The Empire of Necessity by Greg Grandin
Reviewed by H. Bruce Franklin
The Los Angeles Review of Books
Earlier this semester, American Studies/English professor H. Bruce Franklin reviewed the new book, The Empire of Necessity the Los Angeles Review of Books (1/12/14): “IMAGINE HERMAN MELVILLE reading Greg Grandin’s The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World (published this month by Metropolitan Books). Castigated and eventually ignored in his own lifetime, Melville would have to be amazed and thrilled that, in the second decade of the 21st century, one of America’s most distinguished historians would be using his 1855 novella Benito Cereno as the main vehicle to explore the history of slavery and the waves of revolution sweeping through the Western Hemisphere in the early 19th century. Grandin even takes the title of his book from Melville’s epigraph to “The Bell-Tower,” published two months before Benito Cereno and foreshadowing the novella’s bleak prophecy for the US slave republic. In Grandin’s appalling vision of the human and natural devastation perpetrated by Europeans and Americans, Melville could find validation of his own denunciations of imperialism and his declaration that “the white civilized man” is “the most ferocious animal on earth.” Read the rest here.
The Water Cooler Runs Dry
by Frank Bruni
New York Times, April 7, 2014
With so very much to choose from, a person can stick to one or two preferred micro-genres and subsist entirely on them, while other people gorge on a completely different set of ingredients. You like “Housewives”? Savor them in multiple cities and accents. Food porn? Stuff yourself silly. Vampire fiction? The vein never runs dry.
I brought up this Balkanization of experience with Hendrik Hartog, the director of the American studies program at Princeton, and he noted that what’s happening in popular culture mirrors what has transpired at many elite universities, where survey courses in literature and history have given way to meditations on more focused themes.
“There’s enormous weight given to specialized knowledge,” he said. “It leaves an absence of connective tissue for students.” Not for nothing, he observed, does his Princeton colleague Daniel Rodgers, an emeritus professor of history, call this the “age of fracture.”
Read the entire piece here.
Kornel Chang’s Pacific Connections receives
2014 Association for Asian American Studies Book Prize in History
Professor Kornel Chang’s Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands has received the 2014 Association for Asian American Studies Book Prize in History. His book will be recognized at the annual AAAS meeting in San Francisco, California on Saturday, April 19, 2014. More details here: http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/kornel-changs-pacific-connections-receives-2014-association-asian-american-studies-book-prize-histor. Chang also recently received a ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship that will assist his new book project about the role of technocrats–engineers, economists, public health officials, and legal advisers–and expert knowledge in the U.S. Occupation of Korea, 1945-1948: http://www.acls.org/programs/ryskamp/.
How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement
by Ruth Feldstein
Published January 2014 (Oxford University Press)
[From the NY Times]: “Ruth Feldstein’s important new book, “How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement,” is an original exploration of the little-known but central role that black entertainers, especially black women, played in helping communicate and forward the movement’s goals. Lena Horne, Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll and Cicely Tyson — the black women entertainers in this book — were popular at the height of an organized global struggle for black freedom, from around 1959 till the mid-1970s. They were influenced by this movement, even as they helped shape it.” Read the rest of the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/books/how-it-feels-to-be-free-salutes-black-female-entertainers.html?_r=0
But Where is the Lamb? Imagining the Story of Abraham and Isaac
By James Goodman
Published September 2013 (Schocken Knopf)
[From R-N History website]: “Goodman’s latest book, But Where is the Lamb? Imagining the Story of Abraham and Isaac, chronicles the 19 lines of Genesis 22 that have vexed theologians, philosophers and others for centuries, spawning questions such as: Why was Abraham so ready to follow God’s command that he kill his son, and why did Isaac agree to be bound on the altar? Goodman examines the varied explanations given by the major monotheistic religions, along with contemporary thinkers, across the sweep of history, looking at how theAbraham and Isaac story has morphed and the multiple contested meanings attached to it over time.” Read a Q & A session with Prof. Goodman here: http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/qa-history-professor-james-goodman-author-where-lamb
Fiction: “Mixipino” in Hip Hop and Representation in Filipina/o America
Read the latest published fiction by R-N Doctoral Student Anna Alves in the recently released inter-disciplinary and cross-genre, Hip Hop and Representation in Filipina/o America, edited by Mark R. Villegas, DJ Kuttin’ Kandi, and Roderick N. Labrador, and published by Cognella Academic Publishing. More info about the book here: https://titles.cognella.com/humanities-and-fine-arts/music/empire-of-funk-9781626612839.html. This fiction piece is also set to appear in a literary anthology in April 2014.
By Sean Singer
Newark’s literary culture, in some ways the soulfulness for which a place is known, is great because Amiri Baraka made it so. As an iconic example of urban literature, Baraka made Newark the focus of much of his work, even though Newark is not thought of as a literary place. His literary oeuvre, among other things, is focused, almost obsessively, on remembering Newark, living Newark, and re-imagining Newark of his youth. His work, taken from a point of distance, is a love letter to Newark. To read the rest of this excellent tribute, go here: http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/remembering-amiri.
ASA Members Vote To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel
The members of the American Studies Association have endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in the organization’s history, 66.05% of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% of voters voted no and 3.43% abstained. The election was a response to the ASA National Council’s announcement on December 4 that it supported the academic boycott and, in an unprecedented action to ensure a democratic process, asked its membership for their approval. The ASA website has a collection of supporting documents: http://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/council_statement_on_the_academic_boycott_of_israel_resolution/. A story about the controversy appeared in the New York Times on December 15: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/16/us/scholars-group-to-disclose-result-of-vote-on-an-academic-boycott-of-israel.html?_r=0.
Poetry: “Picking Up Branches After A Wind Storm”
in Guernica Magazine
Read the latest published poem by R-N Doctoral Candidate Sara J. Grossman at Guernica Magazine: a magazine of art & politics: http://www.guernicamag.com/poetry/picking-up-branches-after-a-wind-storm/.
Kornel Chang’s Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands is Finalist for John Hope Franklin Prize
Kornel Chang was a finalist for the John Hope Franklin Publication Prize. The annual award honors the previous year’s best-published book in American Studies. He was nominated for Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands (University of California Press). More details here: http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/history-professor-kornel-chang-finalist-john-hope-franklin-prize.
Sandy – A Reminder that human and natural history are inseparable
John R. Gillis is professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University and the author of The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History
FOR CENTURIES the coasts of Japan have been ravaged by deadly tsunamis. Local communities responded by erecting tsunami stones, not memorials to the dead but reminders of the highest points of inundation. In recent years, these stones have been displaced and forgotten. When the great tsunami of March 11, 2011, struck, local people had no way of knowing how far to flee. Almost 16,000 people died, and the number of missing remains at 2,652.
New Jersey might do worse than to erect Sandy stones to remind it of just how far the ocean can reach, but no doubt these would be objected to for the same reasons that Santa Barbara rejected painting a green line on its streets that would have marked projections of sea-rise levels. Critics objected that the line would lower property values and scare away tourists.
There was once a time when the traces of disaster, shipwrecks and ruined wharves were allowed to linger on beaches as reminders of the dangers of the sea. Today, sands are quickly cleansed, for beaches are the places we turn to forget the world, our chosen places for forgetting.
We live in an age of coastal amnesia.
- Read the rest of this excellent op-ed piece from the Sunday, 10/27/13 New Jersey Record: http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/gillis_102713.html?page=all.
American Studies and the Cornwall Center marked the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy with a lecture by John Gillis on Wednesday, October 30 at the John Cotton Dana Library, Rutgers-Newark.