U. of Minnesota Press
American pietas; visions of race, death, and the maternal.
Tapia (comparative studies and women's studies, The Ohio State U.) offers this study examining the use of visual representation of racialized death and motherhood in American media as a means of shaping cultural perception and national identity. The author draws from major cultural events from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, such as the death of Princess Diana and the attacks of September 11th, 2001 in New York, to illustrate the formulation of these pietás and the cultural effects they produce. This book is best suited for those engaged in comparative studies. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Animal stories; narrating across species lines.
In this literary analysis toward a narrative ethology, McHugh (English, U. of New England) argues that evolving animal narratives are critical to fictional explorations of human subjects interdependent on animals. She examines the cultural meanings of contemporary fiction featuring cross-species relationships including service dogs in detective fiction, the horse-girl bond (e.g., in National Velvet), and farm animals. The book features animal-themed art illustrations and movie stills, and posters promoting animal population control. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Architecture of thought.
Exploring wide philosophical themes and ranging across time and space, Piotrowski (U. of Minnesota School of Architecture) examines a variety of buildings in an attempt to demonstrate developments in the way buildings were viewed, and the way people changed how they perceived buildings, and even reality, through time. His chapter on medieval and Byzantine use of light and space in architecture relies on outdated interpretations, suggesting a desire to make the facts fit a desired result, with a corollary lack of critical reading. The volume evinces an impressive range of examples and interpretations, however — including the effects of colonization on Mesoamerica and of technology on Victorian England — and will certainly provoke discussion among budding architects and architectural theorists. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Choices women make; agency in domestic violence, assisted reproduction, and sex work.
Is choice a matter of an individual's capacity for autonomy? Or is it the result of social conditions that facilitate freedom? Showden (political science, the U. of North Carolina) explores how agency influences the ways women make difficult choices related to domestic violence, assisted reproduction, and sex work, concluding that women's agency is both an individual and social construct. She draws together feminist and legal theory, as well as phenomenological and post-structuralist theory, to offer an account of the status of women as political and social beings. The author reviews possible policy and legal interventions that could improve the conditions within which agency develops and could enhance women's ability to exercise their political and personal options. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
The copyright thing doesn't work here; Adinkra and Kente cloth and intellectual property in Ghana.
Boateng (communications, U. of California, San Diego) examines the appropriation and protection of adinkra and kente cloth, two types of textiles that are significant in their association with Asante and Ghanaian cultural nationalism, to address the wider issues of the use of intellectual property law to preserve and protect folklore and other traditional knowledge. The author makes the point that while the fabrics are mass-produced outside Ghana, the creators of their designs are not compensated. The author then expands her range beyond Africa to consider in this ethnography the challenges inherent in international regulation of modern and traditional concepts of intellectual property. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Crossing through Chueca; lesbian literary culture in queer Madrid.
The Chueca neighborhood of Madrid, site of Spanish Pride's celebration of gay marriage in 2005, emerged as Spain's center of tolerance following Franco's death in 1975. Reading transitional novels, lesbian-themed best sellers, and popular lesbian fiction, Robbins (Spanish literature and culture, U. of Texas, Austin) analyzes the ways in which the country's lesbian literary culture reflects the political and economic forces behind the movida (social transition) movement — despite lingering machismo. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Derek Jarman; a biography.
Peake, who was both friend and literary agent to Derek Jarman in the decade before his death, delivers a sweeping biography of the controversial filmmaker, painter, writer and AIDS activist. Peake delves into not only the history of the artist, his family, art, and activism, but recounts with near first-person fervor Jarman's underlying emotional motivations and the intensely personal events which led to them. He paints a vivid picture of post-war Britain, colonial Pakistan, and particularly the arts scene of 1960s and 70s London, where Jarmin inhabited an avant garde community with contemporaries such as Robert Mapplethorpe and David Hockney. Peake describes his friend's later struggles with AIDS and eventual death with the same detail, sensitivity, and literary deftness. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Digital art and meaning; reading kinetic poetry, text machines, mapping art, and interactive installations.
Simanowski (media studies, U. of Basel, Switzerland) conducts close critical readings of works of digital art — e.g., screened words that form an image while also reacting to the behavior of the viewer; images that are progressively destroyed by the human gaze; text machines generating nonsense sentences out of a Kafka story; and an Internet-enabled, interactive light show above the central square of Mexico City — promoting the role of the critic in finding meaning in digital art. In particular, he focuses on the role of code, body, and presence in the interpretation of digital art. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Felt; Fluxus, Joseph Beuys, and the Dalai Lama.
Fluxus is a global art movement most prominent from the early 1960s through the late 1970s, anti-commercial and Dadaist in nature, inspired by artists such as Marcel Duchamp and founded around the likes John Cage, Yoko Ono, and controversial German artist Joseph Beuys. Building upon a brief, unrecorded meeting between Beuys and the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and drawing upon metaphors of the age old material, felt, Thompson (art history, Maine College of Art) presents a loose history of the Fluxus movement, many of its members, and the influence of Eastern philosophy on its artistic vision and production. He illustrates how, like felt, the movement was made up of individual strands which through unexpected processes become part of a strong and cohesive whole, whether or not they ever directly contact each other. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Free Burma; transnational legal action and corporate accountability.
Dale (sociology, George Mason U.) analyzes the engagement of pro-democracy activists in Burma (renamed Myanmar by its military junta) with international actors and with the issue of corporate accountability, arguing that the domestic pro-democracy movement, thought to be moribund by many observers, has transformed itself into a transnational social movement that was able to initiate legal campaigns to bring attention to human rights abuses and the complicity of democratic states and multinational corporations. He examines three campaigns in particular: efforts to pass a selective purchasing law that prohibits the state of Massachusetts from doing business with companies that also do business with Burma; a petition to decharter the Unocal Corporation over its projects in Burma; and an Alien Tort Claims Act suit brought by Burmese peasants who claimed that they were used as slave labor for a Unocal pipeline in Burma. These struggles, Dale argues, opened up a "transnational legal space" in which pro-democracy activists can struggle to reshape how the rules of globalization are politically, legally, and morally constructed. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Henry James and the queerness of style.
Ohi (English, Boston College) renders close readings of three novels and various short works by Henry James, arguing for a queer interpretation of not only the content of James's work, but of his presentation and style of writing. Working from The Golden Bowl, The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and works produced in the years surrounding World War I, he outlines elements of language which point to a queer perspective, including James's use of literal and figurative language; complex grammar such as zeugma and syllepsis, which can divert and invert meaning; unusual sytax; metacognition as a presentation device; and others. Ohi also considers James's use of free indirect narration and an intentional alienation from his characters to establish a non-psychological sensibility, which along with the engagement of allegory and imagery, supports the principles of queer style. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Human error; species-being and media machines.
What is the human element separating humans from animals and machines? Pettman (culture and media, The New School) offers an account of human exceptionalism. He argues that it is a mistake to make such rigid distinctions in the first place, and conceives of human, animal, and machine as a rubric for understanding key figures, texts, and sites where species-being is either reinforced or challenged by our relationship to our own narcissistic and anthropomorphist tendencies. He considers various work such as Werner Herzog's film Grizzly Man, work by Donna Haraway and Jacques Derrida, a Sufi fable, and Ulrich Seidl's film Animal Love. Each example or text considered in the book speaks directly to ways in which we, as a conceived species, are constantly re-creating a relationship between ourselves, our others, and our environment. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
The invisible element of place; the architecture of David Salmela.
Fisher (architecture, U. of Minnesota) offers commentary to accompany photos of 50 projects created by the firm headed by David Salmela (Salmela Architect), located in Duluth, Minnesota. Each project is showcased in full page and smaller photos, along with plans. Most are private houses or cabins located in Minnesota or Wisconsin. The end matter includes an impressive list of the firm's awards since 1985, as well as details of each project's design and construction team. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
A joint enterprise; Indian elites and the making of British Bombay.
Colonial cities are often thought to singularly reflect the visions and needs of the colonial regimes that rule over them, but in this reconstruction of the transformation of the physical urbanity of Bombay (now Mumbai) from 1854 to 1918, Chopra (U. of Wisconsin — Madison) seeks to demonstrate that indigenous actors often played a major role in shaping urban design and form. British Bombay was a "joint enterprise" of colonial rulers and Indian and European mercantile and industrial elites seeking to shape the city to serve their interests, European and Indian collaborations in engineering and architecture, the influence of the Indian laborers and craftsmen who did the physical building, and joint financing by the colonial government and Indian philanthropists. She explores how this joint enterprise operated in the public realm by examining debates over architectural style in the public arena, the role of a specific prominent Indian architect and engineer in making British Bombay, the role of European and Indian social categories in structuring Bombay's hospitals and mental asylums, and the role of religion in the public urban landscape. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Mediterranean crossroads; Marseille and modern architecture.
Sitting on the Mediterranean at the south of France, Marseille was the central port of overseas trade. Notorious both as a city of danger and of modernization, Marseille drew attention architecturally as it was forced to reconstruct out of the rubble caused by bombing during WWII. Crane, (architecture, U. of Virginia) traces the history and politics of architecture surrounding the port from the 1920s through the rebuilding after the war. Photographs, architectural drawings and stories give a vivid account of the events that influenced modern structures around the world. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Mothers united; an immigrant struggle for socially just education.
How can parents without college educations, American citizenship, English literacy skills, or economic stability organize to initiate educational change on behalf of their children? Dyrness (educational studies, Trinity College, Connecticut) chronicles the experiences of five immigrant Latina mothers in Oakland, CA, who joined a group of other parents and teachers to plan a new, smaller, autonomous, neighborhood-based school to replace the overcrowded local school. The book describes in ethnographic detail how the women mobilized for change and the barriers they encountered even within a progressive reform movement, and illuminates how participatory research methods, as practiced by the five women, created a counterspace that supported the mothers' agency and transformative resistance at their children's school. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Out of the vinyl deeps; Ellen Willis on rock music.
Ellen Willis was The New Yorker's first popular music critic, hired in 1968 and the contributor of 56 columns to the publication over seven years. This book edited by Aronowitz, contributor to several publications and co-author of Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism, compiles Willis' New Yorker columns as well as some of her other works. Being the first successful female pop critic, Willis' work provides an important voice from the socially turbulent late 60s and early 70s. This book appeals to those with an interest in American popular music and feminism. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
The right to play oneself; looking back on documentary film.
Originally written between 1974 and 2008, these ten essays by Waugh (film studies, Concordia U., Canada) represent the evolution of his thinking on documentary film over the past few decades. Focusing on the text of the documentary (that is, what is on the screen), the essays seek to push the canon beyond the Global North and also demonstrate an attachment to the potential of documentary film to articulate left and queer identity politics. Among the directors discussed are Dziga Vertov, Emile de Antonio, Barbara Hammer, Rosa von Praunheim, and Anand Patwardhan. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Sister arts; the erotics of lesbian landscapes.
Moore (English, women's and gender studies, U. of Texas at Austin) presents a feminist reading of the art, science, gardens, and relationships of four 18th century women in the sister arts tradition. In chapters providing biographical context on diarist/botanical artist Mary Delaney, aristocratic intellectual Margaret Bentinck, Romantic landscape poet Anna Seward, and Connecticut poet and educator Sarah Pierce, she explores how their choices reflect their "landscape of lesbian desire," and their influences on Emily Dickinson, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe, and Judy Chicago among others. The book is richly illustrated. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
To and from utopia in the new Cuban art.
Weiss (arts administration and policy, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) presents this critical history of late Cuban art. She focuses on recent works by Cuban artists to illustrate the shifts in social and political attitudes in Cuba from the 1970s to the present. From the optimism held by Cuban society with the Cuban revolution to the cynicism derived from its collapse, the author explores themes in art depicting these changing views. Also included in this volume are dozens of color photographs of works explored. This book is intended for those studying art and Cuban culture. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Vilém Flusser; an introduction.
Finger (German studies and comparative literature, U. of Connecticut) et al. present this first English introduction to the great essayist and media philosopher Vilém Flusser. Flusser, a Jewish native of Prague, was forced into exile in Brazil during World War II where he developed into one of the greatest multi-lingual essayists of the twentieth century. Although a small percentage of his work was written in English, his oeuvre has remained largely unknown in the English speaking world. This book, intended for those engaged in German and media studies, offers an English overview of Flusser's work and philosophies. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)
Writing the love of boys; origins of Bishonen culture in modernist Japanese literature.
Angles (Japanese literature, Western Michigan U.) explores the origins of the bishonen ("beautiful adolescent men") genre of Japanese literature, deconstructing the works of three influential early 20th century authors in order to demonstrate the varied and complex cultural attitudes towards male same-sex relations which mingled and coalesced in their respective works, creating the underpinnings of a new, modern literature. He examines the works of poet Murayama Kaita, detective novelist Edogawa Ranpo, and avant garde writer Inagaki Taruho, describing their respective representations of schoolboy love, aestheticism, psychology, and the grotesque; as well as the ways in which their work sought to connect to traditions of male-male love across cultural, historical, and national divides. (Annotation ©2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)