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

Muslim 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.


Discussing Race and Ethnicity in America

This post is part of our blog series Integrate Current Events Into Your Courses, which aims to provide lecture topics and corresponding course books that will help your students think critically about today’s conversations on social inequality. Today, we discuss race, ethnicity, and class in America. 

Week by week, students see news headlines swing back and forth, from health care to immigration, from women’s rights to poverty, to much more. Their understanding of, and their personal feelings toward, these various issues can invoke strong responses as they have these conversations in class or on the quad. This is, in part, because their lens on the issues are influenced by race and ethnicity. How then do faculty guide students to have fruitful conversations on the issues that impact our lives today?

In Race and Ethnicity in America, sociologist and demographer John Iceland writes about where to start the conversation when guiding students to discuss race and ethnicity:

Discussing racial issues can be difficult. It is often more challenging than talking about many other sociological topics—such as changes in the occupational distribution of American workers or regional migration patterns—because race can be very personal. For many Americans, race is an important part of their identity. It affects how they view themselves, their aspirations, and their communities. …

These conversations about race are typically not that productive, as people are not really listening to one another. Their arguments, more generally speaking, also are often not based on empirical evidence and instead rely on anecdotes.

The goal of this book is to address this issue by providing such an empirical overview of patterns and trends in racial and ethnic inequality, as well as their causes and consequences. In doing so, I offer a social scientific basis for much-needed conversations about race. Having this kind of basic information is critical to reduce the extent to which people talk past one another with their own alleged facts accompanying their own opinions. Then people can be honest about their interests and values and recognize that these also play a key role in informing their policy preferences. In short, we need to cut through the clutter of empirical falsehoods to have real substantive discussions about racial inequality in the United States and what to do about it.

Read a sample chapter of Race and Ethnicity in America. And use these instructor resources to help prepare for your course. Feel free to see our other titles on race and class as well as other titles in the Sociology in the 21st Century Series.

How do you begin your discussions about race and ethnicity in your classes?


#7CheapThings: What Is Cheap Money?

Welcome to the second post in our #7CheapThings blog series! Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore’s A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things focuses on seven areas that are the foundation of modern commerce: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. How has the cheapening of these things made the world safe for capitalism? Follow along to find out.

If we want to understand the idea of cheap money, we have to first go beyond money and zoom out to take a look at the larger picture. At the core of capitalism is a cycle that expands beyond just money and encompasses commodities as well. Money flows into commodities which then flow back into money. It is here that the authors note:

A peculiar and very modern magic lies here. States wanted the loot of war, but needed money to pay the military. Without war, they couldn’t acquire riches which they needed, in part, to pay for the previous war. War, money, war. Bankers needed governments to repay them, and governments needed bankers to fund them. What’s new about capitalism and its ecology isn’t the pursuit of profit, but the relations between the pursuit, its financing, and governments. The planet was to be remade through these relations, and they are the subject of this chapter.

This cycle is fueled by the cheap money in question, specifically “a secure denomination of exchange that can be relied upon to facilitate commerce, controlled in a way that meets the needs of the ruling bloc at the same time.” Said cheapness includes two major characteristics: the appropriation of a primary commodity such as gold or oil and its regulation that allows interest to remain low and control over the wider cash economy which only states can provide.

In the end, however:

Cheap money means one thing above all – low interest. Even in today’s world of fast-moving container ships and high frequency stock trades, credit is the lifeblood of capitalism. If cheap work, food, energy, and raw materials are the necessary conditions for capitalist booms, cheap credit makes it all possible. Historically, there’s been a virtuous circle of cheap money and new frontiers. When opportunities for profit making contracted in established regions of production and extraction, capitalists took their profits and put it into money-dealing. That’s one reason why, after each great boom in world capitalism – the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, the British in the mid-nineteenth century, and the American postwar golden age – there’s been a curious process that scholars call financialization. We’re living in such a time at the moment, and history doesn’t reassure – such cycles of accumulation usually end in war, with the rise of new financial powers, as we’ll see below.

Two movements make financialization attractive and even useful for capitalism. One is that, as we’ve seen, when the world’s economic pie stops growing, leading powers tend to go to war, or at a minimum build up their warmaking capacity. As we will see modern states rarely self-finance their wars. They have to borrow money just like anyone else. The other thing that happens is that capital in the heartlands of the system begin to flow towards the frontiers. In the late nineteenth century, for example, gigantic sums of British capital, in the form of loans, flowed out of London and towards the rest of world, especially to build railroads. Thus the significance of financialization – relatively cheap British capital flowed out to make possible a global railway network, which in turn was central to the next century’s extraordinary food and resource extraction. This worked so long as there were bountiful frontiers, where humans and other natures could be put to work – or otherwise extracted – for cheap. When the boom made possible – in part – by the global railway network went bust, in the 1970s, a new era of financialization began. And though the neoliberal era owed it existence to precisely the inverse of cheap money – the 1979 Volcker Shock – a long era of cheap money followed. As Anwar Shaikh explains, the neoliberal “boom” — such as it was – that began in the 1980s was “spurred by a sharp drop in interest rates… Falling interest rates also lubricated the spread of capital across the globe, promoted a huge rise in consumer debt, and fuelled international bubbles in finance and real estate.” What’s different today is that, where once finance was a bridge to a renewed era of profitability, because of how finance, science, and empire cooperated to make new frontiers of cheap nature, there are no such frontiers today. In the twenty-first, money masks the underlying problems of socio-ecological crisis, magnifying the contradictions in the process.


Raj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist and academic. He is a Research Professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing.

Jason W. Moore teaches world history and world-ecology at Binghamton University, and is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network. He is the author of several books, including Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, and numerous award-winning essays in environmental history, political economy, and social theory.


Discussing Terrorism, After 9/11

It has been sixteen years since the Twin Towers collapsed, forever changing the physical and emotional landscape of those who call the United States their home, and those worldwide who stand in solidarity. Today, we remember those we’ve lost. But we also consider the changes that 9/11 has brought, such as it’s impact on democracy, and how we can remind future generations of students and people about what this day means.

Since 9/11, how have our discussions about terrorism, whether it be by individuals or groups, changed? And how do we view other people worldwide in light of what has happened since that day?

Below, we’ve included some recommended reading to help share the continuing conversation on terrorism and its impact on our global society. #neverforget #Sept11th #Remember911

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

“Over its 109 years of existence, these historians [of this edited volume] and their colleagues argue, the Bureau has shaped American religious history through targeted investigations and religiously tinged rhetoric about national security.”—The Atlantic

Hear more about timely lessons for the FBI in the age of Trump. And read a sample chapter from the book.

Terror in the Mind of God, Fourth Edition: The Global Rise of Religious Violence by Mark Juergensmeyer. 

“Juergensmeyer’s work is a sensitive, comparative study of terrorist movements and the religious beliefs that motivate them.”—Washington Post

Read an excerpt regarding Burmese Buddhists and the persecution of Rohingya Muslims. And read a sample chapter from the book.

 

Constructions of Terrorism: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Research and Policy edited by Michael Stohl, Richard Burchill, and Scott Howard Englund

“Counter-terrorism would be less counterproductive if policymakers would take heed of their advice.” —Alex P. Schmid, Research Fellow and Director of the Terrorism Research Initiative at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague

And read the introduction from the book.

 

The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to ISIS, Updated Edition with a New Preface and Final Chapter edited by Gérard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin

“Provides a useful and levelheaded survey of a subject that is regularly misunderstood and often manipulated.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A recommendable book for sociologists, anthropologists and social scientists who are interested by these types of hot topics.”—International Journal of Human Rights and Constitutional Studies

Read a sample chapter from the book.

Caravan of Martyrs: Sacrifice and Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan by David B. Edwards 

“Such a beautifully written and imaginative work comes along rarely—at once a deeply felt personal memoir about the author’s anthropological encounters with Afghanistan and a highly original theory about suicide bombing as sacrifice.”—Steven C. Caton, Khalid Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulrahman Al Saud Professor of Contemporary Arab Studies, Harvard University

Read a sample chapter from the book.

A Culture of Conspiracy, 2nd Edition: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America by Michael Barkun

“Ideas, even bizarre and marginalized ideas, do have consequences, and we ignore them at our peril. Barkun’s explorations, like the canary in the coal mine, warn us of what may lie ahead.”—Paul Boyer Christian Century

Read an interview with the author. And read an excerpt from the book.

 

The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays by Richard Taruskin

“This is one of the most important books about music you’ll read this year. . . . No one has bridged the gap between music scholarship and mainstream media as virtuosically as Taruskin.”—Tom Service The Guardian

Read a sample chapter from the book.


Burmese Buddhists and the Persecution of Rohingya Muslims

By Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, 4th Edition

In the past two weeks, at least 313,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, roughly a third of the Rohingya population living in the predominantly Buddhist country. As we seek to understand the Rohingya people’s situation—and why religious power has manifested into violence—we turn to Mark Juergensmeyer’s Terror in the Mind of God. In this excerpt from the chapter, “Buddhist Faces of Terror,” Juergensmeyer visits the monk Ashin Wirathu, who has been credited with inciting angry Buddhists in Myanmar to riot against the Muslim minority. The author has adapted this excerpt for the UC Press blog.


When I talked with Ashin Wirathu in his comfortable office in the Ma Soe Yein monastery in the central Burmese city of Mandalay he was prepared to defend himself against the terrorism label branded him by Time magazine and by many other journalists. Wirathu was blamed for fanning the flames of ethnic hatred. He is the most well-known spokesman for the “969 Movement”—named after the nine special attributes of the Buddha, the six distinctive features of his teachings, and the nine characteristics of monks—which was formed to defend the purity of Burmese Buddhist culture against its adulteration from outside influences, primarily Muslim. Hence it was widely regarded as an anti-Islamic hate movement.

“They are trying to transform Myanmar into a Muslim state,” Wirathu said. He claimed that this was the reason that he and the 969 Movement were trying to protect Burmese Buddhism from what he regarded as a program of cultural annihilation.

Representatives of the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights, however, have seen this differently. They have identified Wirathu as one of the main figures in Myanmar’s pattern of human rights abuse against Muslims, particularly the Rohingya who live in the northern portion of Rakhine province adjacent to Bangladesh. Though the Rohingya people claim to have lived in the region for centuries, many Burmese regard them as aliens, and the most recent government census refused to let them identify themselves on the rolls as Rohingya rather than as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Wirathu has been outspoken in his insistence that the Rohingya are not legitimately native to the country but are interlopers.

In the years immediately following Burma’s establishment as an independent country in 1948 there was an effort to extend citizenship to all groups within the country. This was the vision of Aung San, the symbolic father of Burmese nationalism—and the actual father of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize–winning activist whose party came to power in the 2015 elections. In the first years of independent Burmese rule, Rohingya were included as cabinet members of the government.

In 2012, however, tensions between Burmese and Rohingya in Rakhine state came to a boiling point. Burmese leaders claimed that the increase in the Muslim population would soon make them the majority, and riots ensued, with killings on both sides. This tension spread throughout the country in a spiral of anti-Muslim activism, fanned by the rhetorical of activists monks like Ashin Wirathu. The government responded to the anti-Muslim sentiment with a series of enactments that greatly restricted the rights of Rohingya within Myanmar, essentially making them citizens without a country. In 2015, some twenty-five thousand Rohingya set sail on crowded boats seeking asylum in surrounding countries. It is estimated that hundreds died attempted to set shore on Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

This dismissal of the rights of Rohingya in Myanmar is one of the things that has been criticized by the UN Human Rights Commission. According to Wirathu, rich Muslim countries have bought off the UN, and its human rights accusations were part of a Muslim plot. “It is not the United Nations,” Wirathu told me, “but the United Muslim Nations.” Wirathu claimed that U.S. President Barack Obama was also duped by these influences, and this is the reason why he spoke about the rights of Rohingya people in his visit to the country. From Wirathu’s perspective, however, it is not a matter of human rights but a battle for the cultural integrity of Myanmar. It is a war between good and evil, between Buddhist morality and the Muslim hordes he imagines to be poised to conquer Burma’s soul; and Wirathu would like to be its savior.


Mark Juergensmeyer is Professor of Sociology and Global Studies and Founding Director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Terror in the Mind of God, now in its fourth edition, analyzes in detail terrorism related to almost all the world’s major religious traditions. Drawing from extensive personal interviews, Juergensmeyer takes readers into the mindset of those who perpetrate and support violence in the name of religion. Identifying patterns within these cultures of violence, he explains why and how religion and violence are linked and how acts of religious terrorism are undertaken not only for strategic reasons but to accomplish a symbolic purpose. Terror in the Mind of God continues to be an indispensible resource for students of religion and modern society.

Read a sample chapter or request an exam copy for your courses.


Help Your Students Understand the Impact of the End of DACA

This post is part of our blog series Integrate Current Events Into Your Courses, which aims to provide lecture topics and corresponding course books that will help your students think critically about today’s conversations on social inequality.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) in six months if Congress cannot find a different and more permanent solution. The statements Attorney General Jeff Sessions has used to describe many DACA recipients have been said to be misleading. And clarification about how DACA came about, who is affected, and what will happen next has been shared widely (click on Twitter hashtags #DACA #DREAMer to see the volume of commentary that’s been generated since earlier this week).

What has been sorely missed are the personal stories—those of people who were brought here as children to escape persecution or other hardships, have lived here in the United States peacefully, and are now poised to productively contribute to society. One such story is that of Jesus Contreras, a Houston-area paramedic who has been helping his community in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. And others, such as the DACA recipient who participated in a sit-down interview at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s home, notes that, “[a]ll we’re asking for is a chance . . . I urge members of Congress to meet a DREAMer.”

Books That Integrate Current Events Into Your Courses

Below are recommended books you can assign to help students put a face to those affected by the end of DACA.

Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America by Roberto G. Gonzales, winner of the 2016 C. Wright Mills Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems

Roberto has written about how DACA beneficiaries contribute to society. He continues to serve as champion to immigrant children and has recently discussed how DACA has affected their mental health and well-being.

“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

 

 

Whose Child Am I?: Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody by Susan J. Terrio

Susan has written about what happens to undocumented children and families in the Trump era. She has also been interviewed regarding her thoughts on U.S. government’s treatment of children and who has access to the American dream.

“An impressive grasp of relevant history, law, policy and practice. Essential reading for anyone interested in one of the US’s most urgent contemporary human rights challenges.”–Jacqueline Bhabha, Harvard University

 

 

Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families by Joanna Dreby, winner of the 2017 Distinguished Contribution to Research Award, Section for Latina/o Sociology, American Sociological Association

Joanna writes about how to tell children not to be afraid. She is committed to discussing and changing policies that undermine immigrant families.

“Eloquent and sharp… an important contribution to the literature on undocumented populations.”—Harvard Educational Review

 

 

 

Dreams and Nightmares: Immigration Policy, Youth, and Families by Marjorie S. Zatz and Nancy Rodriguez

Marjorie speaks frequently about how sweeping political decisions have enormous consequences to swaths of people living in the U.S.

“Highly valuable… this book is a combination of informative resources, rigorous social science research, and is well written to boot!”—Sociology and Social Welfare

 

 

 

 

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

Deborah discusses the fate of returnees and deportees, or “lost citizens.” Her research has focused on migrants’ lives before and after federal custody but she now intends to do research on detention itself.

“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

 

See other books on immigration and read the Immigration Syllabus: UC Press Edition#ImmigrationSyllabus


Weekend Armchair: UC Press Staff’s Recommended Labor Day Reading

Happy Labor Day! In celebration and solidarity of the strides made for worker’s rights, and of the struggles that laborers continue to face today, we’ve prepared a list of suggested UC Press titles. For this recommended reading list, we polled a selection of Bay Area book aficionados—UC Press staff, that is!—on their most recommended titles on labor and the labor movement.

Read on, and please enjoy this long-awaited edition of “Weekend Armchair”!

On the Line: Slaughterhouse Lives and the Making of the New South by Vanesa Ribas

I first read On the Line in pre-release galley form on a plane en route to the American Sociological Association’s 2015 meeting; subsequently, I spent the whole conference (and many months after) ruminating over it, especially Ribas’ observations on ‘prismatic engagement’ and the averse effects of racial triangulation. Now more than ever, we need to listen to the voices of immigrant workers and working class people of color, and Ribas’ ethnography brings them—and their relationships to each other—into the forefront.

—Danielle Rivera, PR and Marketing Assistant

 

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

Never have I thought about how the food at my table got there until seeing David Bacon’s photos. It was the first time that I really saw the farmworkers who feed us—tired eyes, calloused hands, and the small living quarters that they’ve made home. Despite the backbreaking work and the miles between them and their families, they’ve created a community that helps other communities flourish. It’s heart-wrenching, hopeful, and eye-opening.

—Chris Sosa Loomis, Senior Marketing Manager

 

America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century by Gabriel Thompson

I’d not previously heard of Fred Ross or known of his trailblazing work as an activist, and was initially drawn to this fascinating book by its title, as I too aspire to be a “social arsonist”—an appealingly incendiary alternative to today’s prim and proper “change agent.” Reading through Gabriel Thompson’s superb biography and social history, I learned that the renegade Ross truly walked it like he talked it, managing the labor camp that inspired John Steinbeck’s depiction of the hardscrabble settlement in The Grapes of Wrath, and later crossing paths with a young Cesar Chavez. Antifa protesters would do well to read up on Ross and adopt his effective organizing tactics.

—Steven Jenkins, Development Director

 

The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild

This book is high on my list of next-to-read UC Press books. As the desk and exam copy liaison, I see a lot of requests for this title for university courses and have always been intrigued by the concept of human emotion as emotional labor and how that is manipulated in the work force.

—Pauline Kuykendall, Coursebook Outreach

 

Nightshift NYC by Russell Leigh Sharman and Cheryl Harris Sharman, photography by Corey Hayes

Nightshift NYC was the first UC Press book I read after starting working at the Press. The book is an exploration of the lives of people who work all night long in New York City. You can’t have a city that doesn’t sleep without people who stay up all night to keep the lights on, transportation moving, and the stores, diners, and watering holes open. For those of us who work a 9am to 5pm job and sleep at night, it is a fascinating and well written look into the lives of people whose work is mostly invisible to us.

—Deb Nasitka, Systems Development Manager

 

Sal Si Puedes (Escape if You Can) by Peter Matthiessen

This has been on my to-read list for a while, but I still haven’t gotten to it. Maybe this is the weekend! It’s the legendary Peter Matthiessen writing about the great labor movement leader, Cesar Chavez, and it’s a classic of the history of the labor movement in the United States. Well worth spending some time with.

—Erich van Rijn, Interim Director

 

 

The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream by Steve Viscelli

Before reading The Big Rig, I’d never really considered the working life of a long haul trucker. Somehow I associated the profession with freedom and flexibility. On the contrary. Steve Viscelli reveals how poorly paid and demanding the work is, how exploited truckers are, and how few options drivers have to improve their working conditions or pay. His book draws on many hours of interviews and observations, but his first-hard accounts are particularly compelling: “I had spent 16 hours driving through traffic, delivering and picking up freight, and waiting, but I would only be paid for the 215 miles I drove. At 26 cents per mile, I had earned a grand total of $56, or $3.50 per hour.”

—Kate Warne, Managing Editor


4S Conference: At the Intersection of Social Studies, Science, and Technology

This year’s Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)  (August 30 – September 2 in Boston) continues to focus on fostering scholarship in the social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Learn more about books at the forefront of this discussion, from data regulation, to reproductive justice, to people’s overall health and well-being. #4S2017

The Internet

Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America by Elisabeth Jay Friedman

“A fascinating and wonderfully insightful account of the internet’s transformative utilization in Latin America. The rigorous sociomaterial analysis that she brings convincingly demonstrates and accounts for the co-constitution of subjects, technology, and broader social contexts and power relations.”—Lincoln Dahlberg, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Queensland

Learn more from Elisabeth Jay Friedman on the regional roots of transnational digital activism.

 

Chokepoints: Global Private Regulation on the Internet by Natasha Tusikov

“Natasha Tusikov raises important questions about the global governance of online transactions as well as much larger questions about the relationship between public and private law enforcement in our surveillance societies. Chokepoints is a terrific book.”—Roger Brownsword, King’s College London

Learn more from Natasha Tusikov about the new global regulators.

 

 

Health and Medicine

Unprepared: Global Health in a Time of Emergency by Andrew Lakoff

“Unprepared shows how, despite considerable epidemiological and biological advances, international agencies and national governments each time face similar issues, dilemmas, controversies, criticisms, and failures. It is an important contribution to the anthropology of contemporary anxieties and uncertainties.”—Didier Fassin, author of When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa

 

 

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

“Madeira’s interviews capture the voices of fertility patients as they struggle with decisions about whether to keep trying after repeated failures, how many embryos to implant at time, and whether to experiment with potentially risky procedures.  It adds new depth to our understanding of the concept of “informed consent” and of the human capacity for decision-making in the face of often heart-breaking challenges.”—June Carbone, Robina Chair of Law, Science and Technology, University of Minnesota Law School

 

Plastic Reason: An Anthropology of Brain Science in Embryogenetic Terms by Tobias Rees

Plastic Reason deftly tracks how the notion of ‘plasticity’ gathered persuasive force among a community of neuroscientists in France. Conducting and composing his ethnography through a series of conversational encounters with brain researchers, Tobias Rees elegantly illustrates how science is made in rhetoric, debate, and practice.”—Stefan Helmreich, Professor of Anthropology, MIT

Learn more from Tobias Rees about plasticity.

 

All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain by Mara Buchbinder

“Buchbinder tellingly shows how social meanings and social life intersect in creating therapeutic approaches to pain that make it endurable as a clinical reality for patients, families, and clinicians. A serious and useful contribution to medical anthropology, to the field of chronic pain, and to a meaning-centered approach to the art of living.”—Arthur Kleinman, MD, author of The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition

Learn more from Mara Buchbinder about the study of chronic pediatric pain.

 

And see more titles in Health, Medical Anthropology, and Environmental Sciences.

 


#7CheapThings: Cheap Nature

Welcome to the first post in our #7CheapThings blog series! Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore’s A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things focuses on seven areas that are the foundation of modern commerce: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. How has the cheapening of these things made the world safe for capitalism? Follow along to find out.

 

Raj & Jason, in their book, argue that humans in a capitalist system abuse the ecosystems that they are a part of, with the demand for profit outweighing detrimental effects on the environment. In this shift towards profit governing life, a split between the ideas of “Nature” and “Society” needed to occur. What exactly is meant by that is outlined in the excerpt below.

In the English language, the words nature and society assumed their familiar meanings only after 1550, over the arc of the “long” sixteenth century (c. 1450–1640). This was, as we shall see, a decisive period in England’s capitalist and colonial history. It marked the rise of the Spanish and Portuguese empires and their construction of massive New World production systems, worked by coerced Indigenous and African labor. These transformations were key elements of a planetary shift in the global center of power and production from Asia to the North Atlantic. That shift did not come fast. Europe was technologically and economically impoverished compared to civilizations on the other side of Asia, and only after 1800 did that change. China, recall, already had the printing press, a potent navy, gunpowder, and vibrant cities, and it was marked by both wealth and environmental crisis. Where European capitalism thrived was in its capacity to turn Nature into something productive and to transform that productivity into wealth. This capacity depended on a peculiar blend of force, commerce, and technology, but also something else—an intellectual revolution underwritten by a new idea: Nature as the opposite of Society. This idea gripped far more than philosophical minds. It became the common sense of conquest and plunder as a way of life. Nature’s bloody contradictions found their greatest expression on capitalism’s frontiers, forged in violence and rebellion—as the witch killing demonstrates.

We take for granted that some parts of the world are social and others are natural. Racialized violence, mass unemployment and incarceration, consumer cultures—these are the stuff of social problems and social injustice. Climate, biodiversity, resource depletion—these are the stuff of natural problems, of ecological crisis. But it’s not just that we think about the world in this way. It’s also that we make it so, acting as if the Social and the Natural were autonomous domains, as if relations of human power were somehow untouched by the web of life.

This means that we’re using these words—Nature and Society—in a way that’s different from their everyday use. We’re capitalizing them as a sign that they are concepts that don’t merely describe the world but help us organize it and ourselves. Scholars call concepts like these “real abstractions.” These abstractions make statements about ontology—What is?—and about epistemology: How do we know what is? Real abstractions both describe the world and make it. That’s why real abstractions are often invisible, and why we use ideas like world-ecology to challenge our readers into seeing Nature and Society as hidden forms of violence. These are undetonated words. Real abstractions aren’t innocent: they reflect the interests of the powerful and license them to organize the world.

That’s why we begin our discussion of cheap things with Nature. Nature is not a thing but a way of organizing—and cheapening—life. It is only through real abstractions—cultural, political, and economic all at once—that nature’s activity becomes a set of things. The web of life is no more inherently cheap than it is wicked or good or downloadable. These are attributes assigned to some of its relationships by capitalism. But it has been cheapened, yanked into processes of exchange and profit, denominated and controlled. We made the case in the introduction that capitalism couldn’t have emerged without the cheapening of nature; in this chapter we explore the mechanics and effects of this strategy.

Click here to win an Advance Reader’s Copy of A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things on Goodreads. Giveaway ends on September 15th.


Raj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist and academic. He is a Research Professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing.

Jason W. Moore teaches world history and world-ecology at Binghamton University, and is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network. He is the author of several books, including Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, and numerous award-winning essays in environmental history, political economy, and social theory.