SubramaniamF14Banu Subramaniam is the winner of the 2016 Ludwik Fleck prize for her book Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity.

The Fleck Prize is the oldest 4S book prize awarded to an outstanding book across the breadth of science and technology studies.

Accepting the prize Subramaniam stated:

I am thrilled and deeply honored to receive the Fleck prize for scholarship in STS. The book, Ghost Stories for Darwin is a deeply personal and intellectual project making a case for the critical need to understand the co-constitution of gender, race, sexuality, and nation, and their co-production with and through the institutions and histories of science and feminism. It makes a passionate case for an interdisciplinary vision of experimental biology informed by the social studies of science. I am deeply indebted to the leadership and to the members of 4S for their capacious sense of community, and welcoming those of us not formally trained in STS as valued members of the community. My thanks to the many friends and colleagues who have supported, and sustained my interdisciplinary work in an otherwise disciplined academy. My thanks to members of the Fleck Prize Committee for the enormous amount of work that prize committees take. Thanks also to the leadership of 4S for supporting and pushing the boundaries of interdisciplinary work in STS.

Ghost Stories for Darwin was also named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2015.


Today marks the 46th anniversary of the day when Dock Ellis, supposedly tripping on LSD, did what 90% of major league pitchers can only dream of: he threw a no-hitter.

That it came with eight walks seems appropriate. By definition, you’re going to be a little wild after dropping acid. Yet the Pittsburgh Pirates hurler survived all those free baserunners to become a lysergic legend. Not everyone believes it happened. That’s no surprise. It really shouldn’t be possible. If it did happen, Ellis demonstrated some remarkable focus, because he had a lot to deal with out there. In his own words:

I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate.

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keeley instituteJune 10 marks the birthday of Leslie E. Keeley, founder of the Keeley Institute in Dwight.

A historical curiosity today, Keeley was world famous in his own time as the tireless proponent of his so-called Gold Cure, a snake oil credited with saving thousands of people from alcoholism.

Keeley’s genius for promotion and entrepreneurial acumen led him to open franchised centers for the treatment of addiction across North America and in Europe. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the average American recognized the term Keeley hospital as a place to escape the clutches of drink, nicotine, and narcotics, and used the phrase even with centers not associated with Keeley.

Keeley’s works and centers were also synonymous with one of the era’s growth industries: medical quackery.

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With his trademark mandolin style and unequaled tenor harmonies, Curly Seckler has carved out a seventy-seven-year career in bluegrass and country music. Written in close collaboration with Mr. Seckler and those who know him, Foggy Mountain Troubadour is the first full-length biography of an American originalPenny Parsons follows a journey that wound from North Carolina schoolhouses to the Grand Ole Opry stage to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.

Her account of course takes in Mr. Seckler’s pivotal role in the Foggy Mountain Boys, the legendary bluegrass outfit fronted by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs from 1948 until the two men parted ways in 1969. In addition to providing chop mandolin and a tenor, Mr. Seckler put in time driving the tour bus purchased by the band in 1956. Riding on the bus, in the driver’s seat or otherwise, put everyone on fire watch, because the vehicle, nicknamed the Red Rider, was com-bus-tible:

parsonsMade by the Flxible Company, it had an eight-cylinder Buick motor and ran on gasoline rather than diesel fuel. The motor mount was loose, and when the bus was moving, the motor would bounce, causing the spark plug wires to pop off, and the engine would catch on fire. Earl and Curly did most of the driving, while Josh and Paul would often ride “shotgun.”

Curly recalled a number of times when he would glance in the rearview mirror only to see that the engine was on fire. “You could always tell; when it would light up in the back, the thing was on fire. We had some sand in there [that] we’d pour on it.” Josh remembered that he once volunteered to sit in the engine cage and hold the spark plugs on the engine so that the band could get to a show in time. Only after he had crawled in and the bus was on its way did it occur to him that he would not have been able to get out if the engine caught fire.

On one occasion, they were on the way to a show and Curly noticed they were almost out of gas. He told Lester he didn’t think they had enough to make it to the show. “Lester said, `Well, Seck, duck in there and get ten dollars’ worth, at the first station you see.’ So I pulled in there, stuck a ten dollar bill out the window, and [asked the attendant], `Could you run in ten dollars [worth] right quick? We’re in a hurry.’ He went running back there, and directly he come back and said, `Come back here and put the fire out first!’”

Another time, the engine caught fire when the band was at WSAZ-TV in Huntington. By this time the bus fires had become common occurrences. “We was in there, rehearsing our program,” Curly said. “Somebody come in and said, `Your bus is on fire! Your bus is on fire!’ We just kept on picking, and finally we got to the end of what we was rehearsing. We went out there, and the fire trucks had done come and put it out. Earl looked over at Lester and said, `Wonder who called the fire department?’”

The University of Illinois Press took science fiction seriously before taking science fiction seriously held its current scholarly cool. Today we continue the tradition with our popular Modern Masters of Science Fiction series, with new books on legends Octavia E. Butler and Alfred Bester due this fall. Below we list a handful of far-seeing works that delve into a once-maligned genre that has taken over the world.

roberts sexualSexual Generations: Star Trek: The Next Generation and Gender, by Robin Roberts
Boldly going where no sentient being has gone before, Robin Roberts forges intriguing links between feminist politics and theory and the second Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. This lively discussion shows how science fiction’s ability to make the familiar strange allows ST: TNG to expose and comment on entrenched attitudes toward gender roles and feminist issues. By having aliens or sexually neutral beings enact female dominance or passivity, experience pregnancy or maternity, or suffer rape or abortion, Star Trek provides viewers with a new perspective on these experiences and an antidote to explicit and implicit cultural biases. Roberts maintains that the relevance of Star Trek: The Next Generation to feminist issues accounts as no other factor can for the program’s huge following of female fans.

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“There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler.”

meyersToday marks the anniversary of the release of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Often depicted as a damning indictment of Soviet totalitarianism and not much more, Nineteen Eighty-Four proved less a report on the current events of its day than a prescient portrayal of the ways governments and elites would refine methods of social control. For that reason alone remains relevant today, and will probably remain relevant a hundred years from now, assuming the novel itself doesn’t disappear down the memory hole.

The UIP book Orwell: Life and Art covers the novelist’s painful childhood and presents accounts of his autobiographical writings from the beginning of his career through the Spanish Civil War. Orwell scholar Jeffrey Meyers adds analyses of Orwell’s major works, including Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as looking at the author’s style, distinctive satiric humor, and approach to the art of writing. Meyers ends with a scrupulous examination of six biographies of Orwell, including his own, that embodies a consummate grasp and mastery of both the art of biography and Orwell’s life and legacy.

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gorn aliA boxing legend but a towering American cultural figure, Muhammad Ali lived a life beyond adjectives, indeed beyond superlatives, and that’s just what he set out to do. Tributes to the Greatest have filled the Internet since we heard word of Ali’s death over the weekend. He was multitudes. In addition to Ali the boxer, there are Ali the Black Muslim, Ali the cultural icon, Ali the anti-war protestor, Ali the telecelebrity, Ali the civil rights figure, and more. And it is these various incarnations—Ali as a window onto his time, our time—that build upon each other in this book to give us a vivid portrait of one of the greatest protagonists in the ring of public history.

As the first book by scholars on the significance of his life and times, Muhammad Ali, the People’s Champ is a fresh reassessment of the place of a giant sports idol and the role he has played in American history. Ali both shaped and reflected the times in which he lived. He touched the lives of people in a way unprecedented by almost any sports figure before or since. The contributors conclude that we can have no full understanding of our era without him.

misriThe University of Illinois Press offers its congratulations to author Deepti Misri. Her recent UIP release Beyond Partition: Gender, Violence, and Representation in Postcolonial India received the 2016 Eugene M. Kayden Book Award in Literary Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder. The annual award goes to a CU Boulder faculty member whose work exemplifies excellence in scholarly writing, and includes grants for both research and to fund a future author-meets-critics symposium.

Beyond Partition is a part of the Dissident Feminisms series at the Press. Within its pages, Misri shows how Partition began a history of politicized animosity associated with the differing ideas of “India” held by communities and in regions on one hand, and by the political-military Indian state on the other. She moves beyond that formative national event, however, in order to examine other forms of gendered violence in the postcolonial life of the nation, including custodial rape, public stripping, deturbanning, and enforced disappearances. Assembling literary, historiographic, performative, and visual representations of gendered violence against women and men, Misri establishes that cultural expressions do not just follow violence but determine its very contours, and interrogates the gendered scripts underwriting the violence originating in the contested visions of what “India” means.

Ambitious and ranging across disciplines, Beyond Partition offers both an overview of and nuanced new perspectives on the ways caste, identity, and class complicate representations of violence, and how such representations shape our understandings of both violence and India.

Horseradish sparks opinions as strong as its taste. Most people, truth to tell, want nothing to do with the root in its fiery, ground-up form. Their relationship to horseradish rests mainly on acting horrified when Uncle Frank dashes some onto his roast beef sandwich.

Horseradish gets a bad rap. Unlike cabbage, a close relative, it does not befoul an entire city block with its odor when prepared. Nor does it refuse to give up its stranglehold on the human palate, like garlic or onion. Also, too many of us confuse the pure stuff with condiment atrocities that mix noble horseradish with mayonnaise, salad dressing, sour cream, and whatever mystery mash goes into cocktail sauce.

Early June marks the traditional date of an Illinois tradition: the International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville. According to local boosters, the area boasts a major center for horseradish agriculture, with perhaps sixty or even eighty percent of the world’s horseradish grown nearby. The Festival offers visitors a chance to learn about the plant, prepare their own horseradish, and of course eat the grated-up root in order to clear the sinuses, but how. Vendors even offer a fresh horseradish free of preservatives and made according to a secret recipe.

Potash is a big part of the Collinsville secret. A salt that doubles as a potassium delivery system, potash is abundant in area soils, part of a nutrient infusion provided by the nearby Mississippi River over the years. Potash locks heat into the roots. Grating up horseradish, meanwhile, releases an oil in the root that allows an eater to fully experience the trademark hot sensation.

Pioneer of animation Lotte Reiniger features in today’s Google doodle. In 1926, Reiniger made the first feature-length animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed. But since Reiniger worked in silhouette rather than cartoons, she seldom gets credit for making cinematic history. Reiniger made about 70 films in all. Few remain available, as her works suffered the fate of so many silents, being destroyed or lost. Those that survive do so in inferior prints that tend to lose her finely detailed backgrounds.

Reiniger had a genius for manipulating the paper in her silhouettes, a genius that went hand-in-hand with her gifts for plot, character, and storyboarding. Some of her figures needed as many as 50 separate pieces to express a particularly fluid movement. Closeups required separate, complex figures, plus extensive backgrounds.

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