Monday, December 15, 2014

From the Bookshelves: A Conservative and Compassionate Approach to Immigration Reform: Perspectives from a Former US Attorney General by Alberto R. Gonzales and David N. Strange

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A Conservative and Compassionate Approach to Immigration Reform: Perspectives from a Former US Attorney General by Alberto R. Gonzales and David N. Strange

Although the United States is a nation founded by immigrants, Alberto Gonzales and David Strange believe that national immigration policy and enforcement over the past thirty years has been inadequate. This failure by federal leaders has resulted in a widespread introduction of state immigration laws across the country.  Gonzales and Strange assert that the solution to current immigration challenges is reform of federal immigration laws, including common sense border control, tougher workplace enforcement, changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act, and a revised visa process.

Gonzales and Strange embrace many provisions of current pending legislation, but are sharply critical of others. Their proposals call for an expansion of the grounds of inadmissibility to foster greater respect of law and to address the problem of visa overstays, while also calling for a restriction on grounds of inadmissibility in other areas to address the large undocumented population and increasing humanitarian crisis. They explore nationality versus citizenship and introduce a pathway to nationality as an alternative to a pathway to citizenship.

This immigration policy blueprint examines the political landscape in Washington and makes the argument that progress will require compromise and the discipline to act with compassion and respect.

KJ

December 15, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Three Decades of Engendering History: Selected Works of Antonia I. Castañeda

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Three Decades of Engendering History: Selected Works of Antonia I. Castañeda  Editor: Linda Heidenreich with Antonia I. Castañeda

Three Decades of Engendering History collects ten of Antonia I. Castañeda's best articles, including the widely circulated article "Engendering the History of Alta California, 1769-1848," in which Castañeda took a direct and honest look at sex and gender relations in colonial California, exposing stories of violence against women as well as stories of survival and resistance. Other articles included are the prize-winning "Women of Color and the Rewriting of Western History," and two recent articles, "Lullabies y Canciones de Cuna" and "La Despedida." The latter two represent Castañeda’s most recent work excavating, mapping, and bringing forth the long and strong post-WWII history of Tejanas. Finally, the volume includes three interviews with Antonia Castañeda that contribute the important narrative of her lived experience—the "theory in the flesh" and politics of necessity that fueled her commitment to transformative scholarship that highlights gender and Chicanas as a legitimate line of inquiry.

KJ

December 14, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 5, 2014

From the Bookshelves: A Race So Different: Performance and Law in Asian America by Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson

 

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A Race So Different: Performance and Law in Asian America by Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson

Winner of the 2014 Outstanding Book Award presented by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education

Taking a performance studies approach to understanding Asian American racial subjectivity, Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson argues that the law influences racial formation by compelling Asian Americans to embody and perform recognizable identities in both popular aesthetic forms (such as theater, opera, or rock music) and in the rituals of everyday life. Tracing the production of Asian American selfhood from the era of Asian Exclusion through the Global War on Terror, A Race So Different explores the legal paradox whereby U.S. law apprehends the Asian American body as simultaneously excluded from and included within the national body politic. Bringing together broadly defined forms of performance, from artistic works such as Madame Butterfly to the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in the Cambodian American deportation cases of the twenty-first century, this book invites conversation about how Asian American performance uses the stage to document, interrogate, and complicate the processes of racialization in U.S. law. Through his impressive use of a rich legal and cultural archive, Chambers-Letson articulates a robust understanding of the construction of social and racial realities in the contemporary United States.

Author Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Performance Studies in the School of Communications of Northwestern University.

KJ

December 5, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Adjudicating Refugee and Asylum Status The Role of Witness, Expertise, and Testimony Editors: Benjamin N. Lawrance and Galya Ruffer

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Adjudicating Refugee and Asylum Status The Role of Witness, Expertise, and Testimony Editors: Benjamin N. Lawrance, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York Galya Ruffer, Northwestern University, Illinois

In this book, an array of legal, biomedical, psychosocial, and social science scholars and practitioners offer the first comparative account of the increasing dependence on expertise in the asylum and refugee status determination process. This volume presents a comprehensive study of the relevance of experts, as mediators of culture, who are called upon to corroborate, substantiate credibility, and serve as translators in the face of confusing legal standards that require proof of new forms and reasons for persecution around the globe. The authors draw upon their interactions with expertise and the immigration process to provide insights into the evidentiary burdens on asylum seekers and the expanding role of expertise in the forms of country-conditions reports, biomedical and psychiatric evaluations, and the emerging field of forensic linguistic analysis in response to emerging forms of persecution, such as gender-based or sexuality-based persecution. This book is essential reading for both scholars interested in the production of knowledge and clinicians considering the role of experts as mediators of asylum claims.

Features anecdotal narratives of real cases that make the book particularly useful for clinical instruction/adoption

This is a guidebook by way of specific personal narratives of best practices in asylum and refugee status

Establishes expert testimony as a site of critical study for the humanities and social sciences

KJ

December 3, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Little Readers: The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell

If you're looking for a special book to enjoy with your little readers this holiday, look no further than The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell.

This picture book begins with an older couple (Anna and Ed) alone on Thanksgiving. They accidentially burn their holiday meal and so end up looking for a place to eat out.

They find a restaurant with an open door but noone there. It turns out the family of restauranteurs - apparently new immigrants - are in the kitchen, hiding. They had planned to be closed that day so they could have their own party. But the grandmother of the family insists the couple should be allowed to stay.

"And that's how Ann and Ed found themselves guests of honor as this family celebrated their first Thanksgiving in the New World Cafe."

What comes next is a Thanksgiving celebration that blends American traditions with "old country" touches. There is food and dancing. And lifelong friendships are made. Leaving Anna and Ed thankful for their burned dinner!

-KitJ

November 27, 2014 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Rethinking the Attractiveness of EU Labour Immigration Policies: Comparative perspectives on the EU, the US, Canada and beyond by Sergio Carrera, Elspeth Guild, Katharina Eisele

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Rethinking the Attractiveness of EU Labour Immigration Policies: Comparative perspectives on the EU, the US, Canada and beyond by Sergio Carrera, Elspeth Guild, Katharina Eisele

Is Europe's immigration policy attractive? One of the priorities driving current EU debates on labour immigration policies is the perceived need to boost Europe's attractiveness vis-á-vis 'talented' and 'highly skilled' immigrants. The EU sees itself playing a role in persuading immigrants to choose Europe over other competing destinations, such as the US or Canada.

This book critically examines the determinants and challenges characterising discussions focused on the attractiveness of labour migration policies in the EU as well as other international settings. It calls for re-thinking some of the most commonly held premises and assumptions underlying the narratives of ‘attractiveness’ and ‘global competition for talent’ in migration policy debates. How can an immigration policy, in fact, be made to be ‘attractive’ and what are the incentives at play (if any)?

A multidisciplinary team of leading scholars and experts in migration studies address the main issues and challenges related to the role played by rights and discrimination, qualifications and skills, and matching demand and supply in needs-based migration policies. The experiences in other jurisdictions such as South America, Canada and the United States are also covered: Are these countries indeed so ‘attractive’ and ‘competitive’, and if so what makes them more attractive than the EU?

On the basis of the discussions and findings presented across the various contributions, the book identifies a number of priorities for policy formulation and design in the next generation of EU labour migration policies. In particular, it highlights important initiatives that the new European Commission should focus on in the years to come.

Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and head of the Justice and Home Affairs research unit at CEPS; Elspeth Guild is Jean Monnet Professor ad personam of European Migration Law at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Queen Mary, University of London, UK. She is also an Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS and a partner at the London law firm Kingsley Napley. Katharina Eisele is a Researcher in the Justice and Home Affairs section of CEPS.

KJ

November 25, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Professor Holly Cooper on President Obama's Immigration Initiatives

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My very first day in immigration court as a young lawyer, an Indian man in full shackles fell to his knees and begged me to help him. I reviewed his paperwork with an analytical eye and hoped that law school had prepared me to advise him. He had a rare legal remedy available to him, and I explained to him what he needed to tell the judge (he was defending himself in pro se). The next five men I interviewed were not so fortunate and none had any defense to deportation. Chained together, they each spoke in turn to the judge—only one was not deported. I discovered the power of knowledge and that law could be arbitrary in who it assisted and who it condemned.

When Obama’s new executive order was released, one of my friends told me that when he discovered he was covered under the order, he felt as though he had beat stage four cancer. He was too old for the first round of DACA, and had felt the sting of disappointment after the first executive order. Yet now he was finally free. It was the little things like the dignity of being able to drive a woman on a date—to the larger issue of having a legal identity that made him feel an incredible release.

My mind spun in a different direction, and I began thinking of everyone who could have benefited, but who had already been deported. I thought of the wreckage of so many lives that could have been avoided. One of my clients—who had come to the USA as a toddler—told me that after he was deported, he felt like a stateless ghost untethered to his native land of Jamaica. He pined for his children every day across the Caribbean ocean. Like an uncelebrated Odysseus, he crossed the seas multiple times to reunite with his family. He never succeeded—arrested and deported again and again. He told me he would keep trying to reenter the USA until he died. In the USA were his life, his children, and everything that made life worth living.

Just as the executive order is progress, it is also a reminder of our nation’s past. A tribute to the sacrifices immigrants in our nation made to reach this breaking point. The resistance and the swelling of discontent—all brought to its boiling point. It is a time of celebration and mourning. But also a time of hope—hope that the irrepressible voices of immigrants are finally being heard. And above all Obama’s order is a dare—a dare to Congress to retract rather than advance the rights and dignity of immigrants.

Professor Holly Cooper

Immigration Law Clinic

UC Davis School of Law

November 24, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Matt de la Peña, "Mexican WhiteBoy

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Mexican WhiteBoy (2010) is an interesting book by young adult fiction writer Matt de la Peña.

Here is a brief description:  Danny's tall and skinny. Even though he’s not built, his arms are long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. Ninety-five mile an hour fastball, but the boy’s not even on a team. Every time he gets up on the mound he loses it. But at his private school, they don’t expect much else from him. Danny’ s brown. Half-Mexican brown. And growing up in San Diego that close to the border means everyone else knows exactly who he is before he even opens his mouth. Before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blond hair and blue eyes, they’ve got him pegged. But it works the other way too. And Danny’s convinced it’s his whiteness that sent his father back to Mexico.

The New York Times has reported that "after a new state law targeting Mexican-American studies courses that are perceived as antiwhite was upheld, it became illegal to teach `Mexican WhiteBoy' in Tucson’s classrooms. State officials cited the book as containing `critical race theory,' a violation under a provision that prohibits lessons `promoting racial resentment.'”

KJ

November 17, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Immigrant of the Day: Kati Marton From Hungary | Author

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Kati Marton From Hungary | Author

In writing her novels and biographies, author Kati Marton draws on her experience as a journalist. She has reported for news outlets including NPR and ABC News, where she served as an overseas bureau chief, and is the recipient of a George Foster Peabody award for a documentary on China. Her 2009 memoir, Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America, was a National Book Critics Circle finalist. She also works as a human rights advocate, and, from 2003 to 2008, chaired the International Women’s Health Coalition.

One book review describes "ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE IS A TOUR DE FORCE, an important work of history as it was lived, a narrative of multiple betrayals on both sides of the Cold War that ends with triumph and a new beginning in America. In this true-life thriller Kati Marton, an award-winning journalist, exposes the cruel mechanics of the Communist Terror State using the secret police files on her parents, as well as dozens of interviews that reveal how her family was spied on and betrayed by friends, colleagues, and even their children’s babysitter. In this moving and brave memoir, Marton searches for and finds her parents and love."

 

KJ

November 16, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Border Medicine A Transcultural History of Mexican American Curanderismo by Brett Hendrickson

 Border Medicine A Transcultural History of Mexican American Curanderismo by Brett Hendrickson

Mexican American folk and religious healing, often referred to as curanderismo, has been a vital part of life in the Mexico-U.S. border region for centuries. A hybrid tradition made up primarily of indigenous and Iberian Catholic pharmacopeias, rituals, and notions of the self, curanderismo treats the sick person with a variety of healing modalities including herbal remedies, intercessory prayer, body massage, and energy manipulation. Curanderos, “healers,” embrace a holistic understanding of the patient, including body, soul, and community.

Border Medicine examines the ongoing evolution of Mexican American religious healing from the end of the nineteenth century to the present. Illuminating the ways in which curanderismo has had an impact not only on the health and culture of the borderlands but also far beyond, the book tracks its expansion from Mexican American communities to Anglo and multiethnic contexts. While many healers treat Mexican and Mexican American clientele, a significant number of curanderos have worked with patients from other ethnic groups as well, especially those involved in North American metaphysical religions like spiritualism, mesmerism, New Thought, New Age, and energy-based alternative medicines. Hendrickson explores this point of contact as an experience of transcultural exchange.

Drawing on historical archives, colonial-era medical texts and accounts, early ethnographies of the region, newspaper articles, memoirs, and contemporary healing guidebooks as well as interviews with contemporary healers, Border Medicine demonstrates the notable and ongoing influence of Mexican Americans on cultural and religious practices in the United States, especially in the American West.

Brett Hendrickson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Lafayette College (PA).

KJ

November 15, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Diaspora Lobbies and the US Government Convergence and Divergence in Making Foreign Policy Edited by Josh DeWind and Renata Segura

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Diaspora Lobbies and the US Government Convergence and Divergence in Making Foreign Policy Edited by Josh DeWind and Renata Segura

As a nation of immigrants, the United States has long accepted that citizens who identify with an ancestral homeland may hold dual loyalties; yet Americans have at times regarded the persistence of foreign ties with suspicion, seeing them as a sign of potential disloyalty and a threat to national security. Diaspora Lobbies and the US Government brings together a group of distinguished scholars of international politics and international migration to examine this contradiction in the realm of American policy making, ultimately concluding that the relationship between diaspora groups and the government can greatly affect foreign policy. This relationship is not unidirectional—as much as immigrants make an effort to shape foreign policy, government legislators and administrators also seek to enlist them in furthering American interests.

From Israel to Cuba and from Ireland to Iraq, the case studies in this volume illustrate how potential or ongoing conflicts raise the stakes for successful policy outcomes. Contributors provide historical and sociological context, gauging the influence of diasporas based on population size and length of time settled in the United States, geographic concentration, access to resources from their own members or through other groups, and the nature of their involvement back in their homelands. This collection brings a fresh perspective to a rarely discussed aspect of the design of US foreign policy and offers multiple insights into dynamics that may determine how the United States will engage other nations in future decades.

Authors:  Josh DeWind is Director of the International Migration Program of the Social Science Research Council. He is the co-editor of The Handbook of International Migration: The American Experience. Renata Segura is Associate Director of The Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum of the Social Science Research Council.

KJ

November 13, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Border Politics: Social Movements, Collective Identities, and Globalization Edited by Nancy A. Naples and Jennifer Bickham Mendez

 

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Border Politics: Social Movements, Collective Identities, and Globalization Edited by Nancy A. Naples and Jennifer Bickham Mendez, October, 2014

In the current historical moment borders have taken on heightened material and symbolic significance, shaping identities and the social and political landscape. “Borders”—defined broadly to include territorial dividing lines as well as sociocultural boundaries—have become increasingly salient sites of struggle over social belonging and cultural and material resources. How do contemporary activists navigate and challenge these borders? What meanings do they ascribe to different social, cultural and political boundaries, and how do these meanings shape the strategies in which they engage? Moreover, how do these social movements confront internal borders based on the differences that emerge within social change initiatives?

Border Politics, edited by Nancy A. Naples and Jennifer Bickham Mendez, explores these important questions through eleven carefully selected case studies situated in geographic contexts around the globe. By conceptualizing struggles over identity, social belonging and exclusion as extensions of border politics, the authors capture the complex ways in which geographic, cultural, and symbolic dividing lines are blurred and transcended, but also fortified and redrawn. This volume notably places right-wing and social justice initiatives in the same analytical frame to identify patterns that span the political spectrum. Border Politics offers a lens through which to understand borders as sites of diverse struggles, as well as the strategies and practices used by diverse social movements in today’s globally interconnected world.

Contributors: Phillip Ayoub, Renata Blumberg, Yvonne Braun, Moon Charania, Michael Dreiling, Jennifer Johnson, Jesse Klein, Andrej Kurnik, Sarah Maddison, Duncan McDuie-Ra, Jennifer Bickham Mendez, Nancy A. Naples, David Paternotte, Maple Razsa, Raphi Rechitsky, Kyle Rogers, Deana Rohlinger, Cristina Sanidad, Meera Sehgal, Tara Stamm, Michelle Téllez

KJ

November 12, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Immigrant of the Day: Andrei Codrescu From Romania | Author

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Andrei Codrescu From Romania | Author

Author and poet Andrei Codrescu won the 1970 Big Table Poetry award for his first poetry book, License to Carry a Gun, and in 1983 founded Exquisite Corpse, a surrealist literary journal. Since then, he has won many awards and honors for his books of poetry and his novels, including the Pushcart Prize on two separate instances. He is also a commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, and won the Peabody award for his film Road Scholar.

November 6, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Immigrant of the Day: Diane von Furstenberg (Belgium), Fashion Designer

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Diane von Furstenberg started showing her designs to New York boutiques and magazine editors in the late 1960s. The dresses she created weren't very expensive, wrap dresses made of gentle jersey, gorgeously patterned, with a deep-cut V-neck and light belt. "It's a dress that was practical and pretty and sexy," von Furstenberg tells NPR's Audie Cornish. It's been described, she says, as "a dress that you get the men with ... but he doesn't mind taking you to his mother." It sold by the millions. In her new memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be, von Furstenberg tells her unlikely story of success. Her mother was a Belgian Holocaust survivor.

Diane von Furstenberg initially rose to prominence when she married into the German princely House of Fürstenberg, as the wife of Prince Egon of Fürstenberg. Following their divorce in 1972, she has continued to use his family name, although she is no longer entitled to use the title princess She re-launched her fashion company, Diane von Fürstenberg (DvF), in 1997, with the reintroduction of her famous wrap dress. The company is now a global luxury lifestyle brand offering four complete collections a year. DvF is available in over 70 countries and 45 free-standing shops worldwide. In 2005, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awarded her the Lifetime Achievement Award and the following year named her as their president, a position she has held since 2006.

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Wrap dress, 1975–76 Diane Von Furstenberg

Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

KJ

November 2, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Immigrant of the Day: Meryle Secrest From England | Biographer

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Meryle Secrest From England | Biographer

Award-winning biographer Meryle Secrest began her career in journalism, later publishing her first book, Between Me and Life: A Biography of Romaine Brooks, in 1974. Writing primarily about artists and musicians, she has been recognized by critics for her assiduous research and engaging style. For Being Bernard Berenson, published in 1979, Secrest was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has also written books on Salvador Dali, Frank Lloyd Wright, and, in 2007, wrote about herself in Shoot the Widow: Adventures of a Biographer in Search of Her Subject.

 

KJ

November 1, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

From the Bookshelves: American Justice 2014: Nine Clashing Visions on the Supreme Court by Garrett Epps

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American Justice 2014: Nine Clashing Visions on the Supreme Court by Garrett Epps

In this provocative and insightful book, constitutional scholar and journalist Garrett Epps reviews the key decisions of the 2013–2014 Supreme Court term through the words of the nation's nine most powerful legal authorities. Epps succinctly outlines one opinion or dissent from each justice during the recent term, using it to illuminate the political and ideological views that prevail on the court. The result is a highly readable summary of the term's most controversial cases as well as a probing investigation of the issues and personalities that shape the court's decisions. Accompanied by a concise overview of Supreme Court procedure and brief case summaries, American Justice 2014 is an engaging and instructive read for seasoned court-watchers as well as legal novices eager for an introduction to the least-understood branch of government. This revealing portrait of a year in legal action dramatizes the ways that the Court has come to reflect and encourage the polarization that increasingly defines American politics.

Garrett Epps is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and The American Prospect. His most recent book, American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution, was named a finalist for the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award. Epps is Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore.

KJ

October 28, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 27, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Gray Mountain by John Grisham

  

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Here is a description of the the latest from John Grisham:  The Great Recession of 2008 left many young professionals out of work. Promising careers were suddenly ended as banks, hedge funds, and law firms engaged in mass lay-offs and brutal belt tightening. Samantha Kofer was a third year associate at Scully & Pershing, New York City’s largest law firm. Two weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, she lost her job, her security, and her future. A week later she was working as an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic deep in small town Appalachia. There, for the first time in her career, she was confronted with real clients with real problems. She also stumbled across secrets that should have remained buried deep in the mountains forever.

I read this book over the weekend.  It was a quick and interesting read.  Grisham lets us know where he sees rewards in law practice and what those rewards are -- it is not all about money. 

KJGRAY MOUNTAIN

October 27, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

From the Bookshelves: A Chosen Exile A History of Racial Passing in American Life by Allyson Hobbs

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A Chosen Exile A History of Racial Passing in American Life by Allyson Hobbs

Between the eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, countless African Americans passed as white, leaving behind families and friends, roots and community. It was, as Allyson Hobbs writes, a chosen exile, a separation from one racial identity and the leap into another. This revelatory history of passing explores the possibilities and challenges that racial indeterminacy presented to men and women living in a country obsessed with racial distinctions. It also tells a tale of loss. As racial relations in America have evolved so has the significance of passing. To pass as white in the antebellum South was to escape the shackles of slavery. After emancipation, many African Americans came to regard passing as a form of betrayal, a selling of one’s birthright. When the initially hopeful period of Reconstruction proved short-lived, passing became an opportunity to defy Jim Crow and strike out on one’s own. Although black Americans who adopted white identities reaped benefits of expanded opportunity and mobility, Hobbs helps us to recognize and understand the grief, loneliness, and isolation that accompanied—and often outweighed—these rewards. By the dawning of the civil rights era, more and more racially mixed Americans felt the loss of kin and community was too much to bear, that it was time to “pass out” and embrace a black identity. Although recent decades have witnessed an increasingly multiracial society and a growing acceptance of hybridity, the problem of race and identity remains at the center of public debate and emotionally fraught personal decisions.

Click here for a NPR discussion of the book.

KJ

October 12, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

From the Bookshelves: "I Hear America Singing": Folk Music and National Identity by Rachel Clare Donaldson

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"I Hear America Singing": Folk Music and National Identity by Rachel Clare Donaldson

 Folk music is more than an idealized reminder of a simpler past. It reveals a great deal about present-day understandings of community and belonging. It celebrates the shared traditions that define a group or nation. In America, folk music—from African American spirituals to English ballads and protest songs—renders the imagined community more tangible and comprises a critical component of our diverse national heritage.

In "I Hear America Singing," Rachel Donaldson traces the vibrant history of the twentieth-century folk music revival from its origins in the 1930s through its end in the late 1960s. She investigates the relationship between the revival and concepts of nationalism, showing how key figures in the revival—including Pete Seeger, Alan Lomax, Moses Asch, and Ralph Rinzler—used songs to influence the ways in which Americans understood the values, the culture, and the people of their own nation.

As Donaldson chronicles how cultural norms were shaped over the course of the mid-twentieth century, she underscores how various groups within the revival and their views shifted over time. "I Hear America Singing" provides a stirring account of how and why the revivalists sustained their culturally pluralist and politically democratic Americanism over this tumultuous period in American history.

 

 

October 9, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

From the Bookshelves: Backroads Pragmatists Mexico's Melting Pot and Civil Rights in the United States by Ruben Flores, Migrants, Money, and Meaning in El Salvador and the United States by David Pedersen

There are two interesting and topical immigratiuon-related books that I preview here today.

Backroads

Backroads Pragmatists Mexico's Melting Pot and Civil Rights in the United States by Ruben Flores

Like the United States, Mexico is a country of profound cultural differences. In the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), these differences became the subject of intense government attention as the Republic of Mexico developed ambitious social and educational policies designed to integrate its multitude of ethnic cultures into a national community of democratic citizens. To the north, Americans were beginning to confront their own legacy of racial injustice, embarking on the path that, three decades later, led to the destruction of Jim Crow.

Backroads Pragmatists is the first book to show the transnational cross-fertilization between these two movements. In molding Mexico's ambitious social experiment, postrevolutionary reformers adopted pragmatism from John Dewey and cultural relativism from Franz Boas, which, in turn, profoundly shaped some of the critical intellectual figures in the Mexican American civil rights movement. Ruben Flores follows studied Mexico's integration theories and applied them to America's own problem, holding Mexico up as a model of cultural fusion. These American reformers made the American West their laboratory in endeavors that included educator George I. Sanchez's attempts to transform New Mexico's government agencies, the rural education campaigns that psychologist Loyd Tireman adapted from the Mexican ministry of education, and anthropologist Ralph L. Beals's use of applied Mexican anthropology in the U.S. federal courts to transform segregation policy in southern California. Through deep archival research and ambitious synthesis, Backroads Pragmatists illuminates how nation-building in postrevolutionary Mexico unmistakably influenced the civil rights movement and democratic politics in the United States.

Click here for a review of Backroads Pragmatists.

 

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Migrants, Money, and Meaning in El Salvador and the United States by David Pedersen

Over the past half-century, El Salvador has transformed dramatically. Historically reliant on primary exports like coffee and cotton, the country emerged from a brutal civil war in 1992 to find much of its national income now coming from a massive emigrant workforce—over a quarter of its population—that earns money in the United States and sends it home. In American Value, David Pedersen examines this new way of life as it extends across two places: Intipucá, a Salvadoran town infamous for its remittance wealth, and the Washington, DC, metro area, home to the second largest population of Salvadorans in the United States. Pedersen charts El Salvador’s change alongside American deindustrialization, viewing the Salvadoran migrant work abilities used in new lowwage American service jobs as a kind of primary export, and shows how the latest social conditions linking both countries are part of a longer history of disparity across the Americas.

Drawing on the work of Charles S. Peirce, he demonstrates how the defining value forms—migrant work capacity, services, and remittances—act as signs, building a moral world by communicating their exchangeability while hiding the violence and exploitation on which this story rests. Theoretically sophisticated, ethnographically rich, and compellingly written, American Value offers critical insights into practices that are increasingly common throughout the world.

KJ

October 8, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)