Author of Werner Herzog, Joshua Lund answers questions about his motivations for writing, and dispels some myths about Herzog.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

A book about the politics of Herzog’s films has been percolating in my mind for what seems like  forever.  I first encountered Herzog’s films in the mid-1990s, when my dissertation director, René Jara, screened Aguirre, the Wrath of God for his course on Latin American colonial culture.  I still recall the experience of watching the film’s famous opening shot, which Herzog predicted would stick in the spectator’s mind for a long, long time.  When the conquistadors show up and one of them, played by Klaus Kinski, has aggressively blond locks, and then opens his mouth and out comes German, I think I laughed out loud.  An experience akin to reading Borges for the first time.  But there’s an analytical provocation here.  Aguirre was a Spaniard, a native of the País Vasco.  But there were plenty of German conquistadors, especially in the region where Aguirre would eventually make his last stand, the viceroyalty that would later become the modern countries of Venezuela and Colombia, chunks of which were ceded to powerful Germanic families by the Spanish crown.  Jorge de la Espira, a German, even became obsessed with El Dorado, just like Herzog’s Aguirre.  Hans Staden fraternized with cannibals.  And Bartolomé Sánchez Torreblanca was known to have indulged in a range of German fetishes, carried on by his descendants to this day.  And moreover Hollywood and world cinema have a long tradition of making their indigenous characters speak the wrong language, dress the wrong way, eat the wrong foods, and so on.  So why shouldn’t the Great Conquistador speak German? It has to do with our expectations as an audience, but defying these is a chance to rethink received historical conventions, and to ask where they come from.   As I worked through his films, I found that Herzog confronts with these opportunities all the time.  When I heard the story that on the set of Fitzcarraldo some of the Indian actors approached Herzog and offered to kill Kinski, I knew that one day I would write this book.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

Pretty much Herzog’s films in and of themselves, combined with the important fact that I watched them as both a fan and as a scholar of Latin American literary and cultural history.  Sometimes without even knowing that he’s doing it, Herzog makes critical interventions into the region’s history that are truly original and worth contemplation.

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

Really hard to pick just one.  My favorite might have been tracking down, with my middle daughter in tow (she’s a photographer, she took the pictures) the ephemera from Herzog’s first opera, at the archives of the Teatro Comunale in Bologna; or cobbling together the details of the indigenous protest around his Fitzcarraldo location shoot.  This is more of a general principal than a specific example, but the most interesting to me was the historical rigor of Herzog’s settings, and then the way in which this rigor is disobeyed to such aesthetically and critically productive effect.  Just getting a little beneath the surface of Herzog’s stories you can learn a tremendous amount about the history of the plunder of the Americas, the rubber boom, the history of opera in South America, the politics of West African cinema, economic malaise in the 1970s US, the cultural politics of volcanic eruptions, and so on.  Herzog’s imagination is vast, and the leads he points us toward regarding historical reality and cultural politics could fill up many books. 

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

That Herzog is not a political filmmaker.  And what it means to be make political cinema.

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

That irreverence is intellectually productive.

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

Read, the standards:  Arendt; Borges; Braudel; Cervantes; Dickens; Faulkner; Garcia Marquez; Morrison.   I love Flannery O’Connor. I really liked Ted Chiang’s recent collection of stories.  A new collection of Jon Krakauer’s early essays is some pretty hardcore adventure writing.  My son just reminded me how perfect Ellison’s Inivisible Man is, so I’m revisiting that for the first time in decades.  I’m quietly obsessed with the NYTimes, even though it so often disappoints.

Joshua Lund is a professor of Spanish at the University of Notre Dame.

Watch:  One of the blessings of working through Herzog’s entire catalogue is that I can’t watch very many “normal” movies anymore.  But: Buñuel; Eisenstein; Haneke; Martel; Miyazaki; Reygadas; Rocha; Wells.  Kleber Mendonça’s O som ao redor (Neighboring Sounds) is an essential document of our time.  I like Ciro Guerra generally, and I like how El abrazo de la serpiente is a sly homage to Fitzcarraldo.  I love El Indio Fernández, Mexico’s great “national” filmmaker, whose beautiful pictures of Dolores del Rio and Maria Felix put Gabriel Figueroa’s photography on the map.  Kirsanoff’s Ménilmontant is my favorite old movie.  I’ll mention Martel twice, because all of her films are pretty much perfect, and Zama is about as good as it gets.  I like trashy revenge movies, of which Fuqua’s The Equalizer franchise is probably the trashiest best.  I have kids so Wes Anderson is on heavy rotation at my house.  And like everybody, I seem to mostly watch series these days: Taboo, Devs, Transparent, Better Call Saul, The Venture Brothers, and  Masterpiece’s non-musical version of Les Misérables have been my favorites lately.  Against my better judgment, I can’t stop watching Fauda.  I like those nature films with David Attenborough, I could watch the two seasons of Blue Planet all day and night.

Listen: Stevie Nicks (before and after Fleetwood Mac); James Brown; Marley; Monk; Bud Powell; Sinatra; Prince; Earl Hines; Mary Lou Williams; Jonny Hartman; George Shearing; the Heptones; Billie Holiday (of course); lately Brahms, Ravel, Chopin, and Wagner (that latter one from Herzog); Woody Herman; Howie Alexander III; Clifford Brown (probably my favorite); Chris Conner; old hip hop, I’ve recently gone back to Nas and Madvillain and De La Soul and even PE; I like the new stuff too, but never know what I’m listening to, my kids always have to tell me; oh, yeah, that one guy, Kodak Black.  Lots of old, random, folkways type traditional American music, many of the recordings are one-offs by the unsung and unknown heroes of American popular music.  Bach.  Kamasi Washington’s “Truth” (whose extraordinary video was taken off-line when the Whitney bought it, a real crime against culture) is about as consoling as it gets.  I love Django Reinhardt.  My daughter has me heavy into the melodramatic theme music of animé hits.  Schubert’s Ave Maria always lifts my spirit.       

University of Illinois Press seeks a Journals Marketing Assistant. The primary function of the Journals Marketing Assistant under the direction of the Journals Marketing and Strategy Manager is to implement marketing strategies for the Press’s Journals program covering 40+ (and growing) journal titles in the humanities and social sciences. This includes marketing campaigns, conference attendance/representation, advertising, social networking and the development and implementation of new marketing techniques for the department. The Journals Marketing Assistant will work to respond to the market needs of our journals program partners to strengthen and further grow the program.

The University of Illinois is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer that recruits and hires qualified candidates without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, national origin, disability or veteran status. For more information, visit

Additional responsibilities include:

  1. Work closely with the Journals Manager to keep pace with scholarly publishing developments and to proactively create strategic marketing/communication plans that meet the goals and objectives of the department.
  2. Work with the Journals Marketing and Strategy Manager and with other marketing staff to develop additional and/or new approaches to improve the effectiveness of existing marketing strategies.
  3. Develop and implement communication, advertising and marketing materials for traditional print and online media (including website, online advertising, e-mail marketing, and more) for strategic initiatives.
  4. Develop and implement key messages for all subscriber/reader audiences to increase reader involvement and increase subscriptions.
  5. Assist with using research and data analytics to drive strategic thinking into new areas of marketing, advertising, branding and content strategy.
  6. Update marketing content that appears on the UIP Journals Web site to ensure that it is meeting its potential as an effective marketing and communications tool.
  7. Execute and manage special projects as assigned by Journals Marketing and Strategy Manager.
  8. Use social media tools to promote UIP Journals, increase awareness and interact with readers and/or subscribers.
  9. Represent the Press at academic and professional conference meetings, as needed.
  10. Work with the Journals Marketing and Strategy Manager to develop marketing strategies when responding to RFP’s from potential new clients/publishing partners.
  11. Work with UIP outside Journal partners (JSTOR, Project Muse, etc.) to leverage marketing opportunities and data and to expand product offerings.
  12. Assist with aspects of advertising appearing in print and online Press journals including solicitations, preparation and invoicing.
  13. Perform other duties appropriate for a Journals Marketing Assistant.

Education and Experience


  1. Bachelor’s degree in marketing, business administration, communications, public relations, or a closely related field.
  2. One year (12 months) of professional work experience in marketing, public relations, communications, brand management, or a related professional area


  1. Experience needed with Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and InDesign. Experience in the implementation and analysis of e-marketing initiatives.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

  1. Interest in publishing and understanding of the value of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.
  2. Strong organizational and interpersonal skills and ability to handle a multi-task work environment with changing priorities and limited supervision.
  3. Able to be creative with strong analytical skills and strategic thinking capabilities.
  4. The ability to problem solve and work independently. Some technical knowledge to edit and maintain the journals department website.
  5. Knowledge of marketing, especially e-marketing, in order to make recommendations and explore new avenues for promotion of UIP Journals.
  6. Knowledge of scholarly journals publishing and library market trends as well as publishing knowledge.

This is a full-time Civil Service Marketing Associate position appointed on a 12 month service basis. The expected start date is as soon as possible after July 14, 2020. Salary is commensurate with experience.

More information on how to apply can be found here:

July’s free ebook is here! For this entire month we are giving away Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC edited by Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young and Dorothy M. Zellner!

Fifty-two women–northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina–share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. Since the women spent time in the Deep South, many also describe risking their lives through beatings and arrests and witnessing unspeakable violence. Each story reveals how the struggle for social change was formed, supported, and maintained by the women who kept their “hands on the freedom plow.”

Obtain your free ebook and find out more here:

Authors, Bruce J. Dierenfield and David Gerber ofDisability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education: The Story Behind Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District” answer questions about their influences and what readers should look for while reading their book.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

David Gerber wanted to find a subject that would anchor disability in mainstream social and political history, rather than in cultural theory and identity, and to explore disability simultaneously both in intimate personal relations, such as within a family, and in the ordering of social relations and opportunities within public institutions, such as schools. Bruce Dierenfield had more personal motives. He identified strongly with Jim Zobrest, our book’s protagonist, who like Bruce has always been significantly affected by deafness, and had always loved basketball. The world of Catholic education is also familiar to Bruce. Bruce has spent his professional career at a Catholic Jesuit college. Like Jim, Bruce’s wife and daughter attended Catholic schools.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

David Gerber is a University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus and Director Emeritus of the University at Buffalo Center for Disability Studies.

David Gerber has been influenced by two authors who write on disability. They are: Andrew Solomon, whose book Far from the Tree is a series of narratives about different sorts of disabling conditions experienced by children and adolescents in the context of their families; and Gina Oliva, a deaf author whose book, Alone in the Mainstream, is an autobiographically based study of the negotiations a hearing impaired women undertook over many years, from childhood well into adulthood, to find a balance between life in the hearing and the Deaf worlds. Bruce Dierenfield has been a long-time researcher on the field of constitutional law of religious liberty, especially in the arena of public education. He names these legal scholars among the influences of his views on the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment: Douglas Laycock, Ronald Flowers, Peter Irons, and Leonard Levy, and the legal anthropologist David Engel for his work of why ordinary people do or do not file lawsuits when they have judicable grievances.

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

Both of us have been impressed by the fact that ordinary people like the Zobrests, when severely tested, have extraordinary resources within themselves to pursue justice against very steep odds.

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

Bruce J. Dierenfield is a professor of history and director of the all-college honors program at Canisius College.

We would like readers to be aware that passing good laws helpful to people whose rights are easily violated or overlooked is only part of what liberates people. Sensitivity of our institutions to the spirit of the laws, the legal processes for the implementation of law, and the willingness of people to pursue justice are of greatest importance to justice being done. In addition, we would like readers to understand that Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between Church and State, as the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted it over the past century, is not high and impregnable, but increasingly permeable, permitting certain kinds of government assistance, including tax-paid sign interpreters of deaf students in religious schools.

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

Ordinary people can sometimes obtain justice despite very long odds and the need for great struggle in their own behalf.

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

Bruce Dierenfield enjoys playing the pipe organ at local churches, and would like to travel to any place he has never been before; his list of destinations at present includes India, Japan, and Kenya.  David Gerber reads biographies and histories situated in the mid-twentieth century. He enjoys spinning training and cycling, and he runs with and is on the Board of Directors of Racin’, a Buffalo, New York organization that brings wheel chair using and non-wheel chair using athletes together to do local 5K races. Racin’ began when one of our founders wasn’t allowed to participate in local 5Ks using his wheel chair, and, like the Zobrests in another context, refused to take “No” for an answer.

The Journals and Books divisions at the Press endeavor to present scholarship not as two separate entities, but as a unified whole beneath the UIP banner.

Italian American Studies

The field of Italian Studies offers a prime example. Like many areas of research on ethnicity, Italian Studies at UIP and across academia long ago outgrew the field of history to embrace an ever-expanding interdisplinary mission.

Thus, the scope of Italian Studies at UIP ranges widely. The immigrant experience naturally plays a large part in our offerings.

The essays in Laura E. Ruberto and Joseph Sciorra’s two-volume New Italian Migrations to the United States covers topics like youth culture, how Italian American women embraced tarantella dance and music, and Italian language radio. Recent journals articles include “The Southwest’s Uneven Welcome: Immigrant Inclusion and Exclusion in Arizona and New Mexico” by Robin Dale Jacobson, Daniel Tichenor, and T. Elizabeth Durden (the Journal of American Ethnic History) and Katherine Reed’s look at graffiti on Ellis Island in the same publication.

Italian American Studies

The enormous contribution by Italian Americans to pop culture is another rich source of research. In 2019, a special issue of Italian American Review focused on Italian American song and soundscapes. Our long commitment to books on the topic include John Caps’s biography of movie soundtrack icon Henry Mancini and Jonathan J. Cavallero’s Hollywood’s Italian American Filmmakers.

Finally, there’s the sacred relationship between Italian Americans and the kitchen. In her book Migrant Marketplaces, Elizabeth Zanoni looks at how food from the homeland helped Italian immigrants create new identities in New York City and Buenos Aires. The Italian American Table, by Simone Cinotto, shows how Neapolitan, Sicilian, and Calabrese immigrants added their food culture to the menu for people across the United States.

This post is from The Callout, the UIP newsletter. You can read the latest issue here.


Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy answers questions about the inspirations, discoveries and takeaways of Between Fitness and Death: Disability and Slavery in the Caribbean.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

I grew up with disabled siblings and a mother who is very passionate about disability rights, so the stories of disabled folks have been close to my heart since a very young age. With the book, I wanted to uncover disability in the archive of slavery and challenge the often ‘white’ and Western-centric nature of disability history. Scholars of slavery often focus on death as the exemplary image of slavery’s violence but I wanted to illustrate the importance of the space between fitness and death, a space of physical and psychological debilitation caused by enslavement itself.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

The book that has had the most impact on my historical methodology is Michel Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past. Trouillot taught me that there is power in the production of history and that studying the past, whether you are conscious of it or not, or whether you accept it, is a decision about how you relate to power. The notion that power silences particular voices in history has been foundational to my approach to both disability history and the history of slavery.

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

While researching and writing the book, I became ever more struck by how timely the discussion about racism and ableism is to the present day. If we want to understand how slavery continues to haunt former slave societies, we must look once again at disability. The prevalence of disability caused by poor nutrition and inadequate access to health care in Britain’s former colonies is just one manifestation of the slavery’s troubling legacy. Rates of incarceration among people of African descent and people with disabilities are another sign of slavery’s unquiet ghost. And although the majority of research on the connection between incarceration, race, and disability focuses on the United States, this research is relevant to the wider African diaspora, including the Caribbean. Today, racial minorities and people with disabilities are still being constrained by the prejudiced and racist forces of capital. The criminal justice system in North America, shaped as it is by the prison-industrial complex, was created to uphold capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, ableism, and racism. These prejudices continue as essential elements in its maintenance.

Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy is an associate professor at the University of New Brunswick.

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

My research into sugar production on Caribbean plantations challenges traditional Eurocentric timelines of disability history, which maintain that disability in its modern sense emerged with the onset of industrialization in nineteenth-century Europe and North America. Enslaved people experienced impairment in factory-like settings long before workers in industrial Europe and North America. Therefore, slavery was crucial to the development of discourses of disability. In this sense, I hope my book works to dispel what historians of Caribbean slavery have been arguing for generations — that slavery reveals the Western-centric bias of pre-modern versus modern – and to recentre the Caribbean and, specifically the enslaved people of the Caribbean, as an essential part of broader disability history.

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

One of my most important scholarly interventions is my argument that African humanity was the fundamental problem of slave law as well as what made slavery possible and profitable. British Caribbean slave law deliberately constructed the enslaved as somehow both human and animal, and yet not fully either. By not resolving the tension between the human and the animal, lawmakers and slaveowners alike could recognize the humanity of the enslaved but effectively disable it by treating them like animals. This is crucially different from saying that slave law dehumanized the enslaved. It is widely assumed that systems of mass slaughter and exploitation, like slavery, were also systems of dehumanization. I argue, by contrast, that in order to justify the systematic exploitation, persecution, and murder of an entire group of people (blacks, in this instance), the perpetrators of systematized racist violence tend to construct a danger based on anthropological uncertainty. In this way slave law and racial ideology created a legal category of abject (and disabled) humanity in order to exploit enslaved Africans and grant their owners the power to destroy them through disabling punishments and brutal labour regimes.

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

Read: I love reading historical fiction and specifically the canonical literature of the Anglophone Black Atlantic World. Marlon James, Toni Morrison, Yaa Gyasi, Lawrence Hill, and Isabel Allende are some of my favourite writers of this genre.

Watch: Some of my favourite shows of the past few years are Fleabag, Broad City, Schitt’s Creek, and Master of None.

Listen: Graeme Kennedy is my favourite musician and artist (I may be biased). Check out his newest single, High Ceilings, here:

Author of Chicago Católico: Making Catholic Parishes Mexican, Deborah E. Kanter answers questions about her influences, discoveries, and motivations for writing her book.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

I am trained as a scholar of Mexico, which was the subject of my first book, Hijos del Pueblo: Gender, Family and Community in Rural Mexico. For decades I watched the Mexican population increase and disperse in Chicago. On the surface, I recognized a great deal of transplanted culture and innovation. I wondered how Mexicans created new communities and identities in Chicago. Catholic churches, I hypothesized, would offer rich resources to learn more about what it means to be Mexican in Chicago. I was right.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

I read John Demos’ The Unredeemed Captive which put storytelling and narrative at the forefront of a well-documented history. That book sparked my goal to write in a much more engaging and accessible fashion than most monographs. Carol Spindel’s creative nonfiction workshop empowered me to pursue that approach. I owe a great debt to Robert Orsi’s writing about lived religion. His work taught me that so much about being Catholic doesn’t happen simply in church, but rather in the interplay between people, spaces, and neighborhoods.

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

I came to a much stronger understanding of the diversity of the Mexican population in the US. In interviewing older subjects in Chicago, most of them were born here, were English dominant, and had little first-hand contact with Mexico. This presents quite a contrast with recent decades when US-raised children can be fully in touch with family and culture in Mexico via tv, social media, and regular travel for many.

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

The notion that Mexicans are newcomers—they have been part of the Chicago scene for a century!

Deborah E. Kanter is a John S. Ludington Endowed Professor of History at Albion College.

The belief that settling in the U.S. meant secularization for immigrants and their children. Mexican immigrants to Chicago were more than “hog butchers to the world,” mill hands, and factory workers. They had families, built communities, formed sports teams, and went to the movies. And Mexicans certainly went to Mass. Religious life countered their subordination as workers.

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

Catholicism proved decisive in the success of Mexicans’ entry and integration in Chicago. The creation of just two Spanish-speaking parishes in the 1920s allowed thousands of newcomers to gain a toehold in the US, create new homes, and raise families in a place that became less diasporic and felt more like home. These historias from Chicago offer many lessons for many places in the US today.

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

I’m often very moved by literary fiction by contemporary authors including Hector Tobar. Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice McDermott, Tim Hernandez, and Nicole Dennis-Benn. I look forward to Gustavo Arellano’s weekly newsletter/canto. I enjoy discovering forgotten gems of American fiction writing such as Chicagoans Hugo Martínez-Serros and Meyer Levin. The Canadian comedy Kim’ Convenience is my tv sweetspot. Post pandemic, I’ll be back exploring forgotten streets, tucked-away churches, and abandoned factories in Detroit and Chicago.  

The University of Illinois Press recently welcomed four new faculty board members.

faculty board members

Michael R. Cheney is a Professor of Communication and Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He was previously a Senior Fellow in the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. He served as the inaugural editor for the Journal of Media Sociology. He is the coauthor of From Iowa to the White House (1989) and Packaging the Presidents (2008). He is co-editor of Harold Innis’s History of Communications: Paper and Printing (2015) and Harold Innis Reflects Memoir and WWI Writings/ Correspondence (2016). He is currently working on “Are We There Yet? The History of Presidential Advertising in the Internet Age.”

faculty board members

Daniel A. Gilbert is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and specializes in U.S. labor and cultural history. He holds a B.A. in music from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale. His current research interests include the history of public employee unionism, the role of sports in the American workplace, and modern U.S. history. He was the 2014 recipient of the Baseball Research Award from the Society for American Baseball Research and the 2018 recipient of the John T. Dunlop Scholar Award from the Labor & Employment Relation Association. He is also the author of Expanding the Strike Zone: Baseball in the Age of Free Agency. 

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe is a Professor and the Coordinator for Information Literacy Services & Instruction at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of St. Thomas and an M.Ed. in educational psychology and an MS in library science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include teaching and learning, higher education, globalization, information literacy, library assessment and evaluation, library quality, and scholarly communications. She was the 2017 recipient of the Larry Romans Mentorship Award from the American Library Association’s Government Documents and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Roundtables. She was also the 2015 recipient of the ACRL Instruction Section Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award. She is the editor of the journal Library Trends and a contributor to The Scholarly Kitchen.  

Hinda Seif is an Associate Professor of Women & Gender Studies and Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She holds an MA in Women’s Studies from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include Mexican migration and Latinx Studies, interactions of gender, race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, and nation, critical policy studies, and qualitative methods. Currently, Prof. Seif researches and writes about the Latinization of Chicago through the lives, work, and perspectives of women artists of Mexican ancestry in the city. Publishers of her work include Latino StudiesNorth American Dialogue, Stanford University Press, and Oxford University Press. Recent publications include “Visualizing Spaces of Empowerment in Chicanx/Mexicanx Chicago with Artist/Photographer Diana Solís” (Diálogo 2018) and “Space, Place and Belonging: Multidisciplinary Artist Nicole Marroquín” (GénEros, U. of Colima, Mexico, 2019).

This post is from the The Callout, our press newsletter. Check out the lastest issue here.

Simidele Dosekun, author of Fashioning Postfeminism: Spectacular Femininity and Transnational Culture, answers questions about feminist influences, discoveries in Lagos, and what she wants readers to learn.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

I moved back home to Lagos in 2007 after my master’s degree, having been away, studying abroad, for a total of 12 years. My first job was as a freelance editor for a glossy Nigerian women’s magazine and I remember noticing that the young women in the office, who were educated and privileged or upwardly mobile, were extremely spectacular in their appearance. And then I began to see the same style, or rather the same degree of stylization, more and more in the social spaces that I inhabited in the city. Part of how and why I noticed all this was by being noticed myself, and told, how unspectacular I was by comparison! So all this sparked my interest in the new style of dress I was seeing. I wanted to know what it was about, and this from the point of view of the young woman who were appearing in it.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

I have had and continue to have many intellectual influences, feminist especially I should emphasise! Amina Mama, a well-known African feminist scholar, now at UC Davis, has had a big influence on me both in her early work on black female subjectivity and in the close working relationship I have been privileged to develop with her. Rosalind Gill, a British feminist scholar at City University London, is also very important to me, again both intellectually and personally. Her work on postfeminism very much informed the direction of the book. There are many others whose work I really draw on: Shirley Tate, Sara Ahmed, Judith Butler, Inderpal Grewal, Achille Mbembe, and more.

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

Even before I went to Lagos to do interviews for the book, I anticipated that postfeminism would be a relevant concept through which I could understand the new style of femininity that I was researching. But I did not anticipate and was really surprised by the degree to which the research participants spoke of and represented themselves in the very terms discussed in the academic literature on postfeminist subjectivity. In some of the interviewers I almost felt that the women must have read the literature and were essentially citing it back to me! This raised really interesting and complex questions for me, that I try to reflect upon in the book, and that continue to call for more thinking and theorising, about how it is that as subjects we make ‘discourse’ our own, or how ‘culture’ gets inside us all, stirring our desires and deep sense of who we are or could or should be.

Simidele Dosekun is an assistant professor in media and communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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

The kinds of women I interviewed in Lagos – glamorous, privileged, highly educated and articulate and so – remain under-seen in both academic work about, and popular imaginaries of, Africa. I have been told in various ways when I present the research that these women are ‘not real African women,’ that they are ‘inauthentic’ subjects, and so on. I hope the book contributes to more complex understandings of Africa and African life, to the recognition that there are a host of ways to be African. I think to fail to see or allow constitutes a certain symbolic and psychic violence against Africans. In terms of academic research, it also means that we are foreclosing critical interrogation of African-ness in all its complex and highly political permutations.

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

I hope readers take away the conviction that we must resist facile, consumerist and individualist claims about women’s empowerment, and instead insist on feminism as a difficult and even ‘unhappy’ politics, as trouble-making to paraphrase Sara Ahemd. The book shows how much damage celebratory notions and promises of women’s empowerment do to a particular set of women; the high cost they pay for buying into notions that they can have it all if only they push themselves all the more, when in fact gendered social structures still so obviously favour men and disadvantage women.  

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

I mostly read African and African-American literary fiction, and I listen to Nigerian music, including relatively old-school Yoruba music of late! It’s always awkward to admit given that I am in media studies, but I hardly follow any popular series and so on! When students mention the latest shows they are watching, or a new pop star or the other, I often have absolutely no idea what they are talking about!

This Pride Month, we invite our readers to honor the contributions of LGBTQ+ activists with this collection of some of our recent titles featuring a range of experiences within diverse contexts. For more titles, check out the full list of titles in our Sexuality Studies collection.

“Conexión a la Comunidad: Latinx LGBT Feelings of Connectedness”

By Robert B. Peterson

Over the past decade, progress among LGBT Americans has been impressive. However, are all subgroups experiencing that process equally? More specifically, for example, how connected to the larger/majority (white) LGBT community do Latinx LGBTs feel? Using a national sample of LGBT Latinx people, Peterson explores implications related to activism, nativity, racial identity, and city residency.

Queer and Trans Migrations: Dynamics of Illegalization, Detention, and Deportation

Edited by Eithne Luibhéid and Karma R. Chávez

More than a quarter of a million LGBTQ-identified migrants in the United States lack documentation and constantly risk detention and deportation. Luibhéid and Chávez’s collection feature The academics, activists, and artists in the volume center illegalization, detention, and deportation in national and transnational contexts, and examine how migrants and allies negotiate, resist, refuse, and critique these processes.

Available October 2020

From Jalsah to Jalsa: Music, Identity, and (Gender) Transitioning at a Hijra Rite of Initiation

By Jeff Roy

Roy investigates the connections among music making, identity, and belonging within the context of a jalsa, a celebratory rite of initiation for a Hijra (South Asian “third gender” individual) entering her gharana (family). This article is accompanied by an hour long film that was edited to convey the physical and emotional sensation of a nirvan hijra‘s journey.

Queering the Global Filipina Body: Contested Nationalisms in the Filipina/o Diaspora

By Gina K. Velasco

Contemporary popular culture stereotypes Filipina women as sex workers, domestic laborers, mail order brides, and caregivers. These figures embody the gendered and sexual politics of representing the Philippine nation in the Filipina/o diaspora. Using a queer diasporic analysis, Velasco asks: can a queer and feminist imagining of the diaspora reconcile with gendered tropes of the Philippine nation?

Available in November 2020

A Shelf of One’s Own: A Queer Production Studies Approach to LGBT Film Distribution and Categorization

By Bryan Wuest

Previously, queer films were considered too niche to warrant its own genre. Wuest follows queer films’ transition from “special interest” films to having their own category just as do those in horror or adventure.

Black Queer Freedom: Spaces of Injury and Paths of Desire

By GerShun Avilez

Whether engaged in same-sex desire or gender nonconformity, Black queer individuals live with being perceived as a threat while simultaneously being subjected to the threat of physical, psychological, and socioeconomical injury.  Avilez analyzes the work of diasporic artists who, denied government protections, have used art to create spaces for justice, focusing on how public and institutionalized spaces seek to confine Black queer bodies.

Coming in October 2020

“Why Arab American History Needs Queer of Color Critique”

By Charlotte Karem Albrecht

One of the core factors that contributing to the “otherness” of Arab Americans are perceived differences in gender and sexual identity and expression. Albrecht dissects how ignoring these views renders
attempts to challenge this dehumanization inadequate and why these narratives are mostly absent from Arab American history.

The Journalist of Castro Street: The Life of Randy Shilts

By Andrew E. Stoner

As the acclaimed author of And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts became the country’s most recognized voice on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. His success emerged from a relentless work ethic and strong belief in the power of journalism to help mainstream society understand not just the rising tide of HIV/AIDS but gay culture and liberation. At the same time, other gay writers and activists ridiculed his overtures to the mainstream and labeled him a traitor to the movement, charges the combative Shilts forcefully answered. 

“A Waning Queerscape: The Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival”

By Qin Qin

Qin explores the importance of queer territories as depicted in cinema and in real life, in particular in Hong Kong. She discusses several tongzhi films to examine how LGBT Asians navigate their queer spaces.

Black Sexual Economies: Race and Sex in a Culture of Capital

Edited by Adrienne D. Davis and the BSE Collective

A daring collaboration among scholars, Black Sexual Economies challenges thinking that sees black sexualities as a threat to normative ideas about sexuality, the family, and the nation. The essays highlight alternative and deviant gender and sexual identities, performances, and communities, and spotlights the sexual labor, sexual economy, and sexual agency to black social life.

“Israel/Palestine and the Queer International,” August 28, 2013

By Sarah Schulman and Karma R. Chávez

One of the most vocal groups against the Israeli occupation of Palestine are LGBT or queer activists, argues Schulman and Chávez. This interview delves into a queer critique of Israel and Palestine.

Queer Timing: The Emergence of Lesbian Sexuality in Early Cinema

By Susan Potter

Potter offers a counter-history that reorients accepted views of lesbian representation and spectatorship in early cinema. Potter sees the emergence of lesbian figures as only the most visible but belated outcome of multiple sexuality effects. Early cinema reconfigured older erotic modalities, articulated new–though incoherent–sexual categories, and generated novel forms of queer feeling and affiliation.

“Mythgarden: Collaborative Authorship and Counter-Storytelling in Queer Independent Film”

By David R. Coon

Coon takes a look at the process of taking a story or stories from the lived experiences of real people, channeling them into the existence of a fictional character, and then sharing that experience with a mass audience via a mediated text in the context of queer independent films.

Rocking the Closet: How Little Richard, Johnnie Ray, Liberace, and Johnny Mathis Queered Pop Music

By Vincent L. Stephens

The all-embracing, “whaddya got?” nature of rebellion in Fifties America included pop music’s unlikely challenge to entrenched notions of masculinity. Within that upheaval, four prominent artists dared to behave in ways that let the public assume—but not see—their queerness. Appealing to audiences hungry for novelty and exoticism, the four pop icons used performance and queering techniques that ran the gamut.

“In the Life: On Black Queer Kinship”

By Kai M. Green

Green stages a poetic and performative conversation between himself and the black queer figures he imagines as his chosen-family tree. This piece is an attempt to linger in the black queer inventiveness that is as much tethered to a real and imagined past as it is to all possible radical black futures.

Lana and Lilly Wachowski

By Cáel M. Keegan

Visionary films like The Matrix trilogy and Cloud Atlas have made the Wachowskis the world’s most influential transgender media producers, and their coming out retroactively put trans* aesthetics at the very center of popular American culture. Keegan views the Wachowskis’ films as an approach to trans* experience that maps a transgender journey and the promise we might learn “to sense beyond the limits of the given world.”

“Three Dollar Cinema: The Down and Dirty DIY of Queer Production”

By Curran Nault

The history of queer production is by and large a history of do-it-yourself (DIY) practice, a fact born out of both necessity and design. The result is a signature unpolished style that sets queer cinema apart from sleek mainstream production.

Ugly Differences: Queer Female Sexuality in the Underground

By Yetta Howard

What would it mean to turn to ugliness rather than turn away from it? Indeed, the idea of ugly often becomes synonymous with non-white, non-male, and non-heterosexual physicality and experience. That same pejorative migrates to become a label for practices within underground culture. Howard reveals how the things we see, read as, or experience as ugly productively account for non-dominant sexual identities and creative practices.

“‘We Shouldn’t Have to Trend to Make You Listen’: Queer Fan Hashtag Campaigns as Production Interventions”

By Annemarie Navar-Gill

As a natural evolution from older forms of fan campaigning, queer audiences use hashtags Navar-Gill examines how fan hashtag campaigns seek to intervene in production processes through both advocacy and fans’ command of the very platforms that industry uses to measure audience engagement.

Marching Dykes, Liberated Sluts, and Concerned Mothers: Women Transforming Public Space

By Elizabeth Currans

From the Women in Black vigils and Dyke marches to the Million Mom March, women have seized a dynamic role in early 21st century protest. The varied demonstrations–whether about gender, sexuality, war, or other issues–share significant characteristics as space-claiming performances in and of themselves beyond their place in any broader movement. Drawing on observation, interviews, and archival and published sources, Currans shows why and how women utilize public protest as a method of participating in contemporary political and cultural dialogues.

“LGBTQ Music Educators: External Mentoring Between Student Teachers and In-Service Teachers”

By Donald M. Taylor

This instrumental case study examines what LGBTQ student teachers in music classrooms might learn from LGBTQ music teachers who served as external mentors outside the classroom setting.  Findings are discussed regarding the varied sociopolitical contexts LGBTQ music educators may encounter.