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American Studies Program Faculty Books

Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism and Unequal Politics

Overview

Medicaid is the single largest public health insurer in the United States, covering upwards of 70 million Americans. Crucially, Medicaid is also an intergovernmental program that yokes poverty to federalism: the federal government determines its broad contours, while states have tremendous discretion over how Medicaid is designed and implemented. Where some locales are generous and open handed, others are tight-fisted and punitive. In Fragmented Democracy, Jamila Michener demonstrates the consequences of such disparities for democratic citizenship. Unpacking how federalism transforms Medicaid beneficiaries' interpretations of government and structures their participation in politics, the book examines American democracy from the vantage point(s) of those who are living in or near poverty, (disproportionately) Black or Latino, and reliant on a federated government for vital resources.
 

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The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America

Overview

Maria Cristina Garcia has published The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America (Oxford University Press).  Alan M. Kraut, past president of the Organization of American Historians, states that “This volume stands alone as the best history of U.S. refugee policy in post-Cold War America.  Garcia chronicles the struggles of Russian refuseniks, Chinese dissidents, Rwandans fleeing genocide, as well as Haitian and Cuban boat people among those seeking sanctuary from persecution. Her meticulous research and incisive analysis illuminates the confusions and inadequacies of United States refugee policy under Republican and Democratic presidents alike.”  Carl Bon Tempos, author of Americans at the Gate, states that  “This book deftly explains how domestic politics, economic circumstances, and national security concerns have shaped what the United States has done –and not done- in the face of multiple refugee crises in the two decades after the end of the Cold War’. He describes her book as “masterful and elegant”.

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Getting Tough: Welfare and Imprisonment in 1970s America

Overview

In 1970s America, politicians began "getting tough" on drugs, crime, and welfare. These campaigns helped expand the nation's penal system, discredit welfare programs, and cast blame for the era's social upheaval on racialized deviants that the state was not accountable to serve or represent. Getting Tough sheds light on how this unprecedented growth of the penal system and the evisceration of the nation's welfare programs developed hand in hand. Julilly Kohler-Hausmann shows that these historical events were animated by struggles over how to interpret and respond to the inequality and disorder that crested during this period.

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Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education

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Cutting School deftly traces the financing of segregated education in America, from reconstruction through Brown v. Board of Education up to the current controversies around school choice, teacher quality, the school-to-prison pipeline, and more, to elucidate the course we are on today: the wholesale privatization of our schools. Rooks’s incisive critique breaks down the fraught landscape of “segrenomics,” showing how experimental solutions to the so-called achievement gaps—including charters, vouchers, and cyber schools—rely on, profit from, and ultimately exacerbate disturbingly high levels of racial and economic segregation under the guise of providing equal opportunity.

Rooks chronicles the making and unmaking of public education and the disastrous impact of funneling public dollars to private for-profit and nonprofit operations. As the infrastructure crumbles, a number of major U.S. cities are poised to permanently dismantle their public school systems—the very foundation of our multicultural democracy. Yet Rooks finds hope and promise in the inspired individuals and powerful movements fighting to save urban schools.

A comprehensive, compelling account of what’s truly at stake in the relentless push to deregulate and privatize, Cutting School is a cri de coeur for all of us to resist educational apartheid in America.

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Flying Under the Radar with the Royal Chicano Air Force: Mapping a Chicano/a Art History

Overview

From the publisher:

The first book-length study of the Royal Chicano Air Force maps the history of this vanguard Chicano/a arts collective, which used art and cultural production as sociopolitical activism.

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The Disinformation Age: The Collapse of Liberal Democracy in the United States

Overview

From the publisher:

The Disinformation Age, beginning in the present and going back to the American colonial period, constructs an original historical explanation for the current political crisis and the reasons the two major political parties cannot address it effectively. Commentators inside and outside academia have described this crisis with various terms ― income inequality, the disappearance of the middle-class, the collapse of the two-party system, and the emergence of a corporate oligarchy. While this book uses such terminology, it uniquely provides a unifying explanation for the current state of the union by analyzing the seismic rupture of political rhetoric from political reality used within discussion of these issues. In advancing this analysis, the book provides a term for this rupture, Disinformation, which it defines not as planned propaganda but as the inevitable failure of the language of American Exceptionalism to correspond to actual history, even as the two major political parties continue to deploy this language. Further, in its final chapter this book provides a way out of this political cul-de-sac, what it terms "the limits of capitalism’s imagination," by "thinking from a different place" that is located in the theory and practice of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

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Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity

Overview

Uncovering the overlapping histories of blackness and trans identity from the nineteenth century to the present day

 

In Black on Both Sides, C. Riley Snorton identifies multiple intersections between blackness and transness from the mid-nineteenth century to present-day anti-black and anti-trans legislation and violence. Drawing on a deep and varied archive of materials, Snorton attends to how slavery and the production of racialized gender provided the foundations for an understanding of gender as mutable.

 

Black on Both Sides challenges the historical account of trans studies invention by excavating a black trans presence and persona long before modern articulations of such. C. Riley Snorton offers us a way to read the historical record in a fashion that requires the unthought to be the basis of the foundation for our claims of newness, demonstrating that there is no revision of what it means to be human without coming through blackness, past and present.

— Rinaldo Walcott, author of Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora, and Black Studies

 

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Damn Great Empires! William James and the Politics of Pragmatism

Overview

Damn Great Empires! offers a new perspective on the works of William James by placing his encounter with American imperialism at the center of his philosophical vision. This book reconstructs James's overlooked political thought by treating his anti-imperialist Nachlass -- his speeches, essays, notes, and correspondence on the United States' annexation of the Philippines -- as the key to unlocking the political significance of his celebrated writings on psychology, religion, and philosophy. It shows how James located a craving for authority at the heart of empire as a way of life, a craving he diagnosed and unsettled through his insistence on a modern world without ultimate foundations. Livingston explores the persistence of political questions in James's major works, from his writings on the self in The Principles of Psychology to the method of Pragmatism, the study of faith and conversion inThe Varieties of Religious Experience, and the metaphysical inquiries in A Pluralistic Universe.

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We Are an African People

Overview

  • An intellectual history of subaltern education, a critical analysis of the fate of Black Power ideologies in the post-segregation era, and a portrait of African-American self-activity at the neighborhood level.
  • Puts forth a groundbreaking explanation of Black Power's preoccupation with forging a new people. Spans the last four decades of the 20th century with a focus on the 1970s.

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Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition

Overview

Perhaps America's best environmental idea was not the national park but the garden cemetery, a use of space that quickly gained popularity in the mid-nineteenth century. Such spaces of repose brought key elements of the countryside into rapidly expanding cities, making nature accessible to all and serving to remind visitors of the natural cycles of life. In this unique interdisciplinary blend of historical narrative, cultural criticism, and poignant memoir, Aaron Sachs argues that American cemeteries embody a forgotten landscape tradition that has much to teach us in our current moment of environmental crisis.

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The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of Capitalism

Overview

Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution–the nation’s original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America’s later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy.

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Cornell: A History, 1940-2015

Overview

The history of Cornell since World War II, Altschuler and Kramnick believe, is in large part a set of variations on the narrative of freedom and its partner, responsibility, the obligation to others and to one’s self to do what is right and useful, with a principled commitment to the Cornell community—and to the world outside the Eddy Street gate.

In their history of Cornell since 1940, Glenn C. Altschuler and Isaac Kramnick examine the institution in the context of the emergence of the modern research university. The book examines Cornell during the Cold War, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, antiapartheid protests, the ups and downs of varsity athletics, the women's movement, the opening of relations with China, and the creation of Cornell NYC Tech. It relates profound, fascinating, and little-known incidents involving the faculty, administration, and student life, connecting them to the "Cornell idea" of freedom and responsibility. The authors had access to all existing papers of the presidents of Cornell, which deeply informs their respectful but unvarnished portrait of the university.

 

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American Cocktail: A “Colored Girl” in the World

Overview

Written by Anita Reynolds
Edtied by George Hutchinson

From the publisher:

This is the rollicking, never-before-published memoir of a fascinating woman with an uncanny knack for being in the right place in the most interesting times. Of racially mixed heritage, Anita Reynolds was proudly African American but often passed for Indian, Mexican, or Creole. Actress, dancer, model, literary critic, psychologist, but above all free-spirited provocateur, she was, as her Parisian friends nicknamed her, an “American cocktail.”
 
One of the first black stars of the silent era, she appeared in Hollywood movies with Rudolph Valentino, attended Charlie Chaplin’s anarchist meetings, and studied dance with Ruth St. Denis. She moved to New York in the 1920s and made a splash with both Harlem Renaissance elites and Greenwich Village bohemians. An émigré in Paris, she fell in with the Left Bank avant garde, befriending Antonin Artaud, Man Ray, and Pablo Picasso. Next, she took up residence as a journalist in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War and witnessed firsthand the growing menace of fascism. In 1940, as the Nazi panzers closed in on Paris, Reynolds spent the final days before the French capitulation as a Red Cross nurse, afterward making a mad dash for Lisbon to escape on the last ship departing Europe.
 
In prose that perfectly captures the globetrotting nonchalance of its author, American Cocktail presents a stimulating, unforgettable self-portrait of a truly extraordinary woman.
 

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Ethereal Queer: Television, Historicity, Desire

Overview

In Ethereal Queer, Amy Villarejo offers a historically engaged, theoretically sophisticated, and often personal account of how TV representations of queer life have changed as the medium has evolved since the 1950s. Challenging the widespread view that LGBT characters did not make a sustained appearance on television until the 1980s, she draws on innovative readings of TV shows and network archives to reveal queer television’s lengthy, rich, and varied history. Villarejo goes beyond concerns about representational accuracy. She tracks how changing depictions of queer life, in programs from Our Miss Brooks to The L Word, relate to transformations in business models and technologies, including modes of delivery and reception such as cable, digital video recording, and online streaming. In so doing, she provides a bold new way to understand the history of television.

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Nobody is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low

Overview

How the “down low” media phenomenon reinforces troubling representations of black sexuality

Since the early 2000s, the phenomenon of the “down low”—black men who have sex with men as well as women and do not identify as gay, queer, or bisexual—has exploded in media and popular culture. C. Riley Snorton traces the emergence and circulation of the down low, demonstrating how these portrayals reinforce troubling perceptions of black sexuality generally.

 

C. Riley Snorton has written a stunning new chapter in queer theory. This book magnificently extends Eve K. Sedgwick’s concept of the closet to grapple with race, sex, and secrecy. Building on concepts like the ‘glass closet’ and examining the dynamics and geographies of the down low, Snorton makes the startling claim that the down low is not a set of hidden practices but that it actually constitutes the staging of the conditions of Black representability. This is a very important book and it will have an immediate impact on the study of race and sexuality
 

— Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure 

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Acts of Gaiety: LGBT Performance and the Politics of Pleasure

Overview

Acts of Gaiety explores the mirthful modes of political performance by LGBT artists, activists, and collectives that have inspired and sustained deadly serious struggles for revolutionary change. The book explores antics such as camp, kitsch, drag, guerrilla theater, zap actions, rallies, manifestos, pageants, and parades alongside more familiar forms of "legitimate theater." Against queer theory's long-suffering romance with mourning and melancholia and a national agenda that urges homosexuals to renounce pleasure if they want to be taken seriously by mainstream society, Acts of Gaiety seeks to reanimate notions of "gaiety" as a political value for LGBT activism.

The book mines the archives of lesbian-feminist activism of the 1960s-70s, highlighting the outrageous gaiety that lay at the center of the social and theatrical performances of the era and uncovering original documents long thought to be lost. Juxtaposing historical figures such as Valerie Solanas and Jill Johnston with more recent performers and activists (including Hothead Paisan, Bitch & Animal, and the Five Lesbian Brothers), Warner shows how reclaiming this largely discarded and disavowed past elucidates possibilities for being and belonging. Acts of Gaiety explores the mutually informing histories of gayness as politics and as joie de vivre, along with the centrality of liveliness to queer performance and protest.

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She's Mad Real: Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn

Overview

Overwhelmingly, Black teenage girls are negatively represented in national and global popular discourses, either as being “at risk” for teenage pregnancy, obesity, or sexually transmitted diseases, or as helpless victims of inner city poverty and violence. Such popular representations are pervasive and often portray Black adolescents’ consumer and leisure culture as corruptive, uncivilized, and pathological.

In She’s Mad Real, Oneka LaBennett draws on over a decade of researching teenage West Indian girls in the Flatbush and Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn to argue that Black youth are in fact strategic consumers of popular culture and through this consumption they assert far more agency in defining race, ethnicity, and gender than academic and popular discourses tend to acknowledge. Importantly, LaBennett also studies West Indian girls’ consumer and leisure culture within public spaces in order to analyze how teens like China are marginalized and policed as they attempt to carve out places for themselves within New York’s contested terrains.

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Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink

Overview

Before the twentieth century, personal debt resided on the fringes of the American economy, the province of small-time criminals and struggling merchants. By the end of the century, however, the most profitable corporations and banks in the country lent money to millions of American debtors. How did this happen? The first book to follow the history of personal debt in modern America, Debtor Nation traces the evolution of debt over the course of the twentieth century, following its transformation from fringe to mainstream--thanks to federal policy, financial innovation, and retail competition.

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Citizens of A Christian Nation

Overview

Citizens of a Christian Nation brings together for the first time African American and Chinese American religious histories through a multitiered local, regional, national, and even transnational analysis of race, nationalism, and evangelical thought and practice.

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The Edge of the Woods: Iroquoia, 1534-1701

Overview

In The Edge of the Woods: Iroquoia, 1534-1701, Jon Parmenter argues that the extensive spatial mobility engaged in by Haudenosaunee people after their first contact with Europeans represented a geographical expression of Haudenosaunee social, political, and economic priorities. Parmenter drew on archival and published documents in several languages, archaeological data, published Haudenosaunee oral traditions, and GIS technology to reconstruct the Haudenosaunee settlement landscape and the paths of human mobility that built and sustained it. 

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Handbook of Latinos and Education: Theory, Research, and Practice

Overview

Providing a comprehensive review of rigorous, innovative, and critical scholarship relevant to educational issues which impact Latinos, this Handbookcaptures the field at this point in time. Its unique purpose and function is to profile the scope and terrain of academic inquiry on Latinos and education. Presenting the most significant and potentially influential work in the field in terms of its contributions to research, to professional practice, and to the emergence of related interdisciplinary studies and theory, the volume is organized around five themes:

  • history, theory, and methodology
  • policies and politics
  • language and culture
  • teaching and learning
  • resources and information.

Centro, Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies states that "This edited volume is a very extensive and detailed compilation of historical and current scholarship about the education of Latinos in the United States. The list of nearly one hundred contributors reads like a 'Who’s Who' in the field of Latino studies in general, and Latino education in particular.

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Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America

Overview

A definitive history of consumer activism, Buying Power traces the lineage of this political tradition back to our nation’s founding, revealing that Americans used purchasing power to support causes and punish enemies long before the word boycott even entered our lexicon. Taking the Boston Tea Party as his starting point, Lawrence Glickman argues that the rejection of British imports by revolutionary patriots inaugurated a continuous series of consumer boycotts, campaigns for safe and ethical consumption, and efforts to make goods more broadly accessible. He explores abolitionist-led efforts to eschew slave-made goods, African American consumer campaigns against Jim Crow, a 1930s refusal of silk from fascist Japan, and emerging contemporary movements like slow food. Uncovering previously unknown episodes and analyzing famous events from a fresh perspective, Glickman illuminates moments when consumer activism intersected with political and civil rights movements. He also sheds new light on activists’ relationship with the consumer movement, which gave rise to lobbies like the National Consumers League and Consumers Union as well as ill-fated legislation to create a federal Consumer Protection Agency.

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The Immigrant Scene: Ethnic Amusements in New York, 1880–1920

Overview

Haenni reveals how theaters in New York created ethnic entertainment that shaped the culture of the United States in the early twentieth century. Considering the relationship between leisure and mass culture, The Immigrant Scene develops a new picture of the metropolis in which the movement of people, objects, and images on-screen and in the street helped residents negotiate the complexities of modern times.

In analyzing how communities engaged with immigrant theaters and the nascent film culture in New York City, Haenni traces the ways in which performance and cinema provided virtual mobility—ways of navigating the socially complex metropolis—and influenced national ideas of immigration, culture, and diversity in surprising and lasting ways.

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Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War

Overview

Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War investigates and explains the changing face of America during the Civil War. To conjure a face for the nation, author Shirley Samuels also explores the body of the nation imagined both physically and metaphorically, arguing that the Civil War marks a dramatic shift from identifying the American nation as feminine to identifying it as masculine. Expressions of such a change appear in the allegorical configurations of nineteenth-century American novels, poetry, cartoons, and political rhetoric. Because of the visibility of war's assaults on the male body, masculine vulnerability became such a dominant facet of national life that it practically obliterated the visibility of other vulnerable bodies.

The simultaneous advent of photography and the Civil War in the nineteenth century may be as influential as the conjoined rise of the novel and the middle class in the eighteenth century. Both advents herald a changed understanding of how a transformative media can promote new cultural and national identities. Bodies immobilized because of war's practices of wounding and death are also bodies made static for the camera's gaze. The look of shock on the faces of soldiers photographed in order to display their wounds emphasizes the new technology of war literally embodied in the impact of new imploding bullets on vulnerable flesh. Such images mark both the context for and a counterpoint to the "look" of Walt Whitman as he bends over soldiers in their hospital beds. They also provide a way to interpret the languishing male heroes of novels such as August Evans's Macaria (1864), a southern elegy for the sundering of the nation. This book crucially shows how visual iconography affects the shift in postbellum gendered and racialized identifications of the nation.

 

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All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America

Overview

The rise of rock 'n roll--and the outraged reception to it--in fact can tell us a lot about the values of the United States in the 1950s, a decade that saw a great struggle for the control of popular culture. Altschuler shows, in particular, how rock's "switchblade beat" opened up wide fissures in American society along the fault-lines of family, sexuality, and race. For instance, the birth of rock coincided with the civil rights movement and brought "race music" into many white homes for the first time. Elvis freely credited blacks with originating the music he sang and some of the great early rockers were African American, most notably, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. In addition, rock celebrated romance and sex, rattled the reticent by pushing sexuality into the public arena, and mocked deferred gratification and the obsession with work of men in gray flannel suits. And it delighted in the separate world of the teenager and deepened the divide between the generations, helping teenagers differentiate themselves from others. Altschuler includes vivid biographical sketches of the great rock 'n rollers, including Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly--plus their white-bread doppelgangers such as Pat Boone.

Rock 'n roll seemed to be everywhere during the decade, exhilarating, influential, and an outrage to those Americans intent on wishing away all forms of dissent and conflict. As vibrant as the music itself, All Shook Up reveals how rock 'n roll challenged and changed American culture and laid the foundation for the social upheaval of the sixties.

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In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

Overview

ward-winning historian Mary Beth Norton reexamines the Salem witch trials in this startlingly original, meticulously researched, and utterly riveting study. 

In 1692 the people of Massachusetts were living in fear, and not solely of satanic afflictions. Horrifyingly violent Indian attacks had all but emptied the northern frontier of settlers, and many traumatized refugees—including the main accusers of witches—had fled to communities like Salem. Meanwhile the colony’s leaders, defensive about their own failure to protect the frontier, pondered how God’s people could be suffering at the hands of savages. Struck by the similarities between what the refugees had witnessed and what the witchcraft “victims” described, many were quick to see a vast conspiracy of the Devil (in league with the French and the Indians) threatening New England on all sides. By providing this essential context to the famous events, and by casting her net well beyond the borders of Salem itself, Norton sheds new light on one of the most perplexing and fascinating periods in our history.

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Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies: Chicana Literature and the Urgency of Space

Overview

A train station becomes a police station; lands held sacred by Apaches and Mexicanos are turned into commercial and residential zones; freeway construction hollows out a community; a rancho becomes a retirement community—these are the kinds of spatial transformations that concern Mary Pat Brady in Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies, a book bringing together Chicana feminism, cultural geography, and literary theory to analyze an unusual mix of Chicana texts through the concept of space. Beginning with nineteenth-century short stories and essays and concluding with contemporary fiction, this book reveals how Chicana literature offers a valuable theoretics of space.

Rafael Pérez-Torres, author of Movements in Chicano Poetry: Against Myths, Against Margins states that "Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies is an outstanding work that reveals the connection between Chicana bodies, literary texts, and geopolitical space. It offers a conceptual framework based on theories of spatialization that provide a greater understanding of what Chicana writing does and why it is significant to our understanding of contemporary U.S. culture. Nobody else does what Mary Pat Brady does so well here."

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Medicalizing Ethnicity: The Construction of Latino Identity in a Psychiatric Setting

Overview

In Medicalizing Ethnicity, Vilma Santiago-Irizarry shows how commendable intentions can produce unintended consequences. Santiago-Irizarry conducted ethnographic fieldwork in three bilingual, bicultural psychiatric programs for Latino patients at public mental health facilities in New York City. The introduction of "cultural sensitivity" in mental health clinics, she concludes, led doctors to construct essentialized, composite versions of Latino ethnicity in their drive to treat mental illness with sensitivity.

The author demonstrates that stressing Latino differences when dealing with patients resulted not in empowerment, as intended, but in the reassertion of Anglo-American standards of behavior in the guise of psychiatric categories by which Latino culture was negatively defined. For instance, doctors routinely translated their patients' beliefs in the Latino religious traditions of espiritismo and Santería into psychiatric terms, thus treating these beliefs as pathologies.

Noorfarah Merali, University of Alberta. Journal of International Migration and Integration states that "The major strength of this book is the high level of critical analysis demonstrated by the application of an anthropological perspective to the field of mental health. . . . This book represents an important contribution to the conceptualization and incorporation of culture in the field of mental health.

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Regions of Identity: The Construction of America in Women's Fiction, 1885-1914

Overview

Examining turn-of-the-century American women s fiction, the author argues that this writing played a crucial role in the production of a national fantasy of a unified American identity in the face of the racial, regional, ethnic, and sexual divisions of the period. Contributing to New Americanist perspectives of nation formation, the book shows that these writers are central to American literary discourses for reconfiguring the relationship among constituent regions in order to reconfigure the nation itself. Analyzing fiction by Sarah Orne Jewett, Florence Converse, Pauline Hopkins, Mar'a Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Kate Chopin, and Sui Sin Far, the book foregrounds the ways each writer s own location on the grid of American identities shapes her attempt to forge an inclusive narrative of America. This disparate group of writers Northerners, Southerners, Californios, African Americans, Chinese Americans, Anglo Americans, heterosexuals, and lesbians reflects the widespread nature of concerns over national identity and the importance of regions to representations of that identity. 

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