The Gospel of Oprah: Podcast with Kathryn Lofton

A version of this post was originally published in conjunction with the book’s publication date. This post is republished to reflect on Oprah’s speech at the 2018 #GoldenGlobes.

Have you heard the good news? If you’ve been at all exposed to popular culture over the last two decades, chances are you’ve heard it—the message of Oprah’s gospel, that is. For the UC Press Podcast, we interview Kathryn Lofton, author of the Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon. Lofton, a professor of Religious Studies and American Studies at Yale University, finds in Oprah’s empire—Harpo Productions, O Magazine, and her new television network—an uncanny reflection of religion in modern society.

In this podcast, Lofton shares insights about Oprah’s message (the star of your own life is YOU!), her cheerful collaboration with capitalism, and the historical moment that made her incredible acendancy possible. Lofton also ponders whether Oprah is a uniquely American phenomenon, examining women of other nationalities who purport to be their own country’s “Oprah”. Finally, she addresses what will come of the O media empire once Oprah herself is no longer around to spread the message.

Listen to the podcast now

American Studies: A User’s Guide by Philip J. Deloria and Alexander I. Olson, Available Now for Fall Courses

American Studies has long been a home for adventurous students seeking to understand the culture and politics of the United States. This welcoming spirit has found appeal around the world, but at the heart of the field is an identity crisis. Nearly every effort to articulate an American Studies methodology has been rejected for fear of losing intellectual flexibility and freedom. But what if these fears are misplaced? Providing a fresh look at American Studies in practice, this book contends that a shared set of “rules” can offer a springboard to creativity.

Read Chapter 1

Ideal for classroom use, American Studies: A User’s Guide:

  • Introduces students to the history and methods of this exciting and interdisciplinary field
  • Teaches students strategies for interpretation, curation, analysis, and theory
  • Provides a set of how-to’s—such as how-to understand cultural practice; how-to research and use archives—via “Toolkits”
  • Presents curated “Mixtapes” of scholarly literature in the field

“This book fills a long-felt need for a single work that can be used as a touchstone and launching pad for students of American studies at all levels. Deloria and Olson do a superb job of conveying the pleasure and the stakes of working in this field as well as the craft skills required to do it well.”—Carlo Rotella, Boston College

“A very smart and playful hybrid of a book that captures the challenges and rewards of work in American Studies.”—Ann Fabian, Rutgers University

“This book crackles with insight, wit, conceptual range, and analytical precision. Students will learn what American studies is and how to model and perform its methods.”—Ramzi Fawaz, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Exam copies of American Studies can be requested here.

Print Exam Copies:

  • Upon verification, we will send you an exam copy for review.
  • Online ordering is available for professors in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. International customers, please find out how to order at
  • If you have already adopted the book, you may request a complimentary desk copy.

VitalSource E-Exam Copies:

  • UC Press is happy to provide e-book examination copies for your review from our partners at VitalSource. You may select an e-exam copy during your online exam copy request.
  • Upon verification, we will send you an email with a redemption code to view your copy.
  • You’ll have 365 days to review your e-exam copy and do not need to purchase or return it.

#CharlottesvilleCurriculum, #CharlottesvilleSyllabus: UC Press Edition

Over the past few days, we received an influx of requests from faculty for books that provide context around the tragic events in Charlottesville. We’ve curated the list of titles below. Our hope is that this list serves as a resource for instructors preparing for fall courses, and that the books offer a foundation of understanding for students and readers.

Relevant Forthcoming Titles

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.

For other relevant resources, follow #CharlottesvilleCurriculum and #CharlottesvilleSyllabus, and read the Charlottesville Curriculum.

July 23, 1967 Riot or Rebellion? How Today’s Political Crisis Began in Detroit

Detroit has stood at the center of a growing crisis in the United States tied to racial conflict, the collapse of the middle class, and political polarization. No city, argues historian Scott Kurashige, has come to embody the decline of middle-class economic security, the entrenchment of structural unemployment, and the burden of long-term debt more than Detroit. Kurashige — who is also an activist and author of The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the U.S. Political Crisis Began in Detroit — worked closely with the legendary Grace Lee Boggs, a noted figure in Detroit’s Black Power movement, as well as many community organizations in Detroit. “When you think about Detroit’s 50-year crisis”, he says, “it really relates to the unresolved contradictions of 1967.”

On July 23, 1967, thousands took to the streets of Detroit to vent their long-standing frustrations with racism, police brutality, and vanishing job prospects. Mainstream observers called it a “riot,” contending that it brought about the ruin of a once-great city and stressed for repressive policing to restore law and order. As Kurashige points out in The Fifty-Year Rebellion, many others instead called it a “rebellion,” and advocated for social programs and investments to remedy racism and poverty:

They viewed it as an expression of black unity and a political declaration for their “fair share” of resources and power in the great city and nation… Regardless of opinion, when we look closely at the deadly violence that took place during the rebellion, one pattern stands out: the killing of African Americans by state actors.

Of the 43 who died, 33 were black and 30 were killed by law enforcement, as the streets of Detroit were covered by 17,000 Detroit cops, state police, National Guardsmen, and finally U.S. Army troops. Authorities had hoped initial outbreaks of violence would play themselves out. When they instead expanded into full-fledged rebellion, the police became the aggressors in one confrontation after another. “This is more than a riot,” said one police officer, reflecting the view of many peers. “This is war.”

In the following segment of The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, Kurashige further clarifies the difference between the two terms, and why it’s an important distinction:


Challenging the conventional notion that “rioters” ruined a once-thriving city, The Fifty-Year Rebellion provides striking insights into the polarization of American society over the past half-century and how the struggle in Detroit will determine what type of political and economic system will emerge from the nation’s current crisis.

With a roster of key figures and their roles — from community activists such as James and Grace Lee Boggs to wealthy and private investors like Betsy DeVos and Dan Gilbert — the book shows that in the face of devastation and dispossession, visionary Detroit activists have organized a new model of a postindustrial city through the creation of urban farms, freedom schools, solidarity economics, and self-governing communities.

The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the U.S. Political Crisis Began in Detroit is part of American Studies Now, an e-book first series of short, timely books on significant political and cultural events.

Grace Lee Boggs & Immanuel Wallerstein: A Dialogue Between Two Visionaries

By Scott Kurashige, author of The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the U.S. Political Crisis Began in Detroit

This guest post is part of a blog series of contributions by authors in American Studies Now, an e-book first series of short, timely books on significant political and cultural events. Here, Scott Kurashige reflects on the seventh anniversary of a key event that shaped the thinking behind his new book, The Fifty-Year Rebellion.

One of the greatest honors in my life was the opportunity to moderate a historic conversation between the renowned historical sociologist, Immanuel Wallerstein, and the late philosopher-activist, Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015). It took place in Detroit on June 24, 2010, before a boisterous crowd of seven hundred people during the United States Social Forum.

The recorded conversation gives a sense of the visionary quality of these radical and profound thinkers. Long before Brexit, Trump, Corbyn, and Sanders made headlines, Wallerstein addressed the rise of “right-wing populism” and “electoral fluctuations.” Quoting Hegel, Boggs implored the audience to think dialectically about the volatile times we live in. Because progress does not occur in a “straight line,” we must accept the challenge “to use the negative as a way to advance the positive.” Their phenomenal exchanges are a wonderful place to start as we try to make sense of the economic, political, and epistemological crises we face in 2017.

Surveying the grand sweep of history, Wallerstein reminded us that “historical systems do not go on forever.” While it undoubtedly caused immense suffering and exploitation, the capitalist system had functioned well on its own terms for decades but “has moved far away from equilibrium and gotten into what we call a structural crisis.” When a system is stable it takes a tremendous amount of force to move it slightly in one direction or the other. However, once a system is out of equilibrium, the “free will factor” becomes paramount. Thus, we are currently locked in a struggle to determine whether capitalism will be replaced over the next three to four decades by a relatively more egalitarian and democratic system or a more oppressive system that is even worse than what we have known.

“It’s a fantastic period,” Boggs emphasized, because we are at “that time on the clock of the universe where we face our evolution to a higher humanity or the devastation and the extinction of all life on earth.” Detroit, she asserted, is the ideal place to witness the devastation of racism and deindustrialization alongside the rise of grassroots movements that are making the city “the national and international symbol of a new kind of society.”

Continue reading “Grace Lee Boggs & Immanuel Wallerstein: A Dialogue Between Two Visionaries”

The Furor Over Conservative Speakers: A Long Choreographed Enterprise

By Roderick A. Ferguson, author of We Demand: The University and Student Protests

This guest post is part of a blog series of contributions by authors in American Studies Now, an e-book first series of short, timely books on significant political and cultural events.

On April 24, 2017 the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation filed a lawsuit against UC Berkeley for cancelling visits by conservative authors Ann Coulter and David Horowitz over security concerns, stating: “Though UC Berkeley promises its students an environment that promotes free debate and the free exchange of ideas, it had breached this promise through the repressive actions of University administrators and campus police.” The suit goes on to state that the administration restricts conservative speakers differently than liberal ones.

It’s important to note that the furor over conservative speakers is a well-and-long choreographed enterprise. Indeed, the movements of that choreography were planned well over forty years ago in former Chief Justice Lewis Powell’s secret but generative document popularly known as “The Powell Memorandum.” In 1971 Powell sent the memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a private organization of business leaders, warning them about the mobilization against capitalism taking place in U.S. society, generally, and on college campuses specifically.

Through the memorandum, Powell attempted to give business leaders a primer on “best practices” for garnering ideological support for corporations and the executives that run them. The category “balance” was central to that effort. Balance would become a powerful ideological tool in that offensive. In the memo, Powell used the category to construct American colleges and universities as inhospitable to and therefore in need of conservative viewpoints. As he stated, “The difficulty is that balance is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservative or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.” As an ideological weapon, “balance” was a neutral sounding category that helped to construct business elites as vulnerable minorities against powerful liberal and leftist bullies. In a moment of minority insurgency, “balance” would encourage people to see the business community as a minority among minorities but one that needed to be liberated from its peers.

Part of the ideological offensive represented by “balance” involved using the category to reorganize knowledge within the university so that it would favor conservative social projects. For instance, in a discussion of why a “continuous program” for evaluating social scientific textbooks is necessary, Powell stated, “The objectives of such evaluations should be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to academic freedom. This would include assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism, and communism. Most of the existing textbooks have some sort of comparisons, but many are biased, superficial, and unfair.” The memo is important because it reveals how the issue of balance was never simply about the rights of a singular group of speakers or the free circulation of a particular set of viewpoints. “Balance” was designed from the very beginning to leverage institutional and social conditions so that conservative formations might enjoy dominance while maligning and subjugating their critics.

Roderick A. Ferguson is Professor of American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and African American Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is also the co-director of the Racialized Body research cluster at UIC. From 2007 to 2010, he was Associate Editor of the American Studies Association’s flagship journal American Quarterly. Beginning this July, he will serve as president-elect of the American Studies Association for a year before becoming president of the organization in July 2018.

His book We Demand: The University and Student Protests is available as an e-book now, before the print format publishes this August.


Introducing American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present

Much of the most exciting contemporary work in American Studies refuses the distinction between politics and culture — focusing on historical cultures of power and protest on the one hand, or the political importance of cultural practices, on the other. We are excited to announce American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present, a series publishing titles that cover these political and cultural intersections, exploring the ways the events of our past continue to shape our present.

American Studies Now publishes short, timely books on significant political and cultural events while such teachable moments are at the center of public conversation.

We spoke with editors Lisa Duggan and Curtis Marez to discuss the goals of American Studies Now and how these books can be usedin the classroom and beyond.

What inspired you to develop the American Studies Now series?

Lisa Duggan: We need new ways to publish and distribute the work of American Studies scholars. The monograph and the journal article have a crucial role in our field, but they aren’t serving us well in the undergraduate classroom. And they aren’t putting our work into circulation in the pressing, scary political present. This new series is one new way to address those needs — short, accessible books on Black Lives Matter, climate change, neoliberalism, BDS, the continuing urban crisis, indigenous politics, queer and trans issues, the crises in higher education and more. They are designed to provide timely, provocative analysis for teaching, for activism, and for engagement now.

The series is described as “critical histories of the present” — could you elaborate on what this means?

Curtis Marez: Given the constant rush and hum of information in our social media saturated worlds, it’s easy to get stuck in the here and now in ways that make it difficult to take a critical perspective on where we are and how we got there. So American Studies Now reflects not only the urgency of the questions raised by each volume in the series but also suggests what we mean by critical histories of the present — scholarship that helps readers think about contemporary problems in terms of their larger historical, social, and cultural significance.

Why the need to publish on a short schedule?

LD: We want to counter the long, slow publication process and relatively narrow circulation of most academic publishing with an option designed for speed and impact, on the timeclock of the political present. Offering broad context provided by deeply knowledgeable American Studies scholars, these books can contribute to classroom and public discussions on issues that matter now.

How will these books contribute to the field of American Studies?

CM: Each book brings American Studies concepts and methods to the analysis of vital contemporary social movements. Authors build on and rethink the field’s historical social movement focus by foregrounding a host of contemporary grassroots movements such as Black Lives Matter, student movements, and movements for sexual justice. At the same time, American Studies Now presents critical accounts of dominant social movements such asthe movement to privatize higher education and to silence dissent; the law and order movement supporting the expansion of police power; climate justice; and the movement for free market fundamentalism that informs contemporary state policies.

Continue reading “Introducing American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present”

Racial Criminalization and the Rise of Neoliberal Capitalism

By Jordan T. Camp, author of Incarcerating the Crisis: Freedom Struggles and the Rise of the Neoliberal State.

This guest post is part of a series published in conjunction with the meeting of the American Studies Association in Denver. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on November 20th.

UC Press is proud to be part of the AAUP’s fifth annual University Press Week. Check out our blog and social media channels through Nov. 19th (plus follow hashtags #ReadUp #UPWeek), and learn how we, along with 40 of our scholarly press colleagues, work diligently to publish vital works benefitting educational, specialized research, and general interest communities.

In the epilogue to his memoir No Name in the Street (1972), James Baldwin explained: “An old world is dying . . . and a new one . . . announces that it is ready to be born.” Having witnessed struggles for freedom among those who had been displaced and dispossessed by joblessness, housing segregation, and aggressive policing in the postwar era, Baldwin keenly observed that the grammar of racial and class formation was shifting—a transition that would cruelly shape the decades to come. He depicted a dialectical process through which freedom struggles against Jim Crow were represented in terms of rebellion, security, and, as he described, “the forces of law and order.”

9780520281820In fact, the growing scale of the long civil rights movement led to an increase in mass arrest, confinement, and mass incarceration. At the same time, unemployment, urban poverty, and homelessness soon became permanent features of the political economy. With the highest rate of incarceration on the planet, the U.S. imprisons more Black people than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. These dynamics bespeak a collision of race, class, and state power without historical precedent, but certainly not without historical explanation.

Incarcerating the Crisis traces the roots of the carceral crisis through a series of turning points in U.S. history, including the urban and prison uprisings of the 1960s and 1970s, the Los Angeles rebellion in 1992, and post-Katrina New Orleans in 2005. I argue that these instances of state violence and racial criminalization marked the rise of neoliberal capitalism. To make this case, my study takes seriously the poetic visions of social movements including those articulated by James Baldwin, June Jordan, and José Ramírez. Drawing on this alternative archive, the book suggests that the making of the neoliberal carceral state was not inevitable and urgently calls for a new world, still waiting to be born.

Jordan T. Camp is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Incarcerating the Crisis: Freedom Struggles and the Rise of the Neoliberal State is available now.

We Demand: The University and Student Protests

By Roderick A. Ferguson, author of We Demand: The University and Student Protests

This guest post is part of a series published in conjunction with the meeting of the American Studies Association in Denver. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on November 20th.

UC Press is proud to be part of the AAUP’s fifth annual University Press Week. Check out our blog and social media channels through Nov. 19th (plus follow hashtags #ReadUp #UPWeek), and learn how we, along with 40 of our scholarly press colleagues, work diligently to publish vital works benefitting educational, specialized research, and general interest communities.

On August 23, 1971 Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. issued a confidential memorandum entitled “Attack on the Free Enterprise System” to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a conservative and pro-business lobbying group. Popularly known as the Powell Memorandum, the document provided a defense of what it considered to be the “broadly based and consistently pursued” assault on the free-enterprise system by activists on college campuses.

By all accounts, JusticWe Demande Powell was a mild-mannered man, an ironic detail given that his memo would usher in some of the most conservative transformations that our society has ever seen, and in this regard, the memo is a kind of Rosetta stone. If you’ve ever wondered where the idea that corporations are not—well, corporations—but “people” with rights that must be protected or where the conservative network of lobbyists, think tanks, scholars, radio hosts, and tv personalities were first conceived, you will find those answers in a thirty-four page document that was written and disseminated behind closed doors.

My book We Demand: The University and Student Protests looks at documents like the Powell Memorandum to make sense of not only the past but also how it has shaped the present moment of student activism and the emergencies that activate it. This is a past in which progressive students were actively and deliberately constructed as the antitheses of a healthy society whose wellbeing could only be guaranteed by capitalist economic formations, which—as far as Powell was concerned—were more important than the actual people who live in the society. This book turns to the Powell Memorandum and documents like it to revive a question that the writer Toni Cade Bambara posed in the 1990s: “The question that faces billions of people at this moment, one decade shy of the twenty-first century, is: Can the planet be rescued from the psychopaths?”

Roderick A. Ferguson is Professor of American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and African American Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He was Associate Editor of American Quarterly from 2007 to 2010.

UC Press will publish We Demand: The University and Student Protests in August 2017.

Religion & Immigration in America

The presidential campaign of 2016 will long be remembered for a number of things, perhaps most prominently for its focus on immigrants. Amid Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s call to build a massive wall along our southern border and to halt Muslim immigration, the foreign-born were thrust into the eye of the election storm. But American history is filled with such instances, which is what one might expect of a nation of immigrants (Kennedy) and a nation with the soul of a church (Chesterton). To help us stand back and understand the longer story of religious immigrants’ relationships to other aspects of American life, we offer a special virtual issue featuring five excellent pieces from Religion and American Culture—one Forum and four articles.


The artiScreen Shot 2016-10-28 at 1.20.47 PMcles gathered in this virtual issue address immigration across a variety of historical contexts and religious groups: the differences between the religious aspects of the old immigration and the new immigration; the conversion of Irish immigrants from Catholicism to Protestantism in America; how marginalized religious groups strive for national belonging through community service; the transnationalism of the lived religious experiences of many Mexican and Mexican American Catholics; and the revitalization of urban Christianity by collaborative relationships between existing congregations and Asian, Latino, African, and Caribbean immigrants since the 1960s.

These pieces situate immigrants at the heart of American religious life. In doing so, they reveal new and important understandings of the relationship between religion and other aspects of society, which is the purpose of Religion and American Culture. We encourage those studying religion and American culture through the lens of immigrant and transnational faiths to send us your work, as this subject continues to define who we are—and not just at election time.

—Philip Goff, Editor of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis