Michael D. Robinson: Reconsidering John Jordan Crittenden

A Union Indivisible by Michael D. RobinsonToday, we welcome a guest post from Michael D. Robinson, author of A Union Indivisible:  Secession and the Politics of Slavery in the Border South.

Many accounts of the secession crisis overlook the sharp political conflict that took place in the Border South states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. In A Union Indivisible, Michael D. Robinson expands the scope of this crisis to show how the fate of the Border South, and with it the Union, desperately hung in the balance during the fateful months surrounding the clash at Fort Sumter. During this period, Border South politicians revealed the region’s deep commitment to slavery, disputed whether or not to leave the Union, and schemed to win enough support to carry the day. Although these border states contained fewer enslaved people than the eleven states that seceded, white border Southerners chose to remain in the Union because they felt the decision best protected their peculiar institution. Robinson reveals anew how the choice for union was fraught with anguish and uncertainty, dividing families and producing years of bitter internecine violence. Letters, diaries, newspapers, and quantitative evidence illuminate how, in the absence of a compromise settlement, proslavery Unionists managed to defeat secession in the Border South.

A Union Indivisible is now available in both print and e-book editions.

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Reconsidering John Jordan Crittenden

Just a couple of blocks from a bend in the Kentucky River that envelops Frankfort, Kentucky’s historic district, a drab brown sign stands on West Main Street just outside of the nineteenth-century townhome of John Jordan Crittenden.  On a daily basis hundreds of people stroll by the historical marker and the home, both of which inconspicuously blend into the tree-lined street and the unassuming row of brick houses that serve as a quiet reminder of the Kentucky capital’s modest origins.  The gold-lettered heading reads “An Eminent Statesman” and catches the eye of the occasional passerby, but few folks take the time to read the impressive list of Crittenden’s accolades.  The roster of the Kentuckian’s public service leaves little doubt that few nineteenth-century politicians could match his record: Crittenden had been elected governor of the Bluegrass State and represented Kentucky in the U.S. Senate on numerous occasions, and three separate presidents made him attorney general in a career that spanned six decades.  Crittenden’s political longevity alone attests to his renown, but most people remember this protégé of Henry Clay for his inability to secure a political settlement that might stave off civil war in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election.  Even the copy of the historical marker, usually reserved for unblushing adulation, confesses that this eminent statesman was “noted for [the] Crittenden Compromise, 1860, [a] futile effort to avert Civil War and preserve the Union.”

One can speculate that if John Crittenden had managed to get his compromise through Congress in the winter of 1860-61, more people would stop to pay homage to the memory of the politician.  Rather than meandering past the austere home, thousands of people might flock to it just as they swarm to Henry Clay’s Ashland, an ostentatious mansion in Lexington where visitors are reminded that this home’s former occupant thrice orchestrated compromises that saved the Union from dissolution.  In death, just as in life, John Jordan Crittenden tends to live in the shadow of Henry Clay.  Historians often fall into the trap of comparing Crittenden to Clay, and no matter their take on the coming of the Civil War they often reach similar conclusions: at best he was a noble failure for trying to patch together an eleventh-hour compromise, at worst he lacked a moral compass for trying to push through a settlement that would have permanently prevented Congress from interfering with slavery.  Regardless, Crittenden failed and as Abraham Lincoln remarked in his second inaugural address, “the war came.”Continue Reading Michael D. Robinson: Reconsidering John Jordan Crittenden

Muriel R. Gillick, M.D.: The Not-So-Secret Secret About American Health Care

Muriel R. Gillick, Old and Sick in AmericaToday, we welcome a guest post from Dr. Muriel R. Gillick, author of Old and Sick in America:  The Journey through the Health Care System.

Since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the American health care system has steadily grown in size and complexity. Old and Sick in America takes readers on a narrative tour of American health care, incorporating the stories of older patients as they travel from the doctor’s office to the hospital to the skilled nursing facility, and examining the influence of forces as diverse as pharmaceutical corporations, device manufacturers, and health insurance companies on their experience.

Old and Sick in America is now available in both print and e-book editions.

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The Not-So-Secret Secret About American Health Care

If you read any of the voluminous newspaper coverage of the seemingly perpetual debate about the American health care system over the past few months, you would think that the U.S. had two problems: first, health insurance is too expensive and second, many people can’t get insurance, either because they don’t have jobs that provide coverage, they can’t afford it, or they have something invented by the insurance industry called a “pre-existing condition.” If you are right-leaning in your inclinations, you think the main problem is the former, because you believe coverage is a matter of free choice (if people worked hard enough or cared enough they could manage to obtain health), and if you have left-leaning tendencies, you think the problem is principally the latter, because you believe that health care insurance coverage is a right (if it costs too much, then government should subsidize it). What nobody seems to be talking about is the quality of American medical care—what you get if you do access treatment. And the dirty little secret of American health care is that the medical treatment that people get, even when cost and access are not issues, leaves a great deal to be desired.

This is American medicine at its best: carried out by extremely competent doctors with access to the latest technology and the most effective medications. But what is often forgotten in the drive to “fix” the health care system is just what it is that needs fixing: it’s not merely inadequate access and excessive cost; for large swaths of the public, the care itself is sub-optimal. For no group is that more true than the very frail and very old.

That’s not to say that some aspects of American medicine, at least as provided in certain hospitals, in particular parts of the country, and by some physicians, aren’t spectacular. My son suffered significant trauma after colliding with another player during an ultimate Frisbee tournament. He sustained a concussion, an orbital fracture, a maxillary fracture, and various other injuries. He was whisked off to a nearby hospital and evaluated; within days, he had plastic surgery performed by an outstanding physician, and within a couple of months, he had recovered completely.  I have a friend who fainted while on vacation in San Francisco and was astutely diagnosed as having anemia due to babesiosis, a parasitic infection transmitted by tick bite (endemic on Cape Cod, 3000 miles east of California). I have no doubt that the diagnostic acumen and swift response of the medical team—he received the appropriate antibiotics and the requisite number of transfusions for his profound anemia within hours of his arrival in the emergency department—saved his life. This is American medicine at its best: carried out by extremely competent doctors with access to the latest technology and the most effective medications. But what is often forgotten in the drive to “fix” the health care system is just what it is that needs fixing: it’s not merely inadequate access and excessive cost; for large swaths of the public, the care itself is sub-optimal. For no group is that more true than the very frail and very old.

Continue Reading Muriel R. Gillick, M.D.: The Not-So-Secret Secret About American Health Care

Stephanie Hinnershitz: Righting Past Wrongs in Lingering Legal Codes

Stephanie Hinnershitz, A Different Shade of JusticeToday we welcome a guest post from Stephanie Hinnershitz, author of A Different Shade of Justice:  Asian American Civil Rights in the South.

From the formation of Chinese and Japanese communities in the early twentieth century through Indian hotel owners’ battles against business discrimination in the 1980s and ’90s, Stephanie Hinnershitz shows how Asian Americans organized carefully constructed legal battles that often traveled to the state and federal supreme courts. Drawing from legislative and legal records as well as oral histories, memoirs, and newspapers, A Different Shade of Justice describes a movement that ran alongside and at times intersected with the African American fight for justice, and she restores Asian Americans to the fraught legacy of civil rights in the South.

A Different Shade of Justice is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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Righting Past Wrongs in Lingering Legal Codes

In recent years, debates surrounding the symbolic removal of Confederate monuments erected during the Jim Crow Era from public spaces have prompted a variety of actions and reactions from Americans. This movement, however, has not fully embraced the similar need to remove longstanding pieces of legislation that are rooted in the racial discrimination of the past. Though in many cases such laws and codes are unenforceable thanks to Supreme Court decisions, a movement to strip legal codes of lingering racist and discriminatory wording would go a long way in acknowledging this nation’s troubled past and symbolizing a step toward addressing its injustices.

Take, for example, Florida’s Constitution. Revised a number of times since its inception in 1838, its current Declaration of Rights (Section 18) contains a provision that, on the surface, seems mundane: “Foreigners who are eligible to become citizens of the United States under the provisions of the laws and treaties of the United States shall have the same rights as to the ownership, inheritance and disposition of property in the State as citizens of the State, but the Legislature shall have power to limit, regulate and prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, possession and enjoyment of real estate in the State of Florida by foreigners who are not eligible to become citizens of the United States under the provisions of the laws and treaties of the United States.” Read within the larger history of anti-Asian discrimination in America the racist underpinnings of this portion of the Florida constitution become clear.

Continue Reading Stephanie Hinnershitz: Righting Past Wrongs in Lingering Legal Codes

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Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: The Momentous Issue of Our National Soul

The F Street Mess by Alice Elizabeth MalavasicToday we welcome a guest blog post from Alice Elizabeth Malavasic, author of The F Street Mess:  How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Pushing back against the idea that the Slave Power conspiracy was merely an ideological construction, The F Street Mess argues that some southern politicians in the 1850s did indeed hold an inordinate amount of power in the antebellum Congress and used it to foster the interests of slavery. Malavasic focuses her argument on Senators David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina, and Robert M. T. Hunter and James Murray Mason of Virginia, known by their contemporaries as the “F Street Mess” for the location of the house they shared. Unlike the earlier and better-known triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, the F Street Mess was a functioning oligarchy within the U.S. Senate whose power was based on shared ideology, institutional seniority, and personal friendship.

The F Street Mess is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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The Momentous Issue of Our National Soul

The upcoming special election in Alabama to fill the state’s vacant U.S. senate seat has given rise to the question of whether the Senate will expel Roy Moore, current Republican candidate and accused pedophile, should he win the election. Given that the last expulsion from the United States Senate occurred in 1862 during the Civil War, press and political pundits doubt the likelihood of the senate expelling Moore should he be elected.

The senators expelled during the Civil War included Robert M.T. Hunter and James Murray Mason, both subjects of my book, The F Street Mess. They were expelled from the Senate on July 10, 1861 months after most southerners had already voluntarily withdrawn from the Congress. After the November elections, many southern congressmen and senators simply did not return to Washington. Others returned only to leave again as the lower South began to secede during the winter of 1860-61. Some senators sent formal letters of resignation to the chamber, while others sent nothing at all. Some followed Jefferson Davis in making formal resignation speeches from the Senate floor. Others announced their resignations in their hometown newspapers. Some, like Robert Toombs of Georgia, said nothing and simply left. The variety of ways chosen by southern senators to leave only added to the questions confronting those who remained: what was the difference, if any, between withdrawal and resignation; were the withdrawals permanent; did withdrawal affect committee assignments; and last but definitely not least, was secession legal? Unable to reach an agreement on those questions the Thirty-Sixth Congress ended on March 3, 1861.

What is the difference between the Republican controlled senate that voted to expel multiple senators during 1861-62 and the Republican controlled senate today that is loathed to expel Moore should he be elected? It’s simple, the difference is between national security and the national soul.

Abraham Lincoln became the nation’s sixteenth president the next day. The Thirty-Seventh Congress convened under Republican control and resumed the debate on withdrawal, resignation, and secession. Not wanting to legitimize the principle of secession, the Senate declared the seats of the absent southern senators vacant and removed their names from the roll. The matters of withdrawal and secession were referred to the Judiciary Committee and Congress recessed on March 28. Robert Hunter and James Mason had left Washington ten days earlier.

Continue Reading Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: The Momentous Issue of Our National Soul

Author Interview: Stephanie Elizondo Griest, All the Agents and Saints

Pictured: Stephanie Elizondo Griest author photo; person wearing black clothing covering the top of the body, with a red shawl; the person has shoulder-length wavy dark-brown hair, light eyes, and is smiling.

Stephanie Elizondo Griest (photo by Alexander Devora)

Today UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek talks to Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands, about liminal spaces/borderlands, spirituality, shared struggles, and more.

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Gina Mahalek: Your first four books are a celebration of wanderlust, which has fueled your travels to nearly 50 countries. Why did you leave the open road for your hometown in South Texas in 2007, and what did you find there?

Stephanie Elizondo Griest: At some point in my early thirties, nomadism started existentially untethering me. Anything that could have diverted attention from my writing—a house, a partner, a community, a legitimately paying job, children, pets, plants—had been avoided for so long, it had slipped into the realm of the unobtainable. The bulk of my belongings, meanwhile, were scattered in attics around the world. Since nothing tied me down, I kept moving. Yet it was becoming apparent that if I never stood still, nothing ever would. So in 2007, I followed the magnetic pull of home.

To my surprise, the Rio Grande Valley had transformed into a death valley in my absence. Whole swaths of South Texas had been poisoned by petrochemical industries, ravaged by the drug war, and barricaded by a seventy-mile-long steel wall. It had become the nation’s chief crossing ground for undocumented workers as well, unknown hundreds of whom perished in the scrub brush while evading the Border Patrol. My sleepy homeland had become a major news story, and I responded the only way I knew how: by taking reams of notes.

GM: You spent seven years conducting investigative reporting in South Texas, about everything from environmental injustice and illegal immigration to the drug war, poverty, and the obesity epidemic. Yet your narrative is intensely personal as well. What do the borderlands mean for you?

SEG: The Texas/Mexico borderline not only bisects my ancestral land. It cuts through my family as well. My mother is Mexican and my father is Kansan. I have long suspected that growing up in a biracial family in the liminal space between nations created an inner fissure in me as well. All my life, I have waffled between extremes: gringa/Chicana; cosmopolite/cowgirl; agnostic/Catholic; journalist/activist; Type A/free spirit. The Aztecs coined a term for living in the state of in-between-ness: nepantla. That is how they described their struggle to reconcile their indigenous ways with the one Spanish colonizers forced upon them in the sixteenth century. More recently, the writer Gloria Anzaldúa turned nepantla into a metaphor for a “birthing stage where you feel like you’re reconfiguring your identity and don’t know where you are.” That is probably why my journey led me back home. After so many years of feeling split in two, I sought to finally fuse.

GM: And yet, All the Agents and Saints isn’t just a meditation about your own homeland. The second half documents life in the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne. What launched that investigation?Continue Reading Author Interview: Stephanie Elizondo Griest, All the Agents and Saints

Michael D. Robinson: Where Was the Political Middle Ground during the Secession Crisis?

A Union Indivisible by Michael D. RobinsonToday, we welcome a guest post from Michael D. Robinson, author of A Union Indivisible:  Secession and the Politics of Slavery in the Border South.

Many accounts of the secession crisis overlook the sharp political conflict that took place in the Border South states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. In A Union Indivisible, Michael D. Robinson expands the scope of this crisis to show how the fate of the Border South, and with it the Union, desperately hung in the balance during the fateful months surrounding the clash at Fort Sumter. During this period, Border South politicians revealed the region’s deep commitment to slavery, disputed whether or not to leave the Union, and schemed to win enough support to carry the day. Although these border states contained fewer enslaved people than the eleven states that seceded, white border Southerners chose to remain in the Union because they felt the decision best protected their peculiar institution. Robinson reveals anew how the choice for union was fraught with anguish and uncertainty, dividing families and producing years of bitter internecine violence. Letters, diaries, newspapers, and quantitative evidence illuminate how, in the absence of a compromise settlement, proslavery Unionists managed to defeat secession in the Border South.

A Union Indivisible is now available in both print and e-book editions.

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Where Was the Political Middle Ground during the Secession Crisis?

A quick perusal of today’s headlines can leave one feeling as if moderates and centrists no longer have a voice in American politics.  Heated partisan and ideological battles over the last couple of decades have driven a seismic shift from the seemingly halcyon days of political consensus-building to our present state of affairs, where the smallest details of government often get bogged down in a flashy show of brinksmanship that leaves many observers exhausted and cynical.  One easily throws up his or her hands and asks, “Has American politics ever been so polarized?” 

Any search for precedent naturally leads to the secession winter of 1860-61, a crisis of unmatched proportions that churned forth in the wake of Republican Abraham Lincoln’s November electoral victory.  So often Americans remember that voters had constitutionally sent a president to the White House whose party’s foundation consisted of a program designed to restrict the spread of slavery to the western territories.  Fearful of the Republican Party’s promised choke-hold on American slavery and the anti-southern rhetoric that whipped voters to a frenzy during the campaign, white southerners opted to leave the cherished Union behind and start their own government shorn of all elements hostile to the peculiar institution.  This telling of events leaves one confident that no middle ground existed in 1860-61.  After all, eleven slaveholding states seceded and the nation was pushed ever-closer to a war so destructive that its aftershocks are still felt today.  The middle ground had evaporated and Americans either joined the camp of pro-slavery secessionists or Republican Unionists.Continue Reading Michael D. Robinson: Where Was the Political Middle Ground during the Secession Crisis?

It’s the Holiday Season — and time for the annual UNC Press Holiday Gift Books sale!

UNC Press Holiday Gift Books Sale

Happy Cyber Monday! 

We’ve just launched our annual Holiday Gift Books sale!  You can save 40 percent on all UNC Press print books.  And, if your order totals $75 or more, the domestic shipping is free!

Save on great gift books for everyone on your list — cookbooks, illustrated books, guidebooks, ground-breaking (and award-winning) books in history, religion, etc — truly something for everyone.  Browse our site and find lots of great gifts (and even some for yourself, too).

Use promo code 01HOLIDAY at checkout to see your discount.  Order by December 7 for delivery before December 24th.

Here’s a small sample of what you’ll find — and happy holidays!  Click here to start shopping!

 

The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm, by Jamie DeMentDemas: Game of PrivilegeThompson: BaconGraubart: ChickenDavid Blevins: North Carolina's Barrier Islands: Wonders of Sand, Sea, and SkyObrecht: Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American MusicElizondo Griest: All the Agents and SaintsMiller: The President's Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the ObamasGoat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South, by Karen L. Cox

Excerpt: Jamie DeMent–A Turkey Story for Thanksgiving

Today, just in time for Thanksgiving, we bring you a turkey story from Jamie DeMent’s book, The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm, now available at bookstores and from UNC Press.

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Talking Turkey

Jamie DeMent, Turkey SunsetOoooggle woogle woogle ooogggle woogle woogle blub blub blub. This is the sound turkeys really make–none of that gobble gobble business. Their tones and volumes differ depending on their level of stimulation, but they never simply gobble. They make their noises all the time, especially in the fall when harvest is approaching. You hear them day and night, and if you call out when you approach, they respond in unison. They do everything in unison. Turkeys, it turns out, are herd animals. We learned that the hard way.

Across the road, our neighbors are Hare Krishna devotees. They have a small, peaceful temple and flower garden, and they are easygoing neighbors. When our wayward dogs wander over for a visit, they don’t even call to ask us to collect them–they just let the dogs do their thing and return home when they want. That approach also applies to turkeys.

Continue Reading Excerpt: Jamie DeMent–A Turkey Story for Thanksgiving

Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: What’s in a Name?

The F Street Mess by Alice Elizabeth MalavasicToday we welcome a guest blog post from Alice Elizabeth Malavasic, author of The F Street Mess:  How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Pushing back against the idea that the Slave Power conspiracy was merely an ideological construction, The F Street Mess argues that some southern politicians in the 1850s did indeed hold an inordinate amount of power in the antebellum Congress and used it to foster the interests of slavery. Malavasic focuses her argument on Senators David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina, and Robert M. T. Hunter and James Murray Mason of Virginia, known by their contemporaries as the “F Street Mess” for the location of the house they shared. Unlike the earlier and better-known triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, the F Street Mess was a functioning oligarchy within the U.S. Senate whose power was based on shared ideology, institutional seniority, and personal friendship.

The F Street Mess is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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What’s in a Name? That which we call Repeal by any other name would smell as foul

Despite Republican control of the White House and both chambers of Congress the party’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act continues to struggle. Seven years ago Republican opposition to the ACA was unanimous. Now the ability to get the necessary votes to repeal is beyond reach because Republican congressmen and senators are waking up to the fact that what they have opposed all these years, the right to health care, has become sacrosanct to their constituents. Republicans need to take a lesson from history. Repealing a measure that is sacrosanct to a large portion of the American public never bodes well for politicians or the public as a whole.Continue Reading Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: What’s in a Name?

Happy Thanksgiving: A roundup of holiday recipes from UNC Press cookbooks

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we enter this week of food, family and fun, here’s a run-down of our favorite Thanksgiving holiday recipe posts from UNC Press cookbook authors. We hope you’ll find a recipe or two that you can add to your holiday table.

Remember, you can order all of these books and save 40 percent right now, during our Holiday Gift Books sale.  Just use promo code 01HOLIDAY at checkout.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at UNC Press.

Enjoy!

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DeMent: The Farmhouse ChefCane Syrup Pecan Pie, from Jamie DeMent’s The Farmhouse Chef

 

 

 

 

Southern Holidays by Debbie MooseThanksgiving Relish Tray, from Debbie Moose’s Southern Holidays:  A Savor the South Cookbook

 

 

 

 

Cornbread, Apple, and Sausage DressingFred Thompson's 250 Sides, from Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides

 

 

 

 

The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes, by Sheri CastleWinter Fruit Couscous Salad, from Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook

 

 

 

 

Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon, edited by Stephen A. McLeodMount Vernon’s Cherry Pie, from Dining with the Washingtons

 

 

 

 

The Happy Table of Eugene WalterThanksgiving Turkey, from The Happy Table of Eugene Walter

 

 

 

 

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M.J. Rymsza-Pawlowska : New Museums and New (Kinds of) Histories

Rymsza-Pawlowska, History Comes AliveToday, we welcome a guest post from M.J. Rymsza-Pawlowska, author of History Comes Alive:  Public History and Popular Culture in the 1970s, on our changing ideas about museums.

During the 1976 Bicentennial celebration, millions of Americans engaged with the past in brand-new ways. They became absorbed by historical miniseries like Roots, visited museums with new exhibits that immersed them in the past, propelled works of historical fiction onto the bestseller list, and participated in living history events across the nation. While many of these activities were sparked by the Bicentennial, M. J. Rymsza-Pawlowska shows that, in fact, they were symptomatic of a fundamental shift in Americans’ relationship to history during the 1960s and 1970s.

History Comes Alive is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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New Museums and New (Kinds of) Histories

In the past few years, several new history museums have opened in the United States and around the world, including the Museum of the American Revolution, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the renovated Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the POLIN Museum of the history of Polish Jews. Part of the reason that these have gained such wide attention is because of their innovative uses of new media and interactive elements in forming engaging, immersive interpretive experiences for museum visitors. These new museums have often presented a departure from their more traditional precedents, which historically have been artifact heavy, and fairly straightforward in the topics they address and the stories they tell.

I study and write about an earlier moment in this long history of museum exhibition: my book traces a moment when museum experiences, alongside a host of other kinds of historical cultural production, turned for the first time to the immersive and interactive as a way of making meaning. And even though I focus on the United States in the 1970s, I argue that these kinds of experiences are commonplace in museums now. I’m still an avid museum-goer, and I relish the opportunity to view interesting or innovative exhibitions, particularly in a context outside of the American one that I write about.

This June, I was visiting family in Poland, and had a chance to visit the Pan Tadeusz Museum in Wroclaw, which opened in May of 2016. Pan Tadeusz is one of the best-known Polish works of literature, an epic poem written by Adam Mickiewicz and published in 1834. The Museum is part of the Ossolineum, a historical publishing house and print archive that holds Mickiewicz’s original manuscript. It is this manuscript that is at both the material and ideological center of the show.

Continue Reading M.J. Rymsza-Pawlowska : New Museums and New (Kinds of) Histories

Irfan Ahmad: Beyond Trump’s Notion of the “Pathetic Critic”

Ahmad, Religion as CritiqueToday we welcome a guest post from Irfan Ahmad, author of Religion as Critique:  Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace.  Professor Ahmad is an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Studies in Göttingen, Germany.

In Religion as Critique, Irfan Ahmad makes the far-reaching argument that potent systems and modes for self-critique as well as critique of others are inherent in Islam–indeed, critique is integral to its fundamental tenets and practices. Challenging common views of Islam as hostile to critical thinking, Ahmad delineates thriving traditions of critique in Islamic culture, focusing in large part on South Asian traditions. Ahmad contemplates and interrogates Greek and Enlightenment notions of reason and critique, and he notes how they are invoked in relation to “others,” including Muslims. Drafting an alternative genealogy of critique in Islam, Ahmad reads religious teachings and texts, drawing on sources in Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, and English, and demonstrates how they serve as expressions of critique. Throughout, he depicts Islam as an agent, not an object, of critique.

Religion as Critique is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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Beyond Trump’s Notion of the “Pathetic Critic”

In May 2017, Mr. Donald Trump delivered the first commencement address as the US President at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia – founded by the Baptist pastor and televangelist Jerry Falwell, and led currently by his son. Falwell was one of the first to back Trump for his Presidential bid by mobilizing his evangelical support base. Wearing a suit rather than the customary academic gown, Trump spoke to a gathering of over fifty thousand people.

To Critique Is To (Dis)assemble

Falwell Jr. applauded Trump’s rule for stacking, according to the National Public Radio, “his Cabinet with religious conservatives and what Falwell described as bombing ‘those in the Middle East who are persecuting and killing Christians.’” He continued: “I do not believe that any president in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefited the Christian community in such a short time span than Donald Trump.”

Having briefly spoken about the “barbarity” of terrorists (read Muslim), Trump focused more on attacking his opponents: “Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic because they’re people that can’t get the job done (italics author’s).” Since Trump presented himself, The Guardian reported, as “a man of God”, he probably implied his own role as prophetic.

The opposition between the “pathetic critics” and the prophetic role of Trump and his supporters is at the heart of (populist) democracy, itself dualistic.  Furthermore, Trump’s quote echoed the popular notion of critique as criticism: some sort of fiery exchange of claims and counter claims, or, to invoke Raymond Williams, “fault-finding.”

Restoring it to its true meaning and outlining its comprehensive horizon, Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace instead shows that far from being easy, the task of a critic and the work of critique are indeed difficult. Ethnographically focused on Muslims in South Asia, the book’s larger premise is that critique is important to religious traditions in general.  And when properly pursued, critique is simultaneously a creative work of assemblage and dis-assemblage – assemblage in that a critic assembles things and ideas kept separated for a specific goal, and, s/he dis-assemblage in that things and ideas rendered congruent and naturalized require acts of separation-cum-differentiation.

Continue Reading Irfan Ahmad: Beyond Trump’s Notion of the “Pathetic Critic”

Megan Raby: Ecology and U.S. Empire in the Caribbean

Megan Raby: American TropicsToday we welcome a guest blog post from Megan Raby, author of American Tropics:  The Caribbean Roots of Biodiversity Science.

Biodiversity has been a key concept in international conservation since the 1980s, yet historians have paid little attention to its origins. Uncovering its roots in tropical fieldwork and the southward expansion of U.S. empire at the turn of the twentieth century, Megan Raby in American Tropics details how ecologists took advantage of growing U.S. landholdings in the circum-Caribbean by establishing permanent field stations for long-term, basic tropical research. From these outposts of U.S. science, a growing community of American “tropical biologists” developed both the key scientific concepts and the values embedded in the modern discourse of biodiversity.

American Tropics is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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Ecology and U.S. Empire in the Caribbean

Today, tropical ecology is closely associated with conservation. It seems obvious that we should set the scientists who study the diversity of tropical life in opposition to those forces destroying it––the corporate and government interests that drive the transformation of the world’s tropical rainforests into monoculture palm oil plantations and cattle ranches. Yet, a more complex picture has emerged from my research on the history of ecological fieldwork in the circum-Caribbean. In fact, historically, research in tropical ecology developed in tandem with the exploitation of tropical environments and the southward expansion of U.S. empire.

As the science of ecology emerged in the late 19th century, its European founders emphasized the importance of studying living organisms within their natural environments––particularly in the tropics where many unique species and adaptations could be found. With the 1898 Spanish American War, members of the U.S. scientific community saw their chance to take part in this cutting-edge new science. They took advantage of expanding U.S. landholdings and transportation networks to establish field stations where they could pursue long-term, basic research in the tropics. These stations––in Cuba, Jamaica, Guyana, and Panama––acted as colonial outposts of U.S. science, enabling biologists from the North to access living tropical organisms in their natural habitats, while themselves living in comfort, health, and safety.

Continue Reading Megan Raby: Ecology and U.S. Empire in the Caribbean

Mary Elizabeth Basile Chopas: The Lessons of World War II Selective Internment

Searching for Subversives Today, we welcome a guest post from Mary Elizabeth Basile Chopas, author of Searching for Subversives:  The Story of Italian Internment in Wartime America.

When the United States entered World War II, Italian nationals living in this country were declared enemy aliens and faced with legal restrictions. Several thousand aliens and a few U.S. citizens were arrested and underwent flawed hearings, and hundreds were interned. Shedding new light on an injustice often overshadowed by the mass confinement of Japanese Americans, Mary Elizabeth Basile Chopas traces how government and military leaders constructed wartime policies affecting Italian residents. Based on new archival research into the alien enemy hearings, this in-depth legal analysis illuminates a process not widely understood. From presumptive guilt in the arrest and internment based on membership in social and political organizations, to hurdles in attaining American citizenship, Chopas uncovers many layers of repression not heretofore revealed in scholarship about the World War II home front.

Searching for Subversives is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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The Lessons of World War II Selective Internment

When the United States entered World War II, Italian nationals (as well as Japanese and German nationals) living in this country who had not become American citizens were declared enemy aliens and subject to restrictions. Several thousand were arrested and detained for hearings, and hundreds were interned. The story of Italian families affected by internment orders and various government policies, such as nighttime searches of homes for shortwave radios and signaling devices and restrictive curfews, illuminates how the executive branch and the military in the 1940s responded to perceived threats to national security. There were multiple layers of repression—presumptive guilt in the arrest, internment based on membership in social and political organizations and expression of undemocratic ideas, and bars to citizenship.

The story of the internment of Italians during World War II raises the same questions that we ask today about how liberal democracies may wage war and remain true to democratic values. The debate over the constitutionality and implementation of the travel ban affecting foreign nationals from predominantly Muslim countries wishing to enter the United States poses the issue of whether persons may be barred from entry without having undergone an individualized determination of security threat based on specific intelligence.[1] What “extreme vetting” means in practice remains unclear. The historical precedent of World War II selective internment provides a relevant exploration of how the government might strike the proper balance between ensuring the nation’s safety and guaranteeing the protection of civil liberties in times of crisis.

Continue Reading Mary Elizabeth Basile Chopas: The Lessons of World War II Selective Internment

University Press Week 2017: Blog Tour Day 5

University Press Week 2017

University Press Week wraps up today with the blog tour day 5’s theme of Libraries and Librarians helping us all #LookItUP. Today’s posts:

Friday, November 10, 2017: Libraries and Librarians helping us all #LookItUP

University of Georgia Press

University of Missouri Press

University of Nebraska Press

University Press of Florida

 

Be sure to read up on this week’s earlier themes:

Day 1: Scholarship Making a Difference

Day 2: Selling the Facts

Day 3: Producing the Books that Matter

Day 4:  #TwitterStorm

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And, check out the series of videos (submitted by presses and compiled by Ingram Academic Services) highlighting this week’s themes:

A Conversation with Joo Ok Kim: On the Korean War and the Global Gothic of U.S. Empire

Joo Ok Kim In the Fall 2016 issue of south: a scholarly journal, Joo Ok Kim published a piece entitled, “Declining Misery: Rural Florida’s Hmong and Korean Farmers.” She is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Latino/a Studies at the University of Kansas. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Asian American Studies and Verge: Studies in Global Asians. Her book project, Warring Genealogies: Race, Kinship, and the Korean War, examines the racial legacies of the Korean War through Chicano cultural production and U.S. archives of white supremacy.

Below is an excerpt from Kim’s interview with south editor, Sharon P. Holland about her piece and its relationship to her research project. You can see the full interview on the journal’s website, https://southjournal.org.

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Sharon P. Holland: Speak to that deep gothic in the piece. Because it’s definitely there; when I got to the photos of the scarecrow figures, there’s this one line “the walking dead,” right? And that gothic narrative is so so embedded in southern fiction and southern narrative. And in what ways do you hope, not just the piece that you placed with south, but its part in your larger project, in what ways do you hope it kind of pushes that narrative?

Joo Ok Kim: The gothic . . . thinking about the southern writers, and thinkers who have theorized this. I am thinking of Toni Morrison, Saidiya Hartman, to a certain extent Avery Gordon, Dennis Childs, and perhaps scholars such as Grace Cho, the idea of haunting, the true terror and the true gothic of the south has everything to do with settler colonialism, racial slavery and its aftermaths, the on-going hauntings of U.S. empire overseas.

In terms of my larger project . . .  it’s about the Korean War and the subterranean histories of the Korean War, but I had not thought of [until now] my own larger project as a narrative of the gothic, does that make sense?

SPH: Yes, yes.

JK: I had thought about hauntings, but I wasn’t thinking about the [southern] gothic, particularly. And so this is very exciting. All of a sudden there’s an aperture to think about the Korean War as taking part in the global gothic formation of U.S. empire.

SPH: It’s often thought of as the shadow U.S. imperialist war of the 20th century. One seldom hears about subjects, not only . . . I believe that my father served in that war.

JK: Wow.Continue Reading A Conversation with Joo Ok Kim: On the Korean War and the Global Gothic of U.S. Empire

University Press Week 2017: Blog Tour Day 4

University Press Week 2017

University Press Week continues with the blog tour day 4’s theme of #TwitterStorm. Today’s posts:

Thursday, November 9, 2017: #TwitterStorm

Athabasca University Press

Beacon Press

Harvard University Press

Johns Hopkins University Press

 

Be sure to read up on this week’s earlier themes:

Day 1:  Scholarship Making a Difference

Day 2:  Selling the Facts

Day 3:  Producing the Books that Matter

 

 

UNC Press’s Office of Scholarly Publishing Services Partners with the UNC School of Government Publications

On October 1, 2017, tUNC Press OSPS logohe University of North Carolina Press’s Office of Scholarly Publishing Services (OSPS) launched a partnership with the UNC–Chapel Hill School of Government to provide distribution and other publishing services for its publications. The School of Government is publisher of more than 125 books, bulletins, and reports for North Carolina public officials and citizens. It also publishes widely used textbooks in areas including law enforcement and public administration. As the largest university-based local government training, advisory, and research organization in the country, the School of Government offers up to 200 courses, webinars, and specialized conferences for more than 12,000 public officials each year.

“A growing pUNC School of Governmentart of our mandate at the Press is to support publishing efforts throughout the university system,” said John Sherer, director of UNC Press. “This partnership allows us to leverage our publishing expertise and scaled tools to help a key campus institution expand access to, lower costs for, and enhance its focus on publications.”Continue Reading UNC Press’s Office of Scholarly Publishing Services Partners with the UNC School of Government Publications

University Press Week 2017: Blog Tour Day 3

University Press Week 2017

University Press Week continues with the blog tour day 3’s theme of Producing the Books that Matter. Today’s posts:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017: Producing the Books that Matter

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University Press

University of British Columbia Press

University of California Press

University of Kansas Press

University of Michigan Press

University of Washington Press

Yale University Press

Be sure to read up on yesterday’s posts on the themes from Day 1 and Day 2:  Scholarship Making a Difference and Selling the Facts.