Hannah Durkin is a lecturer in literature and film at Newcastle University. She is a coeditor of Visualising Slavery: Art Across the African Diaspora. She recently answered some questions about her new book, Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham: Dances in Literature and Cinema.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham were incredible artists, intellectuals and activists who enjoyed international fame at a time when the publishing and entertainment industries afforded few opportunities to Black women. Yet Dunham is perhaps not as well remembered as she should be, and Baker is too frequently dismissed as a novelty entertainer. I wanted to challenge such cultural misremembering by highlighting their vital contributions, as Black women, to transatlantic literature and cinema.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

If I’ve achieved anything with this book, it’s all thanks to two sets of people:

  1. I was really fortunate be able to draw on the work of some fantastic historians and dance historians whose determined efforts have helped to keep alive Baker and Dunham’s legacies.
  2. Closer to home, I’ve been surrounded by amazing artist-activists and academics from whom I’ve learned so much and who have given me absolutely incredible support.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

Perhaps how different were midcentury Hollywood and European cinema in the opportunities that they afforded to Black artists. As I acknowledge in this book, Baker was the first Black woman to star in a mainstream film and the narrative of one of Dunham’s films was framed around her company. Depressingly, these achievements could only occur outside of the U.S. because of racist codes and narratives that were in place in Hollywood until well into the Civil Rights era and beyond.

I was also struck by how much Baker and Dunham made of their film opportunities. On the screen, they claimed the right to stardom while at the same time retaining some artistic autonomy and sometimes even shaping their films’ aesthetics.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

That a film’s author isn’t just an invariably white, male director, and that dance can be an important form of screen authorship.

And the perception that Baker’s performance style was an assemblage of ‘exotic’ dance steps when in fact all of her movements came from the African American stage. My book foregrounds Baker and Dunham’s work on the page and screen to privilege their intellectual and artistic voices and to highlight their place within a wider tradition of Black Atlantic dance.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope that readers will appreciate the struggles that Baker and Dunham endured as midcentury Black women artists, but also come away with a broader understanding of their achievements. Baker and Dunham were the first well-known African American women to write multivolume accounts of their lives and their books document the intellectual and psychological underpinnings of their art. Equally, their screen careers expand our understanding of African American film history by revealing key moments of Black female stardom and authorship in midcentury cinema.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

I’m a huge fan of female-led films and TV shows. Right now, I’m watching Killing Eve for fun. I’ve also just been introduced to The Good Fight and am about to revisit Orange is the New Black because I happen to have graduate students who are writing about them. But I’m happy to watch such shows for work!

Registration is now open for the fall University of Illinois Press Publishing Symposium on September 19, 2019!

Institute for the Humanities
701 South Morgan, Lower Level / Stevenson Hall
University of Illinois at Chicago

Register now at: https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/4920856
Lunch will be provided to those who pre-register by September 9, 2019.

Sessions include:

  • “Quick Conversation” Sessions with acquisitions editors
  • The Life of a Book
  • New Directions in Journals Publication
  • Alternatives to Traditional Publishing
  • Professional Development Roundtable

Learn more here: https://www.press.uillinois.edu/about/symposium.html

Co-sponsored by:
The Institute for the Humanities, the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the UIC University Library, and the UIC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.

We hope to see you there!

We aren’t able to attend the 2019 Dance Studies Association Conference but you can still get a discount on our new and forthcoming dance books! Use promo code DSA30 to get 30% off! Offer ends August 18.

Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham: Dances in Literature and Cinema

Hannah Durkin

Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham were the two most acclaimed and commercially successful African American dancers of their era and among the first black women to enjoy international screen careers. However, difficulties in accessing and categorizing their works on the screen and on the page have obscured their contributions to film and literature. Hannah Durkin investigates Baker’s and Dunham’s films and writings to shed new light on their legacies as transatlantic artists and civil rights figures.


Hot Feet and Social Change: African Dance and Diaspora Communities

Edited by Kariamu Welsh, Esailama G. A. Diouf, and Yvonne Daniel

Concentrating on eight major cities in the United States, this collection of essays challenges myths about African dance while demonstrating its power to awaken identity, self-worth, and community respect. These voices of experience share personal accounts of living African traditions, their first encounters with and ultimate embrace of dance, and what teaching African-based dance has meant to them and their communities.

Available November 2019


Back to the Dance Itself: Phenomenologies of the Body in Performance

Edited by Sondra Fraleigh

Sondra Fraleigh edits essays that illuminate how scholars apply a range of phenomenologies to explore questions of dance and the world; performing life and language; body and place; and self-knowing in performance. Some authors delve into theoretical perspectives, while others relate personal experiences and reflections that reveal fascinating insights arising from practice. Collectively, authors give particular consideration to the interactive lifeworld of making and doing that motivates performance.


Dancing Revolution: Bodies, Space, and Sound in American Cultural History

Christopher J. Smith

Throughout American history, patterns of political intent and impact have linked the wide range of dance movements performed in public places. Groups diverse in their cultural or political identities, or in both, long ago seized on street dancing, marches, open-air revival meetings, and theaters, as well as in dance halls and nightclubs, as a tool for contesting, constructing, or reinventing the social order. Dancing Revolution presents richly diverse case studies to illuminate these patterns of movement and influence in movement and sound in the history of American public life.


A Guru’s Journey: Pandit Chitresh Das and Indian Classical Dance in Diaspora

Sarah Morelli

An important modern exponent of Asian dance, Pandit Chitresh Das brought kathak to the US in 1970 and has since become an important art form within the greater Indian diaspora. Yet its adoption outside of India raises questions about what happens to artistic practices when we separate them from their broader cultural contexts. Sarah Morelli, one of Das’s former students, investigates issues in teaching, learning, and performance that developed around Das during his time in the US.

Available November 2019


Read on JSTOR from the Journal of Aesthetic Education, edited by Pradeep Dhillon

Dancing with Damasio: Complementary Aspects of Kinesthesia, Complementary Approaches to Dance

By Susan Pashman

Core Aspects of Dance: Aristotle on Positure

By Joshua M. Hall




From the Journal for the Anthropological Study of Human Movement, edited by Drid Williams and Brenda Farnell

Music and Dance as Export and Import: A Case Study of Japan in Europe and Hawai’i in Japan

By Adrienne L. Kaeppler

Political Activism and Dance: The Sarabhais and Nonviolence through the Arts

By Andrée Grau

We are pleased to announce that In a Classroom of Their Own: The Intersection of Race and Feminist Politics in All-Black Male Schools by Keisha Lindsay has won the 2019 Michael Harrington Book Award from the New Political Science Caucus of the American Political Science Association. The award recognizes an outstanding book that demonstrates how scholarship can be used in the struggle for a better world, and it will be awarded to the author at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting in Boston on August 31.

Congratulations Keisha!

This post originally appeared on The Scholarly Kitchen on July 10th, 2019. I was asked by Lisa Hinchliffe to submit a guest post to The Scholarly Kitchen about the Common Threads initiative at the University of Illinois Press. You can find the full text below, along with a note from Lisa that also appeared on the original post.

Note from Scholarly Kitchen Chef Lisa Hinchliffe: Alexa Colella (@weequipped) is the marketing manager for journals at the University of Illinois Press. Though we both work at the University of Illinois, as these things sometimes go, I met Alexa at the Charleston Conference last year. Alexa is interested in advancing journal scholarship in the humanities and social sciences with creative and innovative projects and initiatives. The Common Threads project intrigued me as an example of how content finds new audiences when presented in new ways.

The scholarly communications ecosystem continues to evolve rapidly. Things are becoming more complex as we respond to a growing diversity of needs and expectations and also work to innovate for the future. I see this in a tangible way on a daily basis as the journals marketing manager for the University of Illinois Press. As a relatively small and non-profit publisher, our scope for large scale innovations in a competitive environment can be comparatively narrow. Nonetheless, we also recognize the impact that small and incremental steps can have on our ability to adapt to changes in our ecosystem. We explored some of the ways we can make incremental changes with big impacts by developing a new publication, Common Threads.

The Common Threads series is a curated journal anthology series. We created it as to experiment with the organization of our back content and alternative distribution models. Born out a handful of immediate needs and long term projections, it was developed in 2015 in the University of Illinois Press journals department by Clydette Wantland, the journals manager, and myself. The series currently has seven available volumes with two that are in process/production.

Each volume in the Common Threads series is comprised of a collection of articles that are curated around a theme, a gap in scholarship, or the needs of a course. Each one typically contains 8-14 articles and an original introduction by an editor. The series is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate variable needs of the scholars and editors who assemble them. As the amount of scholarship continues to grow, Common Threads asks what new insights and utility can be found in reorganization.

When we began developing this series, we were experiencing a state-wide financial crisis. A budget stalemate threatened our parental funding from the University. But, though perhaps spurned on by this crisis moment, we were also seeking ways to reach additional audiences. While our journals and their articles are discoverable (and accessible with a subscription), they do not have the same exposure to the wider retail market as our monographs. Additionally, the open question of whether there was unmet demand for journal content that was clearly branded for an exclusively scholarly audience also motivated us to consider alternative ways to disseminate this scholarship.

As publishers, we had been hearing from libraries, students, faculty, and the general public that the heavy financial burden of purchasing scholarly texts was becoming increasingly problematic. There was just too much stress on all of our stakeholders. As we observed journal subscriptions starting to decline, we developed a few theories that heavily informed our decision to create the Common Threads series.

  1. We believe that widening the accessibility of our content can only be a good thing. While we were unable to make our articles open access, we recognized that we could add a distribution model for related content. And, we could do this at a more accessible price point, especially for students.
  2. We had observed that scholars, especially in the humanities, have been moving away from loyalty to any given specific journal title. The increasing emphasis of multidisciplinary research was driving more granular but integrative inquiry that an individual subscription to a field’s primary journal could no longer satisfy.
  3. We believe that changes in the scholarly and scholarly communications ecosystem will drive and be the impetus for future innovations. It is simply prudent to build agility and flexibility into our workflows and prioritize research and development to be able to respond to changes effectively.
  4. We noted that subject matter packages on the platforms we most widely utilize make decisions based on taxonomies that might divide press content along lines that are not in line with the interests and mental mindsets of scholars.
  5. We recognize that scholarly content is attractive to general audiences; however, journal content is historically inaccessible to them due to its subscription distribution model.

Edited collections are not a particularly revolutionary idea; however, as we experimented with the series, we began to imagine how Common Threads could be expanded into any number of things. Once we began exploring the practicalities of actually producing these volumes, we realized that their primary function would end up being a bucket for experimental projects for which we had no established workflows. For example, an upcoming volume consists of no pre-published journal content but is a series of ten transcribed and fact-checked radio interviews that will also be available as an open access supplement to one of our journals. It was included in the Common Threads series partially because of the way the series can accommodate alternative projects.

There were challenges in developing the series and continued innovations raise new issues. Most substantially we find ourselves grappling with who should be responsible for the labor required to complete volumes in this series and the management of when that labor should occur. The Press is wonderfully efficient at producing high quality scholarly journals and monographs. But when staff have very clearly-defined roles in the existing workflows, which produce the same type of product over and over, it can be difficult to get buy-in and help with a new kind of product that disrupts the usual chain of command. The articles in most Common Threads volumes were already peer-reviewed, had copyright assignments or permissions, and needed only minor proofreading. Much of the labor of our monographs workflows was removed therefore; however, because they would be distributed through the same channels as our books and converted to .xml, the easiest solution was to put them in a books pipeline. Consequently, the volumes in this series come in and out of a pipeline designed to be as linear and integrated as possible to maximize the quality and efficiency of the production of our books. This requires careful management of logistics and communications.

The successes of the Common Threads series has been due to the flexibility and enthusiasm of key staff to open up their routines to something that is not routine. Accepting new project management  responsibilities, anticipating critical touchpoints between Common Threads and our typical production pipeline, creating series branded cover designs that merged journal branding with a series template, making case-by-case adjustments to our contracts, and finding ways to include Common Threads into our course adoption processes were just some of the adjustments many staff made to their typical workloads. Making adjustments required a lot of patience, creativity, and collaboration on the part of our whole staff.

Growing pains inevitably exist with the introduction of any “new thing” but each volume in the Common Threads series has been incrementally less challenging to accommodate. As familiarity with the series increased and its successfulness established, so did our ability to be less distrustful of the times when the needs of these volumes challenged our established processes. Our growing comfort with the differences brought about by the Common Threads series has allowed for expansions in the content of the series, also. As we take on more volumes, we expect to be able to increase their complexity.

In the future, we plan to continue to address the problems listed above by creating volumes with multiple journals, collaborating with other presses, and keeping a keen eye on both current events and the changes occurring in scholarly communications to identify new and upcoming challenges. Though we cannot control the changes that will ultimately challenge our conventions, Common Threads helped us adapt to changes by pairing together pragmatism and forward thinking and allowed us to work more collaboratively, creatively, with a focus on innovation. This series also reminded us that innovations don’t have to come in groundbreaking and disruptive packages, but can also come in the form of incremental change that enables working across that boundaries that might be inhibiting a culture of creativity and experimentation.


Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of Future Tense: The Culture of Anticipation in France Between the Wars (2009), and the host of New Books in French Studies, a podcast on the New Books Network. Here, she shares thoughts about her article, “No Hiroshima in Africa: The Algerian War and the Question of French Nuclear Tests in the Sahara” from History of the Present.

Launched only twenty years after the German invasion, defeat, and occupation of France, the series of French nuclear weapons tests that began with the detonation of Gerboise Bleue (an A-bomb of 70 kilotons) in the Algerian Sahara in 1960 was deeply connected to the legacies of the Second World War. This first test confirmed France’s entry into an “atomic club” including the U.S., U.S.S.R., and U.K. Over the course of the next three and a half decades, the French military conducted more than 200 nuclear tests, first in the Sahara from 1960 to 1966, and then in the Pacific from 1966 to 1996.

A pillar of postwar defense policy and the national self-representation of an autonomous France able to hold its own in the nuclear age, the “French bomb” was, from its very inception, imbricated with empire. And yet, historians have tended to tell the story of French nuclear weapons testing as one disconnected from that of the war of decolonization taking place at the same time. The resolution of that brutally violent conflict two years after Gerboise Bleue guaranteed the French state and military a right to continue testing in the Sahara for a further five years on the other side of the emergence of an independent Algerian state in 1962. Thinking together the histories and historiographies of the “Algerian War” and the “French bomb,” my research positions France’s first nuclear tests as wartime acts in the contested space of empire with legacies that continue to affect Algerian and French bodies, memories, and landscapes.

Robert Lemon is an urban and social researcher and documentary filmmaker. His films include Transfusión (2014), a series of vignettes on the cultural implications of taco trucks. He recently answered some questions about his new book The Taco Truck: How Mexican Street Food is Transforming the American City.

Q: The Taco Truck examines the relationship between taco trucks and the urban environments that they traverse. What led you to explore this topic?

A: I first encountered taco trucks when I was working for the City of Columbus in 2004. There were numerous complaints about the trucks popping up in neighborhoods. I started speaking with the owners, and I was fascinated by their backgrounds, the diverse cuisines they offered, and how they were creating Latino social nodes within the city.

Q: In your book, you use the term “taco truck space” to describe the unique way that taco trucks can inhabit an urban landscape. What defines this space?

A: I define “taco truck space” as an evolving cultural and culinary environment in which influences of local life continually converge with economic, political, and social forces at myriad scales. These spaces are shaped by and, in turn, express the uneven flows of capital between the United States and Mexico as well as immigration patterns and foodways from Mexico.

Q: You researched the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and Columbus, Ohio. What can differences in the way that city officials and urban planners respond to taco trucks tell us about those cities?

A: Different community groups all have their take on taco trucks. Their perspectives shape urban policy and, therefore, what sorts of street food practices are deemed acceptable or forbidden. Because taco trucks are lighting rods of controversy, each city has community groups that argue both positively and negatively about their presence. By looking at cultural conflicts from city to city, I can better decipher the diverse ways cities operate socially and politically.

Q: Readers might be surprised to learn that taco trucks have been around in the U.S. at least since the 1970s. What has contributed to their resilience, even as national rhetoric on immigration has fluctuated?

A: The United States is and will always be a country of immigrants. And the United States relies heavily on low wage immigrant labor. Taco trucks have endured because they serve a vital purpose, as they are necessary to feed inexpensive cuisine to a large immigrant working class. As long as underprivileged people keep coming to the U.S. from poorer regions of the world, they will continue to look for cheap eats along city streets.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel?

A: Taco trucks are vital social nodes for the Mexican immigrant working population and not just trendy spots to encounter traditional Mexican cuisines. Taco trucks have personal and deeply emotional meanings to many immigrants searching for memories of their homeland through food. These aspects of the truck cannot be disregarded. These are social spaces that foster conviviality and help comfort immigrants separated from their families, and eating at a taco truck helps immigrants experientially reconnect with loved ones still in Mexico.

Q: When you visit a taco truck, what is your go-to order?

A: Whatever the truck’s regional specialty is. I particularly like Jalisco style, carnitas tacos, and tacos rojos Potosinos.


The University of Illinois Press is seeking a bright, organized, motivated assistant acquisitions editor to join our team.

This person will work closely with the Press’s acquisitions staff in supporting the development and acquisition of a robust list of general interest and scholarly titles in a range of humanities and social science disciplines. They will provide skilled administrative support in managing the cultivation of prospective authors, the development and evaluation of manuscripts, and project management entailed in guiding new book projects through all aspects of the publication process.  The successful candidate will be adept at tracking, prioritizing, and processing multiple time-sensitive projects, working independently, and communicating clearly and diplomatically with authors and colleagues.  They will be proficient in appropriate word processing and database programs. They will be a creative problem solver and open to challenges. The assistant acquisitions editor takes appropriate actions to support a diverse workforce and participates in the Press’s efforts to create a respectful, inclusive, and welcoming work environment. Some travel required.

Deadline to apply: 7/22/2019

See the full job posting here:



Karen E. Whedbee is an associate professor in the media studies program in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University. She has published widely on topics related to free speech, communication ethics, and the history of participatory democracy. Among her recent works is “Preservation, Restoration, and Accessibility of Popular Culture Materials” in A Companion to Popular Culture (ed. Gary Burns, Wiley Blackwell, 2016). She recently shared her thoughts on her article, “Reverend Billy Goes to Main Street: Free Speech, Trespassing, and Activist Documentary Film” from the Journal of Film and Video.

On a daily basis, many of us find ourselves struggling to negotiate the boundary between private and public space. Digital technology has made audiovisual recording of personal interactions ubiquitous. Social media has made the distribution of these recordings instantaneous. Thus, the danger of violating privacy can be serious. But what is at issue in the twenty-first century is not just a matter of personal privacy and individual property rights. Matters that are of genuine public interest and concern are equally endangered, as they have frequently been relocated onto private property. The “No Trespassing” sign can be used by powerful government officials and corporate interests as a kind of non-governmental censorship that silences legitimate public argument and limits public accountability in the marketplace of ideas.

As a university professor, I teach students who aspire to work as public advocates, filmmakers, journalists, and social media marketing specialists. It should come as no surprise that we spend many classes exploring the tensions between privacy and publicity. Over the years, I’ve collected many case studies that illustrate the kinds of problems that media professionals are likely to face.

For example, the springboard for this article is What Would Jesus Buy? In this 2007 documentary, director Rob Van Alkemade and his crew followed Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir on a road trip from New York City to California. Along the journey, the reverend provides a master class in political activism and the art of trespass. I supplement the insights provided by Reverend Billy with an examination of several other documentary films including Josh Fox’s Gasland, Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc., and Elizabeth Barrett’s Stranger with a Camera. These classic documentaries help to clarify the legal and ethical hazards that face media professionals who have found themselves straddling the boundary between private and public space.

Jake Johnson is an assistant professor of musicology in the Wanda L. Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University. He recently answered some questions about his new book, Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

A lot of scholars are brilliant at deciphering how music works—its mechanics, its history and influence on other pieces of music, etc. I wanted with this book to shift the focus and ask what kind of work music does for a community. Musicals have always been a fascination for me, particularly how far-reaching they are despite their close association with New York City. I grew up in a small town in rural Oklahoma, far from New York (geographically and in other ways!), but the community and schools regularly put on musicals and growing up I of course watched them on VHS tape. I wondered if this was a similar experience for others. Years later I became fascinated by how significant musical theater seemed to be for the Mormon communities I knew and I wanted to better understand why—why, of all things, musicals? In writing this book, I discovered that this may be a story about Mormons, but it was also a story about America and what it means to claim a way of belonging here. So, although Mormons are the focus of this book for specific reasons, this community stands in for any number of other communities that have used or continue to use theater to chart a path of acceptance and belonging.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

There are a number of immediate influencers, including my dear faculty mentors at UCLA and the University of Chicago and my many scholarly interlocutors in between. But this project in particular is personal. I couldn’t have written this book without some challenging and beautiful moments with religion, work, and life that I have shared with my wife. Her fingerprints are all over this project.


Q: How did you conduct research for your book?

My process was both historical and ethnographic. I did a good deal of digging in archives at Brigham Young University and the LDS Church History Library, but most of my ideas for the book came from chatting over the years with every Mormon I knew. I wanted this book to be both a gift and a challenge to a community I knew well but didn’t feel I could or should speak on behalf of.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

The story was clear to me from the beginning, but the depth and theological significance of musical theater in Mormonism was a surprise. One aspect that I find the most fascinating is how every day and common many of our experiences with theatricality are. In Mormonism, this gets articulated most prominently in what I call the vicarious voice—or the practice of speaking on behalf of someone else. Pretending to be someone you are not is of course rife with falsity, but if we are being honest with ourselves, those experiences of pretend—of playing a role, reading a part, advocating for a child, reciting the Lord’s Prayer—are often what invite us into a world or experience more real than the one we typically inhabit. So, theater doesn’t only happen on a stage with footlights. We are deeply and often passionately implicated in pretend, and I think the Mormon example is a compelling representation of what probably is a common experience for most people.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

I hope my work glimpses for readers how significant musical theater is in the lives of everyday people and among a variety of communities. In reading this book, I suspect some will reflect on the place of theater in their own lives. I think it’s important to think hard about the work theatricality does for us, and why and in what moments of our lives we rely on theater’s pretense to access something we know to be more truthful but may be much harder to find on its own—like God, or community, or a sense of purpose in the world. My feeling is that most of us employ musical theater or its equivalent to invite ourselves into a world that might never exist materially but can be readily enjoyed vicariously. Of course, imagining a friendlier or more accepting or honest world is not the same thing as living in one. I hope this book is an invitation to see the work of theater for what it is but also to draw the best of our imaginings into the real world.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

                Musicals matter.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

I’m a promiscuous reader. Right now, I’m reading Terry Eagleton’s Culture and the Death of God, which is some of the most evocative and incandescent writing I’ve encountered. In the car, I am an NPR junkie. At home, my wife and I are almost always listening to Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson or Nina Simone and show tunes are usually streaming out of our daughters’ rooms. At work, I have a soft spot for Sondheim. Other more recent obsessions include The Good Place and Schitt’s Creek. I love anything by the Coen brothers, and for me there simply will never be enough Anthony Bourdain.