Giveaway: Win an Indie Bookstore Gift Certificate!

We at UNC Press deeply appreciate independent bookstores around the nation, as well as the hardworking booksellers who staff them. Not only are these bookstores essential to our business, but they are also vital community hubs where people can connect, access new ideas, and find books suited to their particular interests. In our home state of North Carolina, we are lucky to have a wealth of spectacular indie bookstores. However, on top of the usual trials of maintaining a small local business, indie bookstores face even more uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a way to spread the word about NC bookstores and support their efforts, we have purchased $75 gift certificates from eighteen different bookstores around the state, and we’re giving them away to encourage you to #ShopIndie, #ShopSmall, and #ShopNCBookstores. Even if you are not selected as a winner, please consider purchasing books at one of these stores or at another local bookshop this holiday season.

Winners are not limited to purchasing UNC Press books with their gift card, but we have lots of great books for everyone on your holiday list, all available through these independent bookstores.  Here’s a list of just a few—click on the link to visit the book’s page on Bookshop.org:

Below you’ll find a link to the giveaway for each bookstore. You may enter as many giveaways as you want, and we’ve provided a variety of ways to enter, whether it’s sharing the giveaway link with others, visiting the store’s website, or following us on social media.

You don’t have to be in North Carolina to win, but please note that the gift certificates are subject to the terms set by each individual store. While each store has an online shopping option, shipping options and costs will differ. If you’re not local, please check out the store’s website before you enter to ensure you can use your gift certificate from afar.

U.S. residents only, age 18+. Winners will be randomly selected using the Rewards Fuel platform. Enter by 11:59 PM ET on Sunday December 6th, 2020, for a chance to win.

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UNC Press and the Association for Public Religion and Intellectual Life (APRIL) Announce a New Partnership

Round logo: Association for Public Religion and Intellectual Life (APRIL) Since 1983

UNC Press is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Association for Public Religion and Intellectual Life on the publication CrossCurrents. The journal complements numerous areas of the Press’s book program such as religious studies, human rights, and social justice. Starting in 2021, CrossCurrents will be available from UNC Press to individuals who become APRIL members and to institutions. S. Brent Plate, who will be serving as editor after the retirement of Charles Henderson, discusses the journal and its network of scholars and writers.

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CrossCurrents has been published since 1950, and published by the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life (ARIL) since 1990—that’s quite a run. Can you tell us about how it started and how it has evolved through the years?

SBRP: CrossCurrents was founded by Joseph Cunneen. He’d been a soldier in Patton’s 3rd army and after the war was stationed in Paris. While there, he soaked up the intellectual climate and wondered why so few European religious intellectual ideas were reaching the United States. When he returned to the U.S. he began working toward what would become CrossCurrents, with the first issue being published in Fall of 1950. In that issue the editorial statement read, “our primary function will be to reprint outstanding articles from foreign and out-of-the-way sources that indicate the relevance of religion to the intellectual life.”

While Cunneen was Catholic, his interests and the interests of the journal were ecumenical, and they quickly began publishing work from Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish perspectives. The journal retained a largely Jewish and Christian orientation through the 1980s when we began to see more Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim voices and outlooks. Since around 1990, when ARIL became the publisher, CrossCurrents has become much more broadly interreligious.

Significantly too, the journal moved away from its European intellectual heritage, and started looking at what is going on in Asia and the Americas, as well as paying more attention to gender and social justice issues. CrossCurrents published a good deal of early feminist theology, beginning in the 1960s with Rosemary Radford Ruether’s writings, and the focus on gender has continued through today, including work on masculinity/men’s studies and religion.

In 1969, just a few months after Catholic theologians and clergy met in Medellin, Colombia, David Abalos worked through the documents and gave one of the first ever English-language summaries of what became the start of Liberation Theology. By the early 1970s, we had published works by several of the key Latin American theologians in the movement. The 1970s also saw a number of publications in black theology (we’re reprinting James Cones’s “Black Church and Black Theology” in the first issue of The Commons) and the beginnings of eco-theology and concerns for the environment.

Over the past twenty years CrossCurrents has published special issues on interreligious education and dialogue, sexuality and LGBTQ issues, poetics and aesthetics, religion and science, and religion and politics.

We take a “big tent” approach to the ways religious life meets the publics! And our new editorial team reflects that. Our new associate editors—Melanie Barbato, Amanullah de Sondy, Tim Beal, and Stephanie Mitchem—are connected with a variety of scholarly and public endeavors around the world.

Continue Reading UNC Press and the Association for Public Religion and Intellectual Life (APRIL) Announce a New Partnership

Rebecca Sharpless: Celebrating 50 Years of the Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH)

Today we welcome a guest post from Rebecca Sharpless, professor of history at Texas Christian University and past president of the Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH).

The Southern Association for Women Historians, founded in 1970, supports the study of women’s history and the work of women historians. The SAWH especially welcomes as members all women and men who are interested in the history of the U.S. South and/or women’s history, as well as all women historians in any field who live in the U.S. South.

See the guest post below to read about the history of the SAWH as the Association commemorates its fiftieth anniversary.

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The Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH) came about in 1970, when a group of women met in a basement room near the boilers of the Galt House Hotel in Louisville during the Southern Historical Association (SHA) annual meeting. Frustrated because they were not accepted onto panels or committees of the SHA, the women sought to establish a regional affiliate of the Coordinating Committee on Women in the Historical Profession. Their early goals were to look at women’s roles in the profession and to get women’s history into school curriculums. They pressed forward with another meeting the following year, concerned about the role of women in the academy in the South, the status of women in the SHA, and identification of archival sources on women’s history. And they persisted, becoming a formal organization in 1974.

From the beginning, the SAWH has emphasized mentoring graduate students and encouraging and recognizing scholarship on and by southern women. The Willie Lee Rose Prize, for the best book by a southern woman historian, and the Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, for the best book on southern women’s history, were first awarded in 1987. The A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize, for the best article in the field of southern women’s history, began in 1989. The best graduate student paper submitted at the triennial conference receives the Jacquelyn Dowd Hall Prize, established in 1992. And the Anne Firor Scott Mid-Career Fellowship, which provides funding for a second book or equivalent project, began in 2007.

Half a century of collegiality, encouragement, and recognition have made better the work and lives of innumerable scholars of southern women.

The SAWH sponsors two kinds of meetings. At the SHA each year, the SAWH address and reception are often the highlights of the meeting, and the graduate student and member breakfast connects new scholars with older members. The SAWH often sponsors a workshop as well. The multi-day triennial Southern Conference on Women’s History started in 1988, with panels and plenary speakers showcasing the newest and best work in southern women’s history. The meetings have occurred on university campuses across the South in efforts to be affordable to all attendees. The next conference, originally scheduled for 2021, has been pushed back to 2022 because of the pandemic. Between 1994 and 2009, the University of Missouri Press published seven volumes of essays based on conference presentations.

Continue Reading Rebecca Sharpless: Celebrating 50 Years of the Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH)

Douglas Flowe: The Conundrum of Writing About Race and Crime

"Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York" by Douglas J. Flowe

Today we welcome a guest post from Douglas Flowe, author of Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York, out now from UNC Press.

In the wake of emancipation, black men in northern urban centers like New York faced economic isolation, marginalization, and racial violence. In response, some of those men opted to participate in underground economies, to protect themselves when law enforcement failed to do so, and to exert control over public space through force. Douglas J. Flowe traces how public racial violence, segregation in housing and leisure, and criminal stigmatization in popular culture and media fostered a sense of distress, isolation, and nihilism that made crime and violence seem like viable recourses in the face of white supremacy. He examines self-defense against state violence, crimes committed within black social spaces and intimate relationships, and the contest of white and black masculinity.

Uncontrollable Blackness is available in paper and ebook formats.

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The Conundrum of Writing About Race and Crime

Writing about race and crime is very sensitive. Crime is a fraught topic on its own, but the addition of race makes it inflammatory. In Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York, I attempt to tell the stories of those men who, in fact, committed illegal acts, and those whose actions were criminalized by others. It was very important to me not to reproduce the idea that black men were more likely to be criminals than other men. They most certainly were not. The goal, however, was to understand how the society surrounding them had a part in making some men seek revolutionary ways of attaining the same freedoms, resources, and respect that all Americans sought at the time. Or, how that society criminalized them, regardless of their actions. Most black men did not commit street crimes or domestic violence, nor did they always participate in underground economies. Uncontrollable Blackness is about those men who did, or those who were treated as criminals whether they were or not.

Chapter four of Uncontrollable Blackness, which looks at instances of domestic violence and crimes meant to support households, was, in many ways, the most difficult chapter to write. There are multiple stories of struggles between men and women to control their households, and a few couples whose relationships end in abandonment or tragic moments of murder. Such endings were very rare, and do not represent what typically happened in black households. The sentiments of the men in that chapter also do not represent the way all, or even most, black men thought. To be certain, most black men did not abuse their spouses, and most black couples cared for each other in ways that supported and sustained themselves and their children into the future. But, the conundrum of mentioning those rare cases when violence and abuse happened is that it may seem as if one is arguing that dysfunction was typical in black families (as some scholars of the past have wrongly contended). That is certainly not my argument. Chapter four looks at these very uncommon occurrences only to give voice to those few men and women who committed these acts when their desires for sustainable lives and stable families were stunted by the vagaries of Jim Crow. The historical record makes clear that on occasion some relationships did end in violence, and as a historian, my mission is to comprehend how issues relating to housing, job insecurity, racial violence, and legal forms of public emasculation might have informed those times.

Continue Reading Douglas Flowe: The Conundrum of Writing About Race and Crime

Kelly A. Hammond: Islamophobia in Modern China

Today we welcome a guest post from Kelly A. Hammond, author of China’s Muslims and Japan’s Empire: Centering Islam in World War II, out now from UNC Press.

In this transnational history of World War II, Kelly A. Hammond places Sino-Muslims at the center of imperial Japan’s challenges to Chinese nation-building efforts. Revealing the little-known story of Japan’s interest in Islam during its occupation of North China, Hammond shows how imperial Japanese aimed to defeat the Chinese Nationalists in winning the hearts and minds of Sino-Muslims, a vital minority population. Offering programs that presented themselves as protectors of Islam, the Japanese aimed to provide Muslims with a viable alternative—and, at the same time, to create new Muslim consumer markets that would, the Japanese hoped, act to subvert the existing global capitalist world order and destabilize the Soviets.

China’s Muslims and Japan’s Empire is now available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Islamophobia is rampant in China. Stereotypes about Muslims as violent outsiders in China have long existed. Ever since 9/11, the Party-state has amplified long-held antagonisms and stereotypes toward Muslims. The result is a pacification campaign against people presented by the Party-state—both to domestic and international audiences—as terrorists. Although attention is currently focused on the Uighurs, there is mounting evidence that the CCP is taking aim at all Muslims, such as the Sino-Muslim actors who appear in my recent book. By bulldozing mosques, shuttering Islamic bookstores, removing Arabic script from storefronts and restaurants in an effort to “Sinicize” Islam, the Party’s goal seems to be the complete assimilation of Muslims and the eradication of Islamic practices in China. Most concerning, there is fear that the “re-education campaigns” will continue to spread to other Muslim ethnic minorities, like Kazakhs and the Hui.

Muslims in China already are particularly marginalized. They make up a small fraction of the overall population, and I would argue that the majority of Han Chinese citizens of the People’s Republic have internalized state-driven narratives about Muslims posing a threat to state stability. This is possible because of Islamophobia in China, but it is abetted by Islamophobia in North America and Europe. Moreover, Muslims in China are conveniently forgotten by Muslim governments like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which rely on economic linkages to the PRC.

Continue Reading Kelly A. Hammond: Islamophobia in Modern China

Emily Contois: How I Wrote My First Academic Book

Today we welcome a guest post from Emily J. H. Contois, author of Diners, Dudes, and Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture, out now from UNC Press.

The phrase “dude food” likely brings to mind a range of images: burgers stacked impossibly high with an assortment of toppings that were themselves once considered a meal; crazed sports fans demolishing plates of radioactively hot wings; barbecued or bacon-wrapped . . . anything. But there is much more to the phenomenon of dude food than what’s on the plate. Emily J. H. Contois’s provocative book begins with the dude himself—a man who retains a degree of masculine privilege but doesn’t meet traditional standards of economic and social success or manly self-control. In a work brimming with fresh insights about contemporary American food media and culture, Contois shows how the gendered world of food production and consumption has influenced the way we eat and how food itself is central to the contest over our identities.

This essay is cross-posted from Dr. Contois’s website. View the original blog post here, or check out the book page for Diners, Dudes, and Diets.

Diners, Dudes, and Diets is now available in paperback and ebook editions. The book is also featured in our American Studies Association virtual exhibit.

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Behind the Scenes Look: How I Wrote My First Academic Book

My first book, Diners, Dudes, and Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture comes out next week from the University of North Carolina Press, which is really exciting. (The pre-order promotion is still on, if you’re interested!) The book’s publication is also causing me to reflect on how I got here. We don’t often tell the stories of how books come to be. The nuts and bolts of how we actually wrote the thing. The lucky breaks that helped. The challenges that seemed insurmountable until we finally found a way through.

But let me be clear, this is NOT an advice post. For that, William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book is the book you need. I read it twice and referenced it multiple times as I wrote and revised.

So, here’s the story of how my book came to be.

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The research in Diners, Dudes & Diets started in my MLA thesis in Gastronomy at Boston University, “The Dudification of Dieting: Marketing Weight Loss Programs to Men in the Twenty-First Century”—though that project’s roots lie in my undergrad honors thesis, parts of which I eventually published in Fat Studies as “Guilt-Free and Sinfully Delicious: A Contemporary Theology of Weight Loss Dieting.” When I applied to PhD programs, I proposed expanding the thesis into a dissertation. I could have done that, but as I completed my field reading, I realized there was more I wanted to do. I kept my focus on masculinities but expanded beyond just dieting to food, cooking, and the broader food mediascape.

In grad school, I was told don’t write a dissertation, write a book. I tried, hard, to do that, but the thing is, when you’re a grad student, you have no idea how to write a dissertation or a book, so you’re just doing your best to write something that you can one day revise into a book. At least that’s how it was for me.

Continue Reading Emily Contois: How I Wrote My First Academic Book

Tony Tian-Ren Lin: Make America Dream Again

"Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream" by Tony Tian-Ren Lin

Today we welcome a guest post from Tony Tian-Ren Lin, author of Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream, out now from UNC Press.

In this immersive ethnography, Tony Tian-Ren Lin explores the reasons that Latin American immigrants across the United States are increasingly drawn to Prosperity Gospel Pentecostalism, a strand of Protestantism gaining popularity around the world. Lin contends that Latinos embrace Prosperity Gospel, which teaches that believers may achieve both divine salvation and worldly success, because it helps them account for the contradictions of their lives as immigrants. Weaving together his informants’ firsthand accounts of their religious experiences and everyday lives, Lin offers poignant insight into how they see their faith transforming them both as individuals and as communities.

Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream is now available in paperback and ebook editions.

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The American Dream is an enduring and inspiring claim about what defines our country. While the term was popularized in 1931 by James Truslow Adams, its principles were present before the founding of the nation. By 1782, the French American writer J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur wrote:

“What then is the American, this new man? . . . He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He has become an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all races are melted into a new race of man, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.”

The American Dream promises that anyone, regardless of their social position, can be as successful as they want. It is the myth of endless frontiers and infinite opportunities for all. It fuels the tale that upward mobility is possible for all who work hard, sacrifice, take risks, and follow the rules.

Yet despite its ardent devotees, the dream has not materialized for most. America is unrivaled in the inequality of its citizens.  Recently, the United States was ranked 27th in social mobility by the World Economic Forum. An American’s station in life is predetermined by the race and class they are born into. Social scientists have shown that the complexion of a person’s skin is a more powerful determinant of job acquisition than skills or education. Upward mobility may require hard work and sacrifice, but they are not sufficient for the majority of Americans.

Continue Reading Tony Tian-Ren Lin: Make America Dream Again

Author Interview: Jodi Eichler-Levine on Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis

"Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis: How Jews Craft Resilience and Create Community" by Jodi Eichler-Levine

In this Q&A, Jodi Eichler-Levine discusses her new book Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis: How Jews Craft Resilience and Create Community, out now from UNC Press.

Exploring a contemporary Judaism rich with the textures of family, memory, and fellowship, Jodi Eichler-Levine takes readers inside a flourishing American Jewish crafting movement. As she traveled across the country to homes, craft conventions, synagogue knitting circles, and craftivist actions, she joined in the making, asked questions, and contemplated her own family stories. Jewish Americans, many of them women, are creating ritual challah covers and prayer shawls, ink, clay, or wood pieces, and other articles for family, friends, or Jewish charities. But they are doing much more: armed with perhaps only a needle and thread, they are reckoning with Jewish identity in a fragile and dangerous world.

Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis is now available in paperback and ebook editions. It is the newest addition to our Where Religion Lives series.

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Q: What inspired the book title, Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis?

A: After I had begun my work on the book, I rediscovered an old needlepoint of a rabbi that my paternal grandmother made decades ago. It’s an immensely kitschy piece, and yet, I couldn’t let it go. The story of that picture became the prologue to the whole book. “Painted pomegranates” comes from the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework, one of the major sites for my research. At their biennial convention in 2017, I was struck by a banner that featured an enormous painted pomegranate. I love that this book title mixes the pomegranate, an ancient near eastern fertility symbol that was the talisman for an organization predominantly made up of women, with this stereotypical image of a bearded old, male sage grasping a Torah. It plays on our notions of femininity and masculinity in a book that explores how Jews do gender.

Peach State Stitchers, Pomegranate Guild banner, detail, Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework Biennial Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, May 2017. Photograph by the author.
Continue Reading Author Interview: Jodi Eichler-Levine on Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis

James Hudnut-Beumler: Will the Pandemic Lead to Catastrophe for Churches?

Today we welcome a guest post from James Hudnut-Beumler, author of In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism, as well as Strangers and Friends at the Welcome Table: Contemporary Christianities in the American South.

In this post, Hudnut-Beumler considers the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on church finances in the 2020 stewardship season and in years to come.

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Will the Pandemic Lead to Catastrophe for Churches?

What will the pandemic do to the churches? I am reading a fair amount of speculation on this question lately. There is a good reason for that — October and November are traditionally the time when churches try to secure financial pledges to support their operations for the coming year. Like many matters ecclesiastical, the season even has its own name — stewardship season. With the pandemic continuing and getting worse, pastors and lay leaders are wondering, “Will church finances get worse as well?” I get asked that question a fair amount these days. In my book, In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar, I explored 250 years of American Protestants raising and spending money for their churches. Looking to that history, I think we will see at least three things unfold in the coming months.

Religious leaders have often marveled that giving was holding up in 2020 even while houses of worship were closed and trying to stream stripped-down services and group gatherings. This did not surprise me, for the pattern in the 19th and 20th centuries, with their many economic panics, recessions, and depressions, was that people tended overwhelmingly to honor their pledges during the first year of an economic reversal. Yet they were also less likely to increase their giving in the five years after the start of a crisis. Even with the same memberships, the churches fell behind their former budgets in real dollar value, even years after the crisis was over. In my view, people who still felt insecure were less likely to make a voluntary commitment to the same or an increased pledge of support. The clear result was that clergy income always took a lasting hit. I predict the same depression of support happens after the current pandemic.

Churches are more resilient entities than some religious leaders fear.

The next thing we can foresee may make the post-pandemic religious scene worse. The tendency in religious life in recent decades has been toward a greater percentage of people attending large or mega-churches. These operations represent costly physical plants and programs relative to the way “church was done” a half-century ago. Decreased giving may reduce the numbers of staff or lead to actual bankruptcy on the part of big churches living on the edge of having just built a new campus addition premised on continuous growth. That is exactly what happened following the 1929 stock market crash. Among the nation’s many smaller churches already on the verge of financial viability, like after every recession, some will close.

The third thing I hear worries about among pastors is whether people will have un-learned the church habit and never return in an increasingly secular America. America’s voluntary approach to religion cuts both ways. You can have as much religion as someone is willing to pay for, but when the people and their giving decline, so does organized religion. While we have seen something like that with former mainline churches having problems passing on the faith to subsequent generations, I predict that church attendance will not suffer the catastrophe that some are predicting — at least not in the short term. Going to one’s house of worship and seeing one’s close friends and faith has an appeal that, at points, has even made the pandemic worse. Churches are more resilient entities than some religious leaders fear. But the economic shock that will last well beyond the pandemic will not make faith groups less relevant in the years ahead. Instead, these charitable and spiritual bodies can likely expect to be asked to do more with less.

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Photo by Vanderbilt University

James Hudnut-Beumler, a professor at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, is the author of In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism (UNC Press, 2007) and Strangers and Friends at the Welcome Table: Contemporary Christianities in the American South (UNC Press, 2018).

Maddalena Marinari: Whose Family is Worthy of Reuniting in the United States?

"Unwanted" by Maddalena Marinari

Today we welcome a guest post from Maddalena Marinari, author of Unwanted: Italian and Jewish Mobilization against Restrictive Immigration Laws, 1882-1965, available now from UNC Press.

In the late nineteenth century, Italians and Eastern European Jews joined millions of migrants around the globe who left their countries to take advantage of the demand for unskilled labor in rapidly industrializing nations, including the United States. Many Americans of northern and western European ancestry regarded these newcomers as biologically and culturally inferior—unassimilable—and by 1924, the United States had instituted national origins quotas to curtail immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Weaving together political, social, and transnational history, Maddalena Marinari examines how, from 1882 to 1965, Italian and Jewish reformers profoundly influenced the country’s immigration policy as they mobilized against the immigration laws that marked them as undesirable.

In this post, Marinari surveys the history of family reunion in U.S. immigration policy.

Unwanted is now available in paper and ebook editions.

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Whose Family is Worthy of Reuniting in the United States?

Like a century ago, the stalemate over immigration reform has caused long waiting lists, family separation, and hardship for those who leave and those who stay behind. Many of the immigrants targeted by the rigid immigration system that emerged in the 1920s often took riskier journeys to enter the country illegally. U.S. immigration laws also inspired other countries to pass similar legislation, thus creating a global regime of restriction. The impact of these earlier efforts reverberates to this day as we live in a world resurgent with walls, fences, detention centers, and heightened security that make mobility difficult and, for some, next to impossible. In a vicious cycle, increased border security creates the conditions for riskier journeys and harsher enforcement.

Continue Reading Maddalena Marinari: Whose Family is Worthy of Reuniting in the United States?

Author Interview: David Menconi on Step It Up and Go

In this Q&A, author David Menconi discusses his new book Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk, out today from UNC Press.

This book is a love letter to the artists, scenes, and sounds defining North Carolina’s extraordinary contributions to American popular music. David Menconi spent three decades immersed in the state’s music, where traditions run deep but the energy expands in countless directions. Menconi shows how working-class roots and rebellion tie North Carolina’s Piedmont blues, jazz, and bluegrass to beach music, rock, hip-hop, and more. From mill towns and mountain coves to college-town clubs and the stage of American Idol, Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk, Step It Up and Go celebrates homegrown music just as essential to the state as barbecue and basketball.

Step It Up and Go is now available in hardcover and ebook formats. Watch a promotional trailer for the book here.

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Q: You note that, “Music is North Carolina’s tuning fork—not tobacco, basketball, NASCAR, or even barbecue—because it’s not just in the air here, but also the soul.” I love that observation. Could you talk more about it?

A: North Carolina really is one of the most musical places I’ve ever been in, and the musical experience is one that just feels more important here than in a lot of other states. With so many of the best artists here, from giants to journeymen, music is not just what they do, it’s who they are. And North Carolina music really does seem to function as a homing beaconif you need to get here, you will. More than one North Carolina musical immigrant I’ve interviewed over the years has talked about this state as a place they were drawn to and instantly felt as if they’d just come home.

Q: Where are you from originally? When did you move to North Carolina, and what brought you here?

A: I was born in San Antonio and split the first half of my life between various cities in Texas and Colorado. After attending college in both states, I graduated from the University of Texas. I finally moved to North Carolina in January 1991 to take the music-critic job at the Raleigh News & Observer, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m not a North Carolina native, but I have lived here longer than anywhere else.

Q: Is it unusual for a state to have a book dedicated to its music? What makes North Carolina a good candidate for this kind of volume?

A: It is unusual! There are a handful of states that are head and shoulders above everywhere else in terms of the sheer amount of musical importance and influence (New Orleans/Louisiana comes to mind), but North Carolina is not far behind. We’ve given the world some of the most iconic musicians of the 20th century, including Nina Simone, Doc Watson and John Coltrane, and North Carolina has had a foundational role in the evolution of styles including blues, jazz, soul, folk, bluegrass and hip-hop. In the book’s introduction, I liken North Carolina musicians to essential role players who contribute the key missing ingredient, whether it’s Scruggs-style banjo creating bluegrass or “5” Royales leader Lowman Pauling’s cutting guitar becoming an essential element of soul music.

Continue Reading Author Interview: David Menconi on Step It Up and Go

Ryan Hall: Why Should Americans Bother Learning About Canada?

"Beneath the Backbone of the World: Blackfoot People and the North American Borderlands, 1720-1877" by Ryan Hall

Today we welcome a guest post from Ryan Hall, author of Beneath the Backbone of the World: Blackfoot People and the North American Borderlands, 1720-1877, out now from UNC Press.

For the better part of two centuries, between 1720 and 1877, the Blackfoot (Niitsitapi) people controlled a vast region of what is now the U.S. and Canadian Great Plains. As one of the most expansive and powerful Indigenous groups on the continent, they dominated the northern imperial borderlands of North America. The Blackfoot maintained their control even as their homeland became the site of intense competition between white fur traders, frequent warfare between Indigenous nations, and profound ecological transformation. In an era of violent and wrenching change, Blackfoot people relied on their mastery of their homelands’ unique geography to maintain their way of life. With extensive archival research from both the United States and Canada, Ryan Hall shows for the first time how the Blackfoot used their borderlands position to create one of North America’s most vibrant and lasting Indigenous homelands.

Beneath the Backbone of the World is part of our David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History. It is available in paperback and ebook editions.

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I have recently come to the rather disappointing realization that my students know almost nothing about Canada or about Canadian history. Despite the fact that I teach in upstate New York, not terribly far from the U.S.-Canadian border, few of my students in a recent upper-level course could identify a single Canadian province on a map. Just the other day, I asked a class of twenty-two freshmen if any of them had heard of the Canadian freedom-fighter Louis Riel (one of the most famous figures in Canadian history) and not a single hand went up. I assured them that they would soon learn more, but they didn’t seem very excited. I don’t blame them—after all, when I was their age I likewise knew nothing about our northern neighbors. Why bother, when there is only so much space on our schedules and in our brains?

Well, I’ve become convinced that Canadian history is essential for Americans. My conversion to Canadian history evangelist began while writing my book, which focuses in depth on the history of western Canada and Indigenous people in the borderlands. Unexpectedly, I became an historian of the United States and Canada, which led me to spend the first three years of my career teaching at Canadian universities. I find Canadian history endlessly fascinating (honestly!) and I love Canada, but what does Canadian history have to offer other Americans? Allow me to suggest a few possibilities.

Continue Reading Ryan Hall: Why Should Americans Bother Learning About Canada?

Meet the Editors: A Conversation with Andrew R. Graybill and Benjamin H. Johnson on the David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History

We’re pleased to share a Q&A with Andrew R. Graybill and Benjamin H. Johnson, series editors of our David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History.

This series explores contested boundaries and the intercultural dynamics surrounding them and includes projects in a wide range of time and space within North America and beyond, including Atlantic and Pacific worlds. Series editors welcome outstanding works that “speak back” to the rich literature that has developed over the last few decades, using the concept of borderlands to examine, analyze, and interpret both the North American borderlands and other areas connected to continental processes of making and crossing borders.

We are also pleased to announce two new members of the editorial advisory board for the David J. Weber Series. They are:

  • Ruben Flores, University of Rochester
  • Debbie Kang, University of Texas, Dallas

This interview is part of our virtual exhibit for the Western History Association 2020 Conference, which is ongoing through October 17, 2020. Check out the UNC Press #WHA2020 virtual exhibit here.

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Q: The series turned eight years old last month. In 2012, what did the landscape of borderlands history look like, and what was the series’ genesis?

A: The term “borderlands” has a long pedigree in the U.S. historical profession.  It was first developed in the 1920s by Herbert Eugene Bolton, who used the term to refer to the Spanish colonial possessions in North America that eventually became part of the United States.  Bolton and his many disciples intended the histories of these places to serve as a Hispanic counterweight to the Anglo-centric historiography of the United States then in vogue, challenging American historians to think of national historical origins and influences beyond the British Empire and the eastern seaboard of North America. 

By 2012, a rising generation of scholars had begun using the term to explore a geographically and temporally larger set of historical experiences, including the conquest and incorporation of Mexican-descent people into the United States, cross-border migration and trade, and efforts to regulate or restrict such border-crossing.  The idea of a “border” also seemed like a compelling metaphor for many identities and social relations.  This new work was heavily influenced by contemporary developments like migration and nativism, and was starting to engage in very fruitful ways with scholars of Asian migration and Indigenous history.  And some of us even figured out that there were borders other than merely the one shared by Mexico and the United States.  More and more courses were being offered in borderlands history, and scholars of regions other than North America were starting to engage with scholarship produced on this continent.  It was exciting!

Both of us had written first books in which borders figured prominently but weren’t the main subject of analysis—Johnson’s study of racial violence and Mexican American civil rights politics in South Texas and Graybill’s comparative work on the roles of the Texas Rangers and the Canadian Mounties in conquering and incorporating both ends of the Great Plains.  Graybill was a postdoctoral fellow at the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies in 2004-05 when Johnson was still on the faculty at SMU.  Our conversations drew us to think more deliberately about borders, and in a comparative way.  We co-edited Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories, published in 2010 by a certain other university press in North Carolina.  When Graybill came to SMU in 2011 to direct the Clements Center, he viewed sponsoring a series as a way to extend this work and lengthen the intellectual reach of the Center, and—given the success of our previous collaboration—approached Johnson as a partner.

Continue Reading Meet the Editors: A Conversation with Andrew R. Graybill and Benjamin H. Johnson on the David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History

Author Interview: John D. French on Lula and His Politics of Cunning

"Lula and His Politics of Cunning: From Metalworker to President of Brazil" by John D. French

In this Q&A, John D. French discusses his new book Lula and His Politics of Cunning: From Metalworker to President of Brazil.

Known around the world simply as Lula, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva was born in 1945 to illiterate parents who migrated to industrializing São Paulo. He learned to read at ten years of age, left school at fourteen, became a skilled metalworker, rose to union leadership, helped end a military dictatorship—and in 2003 became the thirty-fifth president of Brazil. During his administration, Lula led his country through reforms that lifted tens of millions out of poverty. Here, John D. French, one of the foremost historians of Brazil, provides the first critical biography of the leader whom even his political opponents see as strikingly charismatic, humorous, and endearing.

Lula and His Politics of Cunning is now available in hardcover and ebook editions.

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Q: Why did you decide to write a biography of Lula? What kind of personal passion did you bring to it?

A: I was captured by a passion for politics at the tender age of seven during the 1960 presidential election. Within two years, I was hooked on reading history—mostly military history accounts of the World Wars along with Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul—and I wore buttons for LBJ against Barry Goldwater in 1964. Volunteering at conventions, I heard Senator Robert F. Kennedy and New York governor Nelson Rockefeller in person even as I entered my first public debate in junior high school—I still have my yellowed note cards—as an opponent of the U.S. intervention in Vietnam, condemning it in 1966 as not only futile and unjust but illegal under international law. When I got to Amherst College in 1971, I declared my history major the first week and wrote a thesis four years later on the relationship between FDR and the labor movement during the New Deal, a topic whose link to my Brazilian life project is self-evident.

Q: In a sentence or two, what were the economic and political conditions in 2003 Brazil that helped make it possible for Lula to win the hearts and minds of Brazilians—and the presidency?

A: Lula’s election came twenty years after Brazil was hit, in 1992, by a devastating international debt crisis caused by loans taken out under the Brazilian military regime in an era of irresponsible—if not criminal—lending of recycled petrodollars by U.S. banks. The result was a decade and a half marked by mass impoverishment—with annual inflation running over 1000%—and economic stagnation. This came to an end in the mid-1990s under the Plano Real that shut down inflation under Brazil’s second democratically-elected president after military rule. By FHC’s second term (1998-2002), the bloom was off the neoliberal restructuring that had hurt organized labor, and Brazil was shaken by the international financial crises usually named after its victims Russia and Asia. In this, his fourth run for president, Lula was a known quantity—as was his Workers’ Party—and a more mature one who captured the desire for change and a willingness to try a different path under a surprisingly different sort of leader (much like Obama in the midst of the US economic meltdown of 2008). Hope, as Lula liked to say, beat fear in the election of 2002.

Continue Reading Author Interview: John D. French on Lula and His Politics of Cunning

UNC System BOG Appoints A&T Professor to UNC Press BOG

Dr. Kim Smith, photo by Joe Jowers

The UNC System Board of Governors appointed a North Carolina A&T professor as a new member of the UNC Press Board of Governors at its September 17 meeting.

In that role, Dr. Kim Smith, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism, will participate in the process of reviewing and approving books and other scholarship for publication by the UNC Press.

Founded in 1922, the UNC Press was the first university press in the South. Its books have won hundreds of prestigious prizes, including the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, in addition to those administered by national scholarly societies.

The UNC Press was one of the first scholarly publishers to publish books by and about African Americans. By 1950, nearly 100 such volumes had appeared under its imprint, including famed historian John Hope Franklin’s first book: The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860, published in 1943.

In the 1970s, the UNC Press recognized women and gender studies as areas in need of a scholarly publisher. Studies about Native American and indigenous studies are now a focus. The Press also seeks authoritative works on all things Southern, including cultural history, music, food, literature, geography, and nature. 

Dr. Smith’s term on the board runs through June 2025. The award-winning journalist-turned professor has authored or co-authored published articles and presented papers on African-American students’ use of social media, cybermourning and the parasocial relationships that comedian Robin Williams had with some of his fans, and the 100th anniversary of the A&T Register newspaper that is, perhaps, the oldest student newspaper at a Historically Black college that is still in publication.

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Tony Tian-Ren Lin: The Faithful Shall Not be Deterred

"Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream" by Tony Tian-Ren Lin

Today we welcome a guest post from Tony Tian-Ren Lin, author of Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream, out now from UNC Press.

In this immersive ethnography, Tony Tian-Ren Lin explores the reasons that Latin American immigrants across the United States are increasingly drawn to Prosperity Gospel Pentecostalism, a strand of Protestantism gaining popularity around the world. Lin contends that Latinos embrace Prosperity Gospel, which teaches that believers may achieve both divine salvation and worldly success, because it helps them account for the contradictions of their lives as immigrants. Weaving together his informants’ firsthand accounts of their religious experiences and everyday lives, Lin offers poignant insight into how they see their faith transforming them both as individuals and as communities.

Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream is now available in paperback and ebook editions.

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I prayed with my church and I came” Lizzy, an asylum seeker from Honduras told me. The gang that ruled her neighborhood near San Pedro Sula had demanded that her teenage son join their ranks. When she refused they decided to kill two of her younger children. There are no secrets in a small town so Lizzy was immediately alerted of their intentions. She escaped with her six children with just enough time to grab their passports and birth certificates. The only place they could hide was their church. The pastor and church leaders met her there to pray with her, but they knew they did not have much time. The gang members would soon come looking for them there. The pastor’s wife cried as she asked Lizzy to forgive them for their inability to hide them. They were afraid for their own lives. After fervent prayer for Lizzy and her children, they smuggled them to the bus station in the next town. After 15 days on different buses and traveling through unknown cities with nothing but a bag of crackers and some juice, this single mother who had never left her small town arrived at Eagle Pass, Texas, with her children and presented herself to the US Border Patrol requesting asylum.

         It was May 31st, 2018. Her family was detained and processed. Lizzy did not know why the women she met in detention were despondent and depressed. One claimed to have already been there for 25 days. A few hours later she was called to the office with her children and released on parole. She never heard of a policy that threatened to separate her from her children when she entered the US. Political talk, especially the constant wave of racist and xenophobic threats from the American president, take time to trickle down to the average person in Central America who is more concerned with their immediate survival. But the deterrent policy would not have discouraged Lizzy she said. She had faith. No policy could deter her God-given mission of getting her children to safety in the US because she was doing God’s will. She knew God would protect her because she was faithful.

Continue Reading Tony Tian-Ren Lin: The Faithful Shall Not be Deterred

Zachery A. Fry: A Political Scandal in the Union Army

Today we welcome a guest post from Zachery A. Fry, author of A Republic in the Ranks: Loyalty and Dissent in the Army of the Potomacout now from UNC Press.

The Army of the Potomac was a hotbed of political activity during the Civil War. As a source of dissent widely understood as a frustration for Abraham Lincoln, its onetime commander, George B. McClellan, even secured the Democratic nomination for president in 1864. But in this comprehensive reassessment of the army’s politics, Zachery A. Fry argues that the war was an intense political education for its common soldiers. Fry examines several key crisis points to show how enlisted men developed political awareness that went beyond personal loyalties. By studying the struggle between Republicans and Democrats for political allegiance among the army’s rank and file, Fry reveals how captains, majors, and colonels spurred a pro-Republican political awakening among the enlisted men, culminating in the army’s resounding Republican voice in state and national elections in 1864.

A Republic in the Ranks is available in hardcover and ebook editions.

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A Political Scandal in the Union Army

The name George B. McClellan often calls to mind a cautious, conniving, arrogant general who ran afoul of Abraham Lincoln. McClellan’s inaction as commander and frequent private attacks on Lincoln’s war policy made him a military and political liability for the administration. Undeniable, however, is that McClellan’s soldiers in the Army of the Potomac revered him for much of the war. His removal from command in November 1862 stunned and disheartened many in the ranks. They looked to “Little Mac” as the man who protected them from political machinations and trained them to fight Robert E. Lee’s vaunted Rebels to a standstill. The year 1863 changed that perception.

By September of that year, with McClellan long gone as commander and a Democratic antiwar presence menacing the home front, veteran Army of the Potomac soldiers had learned to approach the war with hard-hearted purpose. Their blood had stained southern battlefields, and their public words had spearheaded the outcry earlier that year toward “Copperhead” peace activists on the home front who refused to support the Lincoln administration.

Against this political backdrop, the Army of the Potomac high command, loyal as ever to McClellan’s legacy, embarked on an ill-fated attempt to honor their hero. Using funds raised from the ranks, the generals sought to present Little Mac with a “testimonial” to remind him of the esteem in which his old soldiers still held him. They expected every enlisted man in the army to contribute a certain amount. The problem for McClellan holdovers in the army was that Little Mac himself was a proud Democrat, and the war’s passions had blurred any distinction between moderate Democrats and traitorous Copperheads.

Continue Reading Zachery A. Fry: A Political Scandal in the Union Army

Ryan Hall: Blackfoot Country and the Case for a Vast Early America

Beneath the Backbone of the World: Blackfoot People and the North American Borderlands, 1720-1877, by Ryan Hall

Today we welcome a guest post from Ryan Hall, author of Beneath the Backbone of the World: Blackfoot People and the North American Borderlands, 1720-1877, out now from UNC Press.

For the better part of two centuries, between 1720 and 1877, the Blackfoot (Niitsitapi) people controlled a vast region of what is now the U.S. and Canadian Great Plains. As one of the most expansive and powerful Indigenous groups on the continent, they dominated the northern imperial borderlands of North America. The Blackfoot maintained their control even as their homeland became the site of intense competition between white fur traders, frequent warfare between Indigenous nations, and profound ecological transformation. In an era of violent and wrenching change, Blackfoot people relied on their mastery of their homelands’ unique geography to maintain their way of life. With extensive archival research from both the United States and Canada, Ryan Hall shows for the first time how the Blackfoot used their borderlands position to create one of North America’s most vibrant and lasting Indigenous homelands.

Beneath the Backbone of the World is part of our New Borderlands History series. It is available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Who and what constitutes “early American” history? Answers vary depending on who you ask, but most people would probably conjure up a set of historical characters familiar to most Americans: Puritan pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans in Plymouth colony, English settlers and enslaved Africans in Virginia, or patriots and loyalists in the Revolutionary War. These diverse actors are all essential to the American story, but they represent only a geographical sliver of what became the United States. What about the rest of the continent—the vast majority of what became America that lay beyond the Appalachian Mountains? Generally, this vast region has been ignored by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century historians. As historian Claudio Saunt has demonstrated, the most prominent journals of early American history overwhelmingly publish studies of the east coast.[1] Academic hiring follows similar patterns. The underlying assumption seems to be that the parts of America that (Anglo) Europeans directly colonized during this era are the parts of America most worth studying.

This geographic pigeon-holing of early American history has obscured fundamental aspects of the American story during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This is particularly true of the Blackfoot people of what is now Montana and Alberta, who are the subjects of my book. While coastal colonies reckoned with their own challenges some two thousand miles east, Blackfoot homelands almost simultaneously experienced historical changes that were equally dramatic and transformative. Expanding our lens of focus for early American history to include places like Blackfoot country can open up our perspective in several ways.

Continue Reading Ryan Hall: Blackfoot Country and the Case for a Vast Early America

Michael E. Woods: Lincoln and Douglas–and Breese? Another Look at the 1858 Illinois Senate Race

Today we welcome a guest post from Michael E. Woods, author of Arguing Until Doomsday: Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and the Struggle for American Democracy, out now from UNC Press.

As the sectional crisis gripped the United States, the rancor increasingly spread to the halls of Congress. Preston Brooks’s frenzied assault on Charles Sumner was perhaps the most notorious evidence of the dangerous divide between proslavery Democrats and the new antislavery Republican Party. But as disunion loomed, rifts within the majority Democratic Party were every bit as consequential. And nowhere was the fracture more apparent than in the raging debates between Illinois’s Stephen Douglas and Mississippi’s Jefferson Davis. As leaders of the Democrats’ northern and southern factions before the Civil War, their passionate conflict of words and ideas has been overshadowed by their opposition to Abraham Lincoln. But here, weaving together biography and political history, Michael E. Woods restores Davis and Douglas’s fatefully entwined lives and careers to the center of the Civil War era.

In this post, Woods recounts the 1858 Illinois senate contest between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas and highlights a lesser-known third candidate in the race. Today marks the anniversary of the first Lincoln–Douglas debate, held on August 21, 1858.

Arguing Until Doomsday is now available in hardcover and ebook editions.

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Unique among nineteenth-century state elections, the 1858 Illinois senate contest between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas remains widely familiar and immensely compelling. The story seems simple: Lincoln, who ran best in heavily Republican northern Illinois, demanded slavery’s prohibition from all federal territories and denounced Douglas for catering to slaveholders. Douglas, strongest in devoutly Democratic southern Illinois, championed local decision-making on slavery, labeled Lincoln an abolitionist, and unleashed a torrent of racist rhetoric. Ultimately, pro-Lincoln candidates for the state legislature outpolled pro-Douglas candidates, but malapportionment enabled Democrats to retain a majority and return Douglas the Senate. Lincoln, of course, would recover to beat Douglas and two other rivals in the fateful presidential election of 1860.

This account contains considerable truth—and leaves out an awful lot. Notably, it omits a third candidate who is often neglected because he missed Lincoln and Douglas’s seven renowned debates. Attending to this shadowy figure can illuminate Lincoln and Douglas’s evolving campaign strategies and clarify the stakes of their legendary showdown.

The third candidate was Sidney Breese, a leading figure in Illinois Democratic politics since statehood in 1818. Breese had been retired for six years when, in the summer of 1858, he reentered public life at the behest of President James Buchanan and his allies. Outraged by Douglas’s recent opposition to Kansas’s admission as a state under the proslavery Lecompton Constitution, Buchanan’s predominantly southern wing of the splintering Democratic Party condemned Douglas as a traitor and vowed to unseat the “Little Giant,” even if it meant throwing the election to Lincoln. In Illinois, pro-Buchanan Democrats, known as Danites, rallied behind Breese’s long-shot campaign.

Continue Reading Michael E. Woods: Lincoln and Douglas–and Breese? Another Look at the 1858 Illinois Senate Race

Kate Douglas Torrey: Alan Trachtenberg (d. 8/18/2020)

UNC Press joins the many scholars and students of American Studies and American history in noting with sadness the loss of Alan Trachtenberg, Yale’s Neil Gray Jr. Professor of English and professor of American Studies emeritus. He was one of the pre-eminent scholars to establish the field of American Studies, a leading voice in demonstrating new ways of understanding the intersection of history and culture, and an authoritative interpreter of photography as an important cultural and historical source.

When I arrived at the Press in the summer of 1989, my predecessor as Editor-in-Chief, Iris Tillman Hill, had persuaded Trachtenberg to edit a new series for the Press, and together they had signed up several promising manuscripts to launch the series. Over the next 20+ years, Cultural Studies of the United States quickly earned a reputation as an important and influential publisher of work in that emerging field, thanks to Trachtenberg’s hands-on approach to reading, identifying, and encouraging, the work of young scholars.

Trachtenberg had a nearly limitless curiosity, a quick mind, and an enormous appetite for work. Along with many scholars of U.S. social history, labor history, and political economy, we will miss him. We are all in his debt.

Kate Douglas Torrey
UNC Press Editor-in-Chief, 1989-92; Director 1992-2012