Complicity

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference, which occurred from August 12 – 15 in Montreal, Quebec. #ASA17

By Cynthia Enloe, author of The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging the Persistence of Patriarchy

I grew up a Yankees fan. My mother, who couldn’t tell a home run from a quarterback sneak, gamely took 10 year old me and my pals to Yankee Stadium. Now I’m a Red Sox fan. I still love major league baseball. Today, though, I’m far more conscious of the insinuation of militarized patriotism into the game, and, more discomforting, the likelihood that as a fan, I am complicit in that risky process.

Last week I was among the 36,000 fans soaking up Fenway Park’s special beauty on a glorious July afternoon. The stands were full, the grass green, and the bases white. Red Sox fans are a boisterously friendly lot, so I felt I had to stand up with everyone else when a teenage girl sang the national anthem. I cringed when a mammoth stars and stripes was unfurled in the outfield down the beloved Green Monster wall. I kept my cringes to myself.

Around the 6th inning, during a lull in the action, the Fenway announcer drew our attention to the Jumbotron, where we saw a giant version of a middle-aged white man who, in human proportions, was with us in the stands. He was identified as a veteran of recent U.S. wars. Invited to give him a hero’s welcome, a wave of grateful applause erupted. I sat stingily on my hands, still saying nothing.

I love singing at Fenway. Joining thousands of other fans in “Take Me out to the Ball Game” and Boston’s own “Sweet Caroline” is to experience sheer joy. But when at the bottom of the 8th came “America the Beautiful” and everyone around me stood, I sat quietly. My friends smiled down at me sympathetically.

Patriotism, especially militarized, masculinity-heroicizing patriotism, is escalating at American sporting events. It may be most prominent at NFL games and NASCAR races, but it is in full bloom at most major league baseball games—not just the national anthem, but also the ubiquitous lauding of military personnel, and additional patriotic songs in the middle of the game.

Complicity. I have become more interested in complicity, and aware of its subtleties, but I’m not sure how to research it. Feminists in other countries might be our tutors. Japanese feminists today track the singing of their nation’s anthem and displays of the national flag. Bosnian feminists chart ethnicized patriotic symbols as they dominate masculinized soccer games in all parts of the now-rival states of the former Yugoslavia.

I think we need to explore how exactly ordinary women and men—and girls and boys—get personally drawn into militarized masculinized patriotism. To do that, we need to investigate the gendered responses of individuals to both pressures and the allures. I suspect that complicity in militarized masculinized patriotism is camouflaged as mere entertainment or sentimentalism, as well as collective appreciation and gratitude. Gratitude is so often feminized. It becomes an extension of dependency. Women, therefore, are popularly expected to be grateful to men and to the masculinized state for offering them militarized protection. In a militarized society, a woman who refuses to express that gratitude (staying seated when the male veteran is being cheered) risks being deemed unfeminine.

Appreciation can be either masculinized or feminized. In its militarized masculinized form, appreciation is imagined by many men to be an expression of their own special understanding of what it takes to be a manly soldier. By contrast, when feminized, that militarized appreciation is an expression of recognizing that an ordinary woman would be unable to perform these soldiering feats.

Sentimentality, entertainment, appreciation and gratitude—each are routinely gendered. To the extent that all four can be mobilized to serve masculinized militarized patriotism, patriarchy will be perpetuated. It will take researchers and analysts with patience, imagination, stamina and feminist curiosity to understand the myriad deep social processes being entrenched today at a baseball game on a sunny summertime afternoon.

Why did I sit during “God Bless America,” but say nothing?

Other titles from Cynthia Enloe:


Cynthia Enloe

Cynthia Enloe is Research Professor at Clark University specializing in critical studies of militarism and transnational feminism. She has appeared on the BBC, Al Jazeera, and NPR and has written for Ms. and the Village Voice. She is the author of more than fifteen books and was awarded the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement in Peace Studies Award from the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA).


Trump’s Transgender Crisis

by Jack Halberstam, author of the forthcoming Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability

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.


At a time when the visibility and acceptance of transgender people has never been higher, when high school students openly discuss issues of gender variance and businesses boycott states without transgender bathroom policies, President Trump tweeted his intention to ban transgender people from the military. Perhaps, President Trump decided that he needed to make this bold move to win back conservative backers. No doubt even devout Trump supporters in the USA might be eyeing Trump’s health care policies with bewilderment right now and wondering why they are in bed with a one-percenter with strong ties to Russia and little interest in US businesses. For those supporters, Trump offered an olive branch yesterday—by proposing to ban transgender people from the military, he happily sacrificed a gender ambiguous lamb to the mercurial gods of conservative family values.

Trump’s pro-LGBT stance was only the latest campaign posture to find its way to the trash heap of broken promises. While fending off charges of collusion with Russia, treason, rigged elections, and incompetence, Trump has found an issue to rally his right wing fringe supporters while confusing and enraging his many detractors. In the wake of his announcement, many transgender people fired back on twitter to remind Trump and his cronies that they do not want to serve in the military anyway. Others, service members who have been honored in combat, emphasized their intention to stay right where they are, ban or no ban. America’s most famous transgender soldier, Chelsea Manning, accused Trump of cowardice and of creating a distraction with his announcement, but she also suggested that the US military had an inflated and bloated budget anyway, which should be redirected to health care. Hear, hear!

Trump’s tweeted policy change exemplifies how confused conservatives are about transgender issues. While running for office, Trump clearly stated his intentions to protect LGBT communities and to defend the rights of transgender people to use whatever bathroom they deem appropriate and, one assumes, to serve in the military. So, why this ban, why now? Is it related to the health care bill that President Trump has been trying unsuccessfully to put in place—a bill that will dispossess hundreds of thousands of people of their current health care policies? Is it part of an economic retrenchment, an attempt to cut away all unnecessary spending? Trump himself gave an economic rationale for his decision saying that the military spends millions on transgender surgeries. This is nonsense, as many journalists and researchers have pointed out—sex reassignment surgeries are a miniscule part of any military budget and in fact, as the BBC reports: “the US military spends almost $42m a year on the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra—several times the total estimated cost of transgender medical support.” By comparison, the Rand corporation estimates that expenses related to transgender soldiers fall between $5-8 million annually.

There are a few lessons to be learned from Trump’s quick turn away from his clearly stated promises to support transgender people—first, transgender issues have tended to be a safe bet for securing conservative votes. Trump may have overestimated the extent to which this is still true. Second, transgender issues continue to hold a fascination and allure that distracts people from the actual issues under discussion. Finally, transgender people are more integrated into society than ever before in history and the tide towards acceptance is unlikely to be turned back by big, dumb moves like this one. Rather than simply fight for the right for transgender people to serve in the military however, we should seize upon this issue, as Chelsea Manning did, to ask why the military has such a bloated budget in the first place and how these funds can be redirected? We should also push back in similar ways and with equal force on Trump’s attempts to: dispossess people of access to basic health care, amp up security forces and deportations, and to downsize education.

This latest measure neither reflects the current climate on transgender people in or out of the military and has no obvious purpose other than to distract from his total lack of a foreign policy, his disdain for the health of the environment, and his total inability to govern. Transgender people, many of whom have served their country selflessly, which is more than Trump and most of his cabinet can claim, will survive this latest indignity and may well see this ban overturned sooner rather than later once Trump realizes he has lost the crowd’s attention and support and has instead inspired their wrath, their pity and finally, their indifference.


Jack Halberstam is Professor of English and Gender Studies at Columbia University.

His forthcoming book Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability explores recent shifts in the meaning of the gendered body and representation, and the possibilities of a nongendered, gender-optional, or gender-queer future. Part of the American Studies Now series, Trans* will be available as an e-book first this September, months before the print edition publishes.


Health Care in the United States: How did we get here? What’s at stake?

The insurance—and lives—of millions of Americans hangs in the balance. With the final Senate health care vote looming, we’re turning to the following UC Press authors to help make sense of the current state of health care in the United States.

How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics:
From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump
by Laura Briggs

Today all politics are reproductive politics, argues esteemed feminist critic Laura Briggs. From longer work hours to the election of Donald Trump, our current political crisis is above all about reproduction. Households are where we face our economic realities as social safety nets get cut and wages decline. Briggs brilliantly outlines how politicians’ racist accounts of reproduction—stories of Black “welfare queens” and Latina “breeding machines”—were the leading wedge in the government and business disinvestment in families. With decreasing wages, rising McJobs, and no resources for family care, our households have grown ever more precarious over the past forty years in sharply race-and class-stratified ways. This crisis, argues Briggs, fuels all others—from immigration to gay marriage, anti-feminism to the rise of the Tea Party.


Uninsured in America:
Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity
by Susan Sered and Rushika Fernandopulle

Uninsured in America goes to the heart of why more than forty million Americans are falling through the cracks in the health care system, and what it means for society as a whole when so many people suffer the consequences of inadequate medical care. Based on interviews with 120 uninsured men and women and dozens of medical providers, policymakers, and advocates from around the nation, this book takes a fresh look at one of the most important social issues facing the United States today.


One Nation under AARP:
The Fight over Medicare, Social Security, and America’s Future
by Frederick Lynch

A fresh and even-handed account of the newly modernized AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons)—the 40-million member insurance giant and political lobby that continues to set the national agenda for Medicare and Social Security. Frederick R. Lynch addresses AARP’s courtship of 78 million aging baby boomers and the possibility of harnessing what may be the largest ever senior voting bloc to defend threatened cutbacks to Social Security, Medicare, and under-funded pension systems. Lynch argues that an ideologically divided boomer generation must decide whether to resist entitlement reductions through its own political mobilization or, by default, to empower AARP as it tries to shed its “greedy geezer” stereotype with an increasingly post-boomer agenda for multigenerational equity.


Jailcare
Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars
by Carolyn Sufrin

Thousands of pregnant women pass through our nation’s jails every year. What happens to them as they carry their pregnancies in a space of punishment? In this time when the public safety net is frayed, incarceration has become a central and racialized strategy for managing the poor. Using her ethnographic fieldwork and clinical work as an ob-gyn in a women’s jail, Carolyn Sufrin explores how jail has, paradoxically, become a place where women can find care. Focusing on the experiences of incarcerated pregnant women as well as on the practices of the jail guards and health providers who care for them, Jailcare describes the contradictory ways that care and maternal identity emerge within a punitive space presumed to be devoid of care.


Blind Spot
How Neoliberalism Infiltrated Global Health
by Salmaan Keshavjee & Paul Farmer

Neoliberalism has been the defining paradigm in global health since the latter part of the twentieth century. What started as an untested and unproven theory that the creation of unfettered markets would give rise to political democracy led to policies that promoted the belief that private markets were the optimal agents for the distribution of social goods, including health care.

Provocative, rigorous, and accessible, Blind Spot offers a cautionary tale about the forces driving decision making in health and development policy today, illustrating how the privatization of health care can have catastrophic outcomes for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.


Recommended Reading for Independence Day

Together with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution is one of America’s most important documents, vital to our political life. While the Declaration, signed 241 years ago today, listed grievances against the king of England and warned of a destructive government, the Constitution was and is the fundamental framework for the United States. Since today is a celebration of our freedom, we draw inspiration from the First Amendment, the most important for maintaining a democratic government.

This selection includes titles that address aspects of these First Amendment protections — as well as the fallout when these freedoms are threatened.

Freedom of Religion

The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 Edited by Sylvester A. Johnson & Steven Weitzman

As early as 1917, the FBI began to target religious communities and groups it believed were hotbeds of anti-American politics. Whether these religious communities were pacifist groups that opposed American wars, or religious groups that advocated for white supremacy or direct conflict with the FBI, the Bureau has infiltrated and surveilled religious communities that run the gamut of American religious life. This book tackles questions essential to understanding not only the history of law enforcement and religion, but also the future of religious liberty in America.

Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy across the Political Divide by Ruth Braunstein

In the wake of the Great Recession and amid rising discontent with government responsiveness to ordinary citizens, Prophets and Patriots follows participants in two very different groups—a progressive faith-based community organization and a conservative Tea Party group—as they set out to become active and informed citizens, put their faith into action, and hold government accountable. Both groups viewed themselves as the latest in a long line of prophetic voices and patriotic heroes who were carrying forward the promise of the American democratic project. Yet the ways in which each group put this common vision into practice reflected very different understandings of American democracy and citizenship.

Freedom of Speech and the Press

When Government Speaks: Politics, Law, and Government Expression in America by Mark G. Yudof

Government’s ever-increasing participation in communication processes, Mark Yudof argues, threatens key democratic values that the First Amendment was designed to protect. Government control over the exchange of ideas and information would be inconsistent with citizen autonomy, informed consent, and a balanced and mutually responsive relationship between citizens and their government. Yet the danger of government dominance must be weighed against the necessary role of government in furthering democratic values by disseminating information and educating citizens. Professor Yudof identifies a number of formal and informal checks on government as disseminator, withholder, and controller of ideas and information.

American Carnival: Journalism under Siege in an Age of New Media by Neil Henry

In this vividly written, compelling narrative, award-winning journalist Neil Henry confronts the crisis facing professional journalism in this era of rapid technological transformation. Drawing on significant currents in U.S. media and social history, Henry argues that, given the amount of fraud in many institutions in American life today, the decline of journalistic professionalism sparked by the economic challenge of New Media poses especially serious implications for democracy. As increasingly alarming stories surface about unethical practices, American Carnival makes a stirring case for journalism as a calling that is vital to a free society, a profession that is more necessary than ever in a digital age marked by startling assaults on the cultural primacy of truth.

Right to Assemble and Petition the Government

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs & Scott Kurashige

A vibrant, inspirational force, the late-great Grace Lee Boggs participated in all of the twentieth century’s major social movements — for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and more. In this powerful, deeply humanistic book, Boggs shrewdly assesses the political, economical, and environmental crisis right up to 2015, drawing from seven decades of activist experience and a rigorous commitment to critical thinking, to redefine “revolution” for our times. In a world dominated by America and driven by cheap oil, easy credit, and conspicuous consumption, this book is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction.

The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century by Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw’s hard-hitting guide to winning social change details how activists can best use the Internet and social media, and analyzes the strategic strengths and weaknesses of rising 21st century movements for immigrant rights, marriage equality, and against climate change. Whether it’s by inspiring “fear and loathing” in politicians, building diverse coalitions, using ballot initiatives, or harnessing the media, the courts, and the electoral process towards social change, Shaw—a longtime activist for urban issues—shows that with a plan, positive change can be achieved. The Activist’s Handbook is an indispensable guide not only for activists, but for anyone interested in the future of progressive politics in America.


A Deepening Political Divide

By Ruth Braunstein, author of Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy across the Political Divide

The ascendance of Donald Trump to the presidency, and the groundswell of resistance that followed, revealed a rift in the American populace. Some have been shocked by the depth, rancor and seeming intractability of this divide. The election of President Obama (twice) was widely viewed as a sign of national healing. Through this lens, Obama’s hopeful words of solidarity and progress had been a balm on the wounds left by centuries of racial strife, religious disagreement, and ideological antagonism. Trump’s election tore those wounds open anew.

But the apparent disjuncture between Obama’s and Trump’s victories can be reconciled by recalling that America’s history has not been a steady march of progress; rather, it has been marked by a pattern of advances and retrenchment. The age of Lincoln was also the age of the Know-Nothings; FDR provoked a backlash from groups ranging from conservative business and religious leaders to the Klan; and Kennedy’s moment was also Wallace’s. If Obama’s election represented an expansion of the symbolic boundaries of American belonging, then Trump’s rise marked the relatively predictable return of reactionary politics to the national stage.

Yet we should not forget that the country was also deeply divided during the Obama era. The divisions of those years may appear quaint compared to those that have revealed themselves since Trump’s election. But they laid the groundwork for the situation in which we find ourselves today. I spent several years on the front lines of that political divide during the Obama years. In the wake of the Great Recession and amid growing discontent with government responsiveness to ordinary citizens, I began conducting ethnographic fieldwork with a progressive faith-based community organizing coalition and a local Tea Party group.

While attending their rallies, protests, public actions, meetings with legislators, town halls, hearings, and internal meetings, I documented the ways in which members of the two groups told very different stories about America’s past, present and future. The Tea Partiers were nostalgic about the past and worried that the country’s turn away from its Judeo-Christian heritage and Constitutional principles foretold apocalyptic decline. Meanwhile, the progressive community organizers were critical of the country’s past (and ongoing) failings, but cautiously optimistic about its capacity to become a “more perfect union” that lived up to its founding ideals. The stark differences between the two groups’ visions of America mirrored differences found among the broader public, as described in an American Values Survey in 2015, when asked when America was greatest, and during discussions about American identity).

These were not merely stories that members of the two groups told; they were scaffolding for the interpretive worlds in which they embedded themselves, and from within which they evaluated the credibility of authorities and information, the appropriateness of different styles of action, and the democratic legitimacy of other grassroots groups.

As we reflect on the current crisis in which Trump’s supporters and resistors cannot agree even on a set of shared facts, view one another as stupid and un-American, and appear to live within entirely different realities, these two groups’ experiences offer insight into how we reached this moment.

Complicating matters, however, I found that members of these groups did not tell entirely different stories of America; they told different versions of the same story.

Members of both groups embedded themselves in a historical narrative in which active citizens have repeatedly played a pivotal role in saving the American democratic project from ruin. Whether they framed the protagonists in this narrative as prophets or patriots (and yes, these differences were significant), they agreed it was ordinary citizens’ sacred duty to hold elites accountable and to project their voices, values, and knowledge into public debates about the issues that impacted their lives.

In this way, members of both groups embedded their action within a populist story: in which ordinary citizens are heroes and out-of-touch elites are villains; in which grassroots power is virtuous and elite control (of any kind) is suspect. The grassroots populism I found among these progressive community organizers and conservative Tea Partiers was a far cry from the authoritarian populism that is currently on display among Trump’s “forgotten men and women,” who turn out for worshipful rallies while doing nothing to hold the president accountable for his promises to represent their interests.

By keeping these Obama-era movements in view, it becomes clear that the political divide we are witnessing today is not new, nor is Americans’ turn toward populist politics. Yet the divide appears to have deepened, while the populism has become shallower.

The questions we might now ask are how a commitment to grassroots populism that transcended deep political divides gave way to the authoritarian populism we see today (particularly on the political right), and whether there is a path forward to a shared vision of America that calls upon ordinary citizens across the political divide to play an active role in building a common life.


Ruth Braunstein is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut.


30 Fantastic Books for the Mother in Your Life — from the Art Lover to the News Junkie

We’ve compiled a list of recommended reads for the mother figure in your life — whether her interests lie in cultural artifacts or the 24-hour news cycle, Hollywood backlot backstories or intriguing historical tales. This list could be for any reader in your life — and that’s fine, too! — but when we typically think of a mother, these words come to mind: creator (and creative), teacher, protector. We think this reading list embodies those traits. Enjoy!

For the Art Lover

Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock and Roll edited by Jill D’Alessandro and Colleen Terry, with essays by Victoria Binder, Dennis McNally, and Joel Selvin

Slow Art: The Experience of Looking, Sacred Images to James Turrell by Arden Reed

Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest by Susan Landauer

Ed Ruscha and the Great American West edited by Karin Breuer, with contributions from D.J. Waldie and Ed Ruscha

For the Cinephile

Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles by Jon Lewis

Lois Weber in Early Hollywood by Shelley Stamp

Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Sidney Gottlieb

Hellboy’s World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins by Scott Bukatman

For the Music Aficionado

Listening for the Secret: The Grateful Dead and the Politics of Improvisation
by Ulf Olsson, edited by Nicholas Meriwether

Loft Jazz: Improvising New York in the 1970s by Michael C. Heller

Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus by Krin Gabbard

Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song by Ronnie Gilbert

For the Literary Bookworm

Thoreau and the Language of Trees by Richard Higgins, with a foreword by Robert D. Richardson 

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro 

Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 by Mark Twain

A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov by Donna Hollenberg

For the Wine Connoisseur

French Wine: A History by Rod Phillips

I Taste Red: The Science of Tasting Wine by Jamie Goode

Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino

Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright, and Dry by John Winthrop Haeger

For the History Buff

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

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Pursuit of War Criminals from Nuremberg to the War on Terror by Eric Stover, Victor Peskin, and Alexa Koenig

The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology by Aldon Morris

Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans  by Corey D. Fields

How Would You Rule: Legal Puzzles, Brainteasers, and Dilemmas from the Law’s Strangest Cases by Daniel W. Park

For the News Junkie

Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary by Ronald Rael

The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 by Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman

Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other by Mugambi Jouet

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger

In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte by David Bacon


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

 

 


An Imperialist History of Middle Eastern Borders

by Laura Robson, author of States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East

For years now, pundits and politicians alike have been tossing around the idea of drawing new borders in the Middle East as a “solution” to conflict there—first in Iraq following its descent into sectarian violence after the American invasion in 2003, and then in Syria following its own spiral into civil war in 2011. This much-repeated idea was trotted out yet again just this month, when Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote a column advocating the partition of Syria and the construction of some kind of semi-autonomous Sunni area—protected by an international military presence—as the “least bad solution” for an impossibly difficult problem.

Such proposals for externally enforced ethnic or sectarian partition in the Middle East—presumably involving at least some element of population transfer, given the demographic realities of Syrian population centers—have a long history, and an impeccable imperialist genealogy.

When British and French colonial administrations took over, respectively, Palestine and Iraq and Syria and Lebanon in the early 1920s, they did so in the context of furious challenges to nineteenth-century European imperialism from all directions. Nationalists from India to Ireland to Egypt marched in the streets against colonial rule; on the diplomatic stage, both Woodrow Wilson and Vladimir Lenin, from their radically disparate political platforms, denounced old-style imperial adventuring (although, of course, neither the American nor the Bolshevik state was interested in relinquishing its own extraterritorial claims).

In the Middle East, the idea of restructuring states around nationality, ethnicity, and sect emerged as a useful way to recast British and French imperial occupation as a kind of internationalist modernization. To that end, the British and French colonial authorities emphasized to both their new subjects and an international public that they were merely “mandatory” authorities, working under the supervision of the new League of Nations to create functional modern nation-states out of the old Ottoman Arab provinces. In conjunction with the League, they came up with a variety of plans for demographic engineering —communally conscious borders, forcible and coerced refugee resettlement, mass population transfers, and support for a European Jewish settler community in Palestine—that were designed to simultaneously offer a rationale for the British and French colonial presence and help control people and territory on the ground.

Ethnic engineering of this kind was useful at the levels of both international diplomacy and practical imperial governance. Even the resistance such plans engendered was valuable to colonial authorities; it served to reinforce the local and international case that external forces were necessary to keep order in such volatile regions, thus extending the life of these colonial occupations and defending the high levels of violence required to maintain them.

The contemporary resurrection of this concept serves the same purposes. It offers a rationale for a long-term American and European military presence in the Middle East under the guise of “protecting”—that is, creating and enforcing—ethnically and communally homogenous nation-states. The appeal of this idea lies in the way it turns failure to success: the more chaos and bloodshed results from such policies, the stronger the case becomes for an ongoing—perhaps permanent—administrative and military presence, internationalist in name but acting primarily in the economic, political, and strategic interests of the occupying powers.


Laura Robson is Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at Portland State University. She is the author of Colonialism and Christianity in Mandate Palestine and editor of Minorities and the Modern Arab World: New Perspectives.


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


Trump, Religion, and Popular Culture

by Bruce David Forbes and Jeffrey H. Mahan, editors of Religion and Popular Culture in America, Third Edition

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association taking place April 12-15 in San Diego. #pcaaca17


The campaign, election, and presidency of Donald Trump have received extensive analysis, especially political and demographic. When religion is considered, the dominant commentary has been about the substantial support supplied by white Christian evangelical voters. Yet there is also a more indirect, less obvious religious influence that might help explain Trump’s popularity. In Religion and Popular Culture in America, various authors explore four different relationships between religion and popular culture. One section on Popular Culture As Religion suggests that aspects of popular culture play roles often associated with traditional formal organized religions, providing meaning and values supported by rituals, symbol systems, and more.

The latest, third edition of our volume includes two new essays in this category about celebrity worship and about consumerism as religion, both of which seem particularly relevant in understanding the Trump phenomenon. In his essay, “Celebrity Worship as Parareligion,” ethnographer and practical theologian Pete Ward suggests that “celebrity represents a reformulation in fragmented form of the sacred.” In “A Religion of Shopping and Consumption,” Religious studies scholar Sarah McFarland Taylor examines assertions that the shopping mall has become a sacred space in a religion of consumption, that consumption itself comes to be seen as a center of meaning and value in the U.S. today. We might go further and wonder if portions of American evangelicalism have so integrated these cultural religions of celebrity and consumption that one of America’s most evident celebrity consumers seems simultaneously evangelical.

The point of this is not simply that consumerism and fascination with celebrities are pervasive in our society; even more, they are so deeply rooted and so strong that they might be seen as religious. Both of these aspects of American society provide partial, underlying factors in understanding the rise of Donald Trump, who was a public figure but ascended to more widespread recognition and celebrity as host of The Apprentice, and whose very public displays of wealth are an aspiration for many. One of the most basic principles of popular culture analysis is that popular culture both shapes us and reflects us, as a kind of feedback loop. Thus, they pertain not only to Donald Trump but to us all.


Bruce David Forbes is Professor of Religious Studies at Morningside College. He is the author of Christmas: A Candid History and America’s Favorite Holidays: Candid Histories.

Jeffrey H. Mahan holds the Ralph E. and Norma E. Peck Chair in Religion and Public Communication at the Iliff School of Theology. His books include Religion, Media, and Culture: An Introduction, Shared Wisdom, and American Television Genres.

Learn more about Religion and Popular Culture in America, view the table of contents, or request your exam copy