Cheryl Shelton-Roberts: North Carolina Lighthouses

North Carolina Lighthouses, Revised and Expanded EditionToday we welcome a guest post from Cheryl Shelton-Roberts, co-author with Bruce Roberts, of the revised and expanded edition of North Carolina Lighthouses:  The Stories Behind the Beacons from Cape Fear to Currituck Beach, just published by UNC Press.

Of the over four dozen lighthouses that once marked the jagged shoreline of North Carolina, only nine still stand, watching over 300 miles of coast. These beacons are cherished monuments of North Carolina history. In addition to warning ships to safer waters, they now draw thousands of visitors each year. With this book, co-founders of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Bruce Roberts provide a well-researched, human-centered, and beautifully illustrated history of these towering structures. The authors offer stories—including the misadventures of Civil War spies and the threat of looming German U-boats off the North Carolina coast—that provide important context and meaning to the history of North Carolina’s lighthouses. From Cape Fear to Currituck Beach, every still-standing lighthouse is lovingly described alongside their architects, builders, and keepers and the sailors who depended on the lighthouses to keep them from harm.

North Carolina Lighthouses is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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North Carolina Lighthouses

I have been visiting lighthouses since I was six months old, my mother has told me. Raised as a beach-going, tree-climbing, book-loving kid, lighthouses were a natural draw for me. In fact, some favorite things that Bruce Roberts and I instantly shared when we met in 1991 was love of travel, photography, and—yes, you guessed it—lighthouses. He had already completed Southern Lighthouses and was working on West Coast Lighthouses at that time while he was director of photography and senior photographer for Southern Living magazine. I was teaching full time, creating academically gifted curriculum for intermediate elementary students. Six months into our friendship, Bruce called me from a pay telephone at the McDonald Observatory when I was taking a summer graduate course at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He had tracked me down to pitch the idea of helping him with his book projects. I could barely hear him due to noise on the phone lines between Virginia and Texas, and I caught only every third word he spoke. But I got enough details to determine that I was being asked if I would consider including him and lighthouses in my future. I think I said, “Yes,” because, since then, we have photographed lighthouses on both coasts of the United States and Canada, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf Coast while gathering research and oral histories with keepers’ descendants for more than a dozen books.

When I proposed a rewritten and expanded edition of North Carolina Lighthouses: The Stories Behind the Beacons from Cape Fear to Currituck Beach to UNC Press, I felt confident that my problem would not be any lack for material … it would be the time-consuming task of sifting through my extensive collections to choose the most important details and interesting stories to include.

When I began researching North Carolina lighthouses thirty years ago, I honestly had no idea of the scope of history to which I’d be treated. They are just brick and mortar, right? Not quite. To our delight, Bruce and I have learned more American history than in any other educational experience on our research trips to study lighthouses. Our explorations led us to two National Archives and yielded frequent communication with librarians in numerous states as well as photographers, authors, lighthouse friends’ groups, and oral history interviews with keepers’ descendants who were born and raised at light stations.

Continue Reading Cheryl Shelton-Roberts: North Carolina Lighthouses

Author Interview: Lawrence N. Powell on the Power of Historical Memory

Troubled Memory, Second EditionLawrence N. Powell is professor emeritus of history at Tulane University and a founding member of the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism.  The new Second Edition of his book, Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke’s Louisiana, has just been published by UNC Press.

Troubled Memory tells the story of Anne Skorecki Levy, a Holocaust survivor who transformed the horrors of her childhood into a passionate mission to defeat the political menace of reputed neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The first book to connect the prewar and wartime experiences of Jewish survivors to the lives they subsequently made for themselves in the United States, the book is also a dramatic testament to how the experiences of survivors as new Americans spurred their willingness to bear witness. Perhaps the only family to survive the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto as a group, the Skoreckis evaded deportation to Treblinka by posing as Aryans. The family eventually made their way to New Orleans, where they became part of a vibrant Jewish community. Lawrence Powell traces their dramatic odyssey and explores the events that eventually triggered Anne Skorecki Levy’s brave decision to honor the suffering of the past by confronting the recurring specter of racist hatred.

Here, Powell answers questions from UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek about the power of the individual to take a stand against intolerance.

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One can only hope that a history, told honestly and without preachiness, still possesses the power to shape the values of young people. It’s why a lot of us became professional historians.

Q: Troubled Memory, which was first published in 2000, tells the story of Anne Skorecki Levy, a Holocaust survivor who launched a passionate mission to defeat reputed neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. What was the response to the first edition?

A: The first edition was very well received, both in Louisiana and nationwide. An author always hopes for boundless sales, which, of course, rarely happens with university press books. But I have no complaints about how well Troubled Memory did out of the gate.

Q: Why is it time for a second edition?

A: American, not to mention global, politics have taken a dangerous turn in the last five years. And it’s gotten especially worse since the 2016 presidential election. I felt it was time to remind readers of the perilous path the country is hurtling down, what with the pell-mell erosion of democratic norms and the explosion of racial hate and xenophobic scapegoating. There is no question but that hate crimes are spiking, and white nationalism is on the march. Despite his many denials, Donald Trump is the glue holding the fractured racist movements together. The best antidote, in my opinion, is a mobilized opposition. To that end, it’s useful to be reminded that ordinary people can still make a difference.

Troubled Memory is a saga of family survival in the midst of a world-historical tragedy that seeks to understand how historical memory can empower personal courage. Josef Stalin once cynically observed that the murder of a million is a statistic, but the death of a single individual is a tragedy. That’s why Troubled Memory tries to make the survival of one family and an extraordinary daughter do the work of recounting the story of six million.

Continue Reading Author Interview: Lawrence N. Powell on the Power of Historical Memory

Alexander Rocklin: Draupadi through the Fire

The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad by Alexander RocklinToday we welcome a guest post from Alexander Rocklin, author of The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad, just published this month by UNC Press.

How can religious freedom be granted to people who do not have a religion? While Indian indentured workers in colonial Trinidad practiced cherished rituals, “Hinduism” was not a widespread category in India at the time. On this Caribbean island, people of South Asian descent and African descent came together—under the watchful eyes of the British rulers—to walk on hot coals for fierce goddesses, summon spirits of the dead, or honor Muslim martyrs, practices that challenged colonial norms for religion and race. Drawing deeply on colonial archives, Alexander Rocklin examines the role of the category of religion in the regulation of the lives of Indian laborers struggling for autonomy.

The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Draupadi through the Fire

In August 2018, at a People’s National Movement (or PNM) Sports and Family Day gathering in Tabaquite, a majority Indian Trinidadian area in central Trinidad, PNM members put on a skit portraying a dancer in a yellow sari being disrobed by two men in red gorilla costumes (fully revealing a red PNM shirt underneath the sari). In Trinidad and Tobago national politics, red is the color of the PNM (the party in power in 2018). The PNM is popularly identified as looking after the interests of Afro-Trinbagonian. The color yellow is the color of the United National Congress (the UNC), a party most often identified with Indo-Trinbagonians. (Although it should be noted that both parties have leadership and membership from various ethnoracial groups on the islands). Tabaquite PNM constituency Chairman Curtis Shade explained later that the skit was not meant to be insulting, racist, or to depict violence. It was meant to portray Tabaquite’s movement “away from the yellow of the UNC to the joyful red of the PNM;”[1] that is, it showed Tabaquite’s Indo-Trinidadians’s new support for the PNM. This, however, was not how it was interpreted by some. Critics of the skit focused on its portrayal of violence against women and the reification of ethnoracial tensions in the twin-island nation, [2] and many UNC-allied critics focused specifically on religious insult to Indo-Trinbagonians. These critics followed a variety of avenues to mount a convincing case that the PNM insulted Indian religion in order to elicit an apology, ultimately tying the events of the skit to the epic protagonist Draupadi. Examining the changing fortunes of Draupadi in colonial Trinidad will allow us to flesh out a longer history of the politics of Hinduism and the category religion informing this incident. It was through a textually oriented ideal of religion, and not an insult to Draupadi herself, I will argue, that was the basis for offense in this case.

By convincingly tying the skit’s insult to a “sacred text,” critics were ultimately able to elicit an apology from Prime Minster Dr. Keith Rowley and the PNM. Specifically, they compared the skit to the scene of the disrobing of Draupadi from the Indian epic the Mahabharata. A letter to the editor of the Trinidad Express from the pundit Satyanand Maharaj, published the day after the skit’s performance read: “At the PNM national event the Hindu population was horrified as a scene from the Mahabharata was played out with negative religious and racial overtones. As a practising Hindu pundit I stood aghast, frozen in one spot as a group describing themselves as PNM Gorillas disrobed what appeared as a defenceless woman in a yellow sari. This scene is identical to [that] of the disrobing of Drupadi in the Mahabharata.” [3]

At a PNM political meeting held at the Malabar Community Centre, almost a week after the skit, Rowley finally issued an apology, recognizing the religious hurt to the Indo-Trinbagonian Hindu community. “Tonight, on behalf of the People’s National Movement and all concerned, I unreservedly apologise to the Hindu community.” Rowley said he had not heard the story of the Mahabharata before, but now knew that the skit had mirrored the disrobing scene.[4] Rowley said that he had learned that the Mahabharata was “a serious, spiritual, religious expression, of something that is extremely significant to the Hindu population” and that the skit was a “serious insult to their religious mythology” and he now understood “how deeply hurt and offended they were.”[5] The successful transfiguration of the skit into a reference to a rarefied “sacred text” or “mythology,” understood to be the very basis for religious beliefs and practices, is what made the claim to hurt convincingly “religious” in nature in this context (an argument among elites on the national stage).Continue Reading Alexander Rocklin: Draupadi through the Fire

UNC Press Receives NEH/Mellon Humanities Open Book Program Grant

UNC Press logo

The University of North Carolina Press has received a Humanities Open Book Program grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to reissue out-of-print works from the UNC Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures series.

The Press will partner with UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and the UNC Library on the initiative which will republish more than 120 monographs, translations, and critical editions. This is the first time these works will be available in digital editions, which will be free in open access PDF and EPUB formats, as well as in new paperback editions.

“We are very thankful for the generous support of the NEH and Mellon that will enable us to bring this body of work back into print,” said John McLeod, director of the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services at UNC Press. “We are also excited to be working on this initiative with our partners in the library and the department.”

The series was started by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages in 1953, and it published scholarship in the Germanic languages for more than fifty years, covering an array of topics including medieval and modern literature, theater, linguistics, philology, onomastics, and the history of ideas.

Continue Reading UNC Press Receives NEH/Mellon Humanities Open Book Program Grant

Aram Goudsouzian: Politics, Old and New

The Men and the MomentToday we welcome a guest post from Aram Goudsouzian, author of The Men and the Moment:  The Election of 1968 and the Rise of Partisan Politics in America, just published by UNC Press.

The presidential election of 1968 forever changed American politics. In this character-driven narrative history, Aram Goudsouzian portrays the key transformations that played out over that dramatic year. It was the last “Old Politics” campaign, where political machines and party bosses determined the major nominees, even as the “New Politics” of grassroots participation powered primary elections. It was an election that showed how candidates from both the Left and Right could seize on “hot-button” issues to alter the larger political dynamic. It showcased the power of television to “package” politicians and political ideas, and it played out against an extraordinary dramatic global tableau of chaos and conflict. More than anything else, it was a moment decided by a contest of political personalities, as a group of men battled for the presidency, with momentous implications for the nation’s future. Well-paced, accessible, and engagingly written, Goudsouzian’s book chronicles anew the characters and events of the 1968 campaign as an essential moment in American history, one with clear resonance in our contemporary political moment.

The Men and the Moment is avaialble now in both print and ebook editions.

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Politics, Old and New

Throughout the presidential election of 1968, pundits buzzed about the “New Politics.” The term had no single meaning, but it adopted special significance amidst that year’s great upheavals. At heart, the New Politics represented a new way of selecting party nominees for the presidency – by taking politics right to the people. Although no candidate of the New Politics triumphed in 1968, the trend had profound implications for the nation’s future, showcasing both the promises and perils of popular democracy.

Under the “Old Politics,” party insiders controlled the nominating process. Only a handful of states had open primaries, where popular votes determined the delegation at the national party convention. In other states, a prominent politician ran as a “favorite son,” so he could control those delegates and trade political favors. In still other states, the primaries were “beauty contests,” with no effect on the actual delegation. Many states had no primary at all – just a convention of party officials. So the national delegates tended to be products of the party bureaucracy, often more loyal to party leaders than popular preference.

Continue Reading Aram Goudsouzian: Politics, Old and New

Alexander Rocklin: Caravan Politics

The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad by Alexander RocklinToday we welcome a guest post from Alexander Rocklin, author of The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad, just published this month by UNC Press.

How can religious freedom be granted to people who do not have a religion? While Indian indentured workers in colonial Trinidad practiced cherished rituals, “Hinduism” was not a widespread category in India at the time. On this Caribbean island, people of South Asian descent and African descent came together—under the watchful eyes of the British rulers—to walk on hot coals for fierce goddesses, summon spirits of the dead, or honor Muslim martyrs, practices that challenged colonial norms for religion and race. Drawing deeply on colonial archives, Alexander Rocklin examines the role of the category of religion in the regulation of the lives of Indian laborers struggling for autonomy.

The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Caravan Politics: Massacres and Islamophobia in the History of the Americas

On January 18th, 2019, during the government shutdown, President Donald Trump tweeted a quote from an unnamed rancher on the US Mexico border claiming, “We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.” The president went on to write that migrants were crossing “the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.”[1] Trump was using this rumor as a dog whistle to spark Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment to drum up support for a wall along the southern border. Months earlier, in the lead up to 2018 midterm elections, the Trump administration had again attempted to play on voters’ fears of illegal immigration by hyping the supposed danger of a migrant “caravan” coming to the US from Honduras, the arrival of which, they claimed, threatened the very fabric of American society. They made the (unfounded) claim that Islamic terrorists were using the migrant caravan as cover to sneak into the country. This played into ongoing Islamophobic, anti-Latinx, and antisemitic hatred on the right of the American political spectrum. Trump tweeted about the caravan that, “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy [sic].”[2] This was echoed by Vice President Mike Pence, who, in his comments, specifically referred to the threat coming from Middle Eastern terrorists at the US/Mexico border.[3] These conspiracy theories about hidden non-white, non-American, and non-Christian invaders has helped to justify Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s harsh treatment of vulnerable groups fleeing violence in Central America and looking for new opportunities in the US. It also has helped to fuel racist violence like the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27th, 2018 by a white supremacist who massacred 11 people. However, although islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments are pervasive in our political discourse, the conflation of the two is not new.

The details and uses of these conspiracy theories about the caravan in the 21st century have echoes in a longer history of Islamophobia and white supremacy in the Anglophone Americas and beyond. In the 19th century, media in England and British colonies in the Caribbean repeated narratives of secret Muslim invaders from afar bent on using large processions of people as cover to attack the social order. As I discuss in chapter 3 of my book, The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad, such stories helped to justify the repression and close control, and even the killing, of vulnerable colonized and unfree laboring populations like Indian indentured laborers in the Caribbean colonies of Trinidad and British Guiana.

Continue Reading Alexander Rocklin: Caravan Politics

Author Interview: A conversation with Kathleen Sprows Cummings, author of A Saint of Our Own

Kathleen Sprows Cummings is the author of A Saint of Our Own:  How the Quest for a Holy Hero Helped Catholics Become American, just published by UNC Press.

A Saint of Our Own by Kathleen Sprows CummingsWhat drove U.S. Catholics in their arduous quest, full of twists and turns over more than a century, to win an American saint? The absence of American names in the canon of the saints had left many of the faithful feeling spiritually unmoored. But while canonization may be fundamentally about holiness, it is never only about holiness, reveals Kathleen Sprows Cummings in this panoramic, passionate chronicle of American sanctity. Catholics had another reason for petitioning the Vatican to acknowledge an American holy hero. A home-grown saint would serve as a mediator between heaven and earth, yes, but also between Catholicism and American culture. Cummings’s vision of American sanctity shows just how much Catholics had at stake in cultivating devotion to men and women perched at the nexus of holiness and American history—until they finally felt little need to prove that they belonged.

A Saint of Our Own is available now in both print and ebook editions.

Cummings recently sat down with UNC Press publicist Alison Shay to discuss the book.

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Q: What has motivated U.S. Catholics’ search for a saint of their own?

A: The primary reason U.S. Catholics began to seek a saint of their own in the 1880s was spiritual. Through canonization, the church affirms that the saint, having practiced certain virtues to a heroic degree, passed immediately upon death into the company of God and all the saints, where he or she is an advocate for and inspiration to the faithful on earth. In asking the Holy See to certify that a man or woman who had once lived in the United States now dwelled in God’s eternal presence, U.S. Catholics hoped to gain a saint with whom they could claim a special connection.

But if U.S. Catholics believed securing a saint of their own would draw them a little closer to heaven, they also hoped it would increase their standing in the eyes of the universal church. In naming a U.S. saint, the Holy See would be acknowledging that Catholic holiness could indeed thrive in a religiously diverse culture such as America—and that the church in the United States had acquired the resources and influence required to sponsor causes for canonization.

Finally, U.S. Catholics believed that their non-Catholic fellow citizens would also be impressed by the stories of U.S. candidates for canonization, men and women who had also been significant figures in American history. In emphasizing the ways that holy heroes had helped build the nation, U.S. Catholics hoped to persuade an often-skeptical Protestant public that Catholics could be loyal American citizens.

Q: What do you mean when you say that this quest helped Catholics become American? How did prospective saints help integrate Catholics into American life?

A: Canonization may be fundamentally about holiness, but it is never only about holiness. In the United States, it was often about the ways in which Catholics defined, defended, and celebrated their identities as Americans. Saint-seekers nominated candidates for canonization based not only on the virtues they were said to have practiced, but also on the national values they were understood to have epitomized. While the Catholic criteria held constant, American ideals fluctuated dramatically between the 1880s and 2015—a factor that helps to explain both why the search for a U.S. patron saint is so revealing, and why it ended in a way that would have surprised those who had launched it in the first place.

For nearly a century, U.S. Catholics’ search for a patron saint had sustained them as they struggled to gain a voice in their church and a comfortable place in their nation. By the 1970s, there was no question that U.S. Catholics exercised a powerful influence at the Holy See and throughout American government, culture, and society. By then it would be divisions among U.S. Catholics, rather than the differences between them and their fellow citizens, that would be the driving force in canonization. Unlike those of the past, today’s saint-seekers rarely project their American stories on their favorite saints. Instead they are more inclined to use saints’ stories to express where they position themselves as Catholics, especially on divisive issues involving gender and sexuality.

Continue Reading Author Interview: A conversation with Kathleen Sprows Cummings, author of A Saint of Our Own

Ali Altaf Mian: Who is Allah? Islamic Diversity for Muslims and non-Muslims

Today we welcome a guest post from Ali Altaf Mian, assistant professor of Islamic studies at Seattle University.  Today he writes about Who is Allah? by Bruce B. Lawrence, a book he has been assigning students in his courses.  The paperback edition of Who is Allah? will be released in July by UNC Press.

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Who is Allah? Islamic Diversity for Muslims and non-Muslims 

Who Is Allah? by Bruce B. LawrenceBruce B. Lawrence’s sustained reflections on Allah have repeatedly helped me to introduce students to the affective texture of lived Islam. Lawrence invites us to listen attentively to diverse embodiments of Islam. He studies how Allah is invoked by tongues, defined by minds, and remembered by hearts but also how Allah is debated in public, in print, and online, by writers, by artists, by ideologues.

Who is Allah? models important habits of thinking critically but also creatively about religion and the key terms we often associate with it, from belief and ritual to violence and evil. The book never fails to generate productive conversations in the classroom because it encourages Muslims and non-Muslims readers alike to look for Allah, to study how religious signifiers matter, often in unexpected places.

Can you see Allah in embodied settings that transcend theological arguments and jurisprudential dicta? How does Allah reside in the mystic’s heart but also in the terrorist’s cell? How does Allah flow on the poet’s tongue but also on the ideologue’s website?

Continue Reading Ali Altaf Mian: Who is Allah? Islamic Diversity for Muslims and non-Muslims

David J. Neumann: Karma

Finding God Through Yoga by David J. NeumannToday we welcome a guest post from David J. Neumann, author of Finding God through Yoga:  Paramahansa Yogananda and Modern American Religion in a Global Age, just published by UNC Press.

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952), a Hindu missionary to the United States, wrote one of the world’s most highly acclaimed spiritual classics, Autobiography of a Yogi, which was first published in 1946 and continues to be one of the best-selling spiritual philosophy titles of all time. In this critical biography, David Neumann tells the story of Yogananda’s fascinating life while interpreting his position in religious history, transnational modernity, and American culture. Beginning with Yogananda’s spiritual investigations in his native India, Neumann tells how this early “global guru” emigrated to the United States in 1920 and established his headquarters, the Self-Realization Fellowship, in Los Angeles, where it continues today.

Finding God through Yoga is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Karma

Among the many concepts from sacred Indian tradition that have made their way into American popular culture, perhaps none is as pervasive as karma. Not surprisingly, common understanding of karma as a rigid cosmic law of cause and effect reflects a lack of nuance.

For one example of such popular misunderstanding, consider Alicia Keys’ song “Karma,” which moved to the top of the charts after its 2003 release. The song is addressed to a former lover who broke up with her. She had begged him to stay, but he said “the love was gone.” But the tables have turned; he has changed his mind and now he is the one “cryin’, desirin’ to come back.” In Keys’ view, the suffering her ex-lover experiences after having inflicted so much pain on her is perfect, unrelenting karmic justice: “What goes around, comes around/What goes up, must come down,” the refrain proclaims four times during the song.

This idea of an inexorable, impersonal force of judgment is not a complete misunderstanding of Hindu thought. Swami Vivekananda, one of the most important figures in popularizing Hinduism in the United States around the turn of the twentieth-century, emphatically stated, “Our Karma determines what we deserve and what we can assimilate. We are responsible for what we are; and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves.”

Continue Reading David J. Neumann: Karma

Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 2

The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880Today we welcome a second guest post from Wendy Gonaver, author of The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880, just published this month by UNC Press.  You can read the first installment here.

Though the origins of asylums can be traced to Europe, the systematic segregation of the mentally ill into specialized institutions occurred in the Unites States only after 1800, just as the struggle to end slavery took hold. In this book, Wendy Gonaver examines the relationship between these two historical developments, showing how slavery and ideas about race shaped early mental health treatment in the United States, especially in the South. She reveals these connections through the histories of two asylums in Virginia: the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, the first in the nation; and the Central Lunatic Asylum in Petersburg, the first created specifically for African Americans. Eastern Lunatic Asylum was the only institution to accept both slaves and free blacks as patients and to employ slaves as attendants.

The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880 is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 2

Dorothea Dix marveled at the liberties extended to patients at the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, but was shocked by the authority entrusted to enslaved attendants. These attendants were the gatekeepers and guardians of the room keys; they grew, prepared, and delivered the food; they initiated and took patients on excursions; they bathed and shaved patients who were willing but unable to attend to personal hygiene. Most controversially, enslaved attendants were authorized to seize unruly patients—black and white—and subject them to restraint, showers, and isolation, as well as forcibly administer medication and food on the doctor’s orders. It was not the injustice of uncompensated labor to which Dix objected; she didn’t earn a wage for her advocacy work and recommended that Superintendent John M. Galt employ nuns. Her concern stemmed from her belief that African Americans lacked the ability to provide exemplary moral care.

As someone who looked favorably upon the Dred Scott decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans, whether free on enslaved, were not and could never be U.S. citizens, the close contact between black and white Virginians offended Dix. She was not alone in this regard. Prominent northern superintendents also disapproved of the anomalous governance of the Williamsburg asylum. They disparaged the institution at professional meetings, in the pages of the American Journal of Insanity, and in private letters to one another and to politicians responsible for funding asylum construction. Superintendent Galt countered these criticisms with assurances that the enslaved staff was trustworthy. He also insisted that asylums were ethically obligated to accept all needy patients without regard to race or social class.

Galt complicated his effort to persuade colleagues of the merits of racially mixed institutions by simultaneously publishing essays decrying the alleged abuse of the South by the North over the issue of slavery. Whatever their opinions about slavery, northern superintendents perceived that the presence of black patients on the wards would denote pauper disgrace to their white clientele.

Continue Reading Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 2

David J. Neumann: What is Yoga? Who is a Yogi?

Finding God Through Yoga by David J. NeumannToday we welcome a guest post from David J. Neumann, author of Finding God through Yoga:  Paramahansa Yogananda and Modern American Religion in a Global Age, just published by UNC Press.

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952), a Hindu missionary to the United States, wrote one of the world’s most highly acclaimed spiritual classics, Autobiography of a Yogi, which was first published in 1946 and continues to be one of the best-selling spiritual philosophy titles of all time. In this critical biography, David Neumann tells the story of Yogananda’s fascinating life while interpreting his position in religious history, transnational modernity, and American culture. Beginning with Yogananda’s spiritual investigations in his native India, Neumann tells how this early “global guru” emigrated to the United States in 1920 and established his headquarters, the Self-Realization Fellowship, in Los Angeles, where it continues today.

Finding God through Yoga is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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What is Yoga? Who is a Yogi?

Yoga has become an inescapable facet of contemporary life around the world. The U.N. declaration of International Yoga Day in 2015 serves as a fitting symbol of the global spread of this popular practice.

The establishment of this annual yoga commemoration was largely due to the efforts of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a tireless promoter of Indian tradition. In acknowledging the UN’s decision, he waxed poetic about India’s gift of yoga to the world, offering a capacious definition of yoga practice.

“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

Continue Reading David J. Neumann: What is Yoga? Who is a Yogi?

Aline Helg: Slave runaway communities: the ongoing struggle

Slave No More by Aline HelgToday we welcome a guest post from Aline Helg, author of Slave No More:  Self-Liberation before Abolitionism in the Americas, just published this month by UNC Press.

Commanding a vast historiography of slavery and emancipation, Helg reveals as never before how significant numbers of enslaved Africans across the entire Western Hemisphere managed to free themselves hundreds of years before the formation of white-run abolitionist movements. Her sweeping view of resistance and struggle covers more than three centuries, from early colonization to the American and Haitian revolutions, Spanish American independence, and abolition in the British Caribbean. Helg not only underscores the agency of those who managed to become “free people of color” before abolitionism took hold but also assesses in detail the specific strategies they created and utilized.

Slave No More is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Slave runaway communities: the ongoing struggle

Today, descendants of slave runaway communities all over the Americas struggle for survival on land that their ancestors worked on for generations after their successful flight to freedom. In the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, the Pacific lowlands of Colombia and Ecuador, the forests of Suriname, and throughout Brazil, they realize that their subsistence is once more under tremendous threats. The legal gains they made in the 1990s and 2000s, when new national constitutions and international court rulings recognized their cultural and territorial ownership rights, are under the attack of the very States supposed to protect them. In the name of national development, States allow, discretely or explicitly, national and multinational companies to invade their lands and launch mining, logging, and other extractive activities. These invasions jeopardize the livelihood of the descendants of slave runaway communities and generate violence, including the murder of their leaders and forced displacement. They also present global environmental threats, as they contribute to the destruction of forests and lowlands today considered ecological sanctuaries.

Slave runaway communities originated in the transatlantic slave trade that disembarked a total of over ten million enslaved Africans alive, to work in plantations, mines and all kinds of production and services. In fact, until the early nineteenth century, forcibly deported Africans were almost four times more numerous to arrive in the Americas than European colonists. As a result, whites were a minority in a population mostly comprised of Amerindians, Africans and their descendants. Moreover, colonization went along with slavery, and in the process large numbers of enslaved Africans managed to escape their harsh conditions and headed for the interior, into uninhabited or Amerindian territories. Throughout the continent and the Caribbean islands, runaway slaves, sometimes with indigenous peoples and other fugitives, fashioned settlements known as maroon communities in English, palenques in Spanish, and quilombos in Portuguese.

Continue Reading Aline Helg: Slave runaway communities: the ongoing struggle

American History Sale 2019 — Save 40 percent on all UNC Press books!

UNC Press American HIstory Sale

It’s that time of the year again, time to celebrate American History and our great list of new UNC Press books.

We are extremely excited about our new American History books, and as a gift to you, we’ve put them all on sale!  To see our full selection of books in American History, visit the sale page on the UNC Press website. Use discount code 01DAH40 at checkout to see your discount, and if your order total is $75 or more, we’ll ship it for free!

Oh, and by the way . . . you can use the promo code 01DAH40 to save on ANY UNC Press print book, in any subject!

Here’s a small sample of our newest American History titles.

Visit the sale page for the full list.

Happy shopping!


Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 1

The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880Today we welcome the first of two guest posts from Wendy Gonaver, author of The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880, just published this month by UNC Press.

Though the origins of asylums can be traced to Europe, the systematic segregation of the mentally ill into specialized institutions occurred in the Unites States only after 1800, just as the struggle to end slavery took hold. In this book, Wendy Gonaver examines the relationship between these two historical developments, showing how slavery and ideas about race shaped early mental health treatment in the United States, especially in the South. She reveals these connections through the histories of two asylums in Virginia: the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, the first in the nation; and the Central Lunatic Asylum in Petersburg, the first created specifically for African Americans. Eastern Lunatic Asylum was the only institution to accept both slaves and free blacks as patients and to employ slaves as attendants.

The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880 is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 1

Prisons have become the primary providers of psychiatric treatment for many Americans much as they were in the 1840s when the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, the organization that eventually became the American Psychiatric Association, was founded. Then as now, prisons were not designed to provide mental health care. A 2015 Human Rights Watch report documents the consequences of this incongruity: delusional prisoners unable to follow strict rules and commands are subjected to excessive force with alarming frequency. A particularly brutal case in point that made national headlines in 2012 was that of Darren Rainey, a 50-year-old schizophrenic man who died at Florida’s Dade Correctional Institution after being locked in a scalding shower for over an hour by guards who were angry that he had defecated on his cell floor. Rainey did not have access to the temperature controls. Witnesses later testified that he begged to be let out before collapsing.

The abuse of mentally disabled prisoners is a familiar story that was first popularized by reformer Dorothea Dix in 1842. Disgusted by the widespread use of restraints, incidents of sexual assault, and the practice of convict leasing, Dix goaded legislators to fix the faulty policies that had produced this humanitarian crisis. State and federal governments responded by building asylums. By the end of the 1850s, there were 29 public asylums in operation throughout the country. In theory if not always in practice, these institutions offered a gentler approach to managing mental illness. Asylum Superintendents sought to minimize the use of restraints, relying instead on positive inducements to encourage temperate behavior and the calming influence of a carefully conceived environment.

So why didn’t the proliferation of asylums in the nineteenth century solve the problem of mentally ill people being held and mistreated in prisons? Explanations for the current crisis commonly cite gradual disillusionment with the curative potential promised by early asylum boosters, followed by equally unrealistic expectations beginning in the 1950s that drugs like chlorpromazine would make costly residential institutions redundant. Missing from this account, however, is the role of race in the advent and demise of American asylums.

Continue Reading Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 1

Meet Bruce Moffett: author of Bruce Moffett Cooks (video)

Bruce Moffett CooksUNC Press is proud to be publishing chef Bruce Moffett’s new book, Bruce Moffett Cooks:  A New England Chef in a New South Kitchen.  Publishing today, the book is available in both print and ebook editions.

A native New Englander, chef Bruce Moffett fell in love with the South. Founding chef of three Charlotte restaurants—Barrington’s, Good Food on Montford, and Stagioni—Moffett is known for creating dishes inspired by both New England and southern culinary traditions. With the simple, compelling aim of making people happy through his cooking, the chef builds immense flavors in every morsel he prepares and serves—and in this lavishly illustrated cookbook he shows you how to do the same.

In this short video from 2013 (produced as part of the Competition Dining Series), Bruce talks about how he came to Charlotte and his approach to food and cooking.

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Bruce Moffett is founder-chef of Barrington’s, Good Food on Montford, and Stagioni, all in Charlotte. A James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast, he was honored as Restauranteur of the Year by Charlotte Magazine, and Good Food on Montford was recognized by ZAGAT’s Top Restaurants in America Guide.  Follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.

 

Aline Helg: Beyond the image of the “male slave rebel”

Slave No More by Aline HelgToday we welcome a guest post from Aline Helg, author of Slave No More:  Self-Liberation before Abolitionism in the Americas, just published this month by UNC Press.

Commanding a vast historiography of slavery and emancipation, Helg reveals as never before how significant numbers of enslaved Africans across the entire Western Hemisphere managed to free themselves hundreds of years before the formation of white-run abolitionist movements. Her sweeping view of resistance and struggle covers more than three centuries, from early colonization to the American and Haitian revolutions, Spanish American independence, and abolition in the British Caribbean. Helg not only underscores the agency of those who managed to become “free people of color” before abolitionism took hold but also assesses in detail the specific strategies they created and utilized.

Slave No More is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Beyond the image of the “male slave rebel”

Slave insurrections have long been the privileged focus of historians of slavery in the Americas. The reasons for that choice are multiple. Revolts powerfully demonstrate that far from being submissive, enslaved peoples fought, risked—and often lost—their lives to gain freedom. Revolts are spectacular and bloody, they have their heroes and victims, and they can be forcefully narrated. Revolts are “visible” because they produced abundant documents on which historians can draw. And slave revolts seemed a natural focus of research to historians seeking to explain contemporary social movements: it is no accident that the first studies of slave revolts emerged in the 1930s and multiplied after 1960, when the Americas were shaken by Marxist revolutions, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, and a new wave of independence.

C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins (1938) was a wake-up call in this process, as it brought to the forefront the longest, largest and exceptionally successful Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). After 1960, scholars of slavery attempted to classify and hierarchize slaves’ resistance to their condition, beginning with accommodation (considered to be passive and nonheroic) and culminating with armed revolt. They distinguished violent from nonviolent resistance (often contradictorily referring to the latter as “passive resistance”). For most historians, violent forms of resistance consisted in marronage, suicide, murder, conspiracy, and revolt. In contrast, recourse to legal rights and the courts, self-purchase, cultural practices, and religion were categorized as nonviolent resistance. From this hierarchization, the triumphant image of the male rebel slave emerged and became the reigning model. Some historians, focalized on that image, conflated conspiracy or even the suspicion of a plot with revolt, and hypothesized that if certain rebellions had not been rapidly contained and other plots denounced just before they were carried out, they could have become revolts as widespread as the Haitian Revolution.

Continue Reading Aline Helg: Beyond the image of the “male slave rebel”

Author Interview: A conversation with Scott Huler, author of A Delicious Country

Scott Huler is the author of A Delicious Country: Rediscovering the Carolinas along the Route of John Lawson’s 1700 Expedition, just published this month by UNC Press. 

A Delicious Country by Scott HulerIn 1700, a young man named John Lawson left London and landed in Charleston, South Carolina, hoping to make a name for himself. For reasons unknown, he soon undertook a two-month journey through the still-mysterious Carolina backcountry. His travels yielded A New Voyage to Carolina in 1709, one of the most significant early American travel narratives, rich with observations about the region’s environment and Indigenous people. In 2014, Scott Huler made a surprising decision: to leave home and family for his own journey by foot and canoe, faithfully retracing Lawson’s route through the Carolinas. This is the chronicle of that unlikely voyage, revealing what it’s like to rediscover your own home.

A Delicious Country is available now in both print and ebook editions.

Huler sat down with UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek recently to discuss the book and the journey behind it.

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Q: Who was John Lawson?

SH: John Lawson was a young Englishman who, in 1700, for reasons unknown to this day, left London and sailed to North America. He hung around Charles-town for a few months, then in late 1700 left with a group of traders and Indian guides on a trek that took him through the then-little-known Carolina backcountry (Carolina was still a single colony). He emerged months later on the Pamlico Sound, near what today we would call Little Washington. The notes from his journey formed the foundation for A New Voyage to Carolina (1709), the most important book to emerge from early colonial Carolina. Historians and scientists today still refer to his descriptions of flora, fauna, inhabitants, and geography, and his botanical specimens were part of the collection that created the British Museum, where they still reside. He also helped found and develop both Bath and New Bern, North Carolina’s first two incorporated cities, and was named surveyor general of the colony. He was captured and killed by the Tuscarora in 1711, the very first casualty of the Tuscarora War.

Q: Lawson was a complicated character. Can you talk more about this?

SH: A young man in England in the late 1600s, he appears to have been fascinated by the members of the Royal Society and clearly wanted to leave that kind of mark, somehow. He describes in his book being talked out of a European adventure he considered and being guided instead to Carolina, and I love the sort of “go west, young man” of this moment. Once in North America, he did everything: he went on adventures, gathered botanical specimens for British collectors, met with Indians, bought and developed land, and became part of the political structure. Complicated is right. On one hand, he was very advanced in his thinking: he loved the Indians and saw them as fully human, even advocating intermarriage and describing them as morally superior to the Christian colonists. On the other hand, he was a man of his time and had no trouble acquiring their land to develop for his own purposes. In this way he’s a perfect expression of that moment when European society was emerging into modernity, still carrying some pretty bestial ideas and practices with it, as colonial history powerfully demonstrates.

Q: Lawson seems to be largely forgotten. Would you have rather known more about Lawson, or was not knowing part of the experience?

SH: Ha! It’s funny because I want everyone else to know more about him now, but I loved the feeling of discovery that attended every step of both my research and my journey retracing his. “Wait, he said the Indians were better to the colonists than the colonists were to the Indians? What?” “Wait, you can still see his actual botanical specimens in London?” “Wait — he advocated intermarriage? What?” Apart from his amazing contributions to the historical and scientific record, his profound decency towards the Indians astonished me over and over, and I love having the opportunity to share this with people who should know him better. I think of him as the sort of William Penn of North Carolina: our “first citizen,” whose words and actions affect us to this day, though so many of us don’t know a thing about him.

Continue Reading Author Interview: A conversation with Scott Huler, author of A Delicious Country

Women’s History Month Reading List for 2019

UNC Press has a long history of publishing outstanding work in the field of Women’s History and Women’s Studies. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to highlight some of the great work we’ve been proud to publish in the past year.

Here’s our Women’s History Month reading list for 2019.  To browse our complete Women’s Studies collection, visit the UNC Press website.

And, during our American History Books Sale, you can save big on all these great books.  Just use promo code 01DAH40 to get 40 percent discount, and free shipping for orders over $75.00.

Happy Women’s History Month from UNC Press!


Simon Wolfgang Fuchs: The Party Capitals of the Iranian Revolution

In a Pure Muslim Land by Simon Wolfgang FuchsToday we welcome a guest post from Simon Wolfgang Fuchs, author of In a Pure Muslim Land:  Shi’ism between Pakistan and the Middle East, publishing this April from UNC Press.

Centering Pakistan in a story of transnational Islam stretching from South Asia to the Middle East, Simon Wolfgang Fuchs offers the first in-depth ethnographic history of the intellectual production of Shiʿis and their religious competitors in this “Land of the Pure.” The notion of Pakistan as the pinnacle of modern global Muslim aspiration forms a crucial component of this story. It has empowered Shiʿis, who form about 20 percent of the country’s population, to advance alternative conceptions of their religious hierarchy while claiming the support of towering grand ayatollahs in Iran and Iraq.

In a Pure Muslim Land is available for pre-order now.

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Tehran, Beirut, Lahore: The Party Capitals of the Iranian Revolution

The Iranian Revolution of February 1979 continues to baffle us. On its fortieth anniversary, there is widespread incomprehension in the US and Europe why the Iranian people went for a ride with the Mullahs. Why on earth did a country that was seemingly on the verge of becoming the next South Korea willingly pull the emergency brake on its bullet train to modernity? Nostalgia looms large when observers point out that in an alternate version of history, Iranian women would still be wearing miniskirts and bathing suits instead of “black tents”. Why did Iran’s people have more faith in bearded clerics than in their dashing former leader, the Shah, who turned the Swiss winter resort of St. Moritz every year into the European extension of his imperial glamour? When one follows the coverage of the Iranian Revolution, disillusionment and failure are the catchwords of the day. Analyses and features underline that the Revolution did not live up to its promises and the initial excitement. The upheaval surely devoured its own children, meaning liberals, leftists, and dissident clerics, who were driven into exile, arrested, or executed. Think tanks and analysts have long predicted that the regime will ultimately collapse, that repression and economic hardship will mean that Iran, the pariah in the international system, is doomed. In sum, the Revolution was an experiment that went terribly wrong. It never managed to catch on outside the borders of Iran, with the notable exception perhaps of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Continue Reading Simon Wolfgang Fuchs: The Party Capitals of the Iranian Revolution

Gina Mahalek: What Karen Barker, “Greatest Pastry Chef,” Taught Me About Dessert

Karen Barker (Photo by Ann Hawthorne)

Karen Barker (Photo by Ann Hawthorne)

Every time I eat a truly great dessert, I think of Karen Barker.

In addition to being a James Beard Award Winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Karen was also a great teacher—as I learned when working with her on publicizing and taking a deep, sweet dive into her masterful 2004 cookbook from UNC Press, Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker’s American Desserts.

She taught me to consider whether a dessert “ate interestingly” all the way through, and forever changed the way I appreciate the concluding course to a meal. I learned from Karen that “It’s more interesting to eat a layering of flavors in a dessert so that it’s not one-dimensional.” She also believed that “When you sit down to a plate of something, it’s nice not to have every bite taste exactly the same. There should be flavor contrasts, temperature contrasts, and textural contrasts.”

Karen also brought a wabi-sabi sensibility to baking, finding homey imperfections charming because “they let the diner know that the items are handmade.” I still take comfort in these words whenever a pie bubbles up around the rim or a cut-out cookie crumbles around the edges.

When I asked her how she managed to stay so slim, despite having a job that literally kept her up to her elbows in chocolate ganache, she acknowledged that if she ate everything that she prepared, she’d be “as big as a house!” However, she confirmed that she tasted everything she made throughout her workday, and that treating one’s self every day to “a single, great, crisp cookie” can be a very good thing.

And she believed that “a great dessert can leave an impression that lasts a lifetime.”

Just before the publication of Sweet Stuff, Karen shared her some of her best baking tips for professional results (and ways to show loved ones some sugar) with me in this Q & A:

Q: What distinguishes restaurant desserts from homemade desserts?

Karen: I think that restaurant desserts tend to be a bit more elaborate than those that people tackle at home. And it’s not that the base recipes are difficult—it’s just that there are more components on a plate and more attention is paid to textural and temperature contrasts. In other words, a restaurant dessert might include a slice of cake with an accompanying sauce and an ice cream or a fruit garnish.

Chefs also consider what a dessert will look like when it’s individually plated and put down in front of somebody. At home, a cake might be brought to the table on a platter and sliced and served in front of the guests. It’s just a different way of thinking about presentation.

Continue Reading Gina Mahalek: What Karen Barker, “Greatest Pastry Chef,” Taught Me About Dessert