bolshevikMeet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting academic publishing, writing, education, and related topics. Today, industry advice columnist The Bolshevik answers your questions.

Dear Bolshevik,
The other day it occurred to me that literacy is killing us. Over and over, I hear the phrase “I read that…” followed by a dump of ignorance. Even in my own life, most of my bouts of depression and/or rage come as a result of reading. I know lots of great books find a way into the world, and I have opened a few, but I’m starting to think literacy is like petroleum: it’s given us a lot, but takes away far, far too much.
Signed, Better Unread than Dead

Dear Better: I agree. I myself spent last month refusing to read. On the first of the month, I vowed to spend my free time with beauty and classical music. By the Ides, I was watching videos of kangaroo street fights in Australia. Maybe, then, books are like soda: certain to kill us, but more slowly than vodka.

Dear Bolshevik,
Is aftershave still widely used? Or does it belong to that part of the consumer economy we refer to as Old Man Products? Remember Old Spice? What great commercials. Some male model in a turtleneck wanders the streets in a temperate, clean port city. As he ambles about he turns female heads with his scent and dimples. “From where did this foxy yachtsman set sail?” the women ask, as the familiar sea-pipe tune plays in the background. He’d throw the jacket over his shoulder, forego the compulsory tests for parasites, and head over to Her Place for shore leave. 
Now, on the rare occasions I see an ad for a scent, it is for a young men’s cologne and has EXTREME in the name. Does the modern man of today turn thirty and just give up on smelling good, as he does on so many other things?
—Signed, Buoys and Girls

Dears Buoys: The Bolshevik sees pretty much everything as related to the exploitation and decline of the working class. Aftershave is no different. Once a core olfactory component of the atmosphere at everything from sawdust-floored bars to the Moose Lodge, aftershave became less and less important as capitalists sent blue collar jobs out of the country, for our working men used it most to cover up the noble odors of the field, the garage, and the shop floor. In fact, the UIP has an acclaimed book on working class masculinity that, while overlooking the role of aftershave, goes into a great many other aspects of the culture. Our toiling forefathers sought out Hai Karate. Now their white collar descendants settle for the odor of Axe. A tragedy.

Excerpted from Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love, and Politics, by Jean Freedman

Peggy had written some mildly feminist songs, such as “Darling Annie,” about an equal partnership between a man and a woman, and “Nightshift,” about a woman’s sexual stamina exceeding a man’s, but none had been very pointed or even overtly political. Overworked, harassed, and mildly annoyed that she had to write a song on demand, Peggy came up with the song that would be her most famous: “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer.” She recalls, “`Engineer’ appeared so fast on the page that it almost seemed to write itself—you’d think I’d been brooding on discrimination and prejudice all my life. Not so. I had been encouraged personally, academically, musically, and sartorially to do whatever I wanted. And I never wanted to be a boy or an engineer . . . or operate a turret-lathe.”

freedmanThe song was a departure for Peggy in terms of subject matter and musical style. With its syncopated rhythms, wide vocal range, and melody that occasionally departs from the primary key, “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer” does not sound like a folk song. Yet it retains several characteristics of traditional music: the narrative structure is reminiscent of the ballad, and like many traditional songs, it presents two clearly articulated and diametrically opposed points of view. In a traditional song, these two points of view would probably be of a man and a woman for whom arguing is a form of courtship and who resolve their disagreement in the course of the song. In “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer,” there is no resolution between the unnamed woman who wants to be an engineer and the opposing voice—or voices—of a social order that urges her to abandon her ambition and become a “lady.”

Amber Good points out that the two voices are differentiated in the tune as well as the words: “A range of only a fourth—perhaps underscoring the narrowness of thinking—characterizes society’s voice, while the heroine’s melodic range is quite wide, with leaps and skips dominating the melody. Seeger likewise differentiates the two voices harmonically, casting the protagonist in major and the antagonist in minor.”
A line of miniskirted women sang “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer” during the 1970-71 Festival of Fools. It quickly became popular and remains her best-known song to this day.

dunnThis lively study unpacks the intersecting racial, sexual, and gender politics underlying the representations of racialized bodies, masculinities, and femininities in early 1970s black action films, with particular focus on the representation of black femininity. Stephane Dunn explores the typical, sexualized, subordinate positioning of women in low-budget blaxploitation action narratives as well as more seriously radical films like Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and The Spook Who Sat by the Door, in which black women are typically portrayed as trifling “bitches” compared to the supermacho black male heroes. The terms “baad bitches” and “sassy supermamas” signal the reversal of this positioning with the emergence of supermama heroines in the few black action films in the early 1970s that featured self-assured, empowered, and tough (or “baad”) black women as protagonists: Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Foxy Brown.

Dunn offers close examination of a distinct moment in the history of African American representation in popular cinema, tracing its emergence out of a radical political era, influenced especially by the Black Power movement and feminism. “Baad Bitches” and Sassy Supermamas also engages blaxploitation’s impact and lingering aura in contemporary hip-hop culture as suggested by its disturbing gender politics and the “baad bitch daughters” of Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones, rappers Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim.

n.Today at The Point, José Ángel N. contributes an essay drawing on his experiences as an undocumented immigrant to ponder American progress, the idea of home, and today’s fraught immigration atmosphere.

When I am invited to share my experience as an undocumented man with different communities, I often find myself puzzled by the misconceptions I encounter. An older gentleman stands up and demands one goddamn good reason not to call the police on me at that very moment. But then we would not be able to have a discussion, I answer.

I am aware of the conversation’s significance. That brief exchange alone is already of great value—just by engaging in it, we are both carrying on in the tradition of the town-hall meeting, which Tocqueville observed to be one of the pillars of the American democratic experience. It is clear that we come with different agendas—the man is determined to uphold the rule of law; I am forced to defend my humanity. In the end, our conversation veers toward the subject of the economy. He insists that people like me drive down wages for American workers; I tell him we make it possible for Americans to live comfortably and affordably. As a retiree, I add, he should be an ally of the undocumented, the Social Security Administration having retained $100 billion in taxes from our paychecks during the last decade alone. He remains skeptical—his version of America does not allow for an outlaw funding his retirement.

The entire essay is here.

On February 25, 2009, science fiction master Philip José Farmer—author of the Riverworld series and the Hugo-winning To Your Scattered Bodies Go—departed our reality at age 91. When it happened I wondered, How did Philip José Farmer end up in Peoria? But it turned out he had grown up there. Watching a zeppelin pass over the city, he once said, sparked his imagination and led him to SF. Farmer churned out seventy-some novels. He famously juggled eleven (!) ongoing series of books in the 1970s and earned a much-deserved rep for, first, productivity and second, maybe needing to rewrite a little more before going on to the next project.

night of lightFarmer won a Hugo for his early story “The Lovers,” a much-rejected manuscript that had offended the morals of many an editor with its graphic portrayal of interspecies intimacy. Years passed until the sock-it-to-me Sixties embraced Farmer’s frank discussion of sex and sexuality. Essex House, a publisher of pornography, published two of his late 1960s books. That thread of creative exploration peaked with controversial “biographies” of Tarzan and Doc Savage featuring the pulp icons in, well, amorous adventures as well as the other kind.

Farmer had signficant influence on pop culture and SF. Legend has it that Jimi Hendrix found “purple haze” in Farmer’s Night of Light. Robert Heinlein, inspired by Farmer’s delves into sexuality, dedicated Stranger in a Strange Land to him. Further afield, Farmer stoked renewed interest in Tarzan and Doc Savage by publishing straighahead adventure novels featuring each of the heroes. He also wrote Venus on the Half-Shell as Kilgore Trout, the obscure SF writer in several Kurt Vonnegut novels, only to have everyone assume Vonnegut wrote the book.

hamiltonRecently, Kenneth M. Hamilton sat down with podcast The Bookmonger to discuss his new book, Booker T. Washington in American Memory. It is ten minutes well spent as he discusses how Americans venerated Washington in his own time and why the reputation of the educator/author suffered during the civil rights struggles of later years.

 

jeffries black powerDespite the growing scholarly interest in the civil rights movement, to date there has been no comprehensive examination of the Black Power movement. Black Power in the Belly of the Beast fills this gap by providing the first in-depth look at the Black Power movement from the 1963 founding of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) to the Black Power movement’s demise in the mid-1970s.

The volume’s twelve contributors include well-known scholars such as James A. Geschwender and Douglas Glasgow as well as prominent community activists Akbar Muhammad Ahmad, Floyd W. Hayes III, and Komozi Woodard. Each of their chapters explores a single Black Power organization including Us, the Black Panther Party, and the Deacons for Defense and Justice. Important but lesser-known Black Power organizations such as the Republic of New Afrika and Sons of Watts are paid equal attention, as contributors address issues including self-defense, black identity, and the politics of class and gender. Throughout, authors emphasize the primary role that black institutions and charismatic leaders played in the rise, development, and eventual decline of the overall movement.

“We have just witnessed a spectacular demonstration of the failures of a national, political imagination. Many of us feel devastated, afraid, and confused. There is no better time than this to accept L.H. Stallings’s Funk the Erotic’s invitation to inhabit Transworlds of funky freakery. For whatever we do now has got to be funky–to Funk the Power, which is a spiritual, corporeal, sexual, and imaginative anti-work kind of thing.” -C. Riley Snorton*

Cover for STALLINGS: Funk the Erotic: Transaesthetics and Black Sexual Cultures. Click for larger imageThe words of C. Riley Snorton spoke volumes at the National Women’s Studies Association, which took place just a day after the 2016 election results became official and Donald Trump was named President Elect. As 2000 feminists came together to talk about mobilization, activism, and resistance, eclectic panels took place throughout the conference. One such panel was a coveted author-meets-critic session that featured the book Funk the Erotic: Transaesthetics and Black Sexual Cultures by L.H Stallings, associate professor of women’s studies at the University of Maryland College Park. As a member of this panel, Dr. Snorton called upon us to take up the lessons of Funk the Erotic in order to Funk the Power.

But how does one Funk the Power? For an answer to this, we can look deeper into Stallings’s work, which captivates readers with expressive language and pictorial descriptions of black erotica, feminism, and funk. She presents women, not as delicate flowers, but as warriors pushing themselves onto the battlefield. Funk the Erotic changes your perception of sexual cultures and black feminism with every page. The momentous experience of a baby’s first sounds of its mother’s heartbeat and crooning can be found in some of Funk music’s most basic beats, and Stallings illustrates how funk has evolved and morphed over the generations to provide and shape black power.

With the beginning of one of the most momentous and powerful movements of the twenty-first century, Black Lives Matter, Stallings’s book has come at a crucial time. Like funk music and freakery, the Black Lives Matter movement has expanded beyond its original focus around policy brutality to include so much more. And this is precisely what Funk the Erotic invites us to do: to go beyond the original, to do work that is not always acknowledged as work, to express one’s self where you usually yield. This is how one Funks the Power. Continue reading

Cover for Whitney: Splattered Ink: Postfeminist Gothic Fiction and Gendered Violence. Click for larger imageWe are pleased to announce that Splattered Ink: Postfeminist Gothic Fiction and Gendered Violence by Sarah E. Whitney is the co-winner of the Emily Toth Award for Best Single Work in Women’s Studies, awarded by the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA). The award will be presented during the annual meeting in San Diego, California, April 12-15, 2017.

Congratulations, Sarah!

Congratulations to Michele Eggers, winner of the 2016 NWSA/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize for Embodying Inequality: The Criminalization of Women for Abortion in Chile. The award was announced at the annual meeting of the National Women’s Studies Association. Out of five finalists, Eggers book was selected by the NWSA prize committee.

Previous winners include:

2015: Erin L. Durban-Albrecht – Postcolonial Homophobia: United States Imperialism in Haiti and the Transnational Circulation of Antigay Sexual Politics

2014: Ethel Tungohan – Migrant Care Worker Activism in Canada

2013: Christina Holmes – Ecological Borderlands: Decolonizing Body, Nature, and Spirit in Chicana Feminism
(published in 2016)

2012: Sophie Richter-Devroe – How Women Do Politics: Peacebuilding, Resistance, and Survival in Palestine

2011: Erica Lorraine Williams – Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements
(published in 2013)

*****

The NWSA and the University of Illinois Press are currently accepting submissions for the 2017 book prize until June 1 of this year. Applicants must be National Women’s Studies Association members. If a winner of the competition is selected, he or she will receive a publication contract with the University of Illinois Press and a $1,000 advance.

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Activism
  • Coloniality, postcoloniality and neo-imperialism
  • Cultural production (media, film, music, literature)
  • Feminist knowledge production
  • Feminist politics
  • Feminist science and environmental studies
  • Feminist theory
  • Gender and disability
  • Gender and globalization
  • Gender and labor practices
  • Gender and militarism
  • Gender and queer sexuality
  • Gender and violence
  • Gendered experiences of people of color
  • Girls studies
  • Global and transnational feminisms
  • Institutions and public policies
  • Intersectionality
  • Theories and practices of coalition
  • Transgender studies
  • Women of color feminisms

Please direct all questions and submissions to:

Dawn M. Durante
Senior Acquisitions Editor
University of Illinois Press
1325 South Oak St.
Champaign, IL 61820-6903
durante9@uillinois.edu