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An excerpt from W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror

November 17, 2015
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An excerpt from W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror

An excerpt from W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present One further thought on the unspeakable and unimaginable: as tropes, they are turns in the stream of discourse, swerves in the temporal unfolding of speech and spectacle. The unspeakable and unimaginable are, to put it bluntly, always temporary. Which means they exist in historical time as well as the discursive time of the unfolding utterance, or the temporality of personal experience. What was once unspeakable and unimaginable is always a matter of becoming, of a speech and an image to come—often rather quickly. If I tell you not to think of the face or name of your mother, you will not be able to prevent yourself from conjuring up her image and name. Declare that God is unrepresentable, and you also declare yourself a representative of the truth about him; you make a representation, an authoritative declaration, of his unrepresentability. Declare that something is invisible, accessible to visual imaging, and someone (usually an artist or scientist) will find a way to depict it. Prohibit something from being shown, hide it away from view, and its power as a concealed image outstrips anything it could have achieved . . .

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Timing and Turnout on 538

November 5, 2015
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Timing and Turnout on 538

In a piece for FiveThirtyEight, “How Democrats Suppress the Vote,” Eitan Hersh connects the dots between low voter turnout, off-year elections, and the pursuit of (often municipal) policy goals. Arguing that off-cycle elections inherently yield a decreased number of voters disinterested in having to vote multiple times or engaging in local-level politics, Hersh turns to Sarah F. Anzia’s Timing and Turnout: How Off-Cycle Elections Favor Organized Groups to explain why: Political scientist Sarah Anzia, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, gives a compelling explanation in an outstanding book published last year. The first point that Anzia makes is that the off-cycle election calendar is not a response to voter preferences; voters do not like taking multiple trips to the voting booth. Anzia asked a nationally representative sample of Americans if they prefer elections held at different times for different offices “because it allows voters to focus on a shorter list of candidates and issues during each election” or all at the same time “because combining the elections boosts voter turnout for local elections.” Voters of all political stripes prefer consolidated elections, and by wide margins. But that’s especially true for people who identify as Democrats, who prefer consolidated elections 73 percent to 27 . . .

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Unexpected Justice: John Paul Stevens

September 18, 2015
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Unexpected Justice: John Paul Stevens

Kenneth A. Manaster’s Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens tells the story of the “Scandal of 1969,” in which citizen-spur Sherman Skolnick accused two Illinois Supreme Court justices, Ray Klingbiel and Roy Solfisburg, of accepting bank stock bribes  an influential Chicago lawyer in exchange for their decision in his pending criminal case. The resulting investigation by commission and later trial, helmed by then-unknown Chicago litigator and chief counsel John Paul Stevens, was conducted in under six weeks with a measly budget, and ultimately led to not only the resignation of both judges, but also significant reforms to the Illinois legal system—as well as Stevens’s own rise to appointments on the US Court of Appeals and later, the Supreme Court. Fifteen years after publication and now the subject of the documentary Unexpected Justice: The Rise of John Paul Stevens, which premieres this week on Chicago’s WTTW, the book contextualizes the road to power for one of the twentieth century’s foremost judicial minds, as well as provides an account of a less familiar but crucial chapter in Illinois history, written by someone who experienced events first hand. (Manaster served on the commission that investigated the case). Watch Unexpected Justice on Friday, September 13, at 7:30PM and Sunday, September 15, . . .

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Introducing Class 200

September 14, 2015
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Introducing Class 200

Today, we’re excited to introduce a brand-new series drawn from the interdisciplinary study of religion, helmed by series editors Kathryn Lofton and John Lardas Modern, and acquired by editorial director for the humanities and social sciences, Alan Thomas. Class 200 offers the most innovative works in the study of religion today. Resting on a generation of critical scholarship that reevaluated the central categories of the field, the series aims to surpass that good work by rebuilding the vocabulary of, and establishing new questions for, religious studies. The series will publish authors who understand descriptions of religion to be always bound up in explanations for it. It will nurture authorial reflexivity, documentary intensity, and genealogical responsibility. The series presumes no inaugurating definition of religion other than what it is not: it is not reducible to demographics, doctrines, or cognitive mechanics. It is more than a discursive concept or cultural idiom. It is something that can be named only with a precise and poetic wrestling with the nature of its naming. Class 200 seeks to renew the study of religion as a field of inquiry that is open in terms of disciplinary affiliation, relishes archival and ethnographic immersion, and is scrupulous in . . .

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Excerpt: Top 40 Democracy

November 20, 2014
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Excerpt: Top 40 Democracy

To follow-up on yesterday’s post, here’s an excerpt from Eric Weisbard’s Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music. *** “The Logic of Formats” Nearly every history of Top 40 launches from an anecdote about how radio station manager Todd Storz came up with the idea sometime between World War II and the early 1950s, watching with friends in a bar in Omaha as customers repeatedly punched up the same few songs on the jukebox. A waitress, after hearing the tunes for hours, paid for more listens, though she was unable to explain herself. “When they asked why, she replied, simply: ‘I like ’em.’ ” As Storz said on another occasion, “Why this should be, I don’t know. But I saw waitresses do this time after time.” He resolved to program a radio station following the same principles: the hits and nothing but the hits. Storz’s aha moment has much to tell about Top 40’s complicated relationship to musical diversity. He might be seen as an entrepreneur with his ear to the ground, like the 1920s furniture salesman who insisted hillbilly music be recorded or the 1970s Fire Island dancer who created remixes to extend the beat. Or he could . . .

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#UPWeek: Turabian Teacher Collaborative

November 10, 2014
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#UPWeek: Turabian Teacher Collaborative

  Welcome to the third annual #UPWeek blog tour—we’re excited to contribute under Monday’s umbrella theme, “Collaboration,” with a post on the Turabian Teacher Collaborative. To get the ball rolling and further the mission, here’s where you can find other university presses, big and small, far and wide, posting on similarly synergetic projects today: the University Press of Colorado on veterinary immunology, the University of Georgia Press on the New Georgia Encyclopedia Project, Duke University Press on Eben Kirksey’s The Multispecies Salon, the University of California Press on Dr. Paul Farmer and Dr. Jim Yong Kim’s work on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the University of Virginia Press on their project Chasing Shadows (a special e-book and website devoted to Watergate-era Oval Office conversations), McGill-Queen’s University Press on the online gallery Landscape Architecture in Canada, Texas A & M University Press on a new consumer health advocacy series, Project MUSE on their history of collaboration, and Yale University Press on their Museum Quality Books series. Remember to follow #UPWeek on Twitter, and read on after the jump for the story of the Turabian Teacher Collaborative’s first two years. *** One of the foundational principles of Kate Turabian’s classic writing guides is that research creates a community . . .

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Alison Bechdel, MacArthur Fellow, 2014

September 18, 2014
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Alison Bechdel, MacArthur Fellow, 2014

Congratulations to cartoonist and graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel, one the 2014 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, or “genius grant” honorees, whose work in comics and narrative has helped to transform and elevate our understanding of women—”Dykes to Watch Out For” in all their expressions, mothers and daughters,  and the implications of social and political changes on those who dwell everyday in a broad variety of female-identified bodies. Additionally, Bechdel is well-known in film studies circles for her duplicitously simple three-question test for gender parity, which has drawn broad attention since first delivered via her 1985 strip “The Rule.” From the Washington Post: 1) Does it have two female characters? 2) Who talk to each other? 3) About something other than a man? If the answer to all three questions is yes, the film passes the Bechdel test. Bechdel is also the subject of two feature-length interviews in Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists, and a contributor to Critical Inquiry’s special issue Comics & Media, both of which were released this year. Below, see video footage of a Bechdel/Chute interview from 2011, when Chute visited Bechdel at her home in Jericho, Vermont: To read more about Outside the Box or the Comics & Media issue . . .

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Rachel Sussman and The Oldest Living Things in the World

September 15, 2014
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Rachel Sussman and The Oldest Living Things in the World

  This past week, Rachel Sussman’s colossal photography project—and its associated book—The Oldest Living Things in the World, which documents her attempts to photograph continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older, was profiled by the New Yorker: To find the oldest living thing in New York City, set out from Staten Island’s West Shore Plaza mall (Chuck E. Cheese’s, Burlington Coat Factory, D.M.V.). Take a right, pass Industry Road, go left. The urban bleakness will fade into a litter-strewn route that bisects a nature preserve called Saw Mill Creek Marsh. Check the tides, and wear rubber boots; trudging through the muddy wetlands is necessary. The other day, directions in hand, Rachel Sussman, a photographer from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, went looking for the city’s most antiquated resident: a colony of Spartina alterniflora or Spartina patens cordgrass which, she suspects, has been cloning and re-cloning itself for millennia. Not simply the story of a cordgrass selfie, Sussman’s pursuit becomes contextualized by the lives—and deaths—of our fragile ecological forbearers, and her desire to document their existence while they are still of the earth. In support of the project, Sussman has a series of upcoming events surrounding The Oldest Living Things in the World. You can . . .

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Aspiring Adults Adrift

September 12, 2014
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Aspiring Adults Adrift

In 2011, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Academically Adrift inscribed itself in post-secondary education wonking with all the subtlety of a wax crayon; the book made a splash in major newspapers, on television, via Twitter, on the pages of popular magazines, and of course, inside policy debates. The authors’ argument—drawn from complex data analysis, personal surveys, and a widespread standardized testing of more than 2300 undergraduates from 24 institutions—was simple: 45 percent of these students demonstrated no significant improvement in a range of skills (critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing) during their first two years of study. Were the undergraduates learning once they hit college? The book’s answer was, at best, a shaky “maybe.” Now, the authors are back with a sequel of sorts: Aspiring Adults Adrift, which follows these students through the rest of their undergraduate careers and out into the world. The findings this time around? Recent graduates struggle to obtain decent jobs, develop stable romantic relationships, and assume civic and financial responsibilities. Their transitions, like their educational experiences, are mired in much deeper and more systemic obstacles than a simple “failure to launch.” The book debuted last week with four-part coverage at Inside Higher Ed. Since then, pundits and reviewers have started to weigh in; below are just a few of . . .

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Ashley Gilbertson’s Bedrooms of the Fallen

September 11, 2014
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Ashley Gilbertson’s Bedrooms of the Fallen

Army Spc. Ryan Yurchison, 27, overdosed on drugs after struggling with PTSD, on May 22, 2010, in Youngstown, Ohio. He was from New Middletown, Ohio. His bedroom was photographed in September 2011. (caption via Slate) From Philip Gourevitch’s Introduction to Bedrooms of the Fallen by Ashley Gilbertson: These wars really are ours—they implicate us—and when our military men and women die in far off lands, they do so in our name. wanted to depict what it means that they are gone. Photographs of the fallen, or of their coffins or their graves, don’t tell us that. But the places they came from and were supposed to go back to—the places they left empty—do tell us. See more images from the book via an image gallery at Hyperallergic. . . .

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