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NOTABLE BOOKS, PERFORMANCES & IDEAS

In lectures on April 23, 2014 at 12:00 am

RU-N PhD Alumni Sean Singer

Releases New Poetry Collection,

Honey & Smoke

“Sean Singer’s newest collection, Honey & Smoke vibrates. Like in his first book, Discography, the winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award (2001), light refracts into sound, emerald and violet have tones, and all modes converge, synesthetically, into music.” Read more here.

Singer read pieces from his new work at the FACE OUT: New Poetry event in Washington Heights, NYC on November 12.

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No Crisis: A Los Angeles Times Book Review Special Series

[From LA Times website]: “No Crisis” is a Los Angeles Review of Books special series considering the state of critical thinking and writing — literary interpretation, art history, and cultural studies — in the 21st century. A new installment to the series will be released at the beginning of each month through the fall of 2015. Their aim, as their introductory essay explains, is to “show that the art of criticism is flourishing, rich with intellectual power and sustaining beauty, in hard times.”

The editors of “No Crisis” are Caleb Smith, Sarah Mesle, and Merve Emre. Comments, questions, and responses can be sent to nocrisis@lareviewofbooks.org.

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Ruth Feldstein Wins

Rutgers University Scholar-Teacher Award

Congratulations to American Studies and History faculty member Ruth Feldstein, for receiving the 2014-2015 Rutgers University Scholar-Teacher Award. Feldstein was co-winner of the Hooks Institute for Social Change National Book Award in 2014 for her book, How it Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2014).

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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.

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The Water Cooler Runs Dry

by Frank Bruni

Op-Ed Column

New York Times, April 7, 2014

(Excerpt):

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.

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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/.

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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

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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

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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.

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Remembering Amiri

1934-2014

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.

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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.

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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 & politicshttp://www.guernicamag.com/poetry/picking-up-branches-after-a-wind-storm/.

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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 PrizeThe 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.

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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.

American Studies Association deliberates proposed resolution endorsing Israeli academic boycott

The National Council of the American Studies Association is deliberating a proposed resolution to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities, and a decision is expected before Thanksgiving, according to the executive director of the association, John F. Stephens. The council had a long meeting on Sunday morning, at which many thought there would be a decision, but the meeting is still technically considered to be in session. The resolution, which was proposed by the ASA’s Academic and Community Activism Caucus, has been endorsed by the current president and president-elect of the association, and attracted strong support from members during an open forum at the association’s annual conference on Saturday. A letter opposing the resolution on academic freedom grounds was signed by more than 50 members, including seven past presidents. Comments on the resolution continue to pour in. Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/25/american-studies-association-meeting-scholars-debate-proposed-academic-boycott#ixzz2lqhcqITA

From “The taboo on boycotting Israel has been broken” by David Lloyd, The Electronic Intifada: “Something extraordinary happened on Saturday evening at the American Studies Association’s annual meeting in Washington, DC. At a packed open meeting called by the ASA’s National Executive Council to discuss a resolution to “endorse and honor” the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, speaker after speaker rose to express strong support for the resolution. They urged the council to vote on it without further delay or deferral.”  Read the rest of the editorial here: http://electronicintifada.net/content/taboo-boycotting-israel-has-been-broken/12949.

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Taking Note: Presenting Arts Data Artfully

How A Nation Engages With the Arts

Highlights from 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts

“The commonality between science and art is in trying to see profoundly—to develop strategies of seeing and showing.” 

—Edward Tufte

The NEA has partnered with the United States Census Bureau six times since 1982 to conduct the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). Over that period, the SPPA has become the nation’s most authoritative source of information about the ways in which Americans from all walks of life participate in the arts and how this participation has changed over the years. Its statistical rigor, national coverage, and depth of detailed information about the American people make the SPPA an unparalleled resource for understanding the value and impact of the arts in society.

– See more at: http://arts.gov/art-works/2013/taking-note-presenting-arts-data-artfully?utm_source=Oct+30%2C+2013&utm_campaign=Oct+30%2C+2013&utm_medium=email#sthash.6IEXBFHB.dpuf.

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Humanities Unbound: Supporting Careers and Scholarship Beyond the Tenure Track

Katina Rogers 
Senior Research Specialist, Scholarly Communication Institute 
August 2013

“Equipping graduate students with the skills and literacies needed for 21st century scholarly work—from technical fluency to an understanding of organizational structures—is critical to ensuring continued rigorous and creative research and other work products. Remaining wedded to outmoded systems, including a model of apprenticeship in higher education that reinforces the false assumption that professorship is the only meaningful career for humanities doctoral recipients, does a tremendous disservice to all individuals and organizations that benefit from humanistic perspectives. It is essential that humanities programs begin to equip graduate students for varied career paths and deep public engagement, while also emphasizing the value of working in a range of sectors beyond the tenure track. Professorships should not be seen as the sole prestigious career for humanists; instead, any intellectually rewarding role that contributes to society should be seen as a tremendously successful outcome. The time is ripe for prestige to be measured not only by tenure track placement rates, but also through the many other careers that graduates choose to pursue, and ways that those paths positively benefit the broader ecosystem of our shared cultural heritage.”

See full report here: http://katinarogers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Rogers_SCI_Survey_Report_09AUG13.pdf.

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Sean Singer in the Los Angeles Review of Books

“What can we learn about the ways AIDS and cities were connected by reading the poems produced at the time? What can we learn about the impact that AIDS has had on the evolution of poetry, art, and culture in America? And what can we learn about the ways in which memory can aid recovery, both on a personal and a societal level?”

Recent PhD grad Sean Singer has an essay published in the Los Angeles Review of Books that examines poetic responses to the urban/AIDS crisis during the 1980s and ’90s.  Entitled Blood Positive: Recovering Poetry from the AIDS crisis,”  it can be accessed here: http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/blood-positive-recovering-poetry-from-the-aids-crisis.

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Julian Gill-Petersen: “We are Not Cyborg Subjects, We are Artisans”

PhD aspirant Julian Gill-Petersen’s excellent work on transgender embodiment provides him with a singular perspective to explore nascent developments around trans technogenesis and the self and body’s role within it.  He discusses this in the aftermath of a particularly stimulating session at the recent 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.  His insights can be found here: http://juliangillpeterson.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/we-are-not-cyborg-subjects-we-are-artisans/.

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President Barchi, Stand Up for Rutgers-Newark

From OneRutgers:

“In an open letter to President Barchi about the standing of our campus in the AAU and CIC,  a history professor at Rutgers-Newark reminds the president that “Rutgers-Newark’s minority, immigrant, and first generation college student body does not automatically make it an academically inferior institution.  On the contrary, our students are accomplished, dedicated, ambitious, and hard-working.  Our faculty is first rate as well.”

May 24, 2013

Dear President Barchi,

On May 22, faculty at Rutgers-Newark were forwarded an email that has been circulating at the Bloustein School.  The email describes […]”

See more here.

Molly’s Rosner’s work (American Studies PhD) has been been featured on the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center Blog. Congrats to Molly!

Confronting Censorship

“Every letter sent to and from soldiers during World War II underwent scrutiny by official censors. Above, you can see that once the censor had read the letter and removed any material that might be deemed dangerous. Sometimes this information was something as innocent as a description of the weather! The censor stamped the letter or the envelope. At BLDG92 now, you can view an official censor is currently on view.

In 1945, The Saturday Evening Post printed a plea on the behalf of a censor, entitled “We Censors are Frustrated Humans” (Sept 22, 1945 p. 34). The author explained how difficult it was to read thousands of letters every day without becoming emotionally invested in the stories he read. He explained how sometimes he wanted to intervene in order to clear up a misunderstanding. The censor, who so many people despised, is made human here:

“When you see initials scrawled in a ring stamped in the lower left-hand corner of the envelopes you receive don’t be too angry. To that censor you are nameless, but he has probably been sad with you, laughed with you, wanted to help you, and he may even have helped your husband sweat out the time before your baby was born. His wife gets her mail with the little round stamp on it too. And sometimes as he writes he hopes that the censor who reads his mail is sympathetic, has a broad sense of humor, is very understanding, can’t spell too well and is also human.”

See more at the BNY blog. Follow Molly (@Mollyr318 and @BKInLoveAndWar) or read her blog here.

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American Studies PhD student Asha Best (https://twitter.com/ratchetpedagogy) has published the following piece on TheFeministWire. Congrats to Asha!

“Transit Violations: Locating the ‘Bus Rape’ in L.A. and Other Public Geographies of Violence”

“I began writing this piece in late November 2012, but even in the process of returning to it and revising, reports of rapes and assaults on subways and buses have multiplied. But because public space/ transit has been so terribly pathologized–deemed overused by the chronically poor, the infantile, the black, and the alien–it becomes at once inevitable that these violent acts would have occurred, and at the same time conceivable that they are separate, isolated, rarefied tragedies.

On January 15th a woman was brutally assaulted on the platform of a Philadelphia subway station, after which she was dragged by her legs and cast onto the train tracks by her assailant. Media coverage of the assault reminds us that the violence was “unprovoked,” and that the assailant likely has a mental illness.

On December 27th Erica Menendez pushed a man into the path of a New York city train consequently causing his death. Menendez claimed that her rage at the victim had to do with her hatred of “Hindus and Muslims.” As sad as I am about the death of her victim, I was also greatly saddened when I read that, on the day of the murder, Menendez admitted that she was homeless and hungry.

It is likely that most of us have read also about the death of Ki-Suk Han who died after being pushed onto a subway track in Times Square on December 3rd. Naeem Davis, who confessed to pushing Han from the subway platform, has been referred to as a “homeless drifter,” a “fiend,” a “jihadi,” a “strapping brute.”

In every instance race, transiency, and dissociation, along with the dubiousness of the underground, somehow wind up making these tragic incidents plausible to the reading public. And, while all of these cases have been linked to one another, they have been curiously disconnected from the violence that has occurred in the same time period on public buses.”

see more of Asha’s work here: http://thefeministwire.com/2013/02/transit-violations-locating-the-bus-rape-in-l-a-and-other-public-geographies-of-violence/

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American Studies PhD student Robin Foster has just published the following piece in The Journal of Urban History. Congrats to Robin!

Battle of the Port: Memory, Preservation, and Planning in the Creation of the South Street Seaport Museum

“The creation of the South Street Seaport Museum in 1967 represents a dynamic synthesis of urban development, civic memory, and the use of heritage in urban revitalization. The dominant narrative of midcentury urban renewal debates, which pits growth-oriented modernism against a street corner preservationism antagonistic to change, offers an incomplete analysis of the founding of South Street as a historic museum district. The Seaport plan imagined historic preservation and the use of civic memory as integral factors in the process of urban modernity, not as a resistance to it. Rather than simply rejecting urban development and the modernist architectural landscape that had come to dominate the tip of lower Manhattan, boosters of South Street, like Progressive Era preservationists before them, envisioned historic preservation as an integral part of the future cityscape. This article argues that South Street boosters were far more concerned with sustainability and building a new urban future than preservationists of this era are often credited. The emergence of the South Street Seaport Museum symbolizes the maturation of historic preservation in the 1960s and uncovers an allegiance to early twentieth-century Progressive conceptions of a new urbanism. Finally, this narrative exposes the common ground that Seaport boosters and urban development supporters shared regarding the use of heritage and collective memory as necessary elements in the city’s development.”

Click here for the rest of Robin’s work.

What Is New Brunswick Trying to Do to Us? (via One Rutgers)

“At the University Senate meeting Friday, Interim Chancellor Philip Yeagle passionately described Rutgers-Newark as a school “on a journey from excellence to preeminence” in its enduring effort to combine “equality, access and excellence” in higher education.

President Robert Barchi, addressing the same meeting, was equivocal. He expressed discomfort with the idea of New Brunswick as a “flagship” or “main” campus, but waffled on whether Rutgers-Newark is an equal member of the elite academic bodies (like the AAU and CIC) that bring prestige to Rutgers-New Brunswick.

At stake are more than just titles and acronyms.  If New Brunswick demotes Newark to second-tier status our students, our faculty and our home city will all suffer.”

From Rob Snyder’s blog, One Rutgers. Read more here.

Steven Shapin on An Intellectual History of Cannibalism (courtesy of lareviewofbooks.org)

EATING PEOPLE IS WRONG. But why? People of different sorts, at different times, expressing their views in different idioms, have had different answers to that question. Right now, our culture isn’t obsessed with cannibalism, though we are still unwholesomely fascinated enough to buy books and go to movies about anthropophagy among the Uruguayan rugby team that ran out of food after their plane crashed in the Andes; or about “the Milwaukee cannibal,” Jeffrey Dahmer; or Armin Meiwes’s successful, internet-mediated search for a voluntary victim (and meal) in Germany in 2001; or, most famously, about the (still controversial) dietary practices of the Donner party stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1846.

Our modern idioms for disapproving of cannibalism are limited. There is a physical disgust at the very idea of eating human flesh, though it’s not clear that this is necessarily different from the revulsion felt by some people confronted with haggis, calf brains, monkfish liver, or sheep eyes, the rejection of which rarely requires, or receives, much of an explanation. It is widely thought that cannibalism is in itself a crime, but in most jurisdictions it isn’t. (It is criminal to abuse a corpse, so eating dead human flesh tends to be swept up under statutes mainly intended to prevent trading in human body parts or mutilating cadavers.)

Modern condemnations of cannibalism largely set aside questions of moral law or natural law, with their suppositions about the nature of human beings, and thus what is unnatural. These are not assumptions we’re comfortable with these days; chacun à son goût is more to our taste. Formal prosecutions of modern anthropophagists — when they happen — now fasten on attendant crimes, notably, though not necessarily, murder. Cannibalism can be judged a sign of insanity, and the perpetrator locked up not for a criminal act but for mental derangement likely to endanger himself or the community. In 1980, the Poughkeepsie, New York, murderer and testicle-eater Albert Fentress was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a psychiatric hospital. The more famous, but less real, Dr. Hannibal (“the Cannibal”) Lecter was confined to a state hospital for the criminally insane. The cannibal is less and less an actor in the sciences of human nature and culture, more and more handed over to the criminologist, the psychopathologist, and the journalist. The figure of the cannibal is good for selling books and movie tickets, but not particularly important to think about or to draw lessons from.

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Life as a Captive of the Job Market

(courtesy of The Chronicle, By Eunice Williams)

The academic job market is an exercise in captivity, and I am still its prisoner.

To some extent I’ve ensured my place in this life by acceding to the terms of academe. I’ve defended my dissertation, and so I’ve unofficially transformed myself from Eunice Williams, Ph.D. candidate, to Dr. Williams. Even if I’m befuddled by the job market, I’ve still agreed to abide by the rules of the game.

The problem, I think, is that I’m still not sure that I’ve learned all of the rules. I had a campus interview in December that seemed to go well, but, alas, I got no offer out of it. It felt good to practice my job talk, to see what it was like to meet with potential colleagues, and to learn the etiquette of breaking bread with search-committee members.

I thought I comported myself fairly well. I made it to the campus with no flight delays and no traffic issues. I spilled no food on myself, and presciently prevented blisters on my feet by pre-emptively wrapping my toes with Band-Aids. I tried to engage faculty members with discussions about their own work, to share my syllabi for future courses when it seemed appropriate, and to ask noncritical yet specific and thoughtful questions.

Some things couldn’t be helped. The dean had already left the campus for winter break, so we didn’t get to sit down and chat. No graduate students were available to meet with me, so I couldn’t ask where they’d like to see their program headed. On the way across the campus, a group of middle-school students on a scavenger hunt needed a photograph of a professor, and assumed that I was one because I was wearing a suit—all the while ignoring the professor who was actually givingme the tour. I tried to save the situation by diplomatically asking them to take a picture of both of us, but still, it was awkward.

So I came back to the Northeast and participated in a few more telephone and Skype interviews. Now I know that I’m still learning some of the rules, but it seems as though search-committee members should know them already and could do with a few reminders…

read more here: http://chronicle.com/article/Life-as-a-Job-Market-Captive/136939/

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Srinivas Aravamudan, Julia Lupton and David Palumbo-Liu on Blow Up The Humanities

(courtesy of the LA Review of Books, @ lareviewofbooks.org )

Julia Reinhard Lupton
Towards Cultural Policy

IN HIS NEW BOOK Blow Up the Humanities, Toby Miller divides the humanities into two camps. Humanities One lionizes books, is dominated by the disciplines of literature and history, pushes values and disdains trade, belongs primarily to “fancy private schools,” and organizes instruction around the charisma of the professor, who responds to the “ethical incompleteness” of his or her students by modeling good taste through ingenious interpretations. When Humanities One professors hear the word “commodity,” they reach for their fountain pens. Humanities Two, on the other hand, centers its energies on film, television, and media; courts relevance and employability; sets up shop in “everyday state schools,” community colleges, and for-profit institutions; and prefers the economic sugar high of rapid enskillment to the wine-and-cheese durée of self-cultivation.

Miller, a Distinguished Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at UC Riverside, prefers the populist front of Humanities Two to the head-in-sand elitism of Humanities One. His real goal, however, is to promote a Humanities Three, dedicated to studying the “cross-pollinating world” of the creative industries, including news, entertainment, and sports. By coupling intellectual seriousness with pragmatic engagement, Miller aims to merge the two humanities in a resilient new hybrid, a curricular Prius whose data engine is boosted by a steady hermeneutic feed. This new hybrid Humanities will “reflect the multimedia future of our society and economy and the intertwined cultures of our population,” providing both new tools for citizenship and some hope of meaningful employment for next-generation college students. Blow Up the Humanities persuasively argues that humanists should tip their research and teaching away from the cultural heritage of the past and towards the products, platforms and infrastructure of contemporary creative industries, so that both students and the institutions that teach them can thrive.

Miller has already demonstrated how this work can be done in his many previous books; please read his funny and illuminating chapters on the weather channel and food programming in Cultural Citizenship (2006) or his rousing account of the international body industry in SportSex (2002). He has also written extensively on how cultural policy, written by and for academics, business leaders, foundation presidents, and government officials, helps shape public debate about art and information in Australia, Latin America, and Europe, but flails and fumbles in the United States’ market-driven civil society. Policy-blind and sociology-shy humanists may know how to analyze fictional texts, but, Miller tells us in Blow Up, “they are typically ignorant of where those texts physically come from or end up and what happens to them in between.” A policy-based approach, on the other hand, takes into account numbers and trends in order to make larger recommendations to agencies in charge of learning benchmarks and income flows. Cultural policy requires its practitioners to navigate the polluted riptides of capital, rather than simply “withdrawing to cloisters/enclaves of dead white men and living people of color.” Buoyant with data and armored with action points, Blow Up the Humanities is a giant white paper aimed at the cubbyholes of department chairs, would-be graduate students, humanities deans, and anyone else worried about what’s next for English and History majors.

read more: http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?type=&id=1267&fulltext=1&media=#article-text-cutpoint

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(courtesy of the NYtimes)

“From the moment Barack Obama burst onto the political scene, the poet Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles, says he felt “a spiritual connection” with the man who would become the nation’s 44th president.

Like Mr. Obama, who chronicled his multicultural upbringing in a best-selling autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Blanco has been on a quest for personal identity through the written word. He said his affinity for Mr. Obama springs from his own feeling of straddling different worlds; he is Latino and gay (and worked as a civil engineer while pursuing poetry). His poems are laden with longing for the sights and smells of the land his parents left behind.

Now Mr. Obama is about to pluck Mr. Blanco out of the relatively obscure and quiet world of poetry and put him on display before the entire world. On Wednesday the president’s inaugural planners will announce that Mr. Blanco is to be the 2013 inaugural poet, joining the ranks of notables like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.

“Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to his life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background,” Mr. Blanco said in a telephone interview from the rural village of Bethel, Me., where he lives with his partner. “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him.”

Mr. Blanco must now compose an original poem for the president’s ceremonial swearing-in on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 21. (Mr. Obama will take the official oath at the White House on Jan. 20, as required by the Constitution.) Addie Whisenant, the inaugural committee’s spokeswoman, said Mr. Obama picked Mr. Blanco because the poet’s “deeply personal poems are rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American.”

Friends of Mr. Blanco’s, and fellow poets, say the president could not have found a more perfect fit.

“I think he was chosen because his America is very similar to the president’s America,” said Liz Balmaseda, who met Mr. Blanco in the mid-1990s when he was just emerging as a poet, and she was working as a columnist for The Miami Herald. “You don’t have to be an exile, you don’t have to be Latino or gay to get the yearning in Richard’s poetry.”” see more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/books/richard-blanco-2013-inaugural-poet.html?hp&_r=0

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We hope to post Matthew Frye Jacobson’s full ASA speech when it is released. For now, enjoy this small excerpt:

“The very location of this year’s conference is a powerful call for reflection—reflection on indigeneity and dispossession; reflection on the course of U.S. empire; reflection on rich histories of resistance; reflection on American Studies as a set of interpretive and pedagogical practices in that zone where Indigenous Studies, Atlantic World, Caribbean Studies, Diaspora Studies, and Pacific Rim all come together. Claimed by Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, these Taino lands were the site of colonization, slavery, and near extinction before becoming collateral damage to U.S. imperial designs in 1898. In the eyes of policymakers like Theodore Roosevelt, the point of colonizing Puerto Rico was never for the sake of holding Puerto Rico itself, but for a system of U.S. ports, bases, and coaling stations that had mostly to do with Euro-American rivalries and “the China market.” The colonizing structures articulated by the Foraker and the Jones Acts—made famous in Downes v. Bidwell’s tortured judgment that Puerto Rico is “foreign in a domestic sense”—marked the islands as the site of the United States’ most unabashed imperialist manipulations, but also as a field of rich and varied resistance, democratic yearning, and anti-imperialist thought.

From the outset the Program Committee of the American Studies Association (ASA) has felt an awesome responsibility to organize sessions and events that would do justice to the significance of these histories in collision. The ASA’s membership made the task a good deal easier by stepping up to propose several hundred passionate and intellectually committed panels, roundtables, and papers. So, thank you. But even so, we were concerned that North American habits of travel and San Juan’s own infrastructure of tourism might exert an inexorable pull on the conference that could ironically replicate many features of empire itself.”

 

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courtesy of the earth observatory. see more here: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=79589&src=iotdrss

This pair of images shows New Jersey, New York, and eastern Pennsylvania as viewed at night by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The top image was taken at 2:52 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:52 Universal Time) on November 1, 2012. For comparison, the lower image was taken at 2:14 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:14 UTC) on August 31, 2012, when conditions in the area were normal.

Both images were captured by the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as gas flares, city lights, and reflected moonlight. In the top image, lingering clouds from Hurricane Sandy are lit by moonlight and obscure much of New York’s Hudson Valley, northwestern New Jersey, and northeastern Pennsylvania. (For a wider view, download the large image beneath each web image.)

Turn on the “view image comparison” button to see the difference in city lighting before and after the blackout. In Manhattan, the lower third of the island is dark on November 1, while Rockaway Beach, much of Long Island, and nearly all of central New Jersey are significantly dimmer. The barrier islands along the New Jersey coast, which are heavily developed with tourist businesses and year-round residents, are just barely visible in moonlight after the blackout.

Along with the scattered electric lights, there is a bright point along the shore south of Mantoloking, New Jersey, that could be fires fueled by severed natural gas lines. Note: It is not clear if the fires reported on October 31were still burning on November 1.

For more views of the storm, visit our Hurricane Sandy event page.

 from Gastronomica “Bourdieu’s Food Spaceby Molly Watson

“In college, a Xeroxed copy of this graph (click image to enlarge) hung on our refrigerator, so taken were my housemates and I with Pierre Bourdieu’s assessment of food inDistinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979). Food-specific coverage takes up just 23 pages of the 604-page tome, but it was the early 1990s and sex and gender and studies of the body were all the rage, so passages like “[t]astes in food also depend on the idea each class has of the body and of the effects of food on the body, that is, on its strength, health, and beauty… It follows that the body is the most indisputable materialization of class taste” blew us away, just as the notion that our love of Ethiopian food and yogurt said as much about our class, education, and social status as it did about our taste buds unnerved us.”

see more @ www.gastronomica.org.

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from TheRumpus, “Photography Mashup” by Jack Taylor.

“San Francisco photographer Shawn Clover, has been working on a project that compares aftermath photos from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake with pictures he takes currently. Unlike other photography projects that present pictures from the past and the present side by side, Clover melds the two photos into each other, making his work all the more impressive:”

see more here: http://therumpus.net/2012/09/photography-mashup/

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On June 20, 2011, the US Supreme Court put an end to the largest civil rights class action lawsuit in American history: Betty Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a case that pitted over 1.5 million female Wal-Mart workers against the country’s largest private employer. Suing on behalf of all women who had worked at Wal-Mart between 1998 and 2011, the plaintiffs in Dukes accused the retail giant of discriminating on the basis of sex in pay and promotions, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Their case was historic — and slow moving. By the time it reached Washington, Dukes had been working its way through the federal courts for ten years. With it came ten years of accumulated resources: seven teams of legal counsel, over two dozen amicus briefs, and hundreds of pages of data backing the plaintiffs’ claims. read more here: http://nplusonemag.com/sex-class-action

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From Gastronomica, see more @ www.gastronomica.org.

In the summer of 1936 the photographer Walker Evans collaborated with the writer James Agee on an article about cotton farmers in the American South. The article was never published, but the material they gathered eventually became the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, published in 1941. For four weeks in July, Evans photographed three sharecropper families and their environment. Agee noted the significance of “bareness and space” in these homes: “general odds and ends are set very plainly and squarely discrete from one another. . . [giving] each object a full strength it would not otherwise have.” These objects only hint at the lives of the inhabitants of this house, which remain essentially unknown to us. We asked writers Ruth ReichlFrancine Prose,and Elizabeth Graver, and poets Ellen Doré Watson, and Patty Crane to reflect on Evans’ photograph, to imagine the lives beyond the kitchen wall.

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Read faculty member Rigoberto González‘s review of Pablo Medina’s Cubop City Blues (from the LA Review of Books)

THE AUTHOR OF 13 BOOKS of prose and poetry, including a translation (with Mark Statman) of Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York (2007),Pablo Medina has slowly nurtured an unassuming but distinguished career in letters. He identifies proudly as a Cuban American, and his family history and political leanings play a prominent role in his work. His memoir Exiled Memories: A Cuban Childhood (1990), for instance, is an elegant account about growing up in Cuba during the 1950s, a decade marked by the leadership of Fulgencio Batista and the rise to power of Fidel Castro. Among the photographs included in the book is a snapshot of Medina, a child of 12, boarding one of the last flights to New York City out of Havana, just before Castro assumed control of the island. […]

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Read Bruce Robbins on The Crisis of the European Union: A Response (from the LA Review of Books)

” “WHO WILL WILLINGLY DIE for [. . .] the EEC?” When Benedict Anderson asked this sarcastic question in 1983, referring to the European Economic Community, a now-forgotten ancestor of today’s European Union, he did not have to add that, for better or worse, many people are willing to die for their nation. They’ve proved it, war after war after war. Anderson’s point was that nationalism moves mountains, but its potent we’re-all-in-it-together feeling tends to stop short at the border. The survival of your country may be capable of stirring your gutsiest emotions; the survival of the eurozone almost certainly isn’t. Unless you’re a banker.

In The Crisis of the European Union: A Response, a much-discussed collection of recent essays and interviews, the eminent German philosopher and public intellectual Jürgen Habermas turns Anderson’s argument on its head. In fact, Habermas notes, sacrificing our lives in battle is no longer at the top of most people’s to-do list. And much of the credit for this goes to supra-national entities like the European Union, which have made patriotic bloodshed much more infrequent. Now it’s time to take another step. The spirit of self-sacrifice should be demilitarized. Habermas proposes that it should be extended to fellow humans who do not happen to reside in our countries, and it should be extended from issues of life and death to issues of living standards.

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