Herstory: Women’s Health and Self-Help

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the largest single day protest in US history—the Women’s March—when on January 21, 2017, 4.2 million people marched across the US in more than 600 US cities, and from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, at least 261 more sister marches cropped up worldwide. To celebrate this pivotal protest, UC Press is highlighting titles across subjects as part of our Herstory series, with today’s focus on women’s health and self-help. While just a preview of our publishing “herstory,” these titles showcase the inspiring stories for the continuing fight towards reproductive justice and access to safe healthcare.

Women’s Empowerment and Global Health: A Twenty-First-Century Agenda
Edited by Shari Dworkin, Monica Gandhi,Paige Passano 

Despite the rise of a human rights–based approach to health and increasing awareness of the synergies between women’s health and empowerment, a lack of consensus remains as to how to operationalize empowerment in ways that improve health. This volume presents thirteen multidisciplinary case studies that demonstrate how science and advocacy can be creatively merged to enhance the agency and status of girls and women.



Better Safe Than Sorry: How Consumers Navigate Exposure to Everyday Toxics
By Norah MacKendrick (Forthcoming May 2018; preorder today)

Through an innovative analysis of environmental regulation, the advocacy work of environmental health groups, the expansion of the health-food chain Whole Foods Market, and interviews with consumers, Norah MacKendrick ponders why the problem of toxics in the U.S. retail landscape has been left to individual shoppers—and to mothers in particular. She reveals how precautionary consumption, or “green shopping,” is a costly and time-intensive practice, one that is connected to cultural ideas of femininity and good motherhood but is also most available to upper- and middle-class households. Better Safe Than Sorry powerfully argues that precautionary consumption places a heavy and unfair burden of labor on women and does little to advance environmental justice or mitigate risk.

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction
By Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger

Written by two legendary scholar-activists, Reproductive Justice introduces students to an intersectional analysis of race, class, and gender politics. Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger put the lives and lived experience of women of color at the center of the book and use a human rights analysis to show how the discussion around reproductive justice differs significantly from the pro-choice/anti-abortion debates that have long dominated the headlines and mainstream political conflict. In a period in which women’s reproductive lives are imperiled, this book is an essential guide to understanding and mobilizing around women’s human rights in the twenty-first century.


The Zero Trimester: Pre-Pregnancy Care and the Politics of Reproductive Risk
By Miranda R. Waggoner

Public health messages encourage women of reproductive age to anticipate motherhood and prepare their bodies for healthy reproduction—even when pregnancy is not on the horizon. Some experts believe a pre-pregnancy care model reduces risk and ensures better birth outcomes than the prenatal care model. Others believe it represents yet another attempt to control women’s bodies. Waggoner shows how the zero trimester rose alongside shifts in medical and public health priorities, contentious reproductive politics, and the changing realities of women’s lives. Waggoner argues that the zero trimester is not simply related to medical and health concerns; it also reflects the power of culture and social ideologies to shape both population health imperatives and women’s bodily experiences.

Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars
By Carolyn Sufrin

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 and the practices of the jail guards and health providers, Jailcare describes the contradictory ways that care and maternal identity emerge within a punitive space presumed to be devoid of care. Sufrin argues that when understood in the context of the poverty, addiction, violence, and racial oppression that characterize these women’s lives and their reproduction, jail can become a safety net for women on the margins of society.

Taking Baby Steps: How Patients and Fertility Clinics Collaborate in Conception
By Jody Lyneé Madeira

In Taking Baby Steps, Jody Lyneé Madeira takes readers inside the infertility experience, from dealing with infertility-related emotions to forming treatment relationships with medical professionals and confronting difficult medical decisions. Based on hundreds of interviews, this book investigates how women, men, and medical professionals negotiate infertility’s rocky terrain to create life and build families—a journey across personal, medical, legal, and ethical minefields that can test mental and physical health, friendships and marriages, spirituality, and financial security.


Gray Divorce: What We Lose and Gain from Mid-Life Splits
By Jocelyn Elise Crowley

Gray Divorce is a provocative look at the rising rate of marital splits after the age of 50. From the outside, many may ask why couples in mid-life and readying for retirement choose to make a drastic change in their marital status. Yet, nearly one out of every four divorces in the U.S. is “gray.” Renowned author and researcher Jocelyn Elise Crowley uncovers the reasons why men and women divorce—and the penalties and benefits they receive for their choices. She analyzes the differing experiences of women and men in this transition—the seismic shift in individual priorities, the role of increased life expectancy, and how women are affected economically while men are affected socially. With a realistic yet passionate voice, Crowley shares the personal positive outlooks and the necessary supportive public policies that must be enacted to best help the newly divorced.

La Perle des Antilles: A Haiti Reading List

Located on the western side of the Hispanola island, Haiti has been a nation plagued by both natural disasters, public health crises, and political unrest throughout modern history. While the current political administration is quick to dismiss the country and its people using racist and vulgar language, it is clear that this complex nation does not deserve such a moniker. We’ve selected several titles from our backlist that dive deep into the country’s history, politics, and struggles, all of which will help one understand the place the French dubbed la perle des antilles.

Haiti, History, and the Gods by Joan Dayan

In Haiti, History, and the Gods, Joan Dayan charts the cultural imagination of Haiti not only by reconstructing the island’s history but by highlighting ambiguities and complexities that have been ignored. She investigates the confrontational space in which Haiti is created and recreated in fiction and fact, text and ritual, discourse and practice. Dayan’s ambitious project is a research tour de force that gives human dimensions to this eighteenth-century French colony and provides a template for understanding the Haiti of today.



Rara!: Vodou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and Its Diaspora by Elizabeth McAlister

Rara is a vibrant annual street festival in Haiti, when followers of the Afro-Creole religion called Vodou march loudly into public space to take an active role in politics. Working deftly with highly original ethnographic material, Elizabeth McAlister shows how Rara bands harness the power of Vodou spirits and the recently dead to broadcast coded points of view with historical, gendered, and transnational dimensions.



Democratic Insecurities: Violence, Trauma, and Intervention in Haiti by Erica James

Democratic Insecurities focuses on the ethics of military and humanitarian intervention in Haiti during and after Haiti’s 1991 coup. In this remarkable ethnography of violence, Erica Caple James explores the traumas of Haitian victims whose experiences were denied by U.S. officials and recognized only selectively by other humanitarian providers. Using vivid first-person accounts from women survivors, James raises important new questions about humanitarian aid, structural violence, and political insecurity.



Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora by Margarita Mooney

Based on fieldwork in Haiti and in three cities of the Haitian diaspora–Miami, Montreal, and Paris–this study offers a vivid portrait of the power of faith for immigrants. Drawing on extensive interviews and including rich details of everyday life, Margarita Mooney explores the struggles and joys of Haitian Catholics in these three very different cities. She finds that religious narratives, especially those about transformation and redemption, provide real meaning and hope in what are often difficult conditions.



AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame by Paul Farmer

Does the scientific “theory” that HIV came to North America from Haiti stem from underlying attitudes of racism and ethnocentrism in the United States rather than from hard evidence? Award-winning author and anthropologist-physician Paul Farmer answers with this, the first full-length ethnographic study of AIDS in a poor society.

The Contemporary Afterlives of Sexual Science

By Veronika Fuechtner, co-editor, with Douglas E. Haynes and Ryan M. Jones, of A Global History of Sexual Science, 1880–1960

This guest post is part of our AHA blog series published in conjunction with the meeting of the American Historical Association in Washington, DC, Jan. 4-7. #AHA18

Currently laws and practices relating to sex, gender and sexuality are experiencing momentous shifts on a global scale – be it in the upcoming referendum on abortion in Ireland, the recent recognition of a “third sex” in Germany, last year’s ruling of India’s supreme court that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, or the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia a month ago.  These shifts are usually presented as shifts based on changed social experiences, but they also are based in significant shifts in scientific understandings of sexuality.

Investigating the history of the global traffic of scientific ideas on sexuality has shown us how deeply entrenched particular scientific assumptions about masculinity and femininity still are, e.g., the connection of homosexuality with effeminacy, the hunt for bodily signs for what were considered deviant sexualities, the assumption that monogamy was natural, or the notion that a woman was not to be in charge of her own sexual and/or reproductive life.

Our book A Global History of Sexual Science emerged out of the recognition that these assumptions did not simply migrate from the “West” to the “rest,” but that they were the result of complex, mutually constitutive interactions and global networks.  The field of sexual science emerged not just in Europe and North America but in a variety of global locations, such as India, Chile, or China.  Its proponents in different parts of the world were intensely aware of each other and interacted through publications, conferences, or travel. Moreover, proponents of sexual science in Europe and North America adopted notions forged in exchange with actors in Asia, Latin America and Africa, e.g., the US practice of gender reassignment surgery was heavily influenced by earlier Mexican cases or the German legal understanding of homosexuality was tested and contested in its colonial African courts.  Our book draws attention to many figures who have been forgotten in contemporary work on sexuality or sexual science.  Some of these figures drew from the repressive legal, social and cultural discourses that limited sexual expression and gave the ideological grounds to discrimination and persecution.  But others – and they were at times the very same figures – connected to the liberating discourses, the power of which we are experiencing today.

Veronika Fuechtner is Associate Professor of German at Dartmouth College and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine. She is the author of Berlin Psychoanalytic and coeditor of Imagining Germany Imagining Asia. 

Douglas E. Haynes is Professor of History at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Rhetoric and Ritual in Colonial India and Small Town Capitalism in Western India and coeditor of Contesting Power and Towards a History of Consumption in South Asia.

Ryan M. Jones is Assistant Professor of History at SUNY Geneseo and the author of a forthcoming book on Mexican sexuality entitled Erotic Revolutions.

Disparities in Perspectives on Addiction

This guest post is published during the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

by Rashi K. Shukla, author of Methamphetamine: A Love Story

Why do we seem to care more about some than others when it comes to addiction and drug abuse? It is a haunting question that mirrors the realities of today. Nationally, attention to opioids have led to calls for treatment and increases in funding. An estimated 91 people die each day as a result of their addiction. Federally, funds were recently allocated to expand efforts to battle the problem. While those who die as a result of their opioid abuse are often referred to as victims of the drug, there is a disconnect when it comes to how we think about, and more importantly, how we respond to, addiction in the U.S.

Drug addiction is not new. It has plagued individuals and communities for decades. Though policies are in the midst of change, the U.S. has been engaged in a War on Drugs against those who use, abuse, and become addicted to illicit drugs for more than 30 years. Large proportions of the U.S. prison population are incarcerated for drug-related offenses. Take into account other aspects of the system (e.g., probation and parole), and the numbers only increase. What has changed? Why is it that today, many in society are willing to view those who become addicted to certain drugs, such as opioids, with more empathy and concern than those who abuse other illicit drugs?

As someone who has studied methamphetamine for a decade, I have come face-to-face with the demonization, criminalization, and stigmatization that forever follows those who fell prey to addiction and the accompanying lifestyle. While their levels of engagement in criminal and deviant lifestyles may differ from those of suburban drug users, at the end of the day, their addictions were not that different. And yet, the type of drug that one becomes addicted to makes all of the difference in our views and responses. It seems that compassion and calls for treatment that dominate the national discussion on addiction are not equally aimed at all addicts.

Methamphetamine devastates lives and communities, and yet, there is no sympathetic lens for addicts of meth and other illicit drugs. Some who get labeled with felony convictions related to their meth addiction will tell you, “it’s a life sentence.” For some, convictions and addictions are negative labels that stick.

There is a need for a shift in perspective and policy, not just for opioids, but for all who become impacted by drug addiction. Though the increased attention is a step in the right direction, to overlook the devastation being caused by other drugs is a disservice at best.

Those who manage to escape addiction, be it to opioids, methamphetamine, or other drugs, face numerous challenges in the roads that lie ahead. The need for greater understanding and increased resources for all, not just those who use certain types of drugs. Failing to respond more effectively to all of those who are burdened by addictions will only exacerbate the problem.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

See Rashi during her Author Meets Critics session on Thursday, November 16, 9:30 to 10:50am, Marriott, Room 411, 4th Floor.

And hear more about the book from Rashi.

Rashi K. Shukla is Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Central Oklahoma. She received her PhD in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University and has served as lead investigator of a multi-method study of the methamphetamine problem for more than a decade. Her research, which focuses on offender decision-making and the evolution of drug problems, has been presented in numerous forums, both nationally and internationally.

Consent and Control Over Reproductive Medicine

By Jody Lyneé Madeira, author of Taking Baby Steps: How Patients and Fertility Clinics Collaborate in Conception

In the past two years, a revolutionary change has unsettled established informed consent practices in reproductive medicine: educating patients undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) about treatment risks, benefits, and side effects through multimedia e-learning applications instead of lengthy paper documents. Like other consent aids, these technologies are designed to supplement consent conversations with physicians. While a handful of e-learning applications exist in other medical fields, EngagedMD is the first-to-market—the first application designed and utilized to solve common informed consent problems in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), such as ensuring consistent consent presentations and that patients read or understand consent documents.

These applications are marketed as products that have ethical and commercial benefits; they not only improve patient education, but offer subscribing clinics better risk protection, and allow practices to improve efficiency and even increase patient volume. At the same time, these technologies implicate informed consent’s “dark side”—the idea that consent documents fail for reasons other than poor patient recall and comprehension, especially patients’ emotions[1] and their perceptions that these forms are bureaucratic and protect physicians at their expense.[2]

Currently, little research exists on patients’ lived experience of informed consent, despite common speculation about its ineffectiveness. There is a critical need for more systematic empirical evaluation of both patients’ consent experiences and the efficacy of diverse informed consent aids and mediums. Investigating these issues within ART is particularly interesting because patients must confront unique ethical, legal, and medical decisions, and their choices also affect their potential offspring.

What information exists, however, suggests that patients strongly prefer applications  over traditional paper consent forms. In the first survey of patients undergoing IUI and IVF using EngagedMD, 6,333 individuals completed an online survey asking several questions about their perspectives on informed consent and various consent aids. Significantly, patients undergoing IVF and IUI start with a healthy attitude towards informed consent; 99% stated that it was “very important” or “important” to be educated about their care. Moreover, 83% felt that it enhanced their ability to sign informed consent documents, 85% “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that EngagedMD enhanced their ability to converse with their medical team. Patients regarded the application as more educational and efficient than other consent aids; it was second only to physician consultations, and ranked as superior to staff training, internet-based sources, and paper documents. Most patients also indicated that it made them feel more in control of medical decisions (79%).

Of course, technologies like EngagedMD also have their weaknesses. A minority of patients felt that such detailed and visually accessible portrayals of risk information increased their anxiety. Moreover, such applications lack safeguards that prevent providers from using such technologies improperly, relying upon them to satisfy all informed consent duties, in lieu of conversations. As competing products appear, issues such as customization will introduce tensions between providing a very comfortable and customizable patient consent experience and preserving quality – ensuring that all patients have consistent informed consent encounters.

These results suggest that patients’ common criticism of informed consent forms—that they’re too long, and too difficult to understand—haven’t yet tainted their faith in the process. Patients enjoy being informed, and recognize that information contributes to treatment experience, emotional and physical well-being and safety, and cycle outcome—as well as improving treatment relationships.

[1] Jody Lyneé Madeira, Taking Baby Steps: How Patients and Fertility Clinics Collaborate in Conception (forthcoming, 2017).

[2] Jody Lyneé Madeira & Barbara Andraka-Christou, Paper Trails, Trailing Behind: Improving Informed Consent to IVF Through Multimedia Applications, J. of L. & the Biosciences 3(1): 2-28 (2016).

Jody Lyneé Madeira is Professor of Law at the Maurer School of Law, Indiana University Bloomington, and the author of Killing McVeigh: The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure.

Women Can’t Win: Ongoing Offensives against Maternal and Reproductive Health

By Miranda Waggoner, author of The Zero Trimester: Pre-Pregnancy Care and the Politics of Reproductive Risk

In late July of this year, the Republican-led Senate’s attempt to repeal Obamacare failed rather dramatically, punctuated by John McCain’s widely discussed—and widely viewed—thumbs-down vote. More recently, another Republican-led attempt at repeal, known as the Graham-Cassidy proposal, again disintegrated due to lack of support from several key GOP senators. For at least the foreseeable future, the spirit of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act seems here to stay, but this development does not mean that women and mothers in America are safeguarded from having key components of their health care—or dignity—stripped away.

For some time now, opponents of Obamacare have vehemently targeted family planning services, as witnessed by the Trump administration’s recent expansion of religious exemptions for contraceptive coverage. But, at the same time, GOP lawmakers have also argued that maternity care services are not “essential.” This two-pronged hostility—pointedly disregarding both maternity care and general reproductive health care—is somewhat curious because maternity care has characteristically been considered politically “safe,” while reproductive care—in its association with contraception and abortion—has been deemed politically “toxic.” I trace the trajectory of these two reproductive silos in my book, The Zero Trimester. I show how health-care professionals have sought to expand the time period of a healthy pregnancy from the typical nine months to twelve months, by creating a “zero trimester” period during which women are defined as “pre-pregnant.” In doing so, non-pregnant women’s health care is defined in terms of maternity care. The rise of the “zero trimester” was in part predicated on the assumption that policy makers care about mothers and babies—that they are in the “safe” zone. Yet, in a political environment that does not value maternity care or reproductive care, such an approach seems destined to fail.

This approach is also unfair to women. The thrust of “zero trimester” initiatives promoted by health professionals and government agencies has been public-service announcements and health campaigns aimed at alerting individual women who are of reproductive age that they inhabit a perpetual zero trimester, and must act “responsibly.” One of the most controversial of these messages was the 2016 announcement by the CDC that all women of reproductive age not using birth control should avoid alcohol.

How can we best navigate a political climate that is hostile to maternity care but that simultaneously tends to define women by their maternal capacity? Taking away women’s health care services is obviously not a step in the right direction, but neither are individual-level recommendations to women that make them feel guilty about their everyday behaviors. Comprehensive health care coverage for all potential reproducers—both women and men—across their life course is one important piece of the solution to improve health, especially maternal and child health, in America. Policies that enhance population health, such as paid parental leave or reducing toxic pollution, would also spur vast and positive change in maternal and child health in particular. The stakes are high: women in the U.S. continue to die of birth-related complications at a much higher rate than do women in other rich nations, and babies in the U.S. are more likely to die in their first year than in comparable countries.

If we cease working toward social policies that value the health of all citizens—of women and men, of mothers and fathers, and of babies and children—the most fitting image for the state of health care in this country will continue to be a thumbs-down.

Miranda R. Waggoner is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Florida State University. Her research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Punishing Disease: Charlie Sheen, Usher, and the Impulse to Criminalize Sickness

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

By Trevor Hoppe, author of Punishing Disease: HIV and the Criminalization of Sickness

Charlie Sheen and Usher were in the news again in recent weeks; but this time, it wasn’t for a penchant for “Tiger Blood” or a #1 single. Online gossip rags reported that Sheen – who made public his HIV-positive status in 2015 – was the subject of a lawsuit by a former male lover who claims Sheen failed to disclose his HIV-positive status. Days later, a California lawyer announced that she was filing a lawsuit on behalf of three women against musician Usher for allegedly failing to disclose that he had herpes.

The idea of punishing people who carry infectious diseases is not new; however, there are signs that the impulse to punish and criminalize disease is become more widespread. As I describe in my forthcoming book, Punishing Disease, over 30 U.S. states passed HIV-specific criminal laws in the 1980s and 1990s. Under such criminal laws, individuals are subject to criminal penalties for failing to disclose their HIV-positive status; they can be incarcerated for decades.

Should we punish Sheen and Usher for their alleged misdeeds? I think we ought to pause to consider the implications.

When a co-worker shows up to work with the flu, many of us probably think unkind thoughts to ourselves about their behavior. We may even wish for karmic retribution. But do we really think they ought to be sued or imprisoned?

Some may reject the comparison of the co-worker’s offense and the failure to disclose one’s HIV-positive status – perhaps because HIV is an incurable illness and because many mistakenly continue to think of it as a “death sentence.” But HIV is no longer what it was in the 1980s; once-a-day pill regimens now allow people to live healthy and full lives.

Moreover, you don’t need to infect someone with HIV to be imprisoned in the U.S. –or even risk that outcome. Simply failing to tell a sexual partner that you have the disease is a crime, even if cases where there was no risk of transmission (such as a 2009 case involving a woman who gave a man a lap dance).

Let’s think back to that co-worker. Imagine for a moment that they had exposed a pregnant woman to the flu. While the flu is not normally deadly, it can cause serious complications for pregnant women, including miscarriage. If we were to punish disease using the same logic as HIV disclosure laws in the U.S., simply showing up to work sick could be construed a crime.

People living with infectious disease are not individually responsible for controlling an epidemic. We must also consider the social factors that shape their lives. For example, American law does not require employers to provide workers with paid sick leave, a policy failure that undoubtedly causes epidemics to spread with greater ease.

Blame and shame will do little to curtail HIV or herpes outbreaks. Put simply, they are not the right tools for the job.

Trevor Hoppe is Assistant Professor of Sociology at University at Albany, State University of New York, and coeditor of The War on Sex. 

Our Most Precious Resource: A National Water Quality Month Reading List

August is National Water Quality Month, a time to reflect on what we are doing to both prevent water pollution and preserve water resources around the country. Check out the list below to learn more about water history, climate change, and the future of water in the western US.

The Atlas of Water: Mapping the World’s Most Critical Resource by Maggie Black

Using vivid graphics, maps, and charts, The Atlas of Water explores the complex human interaction with water around the world. This vibrant atlas addresses all the pressing issues concerning water, from water shortages and excessive demand, to dams, pollution, and privatization, all considered in terms of the growing threat of an increasingly unpredictable climate. It also outlines critical tools for managing water, providing safe access to water, and preserving the future of the world’s water supply.


Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner

In this incisive examination of lead poisoning during the past half century, Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner focus on one of the most contentious and bitter battles in the history of public health. Lead Wars details how the nature of the epidemic has changed and highlights the dilemmas public health agencies face today in terms of prevention strategies and chronic illness linked to low levels of toxic exposure. Including content about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Lead Wars chronicles the obstacles faced by public health workers in the conservative, pro-business, anti-regulatory climate that took off in the Reagan years and that stymied efforts to eliminate lead from the environments and the bodies of American children.


Water and Los Angeles: A Tale of Three Rivers, 1900-1941 by William Deverell and Tom Sitton

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.

A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program for monographs.


Blood and Water: The Indus River Basin in Modern History by David Gilmartin

The Indus basin was once an arid pastoral watershed, but by the second half of the twentieth century, it had become one of the world’s most heavily irrigated and populated river basins. Launched under British colonial rule in the nineteenth century, this irrigation project spurred political, social, and environmental transformations that continued after the 1947 creation of the new states of India and Pakistan. In this first large-scale environmental history of the region, David Gilmartin focuses on the changes that occurred in the basin as a result of the implementation of the world’s largest modern integrated irrigation system.


Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the West by James Lawrence Powell

Where will the water come from to sustain the great desert cities of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix? In a provocative exploration of the past, present, and future of water in the West, James Lawrence Powell begins at Lake Powell, the vast reservoir that has become an emblem of this story. Writing for a wide audience, Powell shows us exactly why an urgent threat during the first half of the twenty-first century will come not from the rising of the seas but from the falling of the reservoirs.


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.

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.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Me, We, or AARP?

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

Six years ago, I asked whether an aging baby boomer/AARP alliance might become the long-expected awakening giant of “age power,” a mobilized political force capable of repelling Medicare and Social Security cutbacks. This potential battle was postponed because of the re-election of President Barak Obama, a long steady recovery from the Great Recession, and one of the longest bull markets in stock market history. Now, with passage of the American Health Care Act by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives—a measure to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act—aging boomers have much to lose. The GOP proposal substantially reduces nursing home and other Medicaid benefits for aging Americans as well as permitting enormous boosts to insurance premiums for Americans age 40-64 who purchase health insurance on state or federal insurance exchanges. Whether the Senate or the White House accept such changes hangs in the balance.

My original question and the description of the political challenges for aging boomers and AARP thus remain very current and just as urgent:

Will aging boomers become an awakening, age-conscious political giant, increasingly visible either as an inert voting bloc or as a more active political movement geared to the protection of Medicare and Social Security? Can aging boomers transcend their many internal cultural, economic, and political differences and vote their age-based interests, fulfilling the presumption of age-motivated voting in the “senior power model” challenged by Robert Binstock? And what will be the role of AARP?

Boomers’ senior power potential will be heavily influenced by the nation’s economic future. Another decade of stagnant stock and real estate markets coupled with a long “jobless recovery” will increase aging boomers’ collective sense of angst and vulnerability—but also entangle Social Security and Medicare funding battles with rising economic and social problems of other population segments, especially in the wake of the Great Recession. In a widely read Atlantic magazine cover story, senior editor Don Peck listed these problems: “A slowly sinking [younger] generation; a remorseless assault on the identity of many men; the dissolution of families and the collapse of neighborhoods; a thinning veneer of national amity—the social legacies of the Great Recession are still being written, but their breadth and depth are immense. As problems, they are enormously complex and their solutions will be equally so.” How will these forces shape boomers’ political choices of “Me, We, or AARP”?

Without AARP’s leadership and vast resources, aging boomers’ abilities to politically resist entitlement reductions against progrowth appeals to “restore the middle class” and “reduce debt for our children” would be difficult at best. Their willingness to mobilize on their own as a voting bloc or movement may be fatally compromised by long-standing class/political/cultural divides, negative self-publicity wrought by boomers bashing boomers, and increasing calls for generational sacrifice and atonement. 

On the other hand, the results of the 2010 elections probably raised levels of political polarization and stalemate in the nation (and, especially, in Washington, D.C.) to such a degree that no individual or party will dare off er—much less, successfully enact—major entitlement reforms until after the 2012 presidential elections.

But the stage is being set for entitlement reform. The fight over Social Security, Medicare, and the future of the American nation-state has begun. Divided or united, boomers will be in the thick of those battles. And, whether as advocate or mediator, so will AARP.

Frederick R. Lynch is a government professor at Claremont McKenna College and the author of Invisible Victims and The Diversity Machine.