of Marine Le Pen’s nationalist movement, both the burkini ban on Riviera beaches and racial profiling were declared illegal by the French supreme courts (civil and administrative high courts). An important national report came out this past September on the high cost of discriminating in employment in France (Le coût économique des discriminations, Rapport France Stratégie, Sept. 2016). It brought to the forefront a different justification to combat inequality beyond the human rights argument too often ignored: the glass ceiling and the gender wage gap for women and unemployment and wage disparities affecting workers with a sub-Saharan or North African background.

What is in store for the new year? A significant piece of legislation passed in November sets up a class action suit to combat discrimination. Will civil society seize this opportunity to engage in strategic litigation to eradicate systemic discrimination in housing, health care, employment, goods and services, or education ? Probably not right away.

The sources of resistance are twofold. First, the class action à la française has been carefully tailored in employment to avoid significant action by specialized NGOs in the field. Only unions are entitled to introduce a claim against discrimination in employment. Few labor representatives have played a very proactive role in the past to fight against racial and sex discrimination. NGOs can only bring a suit for discrimination in hiring, the hardest to prove. Second, even if the discrimination is proven, the new law requires workers to seek individual remedies for personal harm by engaging subsequent claims in labor courts. Under these circumstances, what is the use of a collective mode of action ? The only redeeming feature of this group action, as it is coined in France, is the possibility for the judge to deliver an injunction to cease discrimination in the future. This allows strategic litigation to have a broader impact and target the structural causes of the discrimination in the company.

The most optimistic civil rights defenders see the new French class action suit, despite its narrow scope, as a first step in raising awareness about systemic discrimination at work. “Incremental change is better than no change at all,” some contend. The next French presidential election will certainly determine in part whether public enforcement of discrimination law is high on the political agenda in a context where “religious neutrality” (which could allow for the banning of religious garments in the workplace, for example) has recently been officially recognized as a legitimate business practice in the new French labor law reform of August 8, 2016.

Discrimination at Work is a Luminos Open Access e-book and available for free download.

 

mercat-bruns_au-photoMarie Mercat-Bruns is Affiliated Professor at Sciences Po Law School and Associate Professor in Labor and Employment Law at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris. She is a member of the Research Institute LISE CNRS (Codirector of the program Gender, Categories and Policy) and also of the scientific committee of PRESAGE (Sciences Po/OFCE Research and Academic Program on Gender Thinking).

 

 

 


The Problem with Magic Potions

by Keith Guzik, author of Making Things Stick: Surveillance Technologies and Mexico’s War on Crime

This post is published after the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans from November 16–19. #ASC2016 

From the creation of the first lock to keep valuables safe to the advent of DNA profiling to identify criminal suspects, technology has played a central role in crime control, and the ongoing information and communication technology (ICT) revolution carries with it the promise that social control agents will not only be able to fight crime more effectively, but do so in a procedurally fair manner. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the recent push to have police officers in the U.S. adopt body-worn cameras (BWCs). Through the combined capacity of highly mobile camera lenses, massive data servers, and nimble file sharing programs, a future can be imagined where the police are able to collect more reliable evidence to identify wrongdoers while building public trust through increased transparency.

Guzik.MakingThingsStickBut magic potions do not cure all by themselves. They require expertly-trained pharmacists to mix, knowledgeable doctors to prescribe, and appropriate delivery systems to dispense into the body. In other words, technological artifacts do not operate independently in the world, but instead require larger “networks of power” (Robert Hughes) or “actor networks” (Bruno Latour).

In my recent book, Making Things Stick, I examine the deployment of advanced surveillance technologies—mobile devices, RFID tags, and biometric identity cards—to combat organized crime in Mexico. The study illustrates how multiple elements of a socio-technical system can conspire against the best laid plans. In Mexico, ordinary citizens refused to comply with security programs they saw as invasive, companies balked at their financial costs, public officials pushed back against them to protect their domains of influence, and their technical designs often proved inadequate. All of this diminished their impact on crime, demonstrating the inherent uncertainty of technologies championed for their objectivity.

Moving back to the U.S., it is important to note that as BWCs have been promoted by the Obama Administration and state legislatures have been moving to pass laws restricting public access to body cameras videos. In the end, it will be difficult for people to believe in magic potions when those in power are the only ones allowed to see whether they had their effect.

Making Things Stick is a Luminos Open Access e-book and available for free download.


KEITH.GUZIK.photo

Keith Guzik is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Denver. Keith is also the author of Arresting Abuse and the co-editor of The Mangle in Practice.


Genocide: From Armenia to Darfur

This post is published in advance of the National Women’s Studies Association conference in Montreal, Quebec from November 10 – 13 and in advance of American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans from November 16 – 19. #NWSA2016 #ASC2016 #Election2016 

Joachim J. Savelsberg presented insights from Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur to affected groups on several occasions. After a speech in Yerevan, Armenia, on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Savelsberg more recently addressed and exchanged ideas with refugees from Darfur and other troubled regions in the Middle East.

Savelsberg-RepresentingMassViolenceOne opportunity was offered by the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, participant in a movement among French universities that offer refugees a path back into higher education. In this context, Savelsberg lectured and discussed with a group of Sudanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugee-students. His lecture evoked much interest and intense discussions. Students primarily wanted to know what actions could put an end to the continuing and newly intensifying mass atrocities in Darfur. Why does the West not intervene with military force? Why does it not arm rebel groups who fight the Sudanese government? Why have peace negotiations not succeeded? Why have indictments by the International Criminal Court (ICC) not resulted in arrests? While not all answers could satisfy all members of the group, students took some comfort from the observation that UN and ICC interventions had advanced an international perception of the mass atrocities as a form of criminal violence. They shared the author’s hope that this trend will, in the long run, further delegitimize mass atrocities and challenge those political and military actors who bear responsibility. American institutions of higher education might, it seems, learn from French universities and their initiatives, which stand in sharp contrast to closed doors rhetoric (and policy) and to the rise of right-wing populist movements that enhance exclusion and risk advancing political-religious radicalization and criminalization.

Joachim Savelsberg at Darfur Women Action Group's Mobile, Engage, Empower to End Genocide Symposium.
Joachim Savelsberg at Darfur Women Action Group’s Mobile, Engage, Empower to End Genocide Symposium.

More recently, Savelsberg spoke to Citizens for Global Solutions in Minneapolis, MN and, in Washington, DC, at the 2016 Women and Genocide conference, organized by the Darfur Women Action Group (DAWG), with support from the Global Women’s Institute, George Washington University, and the Genocide Prevention Program, George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His lecture followed reports in which women from Rwanda, Darfur, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Nigeria spoke to their experiences in the context of mass atrocities. Like in Paris, careful scholarly analysis of the effects of new international institutions encounter impatience among those who are directly affected. Some scholars reinforce that impatience also at the DAWG event, as they focus on the weaknesses of new institutions. Savelsberg instead highlighted the historical novelty of international criminal justice, and alternative transitional justice institutions, urging patience in the exploration of the degree to which – paraphrasing Justice Robert Jackson – reason and some degree of the rule of law may eventually supplement the pure use of power in international relations. The experiment began only in the 20th century. It is a novelty in human history, initial malfunctions are expected and no reasons for dismissal. Representing Mass Violence documents how it may advance cultural change and promote hope.


Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur by Joachim J. Savelsberg is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book and available for free download.


UC Press’s Open Access Luminos Monographs Now Discoverable on Books at JSTOR

In October, JSTOR announced the inclusion of sixty-three open access monographs, including those from UC Press’s OA program Luminos, on their aggregated content platform, Books at JSTOR. In the following Q&A, Books at JSTOR Director Frank Smith talks about why this is an important development for disseminating the long-form research of faculty in the humanities and social sciences.

Sandy Brian Hager’s Public Debt, Inequality, and Power is now available for free download at Books at JSTOR

What is the role of JSTOR in the discovery process for students and researchers?

JSTOR is one of the most heavily used online resources at universities and colleges. Students and researchers know—or at least we think they know—that the journals and books presented on JSTOR have been carefully chosen by JSTOR staff for their high academic quality. A very high percentage of the searches for content on JSTOR are from students, faculty, and other researchers who actually start on JSTOR, as opposed to coming in from the library catalog or Google.

Further, librarians have told us that they’re unlikely to catalog OA books because they’re worried about the quality of some OA titles “in the wild,” and it is too much work for them to “opt-in” even OA books from respected publishers if they are not able to do so at scale. Books at JSTOR seems to be one good solution to those problems: JSTOR is a trusted source for content, and having OA titles delivered at greater scale gives librarians incentive to opt-in to cataloging those titles via MARC records and their web-scale discovery partners, so that OA book metadata is available to their patrons not just via search, but also through libraries’ own discovery systems.

Why did you decide to host open access books on JSTOR?

The open access books we are hosting come from publishers who we know employ high standards, including peer review, in their publishing decisions. So in one sense the open access books we are hosting are the same as books for which we sell licenses, which is to say we think they will be valuable for anyone doing academic research. A second reason to host open access books is to try to make JSTOR a more valuable resource for researchers who may not have university affiliations or may be in developing countries. (Through the generosity of many publishers, we also offer “read only” access to many journals for researchers without affiliations.) Third, OA books increase the amount of high quality content on JSTOR and we think thereby will make it a more valuable research platform.

What do you hope the future will hold for open access books on Books at JSTOR?

We hope of course that the books will be valuable to researchers. We also hope that by collecting data on the use of the books we can contribute in a meaningful way to discussions about the growth of open access publishing.

Also, the systems for books that are sold—publishing systems, library cataloging systems, and discovery systems—are ill suited to maximize the distribution of OA content. We’re facing a new version of trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. Books at JSTOR plays an important role then in being one of the first for-purchase content aggregators to incorporate OA books into our workflows and collections, which will ultimately help OA book publishing and readership as a whole.