Best of the Blog 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we’ve compiled ten blog posts that resonated most with our readers over the past year. Popular blog themes closely mirrored current events, and the state of global political realities — immigration, inequality, fascism, and environmental issues; additionally, readers were taken by posts on critical thinking, “slow” cinema, indigenous and world poetry, and the secrets unearthed from an ancient metropolis.

Have a happy new year, and see you in 2018, the 125th year of UC Press’s founding!

Immigration historians from across the United States launched the website #ImmigrationSyllabus to help the public understand the historical roots of today’s immigration debates, inspiring us to follow suit with a list of UC Press suggestions to provide further context to the ongoing conversation. View the Immigration Syllabus: UC Press Edition.

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. In this excerpt, find out how the cheapening of care has made the world safe for capitalism: #7CheapThings: Cheap Care

In Trump’s Transgender Crisis, Jack Halberstam, author of Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability, responds to Donald Trump’s tweeted policy change banning trans soldiers from the military to ask: at a time when the visibility and acceptance of transgender people has never been higher, why this ban, why now?

In today’s fast-paced political news cycle, terms like “fascism” and “populism” are often used, but not always clearly defined. This excerpt from Federico Finchelstein’s From Fascism to Populism in History, explores the origins of these ideologies, their significance, and the important distinctions between them: Fascism or Populism? Playing the “Democratic Game”

One of the earliest, largest, and most important cities in the ancient Americas, Teotihuacan is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. Take a Look at Teotihuacan to see some of the rare and awe-inspiring artifacts featured in the exhibition and accompanying catalogue Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire.

 

Fifty years since its original publication, Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred continues to inspire and educate readers with its ability to expand the possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Rothenberg recently visited the UC Press offices to discuss the book’s enduring power and read from the 50th anniversary edition.

 

 

Peter M. Nardi, sociologist and author of Critical Thinking: Tools for Evaluating Research, addressed the importance of looking beyond the “two-sides-of-the-coin” perspective when responding to complex issues in his post False Balance, Binary Discourse, and Critical Thinking.

Releasing in May 2018, Paul Schrader’s seminal text Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer will be reissued with a substantial new introduction representing his experiences and ideas as a filmmaker that have evolved over time, giving the original work both new clarity and a contemporary lens. Hear Schrader discuss some of the techniques and attitudes of slow films in Transcendental Style in Film Revisited.

During the 2017 International Open Access Week, we interviewed Interim Director Erich van Rijn to survey the landscape of OA publishing at UC Press, discussing the progress and future of Luminos (our OA monograph program), and Collabra: Psychology and Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene (our two OA journals).

What is a case study, and how can case studies positively impact critical thinking and knowledge acquisition, as well as inform research in academia and training in professional practice? In the post The Case for Case StudiesCase Studies in the Environment Editor-in-Chief Wil Burns explains what case studies are, and how they can provide an important bridge to understanding important environmental issues.


Debuting at ASA 2017: American Studies Now, a New Series

Taking the 2017 American Studies Association conference by storm the new series edited by past presidents of the ASA American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present offers short, timely books on the issues that matter today.

“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.”—Lisa Duggan, past president of the American Studies Association & co-editor of American Studies Now

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. With a short production schedule, the titles in American Studies Now are able to cover these political and cultural intersections while such teachable moments are at the center of public conversation.

“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.”—Curtis Marez, past president of the American Studies Association & co-editor of American Studies Now

Learn more about this exciting, new series in this Q&A with series editors Lisa Duggan and Curtis Marez, and visit UC Press at booth 405 to browse the books. Heading to the conference? Be sure to check out the following session:

  • American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present
    Fri, November 10, 4:00 to 5:45pm
    With UC Press Executive Editor Niels Hooper, series editors Lisa Duggan and Curtis Marez, and series authors Scott Kurashige, Sunaina Maira, Barbara Ransby, Shelley Streeby, and Macarena Gomez-Barris
    View session details here

For more author sessions at ASA, and to see what else we’ll have on view, head here.


Trump’s Transgender Crisis

By Jack Halberstam, author of Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability

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


At a time when the visibility and acceptance of transgender people has never been higher, when high school students openly discuss issues of gender variance and businesses boycott states without transgender bathroom policies, President Trump tweeted his intention to ban transgender people from the military. Perhaps, President Trump decided that he needed to make this bold move to win back conservative backers. No doubt even devout Trump supporters in the USA might be eyeing Trump’s health care policies with bewilderment right now and wondering why they are in bed with a one-percenter with strong ties to Russia and little interest in US businesses. For those supporters, Trump offered an olive branch yesterday—by proposing to ban transgender people from the military, he happily sacrificed a gender ambiguous lamb to the mercurial gods of conservative family values.

Trump’s pro-LGBT stance was only the latest campaign posture to find its way to the trash heap of broken promises. While fending off charges of collusion with Russia, treason, rigged elections, and incompetence, Trump has found an issue to rally his right wing fringe supporters while confusing and enraging his many detractors. In the wake of his announcement, many transgender people fired back on twitter to remind Trump and his cronies that they do not want to serve in the military anyway. Others, service members who have been honored in combat, emphasized their intention to stay right where they are, ban or no ban. America’s most famous transgender soldier, Chelsea Manning, accused Trump of cowardice and of creating a distraction with his announcement, but she also suggested that the US military had an inflated and bloated budget anyway, which should be redirected to health care. Hear, hear!

Trump’s tweeted policy change exemplifies how confused conservatives are about transgender issues. While running for office, Trump clearly stated his intentions to protect LGBT communities and to defend the rights of transgender people to use whatever bathroom they deem appropriate and, one assumes, to serve in the military. So, why this ban, why now? Is it related to the health care bill that President Trump has been trying unsuccessfully to put in place—a bill that will dispossess hundreds of thousands of people of their current health care policies? Is it part of an economic retrenchment, an attempt to cut away all unnecessary spending? Trump himself gave an economic rationale for his decision saying that the military spends millions on transgender surgeries. This is nonsense, as many journalists and researchers have pointed out—sex reassignment surgeries are a miniscule part of any military budget and in fact, as the BBC reports: “the US military spends almost $42m a year on the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra—several times the total estimated cost of transgender medical support.” By comparison, the Rand corporation estimates that expenses related to transgender soldiers fall between $5-8 million annually.

There are a few lessons to be learned from Trump’s quick turn away from his clearly stated promises to support transgender people—first, transgender issues have tended to be a safe bet for securing conservative votes. Trump may have overestimated the extent to which this is still true. Second, transgender issues continue to hold a fascination and allure that distracts people from the actual issues under discussion. Finally, transgender people are more integrated into society than ever before in history and the tide towards acceptance is unlikely to be turned back by big, dumb moves like this one. Rather than simply fight for the right for transgender people to serve in the military however, we should seize upon this issue, as Chelsea Manning did, to ask why the military has such a bloated budget in the first place and how these funds can be redirected? We should also push back in similar ways and with equal force on Trump’s attempts to: dispossess people of access to basic health care, amp up security forces and deportations, and to downsize education.

This latest measure neither reflects the current climate on transgender people in or out of the military and has no obvious purpose other than to distract from his total lack of a foreign policy, his disdain for the health of the environment, and his total inability to govern. Transgender people, many of whom have served their country selflessly, which is more than Trump and most of his cabinet can claim, will survive this latest indignity and may well see this ban overturned sooner rather than later once Trump realizes he has lost the crowd’s attention and support and has instead inspired their wrath, their pity and finally, their indifference.


Jack Halberstam is Professor of English and Gender Studies at Columbia University.

Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability explores recent shifts in the meaning of the gendered body and representation, and the possibilities of a nongendered, gender-optional, or gender-queer future.