Welcome to the inaugural ’sup? @ SUP blog post—a new monthly forecast of what’s coming up for the Press. We’ll cover what titles are slated to launch in the coming weeks and other press-related news.
The erudite Alan Harvey, Director of Stanford University Press, poses this question during my job interview. To my ears, the question sounds nearly as chiding in his English accent, asked in earnest, as it did when I asked it of myself a week ago, after moving to Silicon Valley.
Here’s the context: I’m applying for a job with the Press, which Alan describes as one of the few remaining publishing houses in a state whose dot-com bubble gutted the industry of much of its human capital before subsequently bursting. He points something else out to me, something of which I am already acutely aware: I hail from an unlikely but robust mini-mecca of indie publishing: the Twin Cities. So, why would I—a newly minted English major—move to a valley so tech-oriented that it takes its handle from the computer chip?
This is the usual tension of tech versus text, is it not? The trope has been so frequently deployed so as to be a cliché at this point. Journalists and Op-Ed columnists publicly dissecting the utility of print culture at the dawn of a digital age would have you believe that conventional books, academic dissertations, the humanities and liberal arts studies are rendered obsolete in a world where binary code surpasses the alphabet as the most common way of transcribing our communications and nuance and verbosity are sacrificed to the 140-character-limit caprices of Twitter.
But is all this partisanship really necessary?
Ultimately both mediums—from scholarly tomes to Apple iPhones—are geared to connect minds and generate conversations. After four years at a liberal arts college something that left a deep impression on me was how the ideas that percolate in the academic mindshare have a way of guiding tomorrow’s daily reality. They have the power to shape the way our political leaders think (Mearsheimer), recalibrate the way we perceive our society, its subjects and its structures (de Beauvoir, Said), and draw attention to emerging challenges, or alternately, to problems too long ignored.
Far from undermining these conversations, technology presents an unprecedented opportunity to add dynamism to academic discourse. Social media, for example, collapses traditional barriers to access (class, race, geography)—a trend aptly noted by this recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed—making rapid dissemination of new ideas possible and broadening their purview by inviting people into the conversation who could never access it before.
This is why I wanted to be a part of SUP and why I was excited about this new role in particular, a role that embraces social media and its possibilities. I wanted to not only take part in these conversations, but broaden them. (At least, that’s the answer I wish I had been cogent enough to offer during my interview. As it was, I parsed together a few emphatic statements about really liking books and left the interview exasperated with myself, nerves jangling and fingers crossed.)
I’m thrilled to join the press, where my role (appropriately) lies at the cross-section of technology and publishing. In addition to handling digital distribution to University Press Scholarship Online and tuning the Press’ online presence on the website, I’ll also be tweeting, blogging and facebooking on behalf of the Press, our authors and the multitude of ideas with which they engage the world. I hope you visit us on Facebook and Twitter and join in on our conversation.
Kalie Caetano is the digital media specialist at Stanford University Press. Before coming to SUP she interned for Minneapolis-based marketing agency, Fast Horse Inc. and the nonprofit literary publisher, Milkweed Editions.
In honor of “Banned Books Week, we shared the ALA's list of "Banned Books that Shaped America" with Stanford University Press authors and staffers and asked for their feedback on freedom, censorship and what banned books have meant to them. Here are some of those thoughts. We found it significant—though not surprising, given the nature of our communal and dedicated commitment to the dissemination of knowledge to the wider world—to note how many speak of the importance of supposedly objectionable material, and those who provided access to it, to young people. Another commom theme: that, in the words of one of our contributors, "the outlawing of illicit materials made them that much more enticing."
And finally, Loren Glass, author of Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde, suggests that we all choose a book published by the revolutionary Grove Press: “Henry Miller, Jean Genet, the Marquis de Sade, The Story of O, My Secret Life, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the list goes on and on. Barney Rosset was a true first amendment fundamentalist; he believed that anything and everything should be published, and he did his best to run his press by that philosophy. A lot of what he published was politically objectionable, some of it was just downright bad, but, as I argue in my history of Grove, freedom of speech is as much about access as about content. Thanks to Barney, we now have the freedom to read. Let’s not waste it.”
Earlier this month, viewers rejoiced at the return of Jon Stewart to The Daily Show--and the timing couldn't be better. While in the Middle East on hiatus, as Angelique Haugerud, author of No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America, notes in a recent article in the Huffington Post (paraphrased here):
Jon Stewart visited Egypt less than two weeks before the July 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and appeared in Cairo as a guest on Bassem Youssef's satirical news show, Al Bernameg (The Program) [which the Washington Post calls "Egypt's version of the Daily Show]." The two have become good friends...[and] their satirical news counterparts have multiplied in other countries as well.
In Egypt, as Stewart is acutely aware, satire takes courage. When Egyptian authorities arrested Bassem Youssef just a few months before Morsi's ouster, Stewart responded on The Daily Show. Pretending to speak directly to the Egyptian leader, Stewart said: "So, Bassem Youssef pokes fun at your hat and your lack of promised democratic reforms. What are you worried about? You're the president of Egypt. You have an army. He has puns and a show." In a tongue-in-cheek allusion to U.S. politics, Stewart continued, "Making fun of the president's hats and less than fluent English? That was my entire career for eight years."
Do political rulers really fear satirists? Even dictators may accept citizens' hatred but fear their laughter since it dramatizes the limits of propaganda and repression. At the same time, "If your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke," as Stewart quipped to Youssef during his June 2013 guest appearance on Al Bernameg, "then you don't have a regime."
Of course, autocratic rule is not the only target for today's political humorists. Wealth Inequality, says Haugerud, "is Catnip for Satirists." This month marks the 5th Anniversary of the Wall Street Collapse, and the 2nd of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. While the Economic Crisis dominated the headlines at the time of the collapse, over the years the story has lost its urgency and been eclipsed by other national and world events. So, because we're not hearing about the economy as much as we were, we must be better off than we were 5 years ago. Right? Not if Robert Reich's award-winning new film Inequality for All is anything to go by. Many, including Reich, have compared the income gap today to the similar gross disparity between rich and poor during the Gilded Age. But eventually, as Reich predicts in a recent interview with Stewart on the Daily Show, "this "cognitive dissonance brings forth citizen activism."
In No Billionaire Left Behind, Haugerud tells the story of "The Billionaires," the elegant precursors of Occupy Wall Street who combine both political satire and citizen activism. Deftly deploying both serious and satirical tactics, the Billionaires--glamorous rather than scruffy, hip rather than traditional, polite rather than offensive, and harmless rather than dangerous--posed as cartoonish versions of robber barons and aristocrats. Their street theater was subversive, and their props include champagne glasses, cigarette holders and huge cigars—as well as bright banners and placards that are professionally printed rather than hand-lettered. “Leave No Billionaire Behind!” “Corporations Are People Too!” This network of creative activists shone a spotlight on America’s growing wealth divide and its implications for our democracy.
Their charismatic leader, Andrew Boyd, embraces Sisyphean political challenges and writes that “solidarity is a form of tenderness….the simple act of caring for the world is itself a victory. Haugerud taps into the hope, inspiration, and creativity of those who are compelled to act: to express dissent in ways that overturn conventional protest genres and jostle us--and perhaps even make us chuckle--out of complacency.
When Osagie Obasogie, Professor of Law and of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, set out to examine the differences between how the blind and the sighted "see" race, he came to a surprising conclusion: both are subject to the same visual cues and perceptions. Both are socialized to "see" race in particular ways. This astonishing observation calls into question our whole notion of what it means to be "colorblind" and how that notion influences our laws, public policies and culture.
For more on the problems of aspiring to color blindness, look for Obasogie's Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind, coming this winter from Stanford University Press.
A guest post by Joshua C. Wilson, author of The Street Politics of Abortion.
While the nation’s attention has been captured the dramatic display of abortion politics in Texas, the Supreme Court’s recently announced reentry into the same field has failed to have comparable draw. The Court’s decision to hear McCullen v. Coakley, a case challenging the constitutionality of Massachusetts’s clinic buffer-zone law, is, however, no less politically illustrative and important.
Together, the Court’s overlooked action and Texas’s spectacle encapsulate the past, present, and potential future of abortion politics.
The 1st Circuit Court makes it clear in their McCullen decision that they think the constitutionality of the Massachusetts act is quite settled, and that those challenging the law are engaged in a Sisyphean effort. The lawyers representing Ms. McCullen and her follow antiabortion activists, however, have good reason to push this case to the US Supreme Court.
As clinic-front antiabortion protests grew in frequency and intensity in the 1980s and 90s, abortion providers and their supporters responded by securing injunctions, and eventually laws like the one disputed in McCullen. The nation’s high court has upheld a significant number of such regulations during that same timespan. The most relevant of these cases, both in terms of the law and politics of McCullen, is Hill v. Colorado (2000).
In Hill, the Court considered the constitutionality of Colorado’s “Bubble Bill”—a law governing activism in front of the state’s healthcare facilities. The Court upheld the Bubble Bill in full, affirming the basic tool that effectively ended the most significant displays of clinic-front antiabortion activism nationwide.
One of the points at issue in McCullen is whether Hill should be limited or directly overruled. Looking back to the Hill majority, Justices Rehnquist, Stevens, O’Connor, and Souter have since left the
Court, and only Justices Ginsburg and Breyer remain. All three of Hill’s dissenting Justices, however, are still on the bench. These Justices have been joined by at least two others—Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito—who are likely to see Hill, and thus McCullen, in a similar light. Suddenly the lawyers challenging the Massachusetts law do not look so misguided.
That said, why litigate on behalf of a largely abandoned direct action strategy? This is where the recent events in Texas become illustrative of the present and the potential future of abortion politics.
The regulation of direct action tactics may have effectively eliminated major clinic-front antiabortion activism, but it did not do away with the antiabortion movement itself. Rather, the movement learned from and responded to these measures by internalizing the value of controlling the surrounding law. Antiabortion activists have correspondingly relocated the main abortion politics battlefield from the visible, participatory, and volatile streets to the more private, elite, and (excepting the Texas’s “People’s
Filibuster”) staid state legislative halls.
State legislatures have been chipping away at abortion access for decades, but they have become more aggressive in recent years. The bill at issue in Texas is an amalgamation of recent approaches taken by antiabortion activists and friendly state legislatures. It contains a prohibition on abortions after 20 weeks, mandates that abortion clinics meet surgical center regulatory standards, and requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic. The bill’s
opponents argue that these requirements will cause 37 of the state’s 42 clinics to close.
While it took a significant physical and mental effort by one Senator to defeat the Texas bill, the victory
is likely temporary. Texas’s bill returns in this week’s special legislative session and will in all likelihood shortly become law. What’s more, Texas is hardly alone in proposing and passing such bills. In fact, some of the recently law’s enacted by similarly minded state legislators intentionally conflict with current Supreme Court rulings in order to provoke the Court into reconsidering abortion’s absolute or effective legality. When they do, the social conservative advocacy networks that organize to push for such abortion bills, and that bring challenges to regulations like those seen in McCullen, will be ready to assist these states.
This is the current state and form of abortion politics. If the petitioners are successful in McCullen there is no reason to think that the state-level legislative tactics exemplified by Texas’s current events will diminish. The form of abortion politics may, however, still change. When laws like the one disputed in McCullen spread across the country decades ago, ground level antiabortion activists were demobilized by the fear of hefty fines, bankruptcy, and potential imprisonment. While other factors contributed to the decline of the street politics of abortion, any unraveling of the cases upholding protest regulations lowers the barriers to revitalizing clinic front direct action strategies. If revived, the antiabortion movement will, for the first time, be able to combine the impressive legislative and judicial political power that it has developed with a complementary popular street politics of abortion.
Joshua C. Wilson is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Denver. He is the author of “The Street Politics of Abortion: Speech, Violence, and America’s Culture Wars.”