Made in the USA: The Crisis in Puerto Rico and the Resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló

Following the recent unrest in Puerto Rico, today we welcome a guest post from César J. Ayala and Rafael Bernabe, authors of Puerto Rico in the American Century:  A History since 1898.

Offering a comprehensive overview of Puerto Rico’s history and evolution since the installation of U.S. rule, Ayala and Bernabe connect the island’s economic, political, cultural, and social past of residents of the island as well as the many Puerto Ricans in the diaspora. The authors discuss a wide range of topics, including literary and cultural debates and social and labor struggles that previous histories have neglected. Ayala and Bernabe argue that the inability of Puerto Rico to shake its colonial legacy reveals the limits of free-market capitalism.

Puerto Rico in the American Century is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Made in the USA: the Crisis in Puerto Rico and the Resignation of Governor Ricardo Roselló

After two weeks of unprecedented massive protests the governor of Puerto Rico resigned on July 24, 2019, effective August 2, 2019. While corruption scandals and an exposed chat between the governor and his inner group were the immediate triggers of the crisis, the explosion in Puerto Rico was too intense and too extensive to have been the product of conjunctural factors. It has long term roots.

In 2006, we wrote in the conclusion to Puerto Rico in the American Century as follows:

“At the time of writing, the decrease in manufacturing employment continues, public debt has reached unprecedented levels and Wall Street rating agencies are close to reducing Puerto Rico’s government financial instruments to the level of junk bonds. More critically, government agencies have run out of funds two months before the end of fiscal year 2005-2006. An impasse between the Popular Democratic Party-controlled Executive and a New Progressive Party-led Legislature forced a two-week layoff of close to 100,000 public employees. Coinciding with this, Congress is conducting hearings on possible mechanisms of dealing with the status question. Erosion of the prestige of the major political parties, fiscal crisis and growing exasperation on the island, on Wall Street and in Washington with Puerto Rico’s overall situation: Puerto Rican society is at the end of an era.”

The trends described in 2006 continued and the crisis deepened: manufacturing employment continued to decrease, public debt spiraled upward, Puerto Rico’s bonds were downgraded to junk-bond rating in 2014 and most analysts eventually recognized that Puerto Rico’s debt is unsustainable and must be restructured (how and on what terms is another matter). Puerto Rico, as we pointed out over a decade ago, is at the end of an era.

Continue Reading Made in the USA: The Crisis in Puerto Rico and the Resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló

Interview: Candy Gunther Brown: How I Became an Expert Witness on Yoga and Meditation

Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion? By Candy Gunther BrownToday we welcome a guest post from Candy Gunther Brown, author of Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools:  Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion?, just published by UNC Press.

Yoga and mindfulness activities, with roots in Asian traditions such as Hinduism or Buddhism, have been brought into growing numbers of public schools since the 1970s. While they are commonly assumed to be secular educational tools, Candy Gunther Brown asks whether religion is truly left out of the equation in the context of public-school curricula. An expert witness in four legal challenges, Brown scrutinized unpublished trial records, informant interviews, and legal precedents, as well as insider documents, some revealing promoters of “Vedic victory” or “stealth Buddhism” for public-school kids. The legal challenges are fruitful cases for Brown’s analysis of the concepts of religious and secular.

Here, Brown discusses her book with UNC Press Publicist Alison Shay, and how she became an expert witness in legal proceedings over the legality of yoga and meditation in the public schools.

Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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How I Became an Expert Witness on Yoga and Meditation

Alison Shay: When did you first think about testifying as an expert on yoga and meditation?

Candy Gunther Brown:  When I started graduate school at Harvard in 1993, I never imagined studying yoga or meditation, let alone serving as an expert witness in four legal challenges over whether these practices are too religious to be taught in public schools. Neither did I suspect that more lawsuits—over teaching mindfulness and banning yoga—might be on the horizon.

This isn’t to say that I had no prior interest in religion or law. Growing up, I became obsessed with television courtroom dramas: Perry Mason, LA Law, Law & Order, Against the Law, among others. As a Harvard undergraduate, my favorite elective was a constitutional law class at Harvard Law School; the best part was arguing as an attorney before a moot Supreme Court. I majored in History and Literature and somehow always gravitated to religious subjects. I planned to attend law school. I applied and was accepted by Stanford, Harvard, and Yale, and I deferred admission at Yale Law School. I knew I would love law school, but I worried that I would hate the practice of law—and so I decided to first spend a year working as a paralegal. Now that was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It took me less than two weeks to come to detest the politics and billable hours. So, I applied to graduate school and accepted Harvard’s invitation to return and study the History of American Civilization. I again gravitated to religious subjects. I studied many religious and spiritual traditions, but I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation and first book about evangelical Christians who had played an important role in shaping American culture.

AS: What events led up to your first experience testifying as an expert witness?

CGB:  My first two faculty appointments were in departments of History (Vanderbilt University) and American Studies (Saint Louis University). In 2006, I moved into a department of Religious Studies at Indiana University. This shift pushed me to think more comparatively, since I now had colleagues who specialized, for instance, in Hinduism and Buddhism. I wrote and edited several additional books about Christianity for major university presses such as Harvard and Oxford, but I also started writing more about other religious and spiritual traditions. One of these books, The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America, was in press, and I was taking a much-needed sabbatical in the UK, when two law-professor colleagues sent me word of a developing legal challenge to public-school yoga in California. They thought I might be interested because Healing Gods includes a chapter on yoga, and the conclusion assesses the constitutionality of public-school programs. I e-mailed book announcements to the lawyers named in news coverage, hoping that my academic research might inform popular discussions. I expected that to be my only involvement. Several weeks later, the lawyer representing concerned parents e-mailed me, asking if I would consider serving as an expert witness. He wanted me to explain academic and legal definitions of “religion” and “yoga” in a written declaration and possibly to testify in court. I had never before served as an expert witness, but I had given many media interviews and public lectures to community audiences in the line of service as a university professor, so I agreed.

AS: Why did you write a book about your expert witness experiences?

CGB:  I planned to conduct some research on the specific yoga program, write up my findings for a short declaration, possibly fly in and out to testify, and move on with my regular work. I did testify in court—for six hours. What I discovered along the way was so much more complex and fascinating than what I anticipated that I devoted six years to writing a book: Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion?.

Continue Reading Interview: Candy Gunther Brown: How I Became an Expert Witness on Yoga and Meditation

History Repeats: Eric L. Muller on today’s migrant detention camps and Japanese-American imprisonment camps

While thousands of migrants from Central America are held in detention camps along the U.S. border, comparisons have surfaced to the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Recently, a group of Japanese American imprisonment camp survivors and their descendants gathered to protest at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, speaking out against the planned detention of migrant children on the site of a former WWII imprisonment camp. Japanese American actor George Takei has also spoken publicly about his childhood imprisonment in such camps for the duration of World War II, calling both the imprisonment camps and current migrant detention facilities “concentration camps.”

As history seems to repeat itself, it is a good time to learn more about American histories of incarceration, including Japanese American imprisonment. Rather than turning to government-sanctioned photographs and propaganda from that period, we suggest considering the work of an incarcerated Japanese American who documented life in a camp from his own perspective.

In Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II, editor Eric L. Muller gathers stunning photographs by Bill Manbo, who documented his imprisonment with his family at the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. Muller says of Manbo’s work, “In our current discourse there’s a great deal of talk about those locked up in immigration detention, but we hear very little from them about their lived experiences. Manbo’s photos remind us of the importance of seeing the world through the eyes of those behind barbed wire.”

In the Q&A below (originally published on our blog in 2012), Muller talks about Bill Manbo’s photographs, why they are such a rare and important documentation of imprisonment camp life, and what insight they provide into the history of Japanese Americans.

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Q: As Tom Rankin, Director of the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, says in his foreword to Colors of Confinement, “While a range of documentarians and journalists made various kinds of records of the realities of Japanese internment camps during World War II, Bill Manbo’s work is more personal, intimate, and complex.” What else distinguishes Manbo’s photographs, and how would you characterize him as a photographer?

A: The most obvious thing that distinguishes Bill Manbo’s photographs is that they are in color. We are accustomed to thinking of the internees’ lives unfolding in black and white, but the vibrant colors of these images remind us that these injustices took place in a world that looks very much like the one we see out our own windows. Another thing that distinguishes these photographs is how they capture a broader range of Japanese American cultural life behind barbed wire than we are accustomed to seeing: everything from pick-up baseball games and Boy Scouts to judo matches and kimono-clad dancers. Bill Manbo was a hobby photographer who used his camera both to create a semblance of normalcy in his life and to document the camp.

Q: How did you learn of the existence of these color photos? Did you immediately recognize their importance?

A: I learned about these photographs from Bacon Sakatani, a former internee with whom I was working on the development of the core exhibit at the new Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center in Wyoming. Bacon sent me an email with the image that is now on the cover of Colors of Confinement. I was dumbstruck. At that point I did not even know that the technology for color photography existed in 1943. I knew immediately that these images had the potential to reshape our visual understanding of this chapter of American history.

Continue Reading History Repeats: Eric L. Muller on today’s migrant detention camps and Japanese-American imprisonment camps

Craig Bruce Smith: The Minds and Hearts of the People

American Honor by Craig Bruce SmithHappy Fourth!  Today we welcome a guest post from Craig Bruce Smith, author of American Honor: The Creation of the Nation’s Ideals during the Revolutionary Era.

The American Revolution was not only a revolution for liberty and freedom, it was also a revolution of ethics, reshaping what colonial Americans understood as “honor” and “virtue.” As Craig Bruce Smith demonstrates, these concepts were crucial aspects of Revolutionary Americans’ ideological break from Europe and shared by all ranks of society. Focusing his study primarily on prominent Americans who came of age before and during the Revolution—notably John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington—Smith shows how a colonial ethical transformation caused and became inseparable from the American Revolution, creating an ethical ideology that still remains.

American Honor is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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The Minds and Hearts of the People

As we celebrate the Fourth of July and the founding of the United States, it’s worth considering why John Adams, though being on the committee responsible for creating the Declaration of Independence, would downplay the “spirit of 1776.” The American Revolution was more than a war or a single document, and much bigger than one date.

Eighty-three-year-old former president John Adams, writing from his home in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1818, reflected back on the path to American independence. He asked, “But what do We mean by the American Revolution? Do We mean the American War?” Instead he concluded that, “The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People.”

This “minds and hearts” phrase was a common theme for Adams. Three years earlier, he wrote, “The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People, and in the Union of the Colonies, both of which were Substantially effected before Hostilities commenced.”

Continue Reading Craig Bruce Smith: The Minds and Hearts of the People

Paul Musselwhite: 1619 – The Origins of America’s Paradox

Today we welcome a guest post from Paul Musselwhite, one of the editors of Virginia 1619:  Slavery and Freedom in the Making of English America, just published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, and UNC Press.

Virginia 1619 provides an opportunity to reflect on the origins of English colonialism around the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic world. As the essays here demonstrate, Anglo-Americans have been simultaneously experimenting with representative government and struggling with the corrosive legacy of racial thinking for more than four centuries. Virginia, contrary to popular stereotypes, was not the product of thoughtless, greedy, or impatient English colonists. Instead, the emergence of stable English Atlantic colonies reflected the deliberate efforts of an array of actors to establish new societies based on their ideas about commonwealth, commerce, and colonialism. Looking back from 2019, we can understand that what happened on the shores of the Chesapeake four hundred years ago was no accident.

Virginia 1619 is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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1619 – The Origins of America’s Paradox

This summer, across Virginia, events will commemorate the 400th anniversary of 1619. In late July that year, a handful of elite male colonists constituted the General Assembly in Jamestown, the first representative government in English America. A few weeks later and a few miles downriver, an Anglo-Dutch privateer, the White Lion, came to anchor carrying “twenty and odd” Africans who had been captured from a Portuguese slaving vessel and who were traded away in the colony for supplies. The confluence of these events has long seemed a poignant and ironic coincidence. A hastily arranged gathering of colonists in Jamestown and the chance arrival of a stricken and wind-swept ship ostensibly operating under the Dutch flag appear to have overlapped purely by the chance of tides and timetabling.

Understanding 1619 as a coincidence, though, has profound consequences for how we tell the story of early Virginia and English America more generally. Historians have long recognized that there were many conscious decisions taken to predicate white freedom upon African slavery; but beginning that story with the coincidence of 1619 has all too often provided partial absolution by depicting bumbling colonists who struggled to survive and who simply piggy-backed on existing ideas about slavery and political rights in a desperate effort to make a quick buck. Many have even insisted that the “twenty and odd” Africans were not enslaved because colonists were too disorganized to draft a slave code.

Continue Reading Paul Musselwhite: 1619 – The Origins of America’s Paradox

Welcome to The Greensboro Review!

Announcing a New Journal Partner

Staff of The Greensboro Review

Staff of The Greensboro Review

UNC Press is happy to have formed a new publishing partnership with The Greensboro Review, which has just published issue Number 105 (Spring 2019).

Published by the UNC Greensboro MFA Writing Program, the journal showcase writers whose work may be risk-taking or overlooked. Terry L. Kennedy, editor, and Jessie Van Rheenen, associate editor, discuss the journal’s history and its place in creative writing circles today.

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The Greensboro Review often showcases authors who are unpublished or relatively unknown, some of whom go on to very successful literary careers. Can you tell us about some of those success stories?

During its initial years, the GR published Yusef Komunyakaa’s early poetry–two decades before Komunyakaa received the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Pulitzer Prize–and one of Lewis Nordan’s first stories to appear in print. In 1988, the GR awarded its Literary Prize to Larry Brown for a very early story that Margaret Atwood soon after selected for Best American Short Stories. More recently, we’ve featured debut or early-career work from Christine Sneed, Megan Mayhew Bergman, David James Poissant, and Jesse Goolsby. We published Benjamin Percy back in 2003, and that story, “The Language of Elk,” became the title story of his first collection–and of course, Percy now has four novels, a craft book, a third story collection on the way from Graywolf, and a sci-fi trilogy to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

From the other side of the process, editors of The Greensboro Review have also gone on to establish prominent journals and presses, and have had great literary success in their own right–including Claudia Emerson (winner of the Pulitzer Prize and poet laureate of Virginia), Kelly Link (MacArthur ‘Genius’ recipient and Pulitzer Prize finalist) and Ansel Elkins (Yale Younger Poets Prize and NEA Fellow), to mention just a few.

Continue Reading Welcome to The Greensboro Review!

The UNC Press Has Transformed the South …

[This article is an exerpt cross-posted from the University of North Carolina System website.  You can read the full article here.]

The UNC Press Has Transformed the South …

Now It’s Changing the Rules of Academic Publishing

Not too many university press publications find their way into the luggage of beachward-bound North Carolinians. The coast is for light reading—for books with pages that practically turn themselves. Academic publications are for classrooms, not for relaxation.

But then again, The UNC Press isn’t your average university press. True, many of its titles are formidable, with significant influence on scholarship and little popular appeal. But dig deeper into its catalog and you’ll find plenty of examples of how The UNC Press speaks to all North Carolinians, not just the academics who regularly digest volumes of research.

Not one, but two of its publications have recently made their way onto the silver screen as mainstream movies. One of its titles has sold well over a quarter million copies. The press’s strong suit is history, with a particular emphasis on Southern history and culture. But it also publishes books about music, running the gamut from pop and jazz to bluegrass and the blues. An extensive series of Southern cookbooks includes more than one way to fry a fish, to be sure. A selection of fiction highlights both established and up and coming North Carolina authors. Several titles delve into pulpy crime and horror—the stuff that so many vacationers turn to for their summer escapism, but with a distinctive Tar Heel flair.

In short, The UNC Press is right at home in the best university libraries, online, and on the sands stretching from Corolla to Ocean Isle.

The UNC Press’s vision is broad, demonstrating flexibility not just in terms of the type of content it produces, but also how it delivers content. As a result, it is currently enjoying something that’s virtually unheard of in the realm of university presses: financial stability.

Illuminating the South

In the era of digitized content, financial strains are undermining university presses across the US. It’s not just the smaller presses feeling the heat, either. Stanford University Press, one of the most prestigious academic publishers in the world, has spent 2019 in crisis mode as the university has threatened to withdraw financial support.

And yet, university presses are fundamental to the mission of higher education. They support younger faculty building their publishing portfolios. More importantly, the academic press is the primary platform where ideas are shared, debated, and evaluated.

University presses specialize in monographs—books that explore a single subject in meticulous detail and through the lens of rigorous academic analysis. This scholarship propels the dialogue that shapes our understanding of the world around us. Even while few Americans directly engage with academic manuscripts, nearly everyone has been influenced in some way by ideas that were first exchanged in academic circles.

John Sherer, Spangler Family Director of UNC Press, cites two examples to illustrate how academic publications can fundamentally reshape the way we understand American culture. In 1943, The UNC Press published influential historian John Hope Franklin’s first book, The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860. The next year, it published Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery, one of the first texts to analyze the vast economic impact of the slave trade.

These books have become foundational. Scholars still rely on them as they begin their own research. More than that, over the decades, they have transformed how Americans think and talk about slavery.

“Of 110 books that we publish every year, 70 are monographs,” said Sherer. “In total, we have about 5000 books in print. That’s a substantive body of work—a silent, steady army of books that are having an impact in small ways.”

The influence of The UNC Press’s work also permeates the national consciousness in more obvious ways.  Victoria Bynum’s The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War and Osha Gray Davidson’s The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South are academic historical accounts that have made the leap from the page to the silver screen.

Many of The UNC Press’s publications, including its Southern cuisine cookbooks, are clearly designed to reach a wider audience. Mildred Council’s Mama Dip’s Kitchen is easily the press’s top-selling book. Sherer is quick to point out that even these non-academic publications are closely tied to the press’s educational mission.

“Soul food was not taken seriously as a cooking tradition that warranted a cookbook. Mama Dip’s Kitchen helped draw the culinary world’s attention to what had been undervalued and overlooked. Now Southern cooking is a hot ticket in publishing, and we find ourselves competing with mass market presses,” he explained.

This actually mirrors the larger mission of the press itself. When it was founded in 1922, it was the first secular publisher in the South. Previously, there were only publishers of hymnals, Bibles, and religious leaflets. Nationally, the South simply wasn’t even looked at as a region worthy of being studied. The UNC Press was a public investment to legitimize the state and the region as a culture.

“We think about that as we publish our books,” Sherer said. “When you put all our books together, we are making a statement: the South is important. Southern history is diverse and complex. Southern literature is a rich tapestry. Southern cooking is a thing. It’s not just a recipe. It’s folklore. It’s a culture. It manifests itself in many different ways.”

[To continue reading this article, click over to the UNC System website.]

UNC Press Summer Reading List 2019

Summer Reading from UNC Press

Happy Summer! As we enter into everyone’s favorite season, we’re posting suggestions for your summer reading list. If you’re planning a fun tropical vacation, heading to your neighborhood pool, or just looking to unwind at home, UNC Press has your perfect summer read.

Pick up a fun guidebook or new biography … check out our newest offerings in American or Civil War history … and much more.

Here’s a small sampling of what’s new. Click here for more.

And don’t forget about our 40% sale! Use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout, and you’ll get 40 percent discount on all UNC Press print books, and free domestic shipping if your order totals $75.

Happy Summer Reading!


Countdown to Memorial Day — A roundup of summer recipes from the Savor the South® cookbooks

Happy Memorial Day!

As we begin preparations for the summer’s first big blowout weekend, here’s a run-down of great summer recipe posts from the authors of UNC Press’s Savor the South® cookbooks. We hope you’ll find a recipe or two that you can add to your backyard, patio or poolside feasting this weekend.

Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon and barbecue to catfish and pie, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere.

Check them all out here — including our latest releases, Pie, Ham, and FruitYou’ll want to collect them all.

Remember, you can order all of these books and save 40 percent right now, during our current online book sale.  Just use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout.

Happy Memorial Day weekend from all of us at UNC Press.

Enjoy!

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Graubart: ChickenSummer Anytime Bourbon Peach Chicken Thighs from Cynthia Graubart’s Chicken:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shrimp cover photoShrimp Ceviche, from Jay Pierce’s Shrimp:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbecue Cover PhotoKaycee “Red Menace” Sauce from John Shelton Reed’s Barbecue:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Dinner: a Savor the South® cookbook, by Bridgette A. LacyGreen Beans with Fingerling Potatoes from Bridgette A. Lacy’s Sunday Dinner:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buttermilk: A Savor the South Cookbook, by Debbie Moose

 

Summer Blueberry Cobbler from Debbie Moose’s Buttermilk:  A Savor the South®Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thompson: BaconSalted Caramel Bacon Brownies from Fred Thompson’s Bacon:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peaches cover photoCaroline and David’s Peach Frozen Yogurt from Kelly Alexander’s Peaches:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Evan Faulkenbury: What Does Tax Policy Have to Do with the Civil Rights Movement?

Poll Power: The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American SouthToday we welcome a guest post from Evan Faulkenbury, author of Poll Power:  The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American South, just published by UNC Press.

The civil rights movement required money. In the early 1960s, after years of grassroots organizing, civil rights activists convinced nonprofit foundations to donate in support of voter education and registration efforts. One result was the Voter Education Project (VEP), which, starting in 1962, showed far-reaching results almost immediately and organized the groundwork that eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Though local power had long existed in the hundreds of southern towns and cities that saw organized civil rights action, the VEP was vital to converting that power into political motion. Evan Faulkenbury offers a much-needed explanation of the crucial role philanthropy, outside funding, and tax policy can play in the lifecycle of social movements.

Poll Power is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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What Does Tax Policy Have to Do with the Civil Rights Movement?

When I first started working on my dissertation that eventually led to my book on the Voter Education Project (VEP), my adviser, Jim Leloudis, told me to look into the Tax Reform Act of 1969. He had written about some of the law’s effects in his book, To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America, co-authored with Robert Korstad, and he thought it might have impacted the VEP, too. He was right. When I first set out on becoming a historian of the black freedom movement, the last thing on my mind was tax policy. But as I looked, I discovered an under-appreciated story about how congressional conservatives undermined the civil rights movement through the Tax Reform Act of 1969.

Between 1962 and 1969, the VEP helped spark and sustain a southwide registration movement, resulting in a massive shift of political power and the rise of African American political strength. White segregationist-turned-conservative politicians noticed, and being more limited in disfranchisement tactics after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, they began to follow the money trail. Their interest segued with the growth of public distrust in philanthropic foundations, especially the Ford Foundation, which in the late 1960s funded several controversial programs. Many conservative and liberal Americans alike believed that foundations often abused their tax-exempt status for personal gain, and President Richard Nixon entered office with a mandate to pursue tax reform immediately following his 1968 election. This bipartisan attitude toward reigning in philanthropic foundations afforded conservatives with the necessary cover to also attack the civil rights movement.

Continue Reading Evan Faulkenbury: What Does Tax Policy Have to Do with the Civil Rights Movement?

Author Interview: A Conversation with Samia Serageldin and Lee Smith

Mothers and StrangersSamia Serageldin and Lee Smith are the editors of a new collection of essays just published by UNC Press, Mothers and Strangers: Essays on Motherhood from the New South.

In this anthology of creative nonfiction, twenty-eight writers set out to discover what they know, and don’t know, about the person they call Mother. Celebrated writers Lee Smith and Samia Serageldin have curated a diverse and insightful collection that challenges stereotypes about mothers and expands our notions of motherhood in the South. The mothers in these essays were shaped, for good and bad, by the economic and political crosswinds of their time. Whether their formative experience was the Great Depression or the upheavals of the 1970s, their lives reflected their era and influenced how they raised their children. The writers in Mothers and Strangers explore the reliability of memory, examine their family dynamics, and come to terms with the past.

Mothers and Strangers is available now in both print and ebook editions.

As we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, Serageldin and Smith sat down recently with UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek to discuss their book.

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Q: This collection of essays focuses on the New South. Could you define exactly what the “New South” means in this case?

Samia: The New South is a broader, more inclusive, and less stereotypical view of the South that takes into account twentieth century immigration patterns from other parts of the country and from around the world. This diverse population has both integrated into the culture of the South and enriched it to create the mosaic we find today, beyond the binary of black and white.

Lee: The New South is today’s South where the writers of our book live and where most of us grew up and raised—or are raising—our own children.  This is not the fabled mythic South of yore, populated by Ladies with Help living in big white columned houses (though some of our mothers grew up there). Nor is this New South populated by Belles or Steel Magnolias or Mammies or Topsys or Scarletts or Hillbilly Hellcats or Good Ol’ Girls or any of the other tropes and stereotypes which our mothers inherited and struggled with and sometimes tried to pass on to us. (My mother even sent me down to my Aunt Gay Gay in Birmingham, Alabama for Lady Lessons.) The term “New South” means who we are now, no matter where or who we came from—though in our essays this South is necessarily viewed through the lens of our mothers’ own cultures, some of them very different from our own—such as Omid Safi’s Iranian mother, Melody Moezzi’s “Persian Mom,” Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s “chingona” mother, or Samia’s own mother, a powerful Egyptian aristocrat. Randall Kenan was raised by three wonderful “aunties” in the coastal community of Chinquapin, N.C. Clyde Edgerton was also raised by three women—his mother Truma and his aunts Lila and Oma, near Durham.  So our New South is not a snapshot, it’s a much bigger picture—it’s a quilt, a tapestry, and, like Samia said, a mosaic.

Q: How did you select the contributors?

Samia: Lee and I both had our wish list of contributors, with a view to include the iconic writers associated with Southern literature but also to encompass some more unexpected voices, as well as to achieve a balance between men and women contributors. We not only fulfilled our wish list but, as word of mouth spread, we had an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

Lee: That’s right. I too would say, friends and friends of friends, over lunch, on a walk, at yoga—this is the way women do things.

Q: Did you notice any differences in the way men and women write about mid-century Southern motherhood in this book?

Samia: If there is a difference, it may be that women tended to be more nuanced about their mothers, rarely setting them up as saints or sinners, whereas men could be more extreme, either adoring or highly critical.

Lee: I agree. Our women writers delve deeply into the complexities of the Mother Role—the “Mother knot,” as some have called it—perhaps more naturally than the men, who are often more symbolic in their images of motherhood, though just as emotional about their mothers.

Q: What was the most difficult part about writing the stories, however brief, of your own mothers for this collection?

Samia: Speaking for myself, it was two-fold: firstly, to exert strict self-discipline to resist the urge to write it all down, to describe in detail, to relate all the incidents and quirks; secondly, to guage what my mother would have wanted me to keep private and what to reveal of the journals she left behind. My mother was a private person, and for that reason, for instance, I never mention her name. I needed to respect her privacy while bringing her alive for the reader.

Q: What sorts of preconceptions about mothers are disabused by these essays?

Samia: I think they were different for each writer. Michael Malone for instance realized that his mother was actually a joyful person, in spite of the very real hardships she suffered all her life. Sharon Swanson realized that the mother she had been led to believe was emotionally fragile was no such thing. For myself, I came to appreciate just how much my mother had suffered, and how strong she had been throughout, and how much she’d tried to protect her children.

Lee: America’s traditional Hallmark conception of Motherhood (note the caps) takes a real beating in these essays.  The whole idea of motherhood is hampered by the stereotypes and preconceptions associated with it—mothers are selfless, right?  Automatically loving and giving and happy with their biological and limited role, making biscuits from scratch and sewing all our clothes, yadayada. Almost nobody had a mother like that…except me, I guess. Actually, my own sweet mother really did all these things, though she suffered terribly from depression when she quit teaching, which she had loved, to “stay home and take care of you.”

Each mother in these remarkable essays is unique, not a type, from Sally Greene’s muck-raking Texan  journalist mother; to Jill McCorkle’s mother still alive though lost to Alzheimer’s, the essay itself presented as a beautiful dialogue;  to Jaki Shelton Green’s maternal lament “I want to undie you” for her deceased daughter Amani; to Frances Mayes’ portrait of her mother Frankye, a self-absorbed belle; to Alan Shapiro’s chilling portrait of his own mother at her death…don’t forget that our title is Mothers and Strangers, right?

Q: How does the unreliable narrator come into play in this book?

Samia: Daniel Wallace and Philip Lopate, in particular, describe mothers who were unreliable narrators personified. Without giving too much away, let us just say they had to sort fact from fiction in what their mothers told about themselves and about others.

Lee: Certainly Daniel Wallace’s mother was the most unreliable narrator in this book and possibly in history—just wait until you read his essay!  But many of our mothers were unreliable narrators in one way or another, weren’t they?  They came from a time when certain things were just not talked about.  One of the Lady Lessons was, “You don’t have to tell everything you know.” So many events (such as my own grandfather’s suicide)—and even people (such as my mother’s cousin sent to the state mental hospital for being “over-sexed”)—were omitted from the family narrative.  This collection is filled with such omissions and revelations.

Q: You mention that Mothers and Strangers is about life itself. What did your work on these essays teach you in this regard?

Lee: Well, we are all writers—the writers of this book—and as writers we have all been deeply influenced by our mothers, the ones who literally gave us life through birth, surely the most intimate of all physical relationships. Hers was the first face we saw, the first voice we heard…surely this is important for a writer, how we first experience language. Who was she to us? Or we to her?  There are so many different stories here, of sons and daughters and mothers and mothering, and they are as varied and surprising as life itself… well, they ARE life itself, aren’t they?

Q: After editing this collection, do you have a different view of your mother or your childhood?

Samia: Definitely. Growing up, I had been closer to my father, and there had been considerable friction between me and my mother even when I was an adult. I had not fully appreciated her qualities, the circumstances she had to deal with or the role she had played in keeping our family together during decades of political persecution. I wish I could tell her now that I understand her better, and it was this desire to do her justice, to pay her homage, in a sense, that inspired this anthology. I suspect it was the same impulse that motivated many of our contributors as they wrote their essays.

Lee: Yes, definitely!  I had always thought that my father’s big raucous Appalachian family made me a writer, gave me my voice—those wonderful tales and anecdotes I grew up hearing long into the night, the way everything was told and retold endlessly, to everyone’s delight—the way everything became a story. But when I was editing this collection and writing about my own mother as “the outsider” in that tight-knit culture, that remote little Appalachian town—called a “foreigner” at her own funeral even though she had lived there for 60 years—I suddenly realized how very important her outside perspective had always been to me, and later to my own writing. She could see the story because she wasn’t deep inside it like the rest of them were. She could hear the story behind the story, the one they didn’t know they were telling.

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Samia Serageldin is the author of several books, including The Cairo House and Love Is Like Water, and is an editor of South Writ Large. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Lee Smith is the best-selling author of over a dozen books, including Dimestore: A Writer’s Life and Guests on Earth. She lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Evan Faulkenbury: Who Deserves Credit for the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Poll Power: The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American SouthToday we welcome a guest post from Evan Faulkenbury, author of Poll Power:  The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American South, just published by UNC Press.

The civil rights movement required money. In the early 1960s, after years of grassroots organizing, civil rights activists convinced nonprofit foundations to donate in support of voter education and registration efforts. One result was the Voter Education Project (VEP), which, starting in 1962, showed far-reaching results almost immediately and organized the groundwork that eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Though local power had long existed in the hundreds of southern towns and cities that saw organized civil rights action, the VEP was vital to converting that power into political motion. Evan Faulkenbury offers a much-needed explanation of the crucial role philanthropy, outside funding, and tax policy can play in the lifecycle of social movements.

Poll Power is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Who Deserves Credit for the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Many of us know parts of the story. On March 7, 1965, police troopers and local white henchmen attacked peaceful protestors on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Newspapers and nightly reports broadcasted violent images of wounded African Americans on the ground, shocking the nation, the world, and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. A week later, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered an address before Congress on national television calling for new legislation to protect the franchise. Two days later, Congressmen introduced a voting rights bill in both the House and Senate, and after five months of debate and arm-twisting, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. History remembers many of the key players who capitalized off the horrors of Bloody Sunday to quickly pass the law, such as President Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Amelia Boynton, Emanuel Celler, Nicholas Katzenbach, and Everett Dirksen. And deservedly so. But history has had trouble remembering the grassroots groundswell that led to Bloody Sunday, the rising tide of black voting rights activism that swept the South beginning in mid-1962.

How did such a powerful, southwide movement begin, and why was it a factor securing the Voting Rights Act of 1965? The answer lies within the little-known history of the Voter Education Project (VEP), a small, discreet, behind-the-scenes civil rights organization headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Housed within the progressive Southern Regional Council, the VEP formed in 1961 with help from civil rights leaders, Department of Justice officials, and philanthropic foundations. Liberal donors wanted to fund southern voting rights campaigns, but complex rules regarding federal tax-exemption delayed their charity. Meeting behind closed doors, interested parties charted a path that would enable the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to approve such a project, and in March 1962, the VEP began its work. Led initially by Wiley A. Branton (and later by Vernon Jordan and John Lewis), the VEP funded 129 separate voter registration movements across the 11 states of the Old Confederacy between 1962 and 1964, resulting in a whopping 688,000 newly registered African Americans—all before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Continue Reading Evan Faulkenbury: Who Deserves Credit for the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

UNC Press partners with the Music Maker Foundation

UNC Press is proud to be partnering with the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a local North Carolina non-profit that was founded to protect the soul of America’s music by directly supporting traditional blues, gospel, jazz and folk musicians, so their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. Music Maker ensures that our cultural heritage is passed on to the next generation through performance, exhibitions, documentation and education.

Check out their mission video here:

You can learn more about the foundation and their work at their website.

UNC Press has just published three books in conjunction with the foundation:

Blue Muse, Music Makers, and We Are the Music Makers! are all available now in both print and ebook editions.  And you can save 40 percent and get free shipping by using the promo code 01DAH40 on our website during our current online promotion.

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Timothy Duffy‘s photography is held in the permanent collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Morris Museum of Art, among other museums and institutions. With his wife, Denise, he is cofounder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Cheryl Shelton-Roberts: The Geography of Hope: Restoring North Carolina’s 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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The Geography of Hope: Restoring North Carolina’s Lighthouses

Wallace Stegner, explorer of the American West and committed conservationist, remarked that national parks were a necessity in his far-reaching 1960 Coda: Wilderness Letter, “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures a part of the geography of hope…. The reminder and the reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in ten years set foot in it….”

The same type of experience as Stegner advocated can be had by visiting a North Carolina lighthouse while experiencing its ability to season our good humor with salty air; in fact, five of North Carolina’s nine lighthouses reside within national seashores while the others are also surrounded by water and abundant nature.

We might not be able to climb a tower, but we can stand in its imposing shadow and study its graceful details, explore its history, learn about our ties to its maritime past.

Continue Reading Cheryl Shelton-Roberts: The Geography of Hope: Restoring North Carolina’s Lighthouses

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