The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan

by Marcia Yonemoto, author of The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan

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.

During the final month of the bruising 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, Inoguchi Kuniko, a member of Japan’s parliament and former Minister of State for Gender Equality and Social Affairs, registered her disappointment at the coarseness of American political discourse, and remarked that “when the glass ceiling breaks, there are a lot of injuries that a woman must bear.”[1] This struck me as a valid but curious statement, coming as it did from a high-profile female member of the conservative wing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and staunch ally of current Prime Minister Abe Shinzō. For despite the Abe government’s vigorous endorsement of “womenomics,” its policy program to increase the number of women elected to public office, in high managerial positions in business, and in positions of authority in public life in general, Japan is still far from reaching the government’s target goals—indeed, at least by the measures of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Japan is trending downward, not upward, in terms of resolving persistent gender inequality.[2] So in speaking about the danger of shattering glass ceilings, was Inoguchi simply expressing sympathy for then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton? Was she speaking from her own perspective as one of a spate of women cabinet ministers in the Abe government, many of whose terms in office were cut short by campaign-finance and other scandals? Or was she speaking in the abstract, ruminating perhaps not about when women in Japan break the glass ceiling, but if they ever will?

These particular questions can’t be answered with any certainty, but it is clear that roles and perceptions of women in Japanese public and private life continue to evolve, to raise questions, and to spark debate. I address very similar issues in my book, The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan, except my focus is on women in the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries. The book explores the challenges women encountered when trying to reconcile confining social norms with individual autonomy, obligations to others with desires of their own, and limited public authority with myriad forms of private power. While the early modern military state often has been viewed as authoritarian and oppressive, its social and political controls were far weaker than those enjoyed by state today. And while the government articulated cultural norms and ideals of propriety, it lacked the comprehensive authority to enforce them, and this allowed considerable latitude for women to learn, to work, to write, and to play in ways contemporary observers may find surprising.

[1] “U.S. Presidential Campaign Shocks Women Around Asia-Pacific,” Asahi Shinbun/Reuters, 10/20/2016.

[2] Japan’s overall ranking dropped from 101st out of 145 countries surveyed to 111th out of 144. By comparison, the United States’ overall ranking also went down between 2015 and 2016, dropping from 28th to 45th. See World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2015, accessed at: http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015/ and World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2016, accessed at: http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2016/ . Other data, however, show some progress—a 2016 Cabinet Office poll showed that for the first time, a majority of Japanese adults (54.2%) believed that “women should continue working even after they have children.” Maiko Ito, “Majority for First Time Says Mothers Should Continue to Work,” Asahi Shinbun 11/14/2016, accessed at: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611140005.html


Marcia Yonemoto is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Colorado Boulder and author of Mapping Early Modern Japan: Space, Place, and Culture in the Tokugawa Period (1603–1868).


Tell The Children Not To Be Afraid

By Joanna Dreby, author of Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families

Over the past eight years of the Obama administration, there has been a record high number of deportations, more than under any other President historically. Researchers have recorded the impacts of such a focus on immigration enforcement, my own contribution documented in the book Everyday Illegal. Men, mostly from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean have been the primary targets of enforcement actions. Yet men live in families; they have wives and girlfriends and children, many of whom are legal residents or U.S. citizens. Immigration enforcement has torn families apart.

When a parent is deported, a child experiences sudden economic hardship along with the emotional trauma of having the state take away a parent one day to the next. These are the immediate impacts. But what of the aftermath? In some cases spouses or children decide to return to their deported spouses’ country of origin, in many cases forfeiting their rights as U.S. citizens to live freely in this country. In other cases, families live through painful separations and the on-going financial and emotional trauma that entails. The deported face many difficulties in finding employment in countries of origin: they rarely can make enough money to support family members living in the United States.

The consequence of a system that increasingly criminalizes immigrants goes beyond that of those who are the target of enforcement. There are rippling effects. One of those unintended impacts is that the young children in the immigrant families I interviewed often reported that they did not feel comfortable with the word “immigrant.” At times they misused it, telling me that immigrants are people who are “illegal” or “not supposed to be here.” I heard the same thing from unauthorized kids, from kids whose parents were legal permanent residents, and from U.S. citizens; the legal status of children’s own family members mattered, but the rhetoric about immigrants impacted children in all types of families.

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, there are a lot of unknowns. How much of the Obama administration’s policies will remain intact? Will Trump make good on his promises to build a wall? Will he revoke DACA or will it simply expire? Will the deportations increase or stay the course? We do not yet know what changes to immigration policy the new administration will bring.

Yet for children I believe that much damage has already been done. Policies that criminalize immigrants and the rhetoric behind them instill fear in children. It is the fear that a loved one will be taken away or those children’s rights to be in the United States will be questioned because they live in a family of immigrants. We saw these policies under the Obama Administration. And yet Trump’s campaign planted even more seeds of fear in children. This past week, children had their fears legitimized in the form of the Presidency. I expect many of the experiences I documented in Everyday Illegal to become ever more common. But perhaps too young children will also become more bold in confronting those fears in days to come, like 6-year-old Sophie Cruz who told the audience of hundreds of thousands at the Women’s March on Washington, in Spanish and English: “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed. I also want to tell the children not to be afraid because we are not alone.”


Joanna Dreby is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University at Albany, SUNY, and the author of Everyday Illegal and Divided by Borders.


America Through Their Eyes

From the moment that Donald Trump was elected president, the vote was considered a “a revolt of working-class whites”. Many people lay a portion of the blame of the current state of the U.S. at the feet of the working-class whites.

Pulitzer Prize winner Dale Maharidge has worked for decades as a journalist chronicling the lives of the working poor across America. During that time, he saw how growing income inequality in working class towns lead to the reactionary populism that we now see in this country.

Maharidge states: “Right now, people feel alienated. And they are disconnected from each other. A lot of the initiatives I am writing about, a lot of them are building communities. Through that, people can meet each other, know each other, give money to each other. That’s what any nation is about, it’s about community. And Americans, a lot of the people over the years are going to see a part of it. When you reinstall a sense of community, you also create a political stability, and you get democracy. When people feel disconnected and powerless you get authoritarian regimes.”

In the updated edition of Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression, Maharidge and photographer Michael S. Williamson share the experiences of this community:

Frances and Frank in their shanty beside the Colorado River, after their nighttime shifts at a Nevada casino. Bullhead City, Arizona, 1995.

My America is also seen up close in the eyes of its people. They are eyes that speak without words.

Among those Michael and I remember the most: The eyes of a woman who has fallen from upper-class privilege and is now standing in a charity food line are still proud and hurting a year after she lost the big home. A frugal white-collar mom, raising children on her own, works two jobs year-round, in some seasons, three; her eyes fill with tears as she talks about how she is barely surviving. A waitress in her sixties, whose tips are way down, will never be able to retire and believes she’ll work until she falls dead; her sleep-deprived eyes gaze into a realm of numbness as she sprints between tables. Unbridled fear is in the eyes of a Latino man, a U.S. citizen, who is terrified of being stopped and once again bloodied by cops who assume that he’s undocumented because of his brown skin.

There are so many more, named and nameless, thousands of eyes. … The eyes you see tell a story of decades of economic assault.

There is something else visible in these eyes: toughness. Study the image of Ken Platt and his son on the cover of [Someplace Like America] — both generations epitomize this steel-like resiliency. Or turn to the second section of photographs and look into the eyes of the woman who has just come home with her husband to a little shanty made of blankets strung over wooden poles, hidden in the bushes beside the Colorado River, after she has put in a long night shift working at a casino. You cannot defeat people with eyes like these.

Maharidge reminds us that people and community are still at the heart of America:

Thirty-five hundred people waiting as long as fourteen hours to seek health care from the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps, an organization that once served only the desperately ill poor in Third World nations but now operates in the United States. Wise, Virginia, 2008

This is not a wonky book about government policy or the merits of specific economic remedies. Rather, it aims to describe the human side of where we are today, trapped in an economy whose fruits have been denied to a majority of Americans.

It has taken thirty years of war against working-class Americans to get where we are. It may take a generation to get out of this mess. We are at a cultural and economic turning point. One era has ended; another, as yet unnamed, is dawning. How will it be shaped? As we begin to understand the pointed, painful questions that must be addressed, perhaps we can begin to change.

After a long career as a journalist and documentarian, I’m deeply disillusioned and cynical about our political and business “leaders.” They have failed us, repeatedly.

Yet I am ever the optimist about the American people. One thing I’ve discovered in all these years of hearing Americans talk about their lives and dreams is that collectively we are strong. We are survivors. We emerged from hard times in the 1930s. We will do so again and will begin the long process of rebuilding an economy that works for everyone, but this can happen only if we relearn some lessons about caring for and relying on one another. And relearn we will, for we have no other choice.”


Trump’s American Dream: You’ll Have to Be Asleep to Believe It

By Victor Tan Chen, author of Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy

While there are many reasons why Donald Trump won the election, it’s clear that the movement of the white working class away from the Democratic Party had something to do with it. Given that this demographic seems to have put Trump over the top in the Electoral College, what do we expect his administration’s policies to do for this group—and for the working class (which, importantly, is increasingly nonwhite) more broadly?

First, his proposed tax plan will dramatically increase income inequality in this country. It will be a windfall for elites—particularly the richest 0.1%, America’s corporate executives and Wall Street financiers—who already have rewritten the rules of the economic game to favor them. Meanwhile, it will punish millions of low-income and single-parent families by stripping away some of their tax deductions. (Ironically, the white working class that broke decisively for Trump has been increasingly falling into this latter camp.)

Second, labor unions—historically, a voice for ordinary workers and an engine of greater economic equality—will take a hit. The Republican Party will accelerate its nationwide push to enact state “right to work” laws—which, shockingly, now hold sway in states where unions once thrived, like Michigan. They will likely put forward a national version of “right to work.” Trump’s Supreme Court appointee will hold the decisive vote in the coming court battle over efforts to further weaken public-sector unions, whose growth in recent decades has been a rare bright spot for organized labor in this country. The person he chooses will undoubtedly side with the rest of the conservative majority to allow nonmembers to freeride—partake of the benefits won by these unions without contributing anything from their paychecks in return. As I argue in my book, labor unions were essential in creating the “moral economy” that reigned in America in the years after World War II, when workers without much in the way of education could organize, collectively bargain for high wages, and persuasively lobby for pro-worker policies—in the process, securing a degree of middle-class prosperity. Further declines in union membership and government social spending will also erode the institutional foundations of a valuable support and retraining system that today’s workers will sorely need if they are to adapt to a quickly changing economic landscape.

On the other hand, Trump’s efforts to shame companies into keeping jobs in America could bear fruit. One of the problems that American workers face is that norms among business leaders have changed, so that not only is extravagant executive compensation no longer seen as unseemly, but downsizing, outsourcing, and offshoring have become standard operating procedures. The presidential bully pulpit can be a potent weapon—as abrupt changes in norms about gay marriage following Obama’s about-face on this issue showed. In a similar vein, it is conceivable that Trump’s in-your-face approach to foreign affairs will give the administration some leverage in future negotiations over global trade deals. All this said, I am generally pessimistic about Trump’s ability to win back many of the good manufacturing jobs that have been lost to trade—mainly because automation has eliminated even more of those jobs. Technological change, and not foreign competition, seems to be the chief threat moving forward, with even middle-class jobs for well-educated workers likely to be automated away in the years ahead. But any comprehensive strategy to deal with the potentially massive net loss of jobs—such as enacting a universal basic income—will get no traction in a Republican-controlled Congress. Likewise, America’s trading partners now hold a stronger hand than they did when deals like NAFTA were brokered. Within this changing world order, trade wars are not likely to turn out well for the US economy.

In my book, I argue that a crucial reason that unemployed Canadian workers do not fare as poorly as their American counterparts is the single-payer healthcare system up north—which means that an unexpected trip to the hospital, for instance, won’t saddle them with a hefty bill. (Surviving without a job often amounts to having the luck to avoid these sudden income shocks—and health insurance, by definition, insures against those shocks.) With Trump in the presidency, I’m less sanguine than many commentators are that Obamacare can survive in any substantial form. Without the need to overturn a presidential veto, Republican lawmakers can pursue a variety of strategies to either roll back its various measures or indirectly starve them of funding. Of course, some Republicans are having cold feet at the moment about taking away the insurance of millions of Americans. But gerrymandered congressional districts mean that many of them won’t pay much of a political price for their votes, and in any case the ideological extremism of today’s Republican Party is such that fear of being primaried from the right will likely outweigh fear of any general-election backlash.

The conclusion of my book makes the case for a politics of grace—a push, led by social movements, to move society away from the unrelenting and unforgiving culture of success and status-seeking that now prevails, and that debases the self-worth of the working class above all. Unfortunately, the Trump administration will likely advance the exact opposite set of values: a politics of vengeance and domination. Short-fused, mercurial, and unable to control his fury over the tiniest slights, Trump seems driven more by a desire to settle scores with those who oppose him than any core ideological commitments. In his pronouncements from the bully pulpit, he has made it clear that he is about America “winning”—as he personally, through his attainment of extravagant wealth and fame, believes he has done. But the pursuit of a Trumpian American dream of materialism and self-interest will take us even farther from the civic-minded ideals of the early republic. As rising inequality stamps out opportunities for rags-to-riches stories of success, and the Trump administration’s promises to working people prove to be worthless, that narrow dream of national greatness may, in fact, take on another, darker meaning: as George Carlin put it, “It’s called the American dream ’cause you have to be asleep to believe it.”


Victor Tan Chen is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and the founding editor of In the Fray magazine. He is the coauthor, with Katherine S. Newman, of The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America.


Studying Religion in the Age of Trump

This post is adapted from the introduction to a special Forum, Studying Religion in the Age of Trump, published in the Winter 2017 issue of Religion and American Culture. Enjoy free access to the Forum until March 10, 2017. For more RAC content, become an individual subscriber or ask your library to subscribe on your behalf.


There are many ways to interpret the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. From appeals to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments to attacks on the establishment and political correctness, alongside more traditional topics like abortion, religious freedom, and ethics, enough subterranean shifts occurred to flip some states red and elect a populist president.

What role did religion in play in these events? How might this election cause us to rethink some seemingly settled conclusions about religion and politics, religion and race, and religion and gender, among other topics? Finally, what might we learn from the election of 2016 that will alter our questions and further our work over the next several years?

To consider these essential questions and implications, the editors of Religion and American Culture invited prominent scholars across multiple disciplines to share their perspectives via brief essays or “thought pieces.” All of them have published on subjects that have helped us understand different aspects of religion and American culture in ways that shed light on the nature of religion in politics and public life.

Now, more than ever, is an appropriate moment for us to look back at how we arrived at previous conclusions, question which interpretations might suitably be shaken up, and consider where our fields might fruitfully go in the coming years. The scholars and pieces featured in the Special Forum include:

The Redoubt of Racism: The 2016 Presidential Campaign, the Origins of the Religious Right, and Why It Matters
Randall Balmer
Professor of Religion, Dartmouth College

 The Prosperity Gospel and the American Presidency
Kate Bowler
Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity in North America, Duke University

Redefining Evangelicalism in the Age of Trumpism
Anthea Butler
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

An American Contrareformatio
Maura Jane Farrelly
Associate Professor of American Studies, Brandeis University

Return of the Monolith? Understanding the White Evangelical Trump Vote
Wes Markofski
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Carleton College

The Hidden Injuries of Class and Religion
Robert Orsi
Professor of Religion, Northwestern University

Reckoning with American White Christian(ist) Patriarchalism and Multicultural Liberalism
Jerry Z. Park and James Clark Davidson
Associate Professor of Sociology, and Graduate Assistant in Sociology of Religion, Baylor University

The Trump Victory and American Evangelicalism
Matthew Sutton
Professor of History, Washington State University

Priorities in Immigration
Grace Yukich
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Quinnipiac University


Immigration Syllabus: UC Press Edition

With last Friday’s executive order on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, along with plans to continue construction of the barrier along the US-Mexico border moving forward, the current presidential administration has brought heightened attention to immigration and American society, and with it, spurred outcry worldwide, and drawn a number of federal lawsuits.

Immigration historians from across the USA have launched #ImmigrationSyllabus, a website and educational resource to help the public understand the historical roots of today’s immigration debates; they have inspired us to follow suit.

Below is a list of UC Press suggested readings, organized in descending order from most recently published, to provide further informed, deeply researched context to the ongoing conversations around immigration reform and citizenship.

Easily and quickly request exam and desk copies online by visiting any of the books’ pages above. If you need assistance in choosing the right texts for your course, we’d be glad to help; contact us here.

Browse more of our history and immigration titles.


J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King, and Some Timely Lessons for the FBI in the Age of Trump

by Steven Weitzman and Sylvester Johnson, editors of The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11

James B. Comey wants you to know FBI and Religionthat the FBI he directs learns from its mistakes.

In 2014, director Comey instituted an effort to do just that, a program meant to help FBI agents and analysts learn from one of the more shameful episodes in FBI history—the effort by former director J. Edgar Hoover to destroy Martin Luther King, Jr. Fueled by Hoover’s suspicion that MLK was a communist, the FBI undertook a scandalous campaign of surveillance and harassment, going so far as to send the civil rights leader an anonymous letter that seems to call on him to kill himself.

Comey’s efforts were born of a resolve not to let this kind of mistake happen again. He has spoken of how he keeps a copy of the memo authorizing the King surveillance on his desk as a reminder of “why it is vital that power. . . be constrained.” The program he initiated is meant to give FBI trainees a chance to reflect on the dangers of corruption and racism. The experience includes watching documentaries, reading about the prejudice MLK faced, and a visit to the MLK memorial in Washington D.C.

As scholars of religion, we’d like to believe that this isn’t mere public relations. As an undergraduate at William and Mary College, Comey majored in Religious Studies, writing a thesis about a theologian committed to social justice, Reinhold Niebuhr. As Arthur Schlesinger once observed, Niebuhr was a critic of national innocence, which he regarded as a self-righteous delusion that Americans used to conceal their crimes from themselves. Comey appeared to take this teaching to heart, distinguishing himself from Hoover by being willing to face up to mistakes and moral blind-spots.

But is Comey himself learning all the lessons there are to learn from Hoover’s treatment of MLK?

In our own research on the FBI and its interaction with different religious communities, we came to realize that it wasn’t only racism that shaped Hoover’s treatment of MLK; religious bias played a role as well. Hoover cast the struggle against communism as a religious struggle, identifying America with Judeo-Christian values and the Soviet Union with a godless secularism bent on the destruction of religion. This Manichean world-view, dividing the world into forces of good and evil, skewed his understanding of people on the religious left. He could not accept that it was sincere belief that may have led leaders on the religious left, leaders like MLK, to oppose war and injustice. In his eyes, such leaders were imposters or dupes, a part of a Communist effort to infiltrate American society under the cover of religion.

Acknowledging the role of religious bias in the FBI’s treatment of MLK is important because of the role that religious bias is now playing in the Federal government’s treatment of a religious minority. Within a week of his inauguration, the Trump administration has prevented Muslim non-citizens from entering the country. Although he refocused his immigration ban on Muslim-majority countries rather than Muslims in general, Trump told Christian Broadcast news that preferential treatment would be given to Christians, making religion a test for how the US would treat refugees from war-torn regions like Syria. The executive order calls to mind the government’s refusal to accept Jewish refugees during World War II on the pretext that some were Nazi spies.

Continue reading “J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King, and Some Timely Lessons for the FBI in the Age of Trump”


Living Out Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963

MLK Jr.As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., one cannot help but wonder what he would think of the world as it is today. Many believe his legacy and dream for racial equality and civil rights comes under fire with the upcoming presidency of Donald Trump. From the government’s previous racial bias case against Trump and his father, to Trump’s current treatment of civil rights activist John Lewis, and to his nomination of Jeff Sessions as attorney general—a man that Coretta Scott King says could “irreparably damage the work of my husband”—, many believe Trump has shown a willingness to both circumvent and prevent justice.

How do we learn from lessons of the past to avoid an unjust future? And how do we continue to step forward instead of taking steps back?

In an effort to support civil rights and maintain King’s legacy, UC Press continues it’s ongoing partnership to publish the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project, currently in it’s seventh volume.

Martin Berger’s Freedom Now! presents a collection of photographs that illustrate the action, heroism, and strength of African American activists in driving social and legislative change.

Aldon Morris, author of The Scholar Denied, will be this year’s keynote speaker at Colby College, discussing “Du Bois at the Center: From Science to Martin Luther King to Black Lives Matter.”

And for those who plan to attend rallies, marches, or protests, Randy Shaw’s The Activist’s Handbook proves to be an indispensable guide not only for activists, but for anyone interested in the future of progressive politics in America.

“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963


Integrating Current Events in Your Courses: Immigration and Latino Studies

Latinos have been integral in the shaping of the U.S. yet their identity is constantly brought into question.

In the wake of the November presidential election and the impending inauguration of Donald Trump, how can you integrate discussions on immigration—particularly from Latin American countries—into your classes?

Help your students understand the effects of today’s political climate. Find new titles for your courses on Immigration or Latino Studies below and click on each title to quickly and easily request an exam copy. Review our exam copy policy. And feel free to email us with questions–we’re here to help!

Select Titles for Your Courses on Immigration and Latino Studies

Almaguer.NewLatinoStudiesReader

The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First Century Perspective edited by Ramon A. Gutierrez & Tomas Almaguer

“[This reader] brings together the most innovative scholarship being generated within history and the social sciences and is surely to become a standard within Latina/o studies courses.” —Raúl Coronado, inaugural President of the Latina/o Studies Association

“They integrate historical, social scientific and cultural studies approaches, which is rarely done in readers.”—Patricia Zavella, UC Santa Cruz

 

Gonzales.LivesInLimbo

Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America by Roberto G. Gonzales

“Superb. . . . An important examination of the devastating consequences of ‘illegality’ on our young people.”—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her

“It will stand as the definitive study of the undocumented coming of age in our midst. It is a book every teacher, every policymaker, indeed every concerned citizen should read and ponder.”—Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, coeditor of Latinos: Remaking America

 

GutmannLesser.GlobalLatinAmericaGlobal Latin America: Into the Twenty-First Century edited by Matthew C. Gutmann and Jeffrey Lesser

“A superb sampling of the cutting edge in connecting approaches across subfields, such as gender studies, Latin American Studies, ethnic studies, and area studies.”—Jerry Dávila, University of Illinois

“The volume is the perfect book for class use in a variety of settings.”—Miguel Angel Centeno, author of State Making in the Developing World

 

 

Boehm.Returned

Returned: Going and Coming in an Age of Deportation by Deborah Boehm

“[Deborah Boehm] challenges sterile depictions of deportations in the media and political debates. This urgent book is a must read.”—Cecilia Menjívar, author of Immigrant Families

“A stellar and nuanced ethnographic exploration of the impact of deportation on Mexican families on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. It is a critical addition to existing work on transnationalism and migration, and required reading for academics and policy makers.”—Susan J. Terrio, author of Judging Mohammed

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The Vote is Still Out on the Electoral College

Electors.ElectoralCollege.Jouet.ExceptionalAmericaDespite many concerns about how the Electoral College will vote, as of right now, Donald Trump continues to close in on the 270 votes needed to win the Electoral College. No Trump defections have been seen just yet, even though some “faithless electors” have shown their willingness to provide a different vote than expected by their state.

The usefulness of the Electoral College has been discussed for quite some time—in 1969 due to American Independent Party’s George Wallace and his support of segregation to most recently (before this November’s presidential election, that is) for the presidential election of 2000.

Mugambi Jouet, author of Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other (forthcoming April 2017), writes:

Jouet.ExceptionalAmericaThe Electoral College further hinders democracy. Like Hillary Clinton, Al Gore won the popular vote in a crucial election but never became presi­dent, since he lost the Electoral College. The outcome of the 2000 presiden­tial contest might have been different if the Supreme Court had not seem­ingly handed the election to George W. Bush by halting the Florida ballot recount. It would not have come down to that in nearly all other democra­cies, because they lack electoral colleges. America’s unusual voting system is a vestige of an oppressive era. Back in the eighteenth century, Southern states feared that a direct presidential election would lead them to be outvoted, as they had fewer eligible white voters than Northern states. The resulting com­promise was an electoral college under which Southern states received votes proportional to three-fifths of their sizable slave populations, in addition to those for their free populations. The fact that America still employs an anachronistic electoral system largely created to accommodate slavery exem­plifies a broader issue. It is often said that America is a young nation, but it is also an old democracy. It has the oldest written national constitution in use anywhere in the world, which has been a mixed blessing by fostering both stability and immobilism.

What are your thoughts on the Electoral College? Should it be abolished or not? If so, how do you think voting should occur? Share your comments below.