ASA, Interdisciplinary Associations, and American Studies Now

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

UC Press is proud to be part of the Association of American University Press’s sixth annual University Press Week, whose overreaching theme this year is #LookItUp: Knowledge Matters. Today’s theme is “Producing the Books That Matter,” exemplified by the new series American Studies Now. We encourage you to also visit our fellow university presses blogging on this theme today: University Press of Kansas, Georgetown University Press, UBC Press, University of Michigan Press, Fordham University Press, Yale University Press, and MIT Press.

This guest post is part of the ASA blog series published in conjunction with the meeting of the American Studies Association in Chicago, IL Nov. 9-12—and as part of blog series of contributions by authors in the new series American Studies Now.


The question at this historical moment is can we really engage in difficult work. By “difficult,” I mean the ethically and intellectually hard task of unpacking and confronting social regulations and exclusions in their various locations—in nation-states, in academic fields, and in communities. Historically, interdisciplinary fields have demonstrated a greater capacity for this difficult labor as they have been the ones to engender and demand the creation of languages for race, sexuality, gender, class, disability and so on, developing those languages so that various publics might engage social, political, and economic challenges.

“We Demand” by ASA president-elect Roderick A. Ferguson is the first volume in the American Studies Now series.

For me, this is where interdisciplinary organizations like the American Studies Association and the American Studies Now book series join forces. In addition to producing the languages necessary to confront the social forces that have threatened the survival of various minoritized communities, it has been associations like the ASA that have mustered the courage to speak uncomfortable truths about the modes of violence arising from the state as well as from the regimes of race, gender, sexuality and class. Collectively, the interdisciplines—much more so than the disciplines—have assumed the crucial task of confronting domination. In a nation and a world that increasingly prohibits honest and critical encounters, interdisciplinary associations like the ASA are needed now more than ever, needed to produce intellectuals at all levels who will refuse to accept—as Edward Said put it—“the smooth, ever-so-accommodating confirmations of what the powerful or conventional have to say, and what they do. Not just passively unwilling, but actively willing to say so in public.”

The stakes of this commitment to critical articulations were made clear by the old woman in Toni Morrison’s 1993 Nobel address, the one who offers a lesson about the vital importance of language, the one who warned that yielding to the confirmations of the powerful could only lead to what she called “tongue-suicide.” This murder of critical thinking, she said, is “common among the infantile heads of state and power merchants whose evacuated language leaves them with no access to what is left of their human instincts, for they speak only to those who obey, or in order to force obedience.” In this moment, we need a network of cultures whose primary purpose is to studiously reactivate the deep and public obligations of critical intellection.

American Studies Now is poised to be an access point within this network of cultures. If the series is designed—as the editors argue—to “refuse the distinction between politics and culture,” then one of the of the ways in which it embodies that is by creating books written for undergraduate audiences, books designed to give undergraduates the tools to raise the level of social discussion. As such, American Studies Now participates in a larger interdisciplinary culture whose job is the creation of intellectual networks that can actively develop critical and imaginative publics within and outside our scholarly associations.


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 and is president-elect of the American Studies Association.


University Press Week 2016: Publishing that Fosters Community

UC Press is proud to be part of the AAUP’s fifth annual University Press Week, which has been centered this year on the theme of “community.” By celebrating and championing the mission-driven publishing we and over 40 of our scholarly press colleagues bring to the world this past week, we’ve messaged through our blog platforms the many ways that we reach countless and diverse educational, specialized research, and general interest communities.

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#UPWeek’s blog tour began Monday, and concludes today. We’d like to dedicate this post quite literally to the theme of #FollowFriday, with a “blog roll” list of all member presses below. UC Press encourages you to follow the happenings of all of these exceptional university presses via their blogs, tumblrs, Twitters, Facebooks, Instagrams throughout the year! #ReadUP

Northwestern University Press

Rutgers University Press

Fordham University Press

University of Toronto Press

Athabasca University Press

University Press of Florida

Seminary Co-op Bookstores

University of Texas Press

University of Calgary Press

Cornell University Press

University Press of Colorado

McGill-Queen’s University Press

Duke University Press

NYU Press

University Press of Kentucky

University Press of Kansas

Wayne State University Press

University of Washington Press

University Press of Mississippi

University of Wisconsin Press

Johns Hopkins Univ. Press

University of Chicago Press

Purdue University Press

Princeton University Press

Yale University Press

Indiana University Press

University of Michigan Press

Columbia University Press

MIT Press

University of Toronto Press Journals

UGA Press

University of Nebraska Press

University of Minnesota Press

University of North Carolina Press

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The Future of Religious Minorities in the Era of Trump

by Steven Weitzman and Sylvester Johnson, editors of The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11

Some disturbing lessons from the Case Files of the FBI:

On the day he was elected, Donald Trump’s plan to ban all foreign Muslims from entering the United States disappeared from his website, raising the hope that he is quietly walking back one of his most notorious proposals. But American Muslims and others concerned about religious liberty in the US are hardly reassured.

Earlier in the campaign, Trump garnered support by advocating for the surveillance of every American mosque; he approved the idea of additional law enforcement patrols of Muslim neighborhoods, and he called for compiling a national database of Muslims, insisting that they would have to register. He even suggested that it would be legitimate to close certain mosques where “some bad things were happening.” As we write this, American Muslims are reeling from a turn of events that threatens their religious liberty and other rights and even their sense of personal safety.

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Trump’s statements about Muslims helped to propel him to electoral victory, but they have also greatly alarmed those concerned about civil and religious liberties. They are part of what the ACLU had in mind when it described Trump as a “one-man constitutional crisis,” though legal scholars debate whether a ban on Muslim non-U.S. citizens would actually be unconstitutional.

Our experience in co-editing The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11, has taught us that not only is such a surveillance regime conceivable: it also has precedent in American history. Drawing together contributions from more than a dozen scholars, the volume covers the history of the FBI’s interactions with various religious communities—Protestant, Catholics, Jews—and it shows that the Bureau has a long track-record of surveilling, infiltrating, and occasionally harming religious communities and leaders that it deems a threat. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies play a critical role in defending religious communities from hate crimes, but this history suggests that that they too can succumb to suspicion and stereotype, and become forces of persecution in their own right.

The FBI’s treatment of American Muslims is a textbook example. FBI surveillance of Muslims did not begin with 9/11. It did not even begin with the Nation of Islam in the 1950s and ‘60s, an organization the FBI successfully fragmented by creating internal conflicts and stoking violence. We traced the story to the 1940s and the FBI’s treatment of a community known as the Moorish Science Temple of America.

Continue reading “The Future of Religious Minorities in the Era of Trump”


University Press Week 2015: Insights into Who We Are, What We Do

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We’re proud to be part of the AAUP’s fourth annual University Press Week. Check out our blog and social media channels throughout the coming week (plus hashtags #ReadUp, #UPWeek, and #UPshelfie), 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 audiences.

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#UPWeek’s blog tour runs today through Friday, centered around a daily university press theme. Learn what’s “Surprising!” about what we, along with our colleagues University Press of Florida, University Press of New England, University of Michigan Press, University Press of Mississippi, University Press of Kansas, University Press of Kentucky, University of Nebraska Press, and University of Wisconsin Press do and publish by reading these excellent blogs today.

The AAUP’s website features a “surprising” slide show today as well, where you can learn about the University of California’s entries into the world of Open Access publishing, Collabra and Luminos.

And finally, today’s The Scholarly Kitchen website has the second installment in a series of guest blog posts from Alison Mudditt, Director of UC Press, “University Presses in Decline: Not so Fast…“, which focuses on the all-important contributions of academic presses as we kick off 2015’s exciting #UPWeek.

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