nagarIn the following post, Dr. Richa Nagar discusses the importance of politically engaged scholarship for scholar activists in the post-election climate. Dr. Nagar is a professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies at the University of Minnesota and is the author of Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Through Scholarship and Activism.

The precarity of current political times throughout the world challenges us in hitherto unforeseen ways. It requires us to deeply reflect and rethink our responsibility and modes of engagement with the issues, lives, and people around us. It demands that we think collectively across our locations and differences to work through our disagreements and to build trust in order to embrace new visions and practices for a just life that can be co-owned by many.

Muddying the Waters: Co-authoring Feminisms across Scholarship and Activism gives us critical and necessary tools for embarking upon this path.  Dismantling the walls between the expert and the lay-person, on the one hand and between story, theory and strategy, on the other, Muddying the Waters offers reflections and concepts that are embedded in political and intellectual journeys across not only academia and activism, but also across languages, genres, and geographical locations. By taking us along on journeys where the self and Other as well as singular and the collective learn to accompany one another and to emerge together as part of committed intellectual and political partnerships, Muddying the Waters confronts some of the toughest and trickiest questions in the politics of knowledge production: it demonstrates how co-authorship can become a mode of co-owning authority across locations through a politics without guarantees.  Rather than deriving its power from absolute and unshakeable Truths that can be fixed on paper, such co-authorship generates its contextual and contingent truths through a radical vulnerability in which people come together to co-create an ever-evolving praxis for justice.  Such co-authorship requires us to dissolve our egos in order to move from suspicion and division toward trust and hope. It mobilizes critique in ways that insist on building conversations through a non-stop grappling with questions of ethical responsibility. It commits itself to alliance work across unequal locations through an ongoing methodology of engagement that hinges on trust, love, and the creative possibilities of situated solidarities.

lincoln memorialReverent. Classical. (Well, neoclassical.) Uncontroversial in design, though the subject has a few fringe detractors. The Lincoln Memorial began to take shape in 1915. By then, architects and others had pitched a number of, shall we say, novel ideas about the memorial, and I think we all can get a little wistful thinking of what might have been had a ziggurat arisen on the site.

Instead, a man born on November 28, 1866 in Watseka created the iconic Memorial we visit today. Henry Bacon spent a year at the University of Illinois before catching on with the famous New York architecture firm of McKim, Mead & White, the designers of the original Penn Station in Manhattan as well as Columbia University’s campus.

Like many architects of the time, Bacon often worked in the Beaux-Arts style and he shared the widespread American admiration for the ancient Greeks. Bacon drew on the Parthenon for inspiration with the Lincoln Memorial. By using granite, limestone, and several kinds of marble, he incorporated stone from across the United States to symbolize Lincoln’s dedication to the Union. His design won Bacon the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects. While the Memorial remained his most famous work, Bacon enjoyed a lengthy career designing not only monuments and other buildings, but houses, in particular in and around Wilmington, North Carolina.

University presses, as a rule, pay a lot of attention to their communities. That may take the form of publishing titles on their regions, or their own schools. No end of UP books go into organizing—for women, minority groups, labor, the environment, academic freedom, and dozens of other causes. Often the authors of these books live the struggle, as they used to say in the old days. They get out, get into it, and get involved.

University Press Week chose community as its theme, and a look around any UP web catalog makes it clear why. A number of presses have contributed to a gallery of books that highlight how scholarly publishing and community go hand in hand. But the gallery, for all the fascinating books it includes, really just provides an at-a-glance sampler of the community-oriented books out there. State, city, and school—if you want to know more about where you put down your feet every morning, or where you tramp to in the course of the way, the neighborhood university press is a good first stop on your tour.

Yesterday, as part of our #ReadUP campaign celebrating University Press Week, a Justice League of academic publishing and book industry pros hosted a live YouTube webinar on various aspects of the U Press experience. Moderated by Fredric Nachbaur, director at Fordham University Press, the group revealed inside information, offered advice, and delved into how to get the outside world to groove on academic press books.

Wondering how to get readers to pick up UP books? Rework your bookstore to appeal to that hardcore reader who buys again and again? The difference between trade titles and the so-called monograph, a word I promised I’d never use on this blog? Pitching serious UP books to sales reps and buyers at stores? The panels covers all that and a lot more.It’s fifty-two minutes of FREE, essential information from some of the wisest minds in the industry.

Back before the Internet, people relied on comic books and pulp magazines for self-improvement. Charles Atlas challenged generations of boys, and a few girls, to get buff and deal with that bully who kicked sand in his/her face. Ads in tawdry detective magazines promised to provide crime-fighting skills while more mainstream publications pushed everything from speed reading to making friends to learning a foreign language in just 15 minutes a day.

whiskey flavored toothpasteUniversity presses won’t try to con you. We sell books. The kind without shortcuts. It’s just the way our evolution worked out. Had universities followed missions that involved happiness via whisky flavored toothpaste, we might today be telling you about how our aged tartar-fighting rye with the mint stripe could provide tasty dental health.

We’re in the midst of what we who love shorthand call #ReadUP, a University Press Book extravaganza that promises nothing less than enlightenment, intelligence, new worldviews, and a lot of stuff to talk about at cocktail parties.

Look, we live in a B.S.-dominant age. The best way to inoculate against it is to search out some measure of truth, the more uncomfortable the better. We provide that. We can’t even publish a book without getting the approval of a bunch of scholars first. And it’s not just egghead stuff we’re publishing. People, please! Rutgers just put out a great book on Frank Miller’s pioneering work on Daredevil. The press at Texas Christian has the science of whiskey on its roster.

Come along with us. Our books are just like the other books you love. Available at stores. Check-outable at libraries. Beautifully produced and written by actual experts in their fields. You’re smart enough to know you’re not smart enough. Same here. Every time you open a UP book you step into the light. Every time you open a UP book you make a fool angry. Every time you open a UP book you fill a sandbag against the rising tide of B.S.



Though we often think of reading as a solitary activity, histories of reading demonstrate that it is in fact a deeply communal practice—structured and encouraged interpersonally by family and friends and fostered institutionally through formal education. In the twenty-first century, the practice of reading continues to be an expression of our associations and of our desire to forge particular communities, both imagined and real—communities of fellow feminists, foodies, literary connoisseurs, history buffs, fantasy fans, and romance readers to name a few. Of course, this is not to say that the simple act of reading is always an explicit or even conscious act of identification with a particular community but rather to emphasize that just as readers derive complex meaning from the literature they choose, that meaning can in turn be circumscribed by readers’ aspirations for particular forms of affiliation.
from Reading Together, Reading Apart

Often thought of as a solitary activity, the practice of reading can in fact encode the complex politics of community formation. Engagement with literary culture represents a particularly integral facet of identity formation—and expresses of a sense of belonging—within the South Asian diaspora in the United States.

Tamara Bhalla blends a case study with literary and textual analysis to illuminate this phenomenon. Her fascinating investigation considers institutions from literary reviews to the marketplace to social media and other technologies, as well as traditional forms of literary discussion like book clubs and academic criticism. Throughout, Bhalla questions how her subjects’ circumstances, desires, and shared race and class, limit the values they ascribe to reading. She also examines how ideology circulating around a body of literature or a self-selected, imagined community of readers shapes reading itself and influences South Asians’ powerful, if contradictory, relationship with ideals of cultural authenticity.

Insightful and provocative, Reading Together, Reading Apart builds on practical fieldwork coupled with theoretical precision to reveal the surprising complexity of reading as a social practice.

socolowThe Olympics and geopolitics have gone hand-in-hand since the modern Games emerged in 1896. Michael J. Socolow’s new book examines one of the most controversial Olympiads of all time through the lens of emerging technology and an American rowing team that defied the odds to win gold.

The Berlin Olympics, August 14, 1936. German rowers, dominant at the Games, line up against America’s top eight-oared crew. Hundreds of millions of listeners worldwide wait by their radios. Leni Riefenstahl prepares her cameramen. Grantland Rice looks past the 75,000 spectators crowding the riverbank. Above it all, the Nazi leadership, flush with the propaganda triumph the Olympics have given their New Germany, await a crowning victory they can broadcast to the world.

The Berlin Games matched cutting-edge communication technology with compelling sports narrative to draw the blueprint for all future sports broadcasting. A global audience—the largest cohort of humanity ever assembled—enjoyed the spectacle via radio. This still-novel medium offered a “liveness,” a thrilling immediacy no other technology had ever matched. Michael J. Socolow’s account moves from the era’s technological innovations to the human drama of how the race changed the lives of nine young men. As he shows, the origins of global sports broadcasting can be found in this single, forgotten contest. In those origins we see the ways the presentation, consumption, and uses of sport changed forever.

Today’s post is by Gerry Canavan, author of the new UIP book Octavia E. Butler. Canavan is an assistant professor of twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature at Marquette University, specializing in science fiction. He blogs at and tweets at @gerrycanavan.

canavanAs with similarly uncanny precognitions of Donald Trump’s unbelievable ascension to the presidency—a throwaway joke on The Simpsons in 2000, the terrible reign of the Trump-inspired bully Biff Tannen in the evil version of 1985 in Back to the Future Part II, the uncanny similarities between the Trump election and the fascist President Gentle in David Foster Wallace’s 1996 Infinite Jest—many were incredibly disturbed earlier this summer to recall the now eerily familiar slogan of the odious and dictatorial President Jarrett in Octavia Butler’s dystopian Parable of the Talents (1998): MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. Jarrett rolls into power on a wave of Christian ethno-nationalism, inspiring roving vigilante lynch mobs of genocidal supporters before, eventually, introducing formal concentration camps. Set in the 2020s and 2030s in a collapsing and crashed America, the Parables books (tracing Lauren Olamina’s development of a twenty-first century religion that has the power to inspire and console in the face of disaster) have always seemed incredibly and disturbingly prescient—and in the wake of November 8, 2016 they now seem downright spooky, the actual and accurate history of the future. “I have read,” writes Taylor Franklin Bankole, the character who eventually becomes Lauren’s husband, “that the period of upheaval that journalists have begun to refer to as ‘the Apocalypse’ or more commonly, more bitterly, ‘the Pox’ lasted from 2015 through 2030—a decade and a half of chaos.” Well, here we go.

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de slippe et. al

Civic Labors . . . is intended to prompt further discussion about engaged scholarship and teaching. The essays will help readers to think further about the theory and practices of engagement and scholar-activism, asking what publics ought to be addressed and how best to shape this engagement. The contributors drive home the point that, regardless of the scale or type on involvement, power and engagement are entwined. These stories provide hope and an impetus for scholars and teachers to engage creatively in ongoing struggles that Shelton Stromquist sees as connected, at once local and transnational: “How do we build and sustain a vital movement for social justice and equality capable of contesting for power and remodeling our workplaces, or communities and indeed our countries into the humane and just world to which we aspire?” Or as David Montgomery urges, “carry it on!”
—from Civic Labors

Working class studies often attracts scholars who spend their careers, and not a small amount of their non-work lives, at the crossroads of writing, teaching, and living the struggle. The essays in this new collection examine the challenges and opportunities for engaged scholarship in the United States and abroad. A diverse roster of contributors discuss how participation in current labor and social struggles guides their campus and community organizing, public history initiatives, teaching, mentoring, and other activities. They also explore the role of research and scholarship in social change, while acknowledging that intellectual labor complements but never replaces collective action and movement building.

Octavia Butler accomplished many near-impossibles. She succeeded as a woman in science fiction. She succeeded as an African American woman in science fiction. She also broke out of the genre’s restraints to earn attention in the American literary sphere. It isn’t easy to win a MacArthur grant, for that matter, and some would say publishing a book that people read and talk about is rare enough.

canavanThough we’re excited about every book we publish, we’re Excited 2.0 about Gerry Canavan‘s new entry in our Modern Masters of Science Fiction series. Octavia E. Butler melds critical analysis and Canavan’s fascinating finds from the Butler archives at The Huntington to produce a truly eye-opening consideration of the way Butler’s life influenced her ideas, molded her works, and spurred her choices. Octavia E. Butler is also a landmark for the series. As you can see, the UIP Art Department’s stunning redesign of the series not only draws the eye, it pays tribute to the fantastic cover art that has graced SF books since the 1930s.

The post below offers a group of quotes out of Octavia E. Butler. Typically we do that to give readers a sample of a book. But we’re also Butler fans. We want to spread the word–on her achievement, her works, and her worthiness as a subject for in-depth study. Inspired? Interested? We encourage you to borrow a passage from Canavan or a quote from Butler herself and put it out there. Our Twitter feed will post more of the same. Enjoy.