Banned Books Week 2017: Promoting Progressive Change

As part of Banned Books Week, occurring September 24 – 30, we’ll be sharing recommended reading lists that promote the freedom to seek and express ideas. At UC Press, we believe that scholarship is a powerful tool for fostering a deeper understanding of our world and changing how people think, plan, and govern. Our mission is to drive progressive change by seeking out and cultivating the brightest minds and giving them voice, reach, and impact.

During #BannedBooksWeek, get a 30% discount on these selected titles that promote progressive change in feminism, politics, Islam, and free speech. #BannedBooks

What’s your favorite UC Press book that you think should have made the list for Banned Books Week? Let us know in the comment section below.


Islamophobia, Close to Home

By Khaled A. Beydoun, author of American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear

Muslims Americans were intimately familiar with Islamophobia well before it became a cognizable term plastered on protest banners and echoed by media pundits. For Muslims, Islamophobia was central to their experience as American citizens or residents. It was manifested by the “random” checks at airports, the incessant stares while walking down the street, the presumption that they don’t speak English at the check out line, and the backlash that descended onto their communities after a terror attack. These experiences, and others, formed the core of the Muslim American experience after the 9/11 terror attacks and, most recently, the rise of Donald Trump, but also characterized the lives for numerous Muslim communities well before these transformative moments.

On April 27, 1995, roughly one week after the domestic terror attack remembered as the “Oklahoma City Bombing” and years before the term “Islamophobia” existed, the phenomenon hit close to home. My family lived in Detroit, right outside the densely Arab and Muslim populated community in East Dearborn, widely regarded as the symbolic hub of Muslim America, and for hate mongers then and today, an easy target. One of my mother’s friends, Zeinab, a middle-aged Lebanese woman that wore the hijab (headscarf), was shopping at a grocery store on Dearborn’s (then predominantly white) west side. It was the evening, and as she was walking to her car in the dimly lit parking let, sensed footsteps tracking her own. As she stopped to unpack her cart and place her groceries in her car, two teens pounced on her.

“They weren’t trying to rob me, like I thought,” she recounted in Arabic, “but were trying to pull my headscarf off of my head, they didn’t try to take my purse.” The teens called her “stupid A-rab,” a racist slur for Arab, and told her “to get out of our country,” although her and her three children were citizens, and had made Michigan their home many years ago. Yet, their message was clear, and manifested a core baseline of the phenomenon we understand as Islamophobia today: that Islam was unassimilable with American values and identity, and Muslims were presumed to be foreign, subversive and terrorists. It did not matter that the culprit of the Oklahoma City Bombing was a white man, Timothy McVeigh, and that roughly 63% of mass shootings since 1982 were commit by white men. The terrorist stereotype eclipsed these statistics, and drove the violent backlash Zeinab endured in that grocery store parking lot and the frightening uptick in anti-Muslim bigotry unfolding in America today.

Source: Mother Jones’ Investigation: US Mass Shootings, 1982-2017 (6/14/2017)

And the law followed suit. The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) was enacted because of the Oklahoma City Bombing. But instead of grappling with the white separatist element that conspired to commit that horrific terror attack, it fixated on Islam. This, before 1995 and indeed well after it, is the very dynamic that not only embeds Islamophobia, but also advances it. Instead of dismantling or disavowing stereotypes about Islam or Muslims, the law, most potently through the War on Terror policy and strategy, endorses and advances it. Therefore, although Islamophobia is today a widely known term as a consequence of 9/11 and the Trump Era, it has long prevailed as a phenomenon and system deeply inscribed into the law. Muslims living in America know this quite well.


Khaled A. Beydoun is Associate Professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. A critical race theorist and political commentator, his writing has been featured in top law journals, including the California Law Review, UCLA Law Review, and Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. He is also the 2017 winner of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination (ADC) Advocate of the Year Award.


“Sumud”—The Will to Resist

By Gary Fields, author of Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror

“Sumud” (صمود‎‎) is an oft-used term in Palestinian Arabic meaning “steadfastness” and refers generally to the resistance of Palestinians to Israeli takeover and settlement of Palestinian land. This idea of resisting dispossession is a major theme in my recently-completed book, Enclosure and I decided to celebrate its publication by spending ten weeks in Palestine this past summer. Unlike previous research trips, however, where I documented stories of steadfastness, my time on this trip was taken up by studying Arabic intensively at Birzeit University and visiting informally with Palestinians who had conveyed their stories to me for my study. Among Palestinians I have come to know, Mona and Fayez T. from the village of Irtah near Tulkarem are two of the most heroic practitioners of sumud I have encountered.

I met Mona and Fayez in December, 2004 when I stayed with them for five days on my first research trip to Palestine. The couple told me of three major shocks to their farming operation. In the 1990s an Israeli waste and recycling firm, the Geshuri Company, which had been in violation of Israeli environmental laws, relocated its plant across the border to the Palestinian West Bank – immediately adjacent to the farm Mona and Fayez and created untold problems by polluting the area with untreated wastewater runoff. In 2002, the couple received a second shock when the state of Israel decided to build the Separation Wall – Fayez and Mona refer to it as the Apartheid Wall – right across the middle of their farm. As a result, the family lost half of its farmland and had only 30 dunums (roughly eight acres) remaining.

Harvesting zatar on the farm of Mona and Fayez in the shadow of the Wall. Photo by Gary Fields
Mona T. Cultivating beans. Photo by Gary Fields

The following year, the Israeli army along with two large bulldozers came to their farm one day and informed the couple that their land was now a closed military zone. Protected by armed soldiers, the bulldozers plowed up all of the crops planted at that time which Mona and Fayez estimated at $350,000. During the next ten years, this plowing up of the couple’s farmland occurred two more times. Such instances of land confiscation and crop destruction are central themes in Enclosure.

When I visited this summer, I saw many changes on the farm of Mona and Fayez. They have implemented an intensive program of water reclamation, energy conservation, and heirloom seed preservation in an effort to transition their land to organic farming. As a result, Mona and Fayez are now two of the most celebrated organic farmers in Palestine cultivating a wide variety of fruits, field vegetables, and nuts. They also regularly host groups of people from all over Europe and the Middle East who come to see how they are utilizing scarce resources while supplying local and regional markets with organic produce. In addition they are also the main supplier for some of the most well-known restaurants in Ramallah. At their house this summer over dinner, Fayez and Mona emphasized to me that cultivating crops was the most steadfast form of resistance to the Israeli occupation. “When we cultivate crops, we plant ourselves in our land,” they told me. “We will not be moved.”

Picking Molokhia. Photo by Gary Fields
Taking a break from picking and packing peppers. Photo by Gary Fields

Gary Fields is Associate Professor of Communication at the University of California, San Diego.

His new book Enclosure marshals bold new arguments about the nature of the conflict in Israel/Palestine. Fields examines the dispossession of Palestinians from their land—and Israel’s rationale for seizing control of Palestinian land—in the contexts of a broad historical analysis of power and space and of an enduring discourse about land improvement. This comparative framework also helps readers in the United States and the United Kingdom understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the context of their own histories.

Read a sample chapter.


The Growing Social Power of Iran’s Middle Class

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference, August 12-15 in Montreal, Quebec, and in conjunction with the American Political Science Association conference, August 31-September 3 in San Francisco.#ASA17 & 

By Kevan Harris, author of A Social Revolution: Politics and the Welfare State in Iran


My book emerged from a simple observation. The Iran I experienced in person looked very different from the Iran I read about in journalism and scholarship.

In 2009, I visited Iran to conduct a year-long study of the country’s welfare system. My plane landed a day after the June 12th presidential election in which the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was controversially declared the winner in the first round of voting. After highly charged pre-election campaigns had led supporters of opposition candidates to believe that they would at least push the election into another round, many skeptical voters did not give credence to the results. Protests shook the city that evening and the next day. Over the next several weeks, Iran experienced the largest public demonstrations since the 1979 revolution. Participants labeled themselves the Green Movement. Millions of Iranians marched in the streets, chanted slogans, made demands on the state, and captivated the attention of the world media.

On my second day in Tehran, I stepped onto the subway and got out at a scheduled demonstration, not knowing what would occur. I was swept up the train-station stairs with thousands of other metro passengers. Emerging into daylight, I saw hundreds of thousands of individuals gathered in a north-central square of the capital. They marched in silence, exhibiting high levels of self-discipline even though the movement was apparently leaderless. In a sense, the protestors were following in the tradition of not just the 1979 Iranian revolution but a hundred years of bottom-up protest in Iran that has been relatively peaceful and nonviolent. As the protesters mobilized during the months of June and July, and then demobilized through the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010, I watched the unfolding of what sociologists call the “dynamics of contention.” The protests directed a surge of youthful emotional energy at the state’s hypocritical public rhetoric about democratic fairness. The demonstrations, initially in response to a perceived fraudulent election, transcended the original demands of the opposition. Protestors drew on and reformulated the symbols and slogans of Iran’s 1979 revolutionary repertoire. Nationalist calls for unity emanating from the state were matched with an equally forceful nationalism from below, which questioned the legitimacy of politicians who claimed to act in the national interest. Both sides of the struggle changed tactics in response to new opportunities, appealed to the population for support, and polarized their temperaments in relation to each other.

The effervescence of the 2009 Green Movement in the initial post-election period peaked in a multimillion-person march in Tehran on June 15th. The excitement, however, concealed weaknesses, which soon became apparent. The movement lacked any extensive autonomous organizations that could strategically coordinate a limited number of participants for maximum effect. The rallies also lacked strong connections with provincial towns across Iran, not to mention the countryside. Indeed, as I learned during travels to other provinces over the next year, the 2009 Green Movement was largely a Tehran-based event. This made the 2009 protests quite dissimilar to the 1979 Iranian revolution as well as the subsequent 2011 Egyptian revolution, both of which powerfully connected the provinces with the capital.

Continue reading “The Growing Social Power of Iran’s Middle Class”


On the Anniversary of the Six-Day War, Recommended Reading for Understanding the Occupation

Fifty years ago this week, the Six-Day War transformed the Middle East. Fought from June 5-10 in 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the conflict lasted just six days, yet its impact endures today. For Palestinians, this year marks fifty years of military occupation. During the war, Israeli forces captured east Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories — the West Bank and Gaza — as well as the Golan Heights and Sinai. In observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, we’ve selected a list of recommended titles for understanding the nature of the occupation, the reasons for its longevity, and its impact on Israeli and Palestinian lives, with the following deeply researched titles.


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

“An indispensable guide for anyone who wants to understand the occupation that has blighted Israeli and Palestinian lives for fifty years.”Peter Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism

In these timely and provocative essays, Gershon Shafir asks three questions—What is the occupation, why has it lasted so long, and how has it transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? His cogent answers illuminate how we got here, what here is, and where we are likely to go. Shafir expertly demonstrates that at its fiftieth year, the occupation is riven with paradoxes, legal inconsistencies, and conflicting interests that weaken the occupiers’ hold and leave the occupation itself vulnerable to challenge.

This excerpt from the book, just published in Mondoweiss, asks the question: Why has the Occupation lasted this long?

Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom by Norman G. Finkelstein | available January 2018

“An exceptional, singular work that will stand as a vital contribution to the literature on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while also securing an essential place in the fields of international and human rights law.”—Sara Roy, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

Norman G. Finkelstein presents a meticulously researched and devastating inquest into Israel’s actions of the last decade, arguing that although Israel justified its violent assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions were cynical exercises of brutal power against an essentially defenseless civilian population. Based on hundreds of human rights reports, Gaza scrutinizes multifarious violations of international law Israel committed both during its operations and in the course of its decade-long siege of Gaza.

This week in Mondoweiss, Finkelstein discussed the history of the Six-Day War, its impact on U.S. Jewish life, and its mythology, saying, “It’s arguable that Israel became a different place after ’67. . .  If not a qualitative, then a quantitative transformation occurred in ’67.  Still, it’s perhaps not too late for Israel to repair some of the damage done to the indigenous population, and itself. Look at Germany and Japan.”

Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror by Gary Fields| available September 2017

“An original and eye-opening argument which places the dispossession of Palestinians by Israel within the age-old system of land enclosure—a broader and deeper logic typifying the political geography of modernity.”—Oren Yiftachel, Professor of Geography, Ben-Gurion University 

Enclosure marshals bold new and persuasive arguments about the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. Revealing the Israel-Palestine landscape primarily as one of enclosure, geographer Gary Fields sheds fresh light on Israel’s actions. He places those actions in historical context in a broad analysis of power and landscapes across the modern world. Examining the process of land-grabbing in early modern England, colonial North America, and contemporary Palestine, Enclosure shows how patterns of exclusion and privatization have emerged across time and geography.

Israel’s Occupation by Neve Gordon

“A powerful and convincing structural framework for explaining Israel’s changing methods of rule in the Palestinian territories from 1967 and until today. This book will change the debate on Israel and its occupation.”Yinon Cohen, Columbia University

This first complete history of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip allows us to see beyond the smoke screen of politics in order to make sense of the dramatic changes that have developed on the ground over the past forty years. Looking at a wide range of topics, from control of water and electricity to health care and education as well as surveillance and torture, Neve Gordon’s panoramic account reveals a fundamental shift from a politics of life—when, for instance, Israel helped Palestinians plant more than six-hundred thousand trees in Gaza and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds—to a macabre politics characterized by an increasing number of deaths.

Yesterday in The Nation, Gordon wrote about this shift from “a politics of life to a politics of death” which he covers in the book. He says: “To really understand Israel’s colonial project, it is crucial to examine the mechanisms of control.”

One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States edited by Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg

“A coterie of bold, open-minded international academics offers a fresh paradigm for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. . . . A visionary approach so daring that it could actually work.”Kirkus

One Land, Two States imagines a new vision for Israel and Palestine in a situation where the peace process has failed to deliver an end of conflict. “If the land cannot be shared by geographical division, and if a one-state solution remains unacceptable,” the book asks, “can the land be shared in some other way?”

Leading Palestinian and Israeli experts along with international diplomats and scholars answer this timely question by examining a scenario with two parallel state structures, both covering the whole territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, allowing for shared rather than competing claims of sovereignty.


Sustaining Conflict: Apathy and Domination in Israel-Palestine 
by Katherine Natanel

“In chapter after chapter, Natanel records the relentlessness of a kind of detachment that allows for Israelis to live a ‘normal’ life while only miles away from them a brutal apparatus of occupation attempts to pacify Palestinians.”Laleh Khalili, Professor of Middle East Politics, University of London

Sustaining Conflict examines how the status quo is maintained in Israel-Palestine, even by the activities of Jewish Israelis who are working against the occupation of Palestinian territories. The book shows how hierarchies and fault lines in Israeli politics lead to fragmentation, and how even oppositional power becomes routine over time. Most importantly, the book exposes how the occupation is sustained through a carefully crafted system that allows sympathetic Israelis to “knowingly not know,” further disconnecting them from the plight of Palestinians.

Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel edited by Mark LeVine and Gershon Shafir

“This wonderful volume illuminates the human dimensions of the complex and often painful history of modern Palestine/Israel by exploring how [individual] experiences have been profoundly shaped by the recurrent struggles over this land.”Zachary Lockman, New York University.

With contributions from a leading cast of scholars across disciplines, the stories here are drawn from a variety of sources, from stories passed down through generations to family archives, interviews, and published memoirs. This wide-ranging and accessible volume of personal narratives brings a human dimension to a conflict-ridden history, emphasizing human agency, introducing marginal voices alongside more well-known ones, defying “typical” definitions of Israelis and Palestinians, and, ultimately, redefining how we understand both “struggle” and “survival” in a troubled region.


The Occupation’s Universe of Alternative Facts

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

This guest post is published in observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, fought from June 5-10, 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. During this time, Israeli forces captured east Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories — the West Bank and Gaza — as well as the Golan Heights and Sinai. For Palestinians, this year marks fifty years of military occupation.

In A Half Century of Occupation, Gershon Shafir asks three questions—What is the occupation, why has it lasted so long, and how has it transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? His cogent answers illuminate how we got here, what here is, and where we are likely to go. 


In the last essay of this book’s three essays, I examine the ways in which a half century of occupation has transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this short blog post I can only ask one big question: Is Israeli colonization irreversible? Has the implan­tation of Israeli settlers closed off the possibility of the territorial partition of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, so that, as many now believe, the crea­tion of one state for both Israelis and Palestinians has become the only non­violent alternative to continued conflict?

Mine is not a philosophical discussion of the merits and demerits of these political outcomes, but rather a much more modestly conceived feasibility study from the perspective of the social sciences. (In the rest of the essay I also evaluate the feasibility of shared state in either its binational or civic, that is, one-person-one vote, versions.)

When the Likud government put forth the Drobless Plan in 1981, it projected that by 2010, 1.3 million Jews would live alongside 1.8 million Arabs in the West Bank. In fact, in mid-2016 (according to the Civilian Administration), among the close to three million West Bank Palestinians 405,158 Jewish settlers resided in 126 settlements, making up 13.8 percent of the region’s population. Palestinians, in short, still maintain a crushing demographic dominance.

Continue reading “The Occupation’s Universe of Alternative Facts”


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.


Twice the Palestinian Knowledge, Half the Price!

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This holiday season, UC Press is pleased to partner with the Institute for Palestine Studies to offer the best Palestinian scholarship and stories. For the month of December only, you (or a lucky friend you choose!) can get 45% off on:

That’s $110 worth of Palestinian knowledge and wisdom for only $50.

Get (or give) the gift of top articles, essays, interviews, reports, and long-form journalism on Palestine you won’t find anywhere else. (Offer expires 12/31/2016.)

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(Click “DONATE” on the landing page to subscribe)


Da’ish, Trafficking, and the Margins of the “Free Market”

by Johan Mathew

This guest post is part of a series published in conjunction with the meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in Boston. UC Press authors share insight into their research and stories that reflect this year’s conference themes. We hope these personal glimpses into their scholarship will inspire a broad community of readers. Come back for new posts every day between now and November 13th.

How has Da’ish (ISIS, ISIL, IS) survived as a state for almost 3 years? Enemies on every side of Da’ish are working towards its extermination, supported by the wealthiest and most powerful states in the world. The global unity, and the resources mobilized against this pariah state are in many ways unprecedented in world history. So how can it still endure?

Well, an essential part of the explanation is smuggling. Despite deep hatred on both sides, the warring parties can set aside their virulent antagonisms to make a little profit. Food, basic commodities and people are trafficked in, and oil and antiquities slip out. The traffics that regularly cross the battle lines in the dead of night, allow the war to rage on in the light of day. The self-styled Islamic State could only exist as long as its borders were porous. Moreover, the success of global efforts to harden those borders, have undoubtedly contributed to the recent reversal of Da’ish’s fortunes on the battlefield.

However, Da’ish presents only the most dramatic and desperate version of a story that is happening in more subtle ways across the Middle East and the wider world. No one who has spent time in the Middle East or the post-colonial world could miss the mundane ways that people work around official regulations. Rich cultures of informal commerce have characterized many of these societies since the colonial era. Furthermore, even in the peaceful precincts of the developed world are undergirded by invisible traffics of people, money and weapons. Indeed, it is precisely when this kind of commerce is invisible that we can sustain the powerful fiction of a “gross domestic product” or the free market.

My recently published book, Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism across the Arabian Sea, uncovers this long history of erasure and marginalization. It focuses on the maritime space of the Arabian Sea, and the long history that continues to inflect exchange and conflict in places like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan today. These struggling economies and failing states are undermined by illicit trades that secretly enrich the powerful and exploit the poor. Yet at the same time their peoples have long been sustained by numerous undocumented traffics that allow everyday life to struggle on. We need, then, to pay closer attention to the traffics that sustain horrific violence, but also permit human societies to survive it.

Johan Mathew is Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers. Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism across the Arabian Sea is available now.

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Ottoman History and the Red Sea

by Alexis Wick

This guest post is part of a series published in conjunction with the meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in Boston. UC Press authors share insight into their research and stories that reflect this year’s conference themes. We hope these personal glimpses into their scholarship will inspire a broad community of readers. Come back for new posts every day between now and November 13th.

The Red Sea: In Search of Lost Space book coverOttoman history has exploded out of its well-protected niche, and begun sustained dialogues with historians of various stripes on questions of global import. This is not to say that Ottomanists had not previously been posing relevant questions, or conducting meaningful conversations with colleagues in other fields until recently (Ranke read Hammer-Purgstall, Barkan influenced Braudel)—but the sheer intensity of the debates involving Ottomanist historians, and the attention devoted to the Ottoman past by non-specialists is without a doubt unprecedented. Ottomanists are putting their stamp on the imperial turn, the cultural turn, the linguistic turn, the back-to-the-social turn, and now, the oceanic and the spatial turn. This is the biblioscape in which my book wanders.

Sitting on the shoulders of giants (Orhonlu, Özbaran, Bostan, Hess, Tuchscherer, Brummett, among many others, and behind them all, of course, the ubiquitous Halil Inalcik, now sadly departed), I set out to research the history of the Red Sea after the fashion of Braudel’s famous Mediterranean: a coherent vessel, moored in a specific era (in my case, the late 18th, early 19th c.) and anchored to the very long term, the longue durée. Hence the work’s pertinence,  since it fills an obvious gap in the literature: there has been no such book devoted to the Red Sea, despite the obvious coherence of the space, and the increasing publicity of sea-centered historical narratives. But I quickly realized that the Ottomans did not call that area the Red Sea, nor did they, in fact, conceive of it as an integral whole—until the second half of the 19th century, that is, and the expansion of European global power. My book thus also proposes answers to other questions as well: why had the history of the Ottoman Red Sea not been written? Is it meaningful that the Ottomans did not always call it the red sea? How did they conceive of the area? And what does all this tell us about the historian’s craft more generally?

Alexis Wick is Assistant Professor of History at the American University of Beirut. The Red Sea: In Search of Lost Space is available now. Listen to his interview on the Ottoman History Podcast.

Please use hashtag #MESA2016Boston when sharing on Twitter or Facebook.