by Linda English, PhD

In December 2016, the co-program directors of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program (GWSP) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received the good news that their application for a National Endowment to Humanities Initiative Grant to revitalize the GWSP at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was approved. The following is an overview of the implementation of the NEH grant, a 20-month project entitled “Revitalizing UTRGV’s Gender and Women’s Studies Program” beginning in the spring of 2017 through its conclusion in August 2018. It highlights the insights, experience, and recommendations of external consultants who participated in the grant; specialists who oversee successful gender, sexuality, and women’s studies programs across the country . The distinguished specialists who visited campus over the course of the grant generated both interest in gender-related topics among our students as well as excitement for the field of study among our affiliated faculty.

In the fall of 2015, a new university opened its doors to students in deep-south Texas: The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. UTRGV brought together the resources and assets of two legacy institutions: the University of Texas, Brownsville (UTB) and the University of Texas, Pan American (UTPA). At the time of the merger, the Gender and Women’s Studies Program faced the challenges associated with the creation of a new university: faculty reorientation and adjustment as well as the reworking of the program’s infrastructure. The project was undertaken by a group of ten faculty members from UTRGV’s College of Liberal Arts dedicated to developing a flourishing program focused on gender studies. Affiliated with GWSP, they researched and taught in the fields of history and philosophy as well as literature, languages, and cultural studies. The plan was to incorporate best practices from successful programs at other universities as well expand UTRGV’s course offerings into areas of emerging scholarship. We wanted to analyze how we could improve our curriculum to (re)build a consistent, high-quality program. Strengthening the GWSP in this way provided new opportunities for faculty to expand their scholarly horizons and to study together to become well-versed and effective teachers. Ultimately, we believed that we could not achieve such goals without external input and support.

To do so, the project was divided into two major phases. The first phase focused on assessing and improving the overall organization and structure of the GWSP. The second phase was dedicated to creating new opportunities for UTRGV’s faculty to deepen their knowledge in the fields of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and thus become more-informed teachers. The first phase was comprised of four workshops dedicated to assessing the GWSP—its shortcomings and its potential. During the first internal workshop in February 2017, the project directors and the affiliated faculty met to:

  • discuss faculty’s experience in teaching and researching in the field of gender, women’s and sexuality studies;
  • assess the current status of the GWSP (enrollment at this point was six students, enrollment history, degree plans and courses etc.);
  • and exchange ideas and opinions about future directions of the GWSP (its mission, its focus, and its goal).

The subsequent months of March, April, and May 2017 featured workshops with invited, external consultants who had in-depth knowledge of establishing, running, and enhancing gender-focused programs. Each workshop consisted of a 30-45 minute-long presentation (plus Q&A session) by the invited consultant about their work and program; followed by a 2 hour-long work and discussion session that focused on how UTRGV’s GWSP could be revised and enhanced.

After the internal workshop with affiliated faculty, the external consultants began their campus visits. The first external consultant was Dr. Jennifer Lynn from Montana State University, Billings who led a workshop titled “From Women to Gender? Pitfalls and Opportunities.” Dr. Lynn detailed the evolution of the Women and Gender Studies program at Montana State. She also stressed the importance of a dedicated space on campus for program visibility and her program’s successful efforts at community outreach (in particular, a brown bag session opened to both students and community members). The second external consultant to visit UTRGV was Dr. Guillermo De Los Reyes from the University of Houston whose workshop was titled “Integrating Sexualities into a Gender and Women’s Studies Program.” Dr. De Los Reyes provided an overview of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at the University of Houston. He traced the development of the program from a minor to a major and the success of the in their introductory course in the core (over twelve classes per semester, four sections of LBGTQ core class). He also discussed community outreach and fundraising, particularly the Friends of the Women’s Studies Program which raises funds for research and travel grants. The last external consultant for first phase of the grant was Dr. Lorraine Bayard de Volo from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Dr. Bayard de Volo discussed some of the early obstacles of the program and its evolution from a minor to a major. She also discussed certificate options for UC-Boulder students, including an LBGTQ Certificate and Global Gender & Sexuality Certificate. Her discussion included the challenges of offering a global gender perspective.

After the spring campus visits, the program directors led two summer retreats for participating affiliated faculty. Both retreats focused on examining and integrating the suggestions provided by the three external consultants. The two retreats were titled: “Evaluating External Input and Defining Future Steps” and “Implementing External Input and Internal Evaluation.” Participants from the spring workshops were invited to contribute. At the first retreat, we focused on our outward “face” to students. This entailed articulating our mission, developing rationale as to why to study gender (through a minor or certificate), and creating a glossary of terms for our website. The second retreat involved planning for the fall semester, including developing syllabus for an introductory course on Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies.

The second phase of the initiative was dedicated to creating new learning opportunities for the faculty associated with the GWSP by inviting six gender content specialists to campus. The first of our six invited content specialists arrived in September 2017 to conduct a pedagogical workshop for our affiliated faculty in the morning and provide a public lecture for the UTRGV community in the evening. The audience was twofold: the GWSP affiliated faculty and UTRGV faculty, students, and the public at large. The public lecture served to generate general interest in gender topics and our program, more specifically. Our first invited content specialist was Dr. Nicholas Syrett from the University of Kansas. We had planned on three specialists for the fall and three for the spring, but due to a scheduling conflict, moved the lecture schedule to two in the fall and four in the spring. Our second content specialist, Dr. Michelle King, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, came to campus in early December and offered a global-focused workshop and public lecture titled, “The Julia Child of Chinese Cooking, or the Fu Pei-mei of French Food? Comparative Contexts of Female Culinary Celebrity.”

Beginning in January 2018, the GWSP invited four content specialists to campus to, once again, lead a morning workshop for affiliated faculty (focused on strategies for incorporating gender into our teaching) and provide a public lecture that evening to the UTRGV community. The four specialists were Dr. Nancy Hirschmann (University of Pennsylvania), Dr. Crystal Feimster (Yale University), Dr. Robert Irwin (University of California, Davis), and Dr. Emma Pérez (University of Arizona). With four campus visits during the spring semester, our affiliated faculty were especially busy, but the experience proved extremely rewarding; the content specialists provided the faculty with valuable insights on “teaching gender” and the public lectures galvanized interest in our program and gender topics, more broadly. For example, Dr. Feimster focused much of the workshop on demonstrating some of the innovative class projects that she assigns to her students that encourage both creativity and analytical thought. These assignments included having her students create “zines,” initially the assignment focused on Pauli Murray; as well, she has her students develop a children’s book (she brought examples from her classes). Affiliated faculty created their own “zines” in the workshop. Dr. Pérez introduced an exercise to the workshop participants where they wrote 1st person accounts on: “I used to be ______ and now I am _________.” Dr. Perez’s public lecture was the largest of all, with over two hundred students and faculty in attendance. In the summer 2018, we organized a three-day retreat for affiliated faculty that enabled faculty to perform teaching demonstrations, incorporating some of the strategies they gleaned from the 2017-2018 pedagogical workshops.

The grant concluded after the 2018 summer retreats. The monies provided by the NEH allowed the GWSP to increase its exposure to the UTRGV community; consequently, we have seen the program grow in popularity. We developed an introductory course for the GWSP, “Introduction to Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies,” offered at least once a year, which generates student interest in the GWSP minor and certificates. Indicative of faculty interest in gender-related fields, the affiliated faculty has grown from the original ten to a robust 35 affiliates.

About the Author

Dr. Linda English is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.  She teaches courses on Texas History, the American West, Modern American Women’s History, and Gender in the American West.

by Sophia Boutilier 

What’s the problem with microaggressions?

What makes microaggressions such a big deal? Aren’t they, by definition, micro in nature? Microaggressions are every day, routine, even unintentional, slights and exchanges that denigrate or single out individuals because of their group membership (Barthelemy et al 2016, Sue et al 2007). They are often ambiguous, subtle, and challenging to pinpoint (Jones et al 2017). Consequently, microaggressions end up as the quiet burden to bear of the people who are targeted (it’s just too much work to explain it to people who don’t get it), overlooked by others (who don’t get it), and left unchecked (because those in power can’t comprehend the problem). Yet this oversight directly contributes to the repeated incidence of microaggressions, a violence which is compounded by its invalidation as ‘no big deal’ by people who don’t have to experience it (a microaggression in itself!) (Sweet 2019).

The concept of death by a thousand cuts comes to mind, particularly if the doctor you went to see told you that you weren’t *really* bleeding. And it’s this insidiousness, this ability for microaggressions to fly under the radar of managers and supervisors, that makes them hard to diagnose and contributes to the perception that the aggressed are overreacting, hyper-sensitive, irrationally angry, or whining (Ahmed 2021, Jones et al 2017, Orelus 2013). The inability of members of the dominant group to identify a microaggression when it happens and to recognize the long line of similar slights to which a particular insult is just one more instance that further isolates the person coping with the aggression (Orelus 2013). Such an institutional environment makes reporting difficult, often protecting aggressors and causing targets of microaggressions to question their own perception of reality (Barthelemy et al 2016, Jones et al 2017, Solorzano 1998). It’s no wonder that repeated microaggressions negatively impact work performance for individuals on their receiving end and reinforce harmful and prejudicial stereotypes for the wider community (Sue et al 2007, Solorzano 1998).

What do they look like?

Because microaggressions can be difficult to spot from the outside, it is imperative to collect the stories and experiences of the people who experience them (Barthelemy et al 2016, Solorzano 1998). For example, three-quarters of women in a physics graduate program, a typically male-dominated field, experienced microaggressions including sexist jokes, sexual objectification, the assumption of their inferiority, as well as being ignored, passed over, or treated as invisible in their work environment (Barthelemy et al 2016). Although these instances were three times more common than “outright” or hostile sexism, women who reported sexist behavior were encouraged to overlook it or were ignored by supervisors. The denial of sexism dovetailed with the idea of science as neutral and having a ‘culture of no culture’, obscuring and perpetuating the ways women are sidelined in the field (Barthelemy et al 2016, Harding 1986, Des Jardins 2010). These women’s experiences are not isolated or unusual. They are common to male-dominated fields like STEM fields and speak to more general patterns of exclusion (Funk and Parker 2018).

A few other examples of microaggressions include:

  • Complimenting a scholar of color for being articulate as if it’s surprising that they are well spoken (Orelus 2013);
  • Assuming that people in fat or bigger bodies are unhealthy and/or being surprised that they are healthy or physically active (Gay 2017, Gordon 2021, West 2017);
  • Ignoring, interrupting, taking credit for, or downplaying the contributions of minority colleagues (Solorzano 1998);
  • Assuming that women or people of color know everything there is to know about women and people of color, and relying on them to educate others (Orelus 2013);
  • Asking a prospective female employee of childbearing age or who is currently pregnant what her “plans” are (Kitroeff and Silver-Greenberg 2018);
  • Referring to a male colleague as “assertive” while the same behavior by a female colleague is labelled as “loud” (Correll 2017);
  • Having lower expectations of minority students or co-workers (Solorzano 1998);
  • Asking someone who is not the visible norm where they are from (Wing et al 2007)

Why do they matter?

Experiencing the inconsiderateness of a colleague is of course not limited to the experiences of minorities. Anyone can be on the receiving end of rudeness (Fleming 2019). In contrast, microaggressions are chronic, repeated instances of deep social divisions. Although they might seem small, one-off events, situating them in a historical and contemporary context reveals longstanding patterns of discrimination (Solorzano 1998). By way of particularly stark example, both female scientists and university professors, and graduate students of color, report being treated like ‘second class citizens’ who didn’t belong in their institutions (Barthelemy et al 2016, Orelus 2013, Solorzano 1998). In both cases this treatment is rooted in a history where members of these groups were not just treated as second class citizens, but actually were second class citizens and accordingly denied human, civil and legal rights (Orelus 2013). In other words, microaggressions are simply the tip of an iceberg of historically and socially entrenched animus from which minorities endure a steady drip.

The concept of death by a thousand cuts comes to mind, particularly if the doctor you went to see told you that you weren’t really bleeding.

Despite their name, microaggressions have *macro* effects. Targets of microaggressions are more likely to experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Berg 2006). In the face of routine slights and dismissals, women and people of color report constantly having to prove themselves at school and work and facing higher penalties for making mistakes than their colleagues (Madsen et al 2015). Consequences include reduced performance, lower satisfaction, and higher rates of burnout for individuals (Krivkovich et al 2018, Jones et al 2017, Martell et al 1996), as well as reduced profits, innovation, and productivity for organizations (Ferrary 2013, Funk and Parker 2018). When organizational norms and leadership fail to prevent microaggressions, their cultures discourage diversity and place an unfair burden on minority groups to cope silently with the stress of discrimination ((Jones et al 2017, Orelus 2013). Often these aggressions fail to meet legal thresholds for discrimination, leaving targets vulnerable to repeated abuse, and even contributing to the fiction held by some that racism and sexism are no longer common problems (Ferber 2012).

What can be done?

Discriminatory cultures are dynamic and interpersonal products which include targets, perpetrators, bystanders, and allies—all of whom have roles to play to change a biased climate (Jones et al 2017). More space needs to be made for marginalized groups to identify microaggressions and access channels to hold aggressors accountable (Barthelemy et al 2016). Shifting the culture to take seriously the experience of the person feeling aggressed, regardless of the intent of perpetrators is essential to challenge gaslighting and invalidation and to prevent aggressions before the point that reporting needs to take place (Applebaum 2010, Oluo 2017, Sweet 2019). Incentives and accountability can reduce the social costs associated with reporting (Sue et al 2017), especially in ambiguous situations which are both more common and harder to pinpoint (Shelton and Stewart 2004, Correll 2017). Restorative paradigms that emphasize addressing the harm rather than adjudicating if a policy was violated can reduce the adversarial nature of reporting and associated retaliation (Ahmed 2021, Hamad 2020, Wemmers 2017). Establishing dialogue and group problem-solving may also reduce barriers as research shows that women who have experienced bias are more likely to recognize bias directed at other women than directed at themselves (Jones et al 2017). Bringing employees together to share stories and solutions is often more effective to identify microaggressions than leaving targets to speak up for themselves individually (Summers-Effler 2002).

Even when targets call out racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice, reporting will only work if aggressors can listen to and believe their colleagues and appreciate their experience of the exchange. This should also include equipping privileged persons (regardless of their history of perpetration) with the tools to deal with defensiveness, fear of being wrong, or disappointment that might result when they learn they have, perhaps unwittingly, participated in bias against a colleague. Bystanders may be effective at intervening and sanctioning the perpetrator, but such action does not guarantee higher levels of acceptance toward the target (Jones et al 2017). A multi-pronged approach is necessary. Training and actions for acknowledging and interrupting implicit bias (Perry et al 2015, Yen et al 2018) and revising workplace conventions for bias that may be ‘baked in’ (Correll 2017) are also important. The latter could be transformed through equitable and transparent distribution of opportunities and tasks, and intentional review of how work is assigned and evaluated (Blickenstaff 2005).


About the Author

Sophia Boutilier is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Stony Brook University. Her research focuses on the international development industry, inequalities, and social justice. She is particularly invested in scholarship that engages privileged groups to challenge their dominance in support of social change. In addition to her academic work, Sophia has authored policy documents on gender inequality and sexual violence prevention. She draws inspiration from her field experience as a development worker, and from the writing of critical race and feminist theorists.

Work Cited

Ahmed, S. (2021). Complaint!. Durham: Duke University Press.

Applebaum, B. (2010). Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy. Washington DC, Lexington Books.

Barthelemy, R. S., McCormick, M., & Henderson, C. (2016). Gender discrimination in physics and astronomy: Graduate student experiences of sexism and gender microaggressions. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 12(2), 020119.

Berg, S. H. (2006). Everyday Sexism and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Women: A correlational study. Violence Against Women, 12(10), 970–988.

Blickenstaff, J. C. (2005). Women and science careers: leaky pipeline or gender filter? Gender and Education, 17(4), 369–386.

Correll, S. J. (2017). SWS 2016 Feminist Lecture: Reducing Gender Biases In Modern Workplaces: A Small Wins Approach to Organizational Change: Gender & Society.

Des Jardins, J. (2010). The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science. New York, NY: The Feminist Press at CUNY.

Ferber, A. L. (n.d.). The Culture of Privilege: Color-blindness, Postfeminism, and Christonormativity. Journal of Social Issues, 68(1), 63–77.

Ferrary, M. (2013). Femina Index: Betting on Gender Diversity is a Profitable SRI strategy. Corporate Finance Review, 4, 12–17.

Fleming, C. M. (2019). How to be Less Stupid About Race. New York, NY. Beacon Press. 

Funk, C., & Parker, K. (2018, January 9). Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity. Retrieved July 1, 2018, from

Gay, R. (2017). Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Gordon, A. (2021). What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat. New York, NY. Beacon Press.

Hamad, R. (2020). White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color. Catapult.

Harding, S. (1986). The Science Question in Feminism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Jones, K. P., Arena, D. F., Nittrouer, C. L., Alonso, N. M., & Lindsey, A. P. (2017). Subtle Discrimination in the Workplace: A Vicious Cycle. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 10(01), 51–76.

Kitroeff, N., & Silver-Greenberg, J. (2018, June 15). Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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Madsen, L. M., Holmegaard, H. T., & Ulriksen, L. (2015). Finding a way to belong: Negotiating gender at university STEM study programmes (p. 5). Presented at the NARST, Chicago. Retrieved from

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Orelus, P. W. (2013). The Institutional Cost of Being a Professor of Color: Unveiling Micro-Aggression, Racial [In]visibility, and Racial Profiling through the Lens of Critical Race Theory. Current Issues in Education, 16(2).

Perry, S. P., Murphy, M. C., & Dovidio, J. F. (2015). Modern prejudice: Subtle, but unconscious? The role of Bias Awareness in Whites’ perceptions of personal and others’ biases. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 61, 64–78.

Shelton, J. N., & Stewart, R. E. (2004). Confronting Perpetrators of Prejudice: The Inhibitory Effects of Social Costs. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28(3), 215–223.

Solorzano, D. G. (1998). Critical race theory, race and gender microaggressions, and the experience of Chicana and Chicano scholars. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 121–136.

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This article is by Naomi Schalit, from The Conversation.

Damaged radar arrays and other equipment is seen at a Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022. AP Photo/Sergei Grits

This is a frightening moment. Russia has invaded Ukraine, and certainly those most frightened right now are the people of Ukraine. But violent aggression – a war mounted by a country with vast military resources against a smaller, weaker country – strikes fear in all of us. As a Washington Post headline writer recently wrote: The Ukraine crisis is “5,000 miles away but hitting home.”

The Conversation U.S. has spent the past couple of months digging into the history and politics of Ukraine and Russia. We’ve looked at their cultures, their religions, their military and technological capacities. We’ve provided you with stories about NATO, about cyberwarfare, the Cold War and the efficacy of sanctions.

Below, you’ll find a selection of stories from our coverage. We hope they will help you understand that today may feel both inevitable – yet inexplicable.

1. The US promised to protect Ukraine

In 1994, Ukraine got a signed commitment from Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. in which the three countries promised to protect the newly independent state’s sovereignty.

“Ukraine as an independent state was born from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union,” write scholars Lee Feinstein of Indiana University and Mariana Budjeryn of Harvard. “Its independence came with a complicated Cold War inheritance: the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. Ukraine was one of the three non-Russian former Soviet states, including Belarus and Kazakhstan, that emerged from the Soviet collapse with nuclear weapons on its territory.”

A soldier wearing a helmet peeks out of a tank.
A Ukrainian serviceman rides atop a military vehicle past Independence Square in central Kyiv on Feb. 24, 2022. Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images


The 1994 agreement was signed in return for Ukraine giving up the nuclear weapons within its borders, sending them to Russia for dismantling. But the agreement, not legally binding, was broken by Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. And today’s invasion is yet another example of the weakness of that agreement.

2. Clues to how Russia will wage war

During the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Russia invaded Georgia, a country on the Black Sea. In 2014, Putin ordered troops to seize Crimea, a peninsula that juts into the Black Sea and housed a Russian naval base.

West Point scholar and career U.S. special forces officer Liam Collins conducted field research on the 2008 and 2014 wars in Georgia and Ukraine.

“From what I have learned, I expect a possible Russian invasion would start with cyberattacks and electronic warfare to sever communications between Ukraine’s capital and the troops. Shortly thereafter, tanks and mechanized infantry formations supported by the Russian air force would cross at multiple points along the nearly 1,200-mile border, assisted by Russian special forces. Russia would seek to bypass large urban areas.”

3. Spies replaced by smartphones

If you love spy movies, you’ve got an image of how intelligence is gathered: agents on the ground and satellites in the sky.

But you’re way out of date. These days, writes Craig Nazareth, a scholar of intelligence and information operations at the University of Arizona, “massive amounts of valuable information are publicly available, and not all of it is collected by governments. Satellites and drones are much cheaper than they were even a decade ago, allowing private companies to operate them, and nearly everyone has a smartphone with advanced photo and video capabilities.”

This means people around the world may see this invasion unfold in real time. “Commercial imaging companies are posting up-to-the-minute, geographically precise images of Russia’s military forces. Several news agencies are regularly monitoring and reporting on the situation. TikTok users are posting video of Russian military equipment on rail cars allegedly on their way to augment forces already in position around Ukraine. And internet sleuths are tracking this flow of information.”

A rocket is stuck coming through the ceiling of a damaged apartment with rubble around it.
The body of a rocket stuck in a flat after recent shelling on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images

4. Targeting the US with cyberattacks

As Russia edged closer to war with Ukraine, cybersecurity scholar Justin Pelletier at Rochester Institute of Technology wrote of the growing likelihood of destructive Russian cyberattacks against the U.S.

Pelletier quoted a Department of Homeland Security bulletin from late January that said, “We assess that Russia would consider initiating a cyberattack against the Homeland if it perceived a U.S. or NATO response to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine threatened its long-term national security.”

And that’s not all. “Americans can probably expect to see Russian-sponsored cyber-activities working in tandem with propaganda campaigns,” writes Pelletier. The aim of such campaigns: to use “social and other online media like a military-grade fog machine that confuses the U.S. population and encourages mistrust in the strength and validity of the U.S. government.”

5. Will war sink Putin’s stock with Russians?

“War ultimately requires an enormous amount of public goodwill and support for a political leader,” writes Arik Burakovsky, a scholar of Russia and public opinion at Tufts University’s Fletcher School.

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Putin’s support among Russians has been rising as the country massed troops along the Ukrainian border – the public believes that its leaders are defending Russia by standing up to the West. But Burakovsky writes that “the rally ‘round the flag effect of supporting political leadership during an international crisis will likely be short-lived.”

Most Russians, it turns out, don’t want war. The return of body bags from the front could well prove damaging to Putin domestically.

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As always, publishers’ spring catalogues have a full complement of new titles in Black and African American History and Studies. OTH reached out to authors of titles that particularly intrigued us:

The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson: Blues, Race, Identity

Julia Simon

Professor of French, University of California, Davis

Penn State University Press, April 2022

Professor Simon told OTH: “Lonnie Johnson is a blues legend. His virtuosity on the blues guitar is second to none, and his influence on artists from T-Bone Walker and B. B. King to Eric Clapton is well established. Yet Johnson mastered multiple instruments. He recorded with jazz icons such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and he played vaudeville music, ballads, and popular songs.  Largely neglected by scholars, Johnson challenges critical perceptions of the blues as a genre.  In my book, The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson: Blues, Race, Identity, I take a closer look at Johnson’s musical legacy. Considering the full body of his work, I present detailed analyses of Johnson’s music—his lyrics, technique, and styles—with particular attention to its sociohistorical context. Born in 1894 in New Orleans, Johnson’s early experiences were shaped by French colonial understandings of race that challenge the Black-white binary. His performances call into question not only conventional understandings of race but also fixed notions of identity. Johnson was able to cross generic, stylistic, and other boundaries almost effortlessly, displaying astonishing adaptability across a corpus of music produced over six decades. The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson introduces readers to a musical innovator and a performer keenly aware of his audience and the social categories of race, class, and gender that conditioned the music of his time.

Lonnie Johnson’s music challenges us to think about not only what we recognize and value in “the blues” but also what we leave unexamined, cannot account for, or choose not to hear. The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson provides a reassessment of Johnson’s musical legacy and complicates basic assumptions about the blues, its production, and its reception.”




On Black Media Philosophy

Armond R. Towns 

Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa

University of California Press, March 2022

From the Author: “Who is the human in media philosophy? Although media philosophers have argued since the twentieth century that media are fundamental to being human, this question has not been explicitly asked and answered in the field. Towns demonstrate that humanity in media philosophy has implicitly referred to a social Darwinian understanding of the human as a Western, white, male, capitalist figure. Building on concepts from Black studies and cultural studies, Towns develops an insightful critique of this dominant conception of the human in media philosophy and introduces a foundation for Black media philosophy. Delving into the narratives of the Underground Railroad, the politics of the Black Panther Party, and the digitization of Michael Brown’s killing, On Black Media Philosophy deftly illustrates that media are not only important for Western Humanity but central to alternative Black epistemologies and other ways of being human.”





Love and Abolition: The Social Life of Black Queer Performance

Alison Rose Reed

Associate Professor of English at Old Dominion University.

Ohio State University Press, Feb 2022

From the Author: “This book looks at Black queer performances in art, theater, and activism to show how love can be a creative and revolutionary practice. I here define love as the embodied action of replacing systems of coercion, criminalization, and control with deep forms of communal care. Of course, love as well as care work can become sites for the reproduction of carcerality; but in the book I chart possibilities for love as a mobilizing force alongside the difficult work of undoing carceral logics, embedded deep in the psyche. Tracing the everyday circulation of affective responses that compel action, I ground social justice–oriented reading and organizing practices specifically in the modern abolitionist movement. The book therefore provides a brief history of love in the Black radical tradition of abolition.

Dominant perspectives on mass incarceration prioritize discipline and punishment. At the same time, mainstream liberal discourses of reform tend to center normative frameworks of the nuclear family and moral rehabilitation. Such logics rehearse disciplining narratives that either minimize the weight of structure or romanticize individual agency inside of it. In contrast, Love and Abolition necessarily centers Black queer feminist analysis and praxis, which offers more expansive possibilities for reimagining collective social life. In the ongoing struggle to dismantle the prison industrial complex and rebuild the world anew, Black queer performance continues to envision radical ways of being together against and despite racial capitalism’s uneven production of alienation, isolation, competition, and premature death. 

The book contributes to Black queer studies and feminist theories of affect by positing that structures of feeling figure centrally in movement-building work. Focusing on love as an affective modality and organizing tool rooted in the Black radical tradition’s insistence on collective sociality amidst unrelenting state violence, I consider the work of visionaries such as James Baldwin, Ntozake Shange, Sharon Bridgforth, and vanessa german. Such work produces what I call tough and tender love, or transformative knowledge and affectionate action. Against a critical overemphasis on the spectacular, the book also looks to everyday sites of emotional and social life—in all its messiness and lived texture. For example, rather than idealizing the writings of famous political prisoners, I analyze the complex and sometimes contradictory creative interventions of jailed writers in the Humanities Behind Bars program I cofounded in Virginia.

Since carcerality shapes everyday psychic and social life, the book argues for a capacious redefinition of prison literature in an age of mass incarceration. Centering Black creative insurgency, what I describe as “abolition literature” resists fetishizing the prison as such and studies how artists and activists seek to reconstitute social practices of addressing harm on their own terms. I therefore identify abolition literature as an emergent field of inquiry that emphasizes social relationships in the ongoing struggle to dismantle constitutively harmful systems. Ultimately, Love and Abolition complements the social science bent of critical prison studies by examining how queer networks of creative solidarity forge new concepts of care. In so doing, the book functions as an abolitionist manifesto during a time in which the work of the humanities must be met with urgency.”

by OTH Staff

Below are selected upcoming and recently published titles related to the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities for the January 2022 issue of OTH.  OTH does not receive any compensation for promoting these books and inclusion on this list is not an endorsement of any views. 


Medicine in the Talmud: Natural and Supernatural Therapies between Magic and Science

by  Jason Sion Mokhtarian

“Despite the Talmud being the richest repository of medical remedies in ancient Judaism, this important strain of Jewish thought has been largely ignored—even as the study of ancient medicine has exploded in recent years. In a comprehensive study of this topic, Jason Sion Mokhtarian recuperates this obscure genre of Talmudic text, which has been marginalized in the Jewish tradition since the Middle Ages, to reveal the unexpected depth of the rabbis’ medical knowledge. Medicine in the Talmud argues that these therapies represent a form of rabbinic scientific rationality that relied on human observation and the use of nature while downplaying the role of God and the Torah in health and illness. Drawing from a wide range of both Jewish and Sasanian sources—from the Bible, the Talmud, and Maimonides to texts written in Akkadian, Syriac, and Mandaic, as well as the incantation bowls—Mokhtarian offers rare insight into how the rabbis of late antique Babylonia adapted the medical knowledge of their time to address the needs of their community. In the process, he narrates an untold chapter in the history of ancient medicine.”

Published by the University of California Press, coming May 2022.


Insulin – The Crooked Timber

by Kersten T. Hall

From the Author:

“It’s about what technology can – and perhaps more importantly can’t – do for us. When insulin was first used to treat diabetic patients in the early 1920s, newspapers were full of triumphalist headlines about it being a miracle cure for diabetes. Clinicians involved in this work such as the eminent US diabetes specialist Elliott Joslin however knew that it was nothing of the sort. For even as he was likening the power of insulin to save lives with the vision of Ezekiel, the Old Testament prophet who is supposed to have seen a valley of dry bones rise up and be restored to life, Joslin was issuing a stern warning to both doctors and patients about this new discovery.

 ‘Insulin is a remedy which is primarily for the wise and not for the foolish, be they patients or doctors, he warned, before adding ‘Everyone knows it requires brains to live long with diabetes, but to use insulin successfully requires more brains.’

 Joslin had recognised that, while insulin was necessary to live with Type 1 diabetes, it alone was not sufficient. Effective control of the condition required the use of insulin to be accompanied by appropriate behaviour on the part of the patient regarding diet and exercise.

It’s a lesson that I’ve had to learn since my diagnosis but it’s also one that I think has taken on a particular relevance to us all in the past 18 months since the outbreak of the SARS-CoV2 pandemic. It’s very tempting to think that technology alone will do all the heavy lifting in solving the many challenges that we face – such as those of climate change, AI or managing a global viral pandemic. But very often such technological solutions will only be at their most effective if they go hand in hand with appropriate behaviour on our part. This is as true for managing a global viral pandemic through a combination of vaccines and social measures such as wearing masks in public places, as it is for the management of Type 1 diabetes with insulin.

 So as we face the challenges of a global pandemic, AI and climate change, it seems to me that, since I first began writing this book, the story of insulin has lessons for us all – whether or not we happen to be injecting ourselves with it.”

Published by the University of Oxford Press, coming March 2022.


Health and Healing in the Early Modern Iberian World: A Gendered Perspective

by Sarah E. Owens and Margaret E. Boyle

From the Publisher:

“Recognizing the variety of health experiences across geographical borders, Health and Healing in the Early Modern Iberian World interrogates the concepts of “health” and “healing” between 1500 and 1800. Through an interdisciplinary approach to medical history, gender history, and the literature and culture of the early modern Atlantic World, this collection of essays points to the ways in which the practice of medicine, the delivery of healthcare, and the experiences of disease and health are gendered.

The contributors explore how the medical profession sought to exert its power over patients, determining standards that impacted conceptions of self and body, and at the same time, how this influence was mediated. Using a range of sources, the essays reveal the multiple and sometimes contradictory ways that early modern health discourse intersected with gender and sexuality, as well as its ties to interconnected ethical, racial, and class-driven concerns. Health and Healing in the Early Modern Iberian World breaks new ground through its systematic focus on gender and sexuality as they relate to the delivery of healthcare, the practice of medicine, and the experiences of health and healing across early modern Spain and colonial Latin America.”

Published by the University of Toronto Press, April 2021.

via National Library of Medicine (NLM)

This story was originally published by the National Library of Medicine. See the original story here:

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) announces its 2022 History Talks. All talks are free, live-streamed globally, and archived by NIH VideoCasting.

NLM History Talks promote awareness and use of NLM and related historical collections for research, education, and public service in biomedicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. The series also supports the commitment of the NLM to recognize the diversity of its collections—which span ten centuries, encompass a range of digital and physical formats, and originate from nearly every part of the globe—and to foreground the voices of people of color, women, and individuals of a variety of cultural and disciplinary backgrounds who value these collections and use them to advance their research, teaching, and learning.

Interviews with the speakers in this series are published in Circulating Now, the blog of the NLM History of Medicine Division. Explore  on the blog and stay informed about NLM History Talks on Twitter at #NLMHistTalk.

Complete details of all NLM History Talks are available from the NLM History of Medicine Division website at


The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is a leader in research in biomedical informatics and data science and the world’s largest biomedical library. NLM conducts and supports research in methods for recording, storing, retrieving, preserving, and communicating health information. NLM creates resources and tools that are used billions of times each year by millions of people to access and analyze molecular biology, biotechnology, toxicology, environmental health, and health services information. Additional information is available at

by Laura Meader

This post originally appeared on Colby News on August 26, 2021. View the original story here:  

This fall marks the launch of an important new multidisciplinary research initiative at Colby that draws on the strength of the humanities to confront questions and problems of crucial civic importance. 

The Public Humanistic Inquiry Lab, or PHIL, initiative creates space and resources for a three-year faculty research collaborative that works across disciplines. Members of a PHIL interrogate traditional narratives, forge unexpected connections, and imagine new forms of outward-facing humanistic inquiry.

The lab is the result of a two-year planning effort by Colby’s Humanities Division to elevate the humanities and the cross-disciplinary research of faculty in the humanities, said Adrianna Paliyenko, chair of the Humanities Division who led the effort. “The PHIL is an opportunity to demonstrate the way in which humanistic inquiry remains central to the core of a liberal arts education,” said Pailyenko, Colby’s Arnold Bernhard Professor in Arts and Humanities.

Primary funding for the PHIL comes from the Margaret T. McFadden Fund for Humanistic Inquiry, made possible through a $1-million gift from Trustee Emerita Anne Clarke Wolff ’87 and Benjamin “Ted” E. Wolff III ’86. The endowed fund is named in honor of Provost and Dean of Faculty and Professor of American Studies Margaret McFadden, an accomplished and respected academic leader at the College.

While medical professions have recognized that racial and health inequities are closely linked, the humanities and social sciences point to structural racism’s impact on health outcomes across time and place and offer new ways of thinking about medicine in racialized societies. 

The inaugural PHIL, “Critical Medical Humanities: Perspectives on the Intersection of Race and Medicine,” will be led by Tanya Sheehan, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art, and Jay Sibara, assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Across her career, Sheehan has worked at the intersection of American art history and medical humanities, with a focus on the study of race and representation. Sibara’s scholarship brings together the fields of critical race and critical disability studies, literature, and the environmental humanities.

With the participation of 12 faculty across the College, the 2021-24 PHIL aims to stimulate campus-wide interest in critical medical humanities, which relies on interdisciplinary analytical tools to interrogate the power structures that have defined medical practices and to reveal the socially constructed, intersectional, and embodied experiences of health and illness. Among its principal activities will be sharing faculty research through the Medical Humanities Colloquium, collaborating with leading scholars around the world, organizing publications, and hosting conferences and other public events. 

According to Principal Investigator Sheehan, “the inaugural PHIL represents a unique opportunity for Colby faculty to share the critical questions they are asking about the relationship between medicine and race, to engage in collaborative research at Colby, and to participate in innovative international partnerships.” So far, Sheehan has been developing partnerships with Princeton University, the Australian Health and Medical Humanities Network, the digital project Visualizing the Virus, and others. She envisions the PHIL will “create opportunities for Colby faculty to publicly lead in the field of medical humanities and support their efforts to promote both scientific advancement and racial justice through their research and teaching.”

While medical professions have recognized that racial and health inequities are closely linked, the humanities and social sciences point to structural racism’s impact on health outcomes across time and place and offer new ways of thinking about medicine in racialized societies. 

“I’m excited to be a part of an initiative that will bring together and support faculty from across many fields engaging in research at the nexus of medicine and race,” said Associate PI Sibara. “For example, by examining the systems of inequity that have historically associated racial difference with disease and linked whiteness to perceptions of physical and social fitness, and by examining the ways in which visual, literary, and performing artists have responded to these inequities, the PHIL’s participants will collectively offer alternative frameworks for understanding the meaning of health, illness, care, and medicine in racialized societies.”

By engaging students in faculty-led research, the PHIL also hopes to prepare the broader Colby community to reflect on race in health experiences and professions. This work will be accomplished through an expansion of Colby’s medical humanities curriculum and the organization of local events. In addition to sponsoring two CARA (Colby Academic Research Assistants) students in 2021-22, Sheehan and Sibara have also begun conversations with Jessica Matzko, who directs pre-health advising through DavisConnects, about developing workshops for Colby students and the Waterville community that address aspects of healthcare and race. Student internships with the PHIL’s international partners are also in the works.  

“As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to devastate communities of color, and as more Americans confront racial injustice,” Sheehan explained, “now is the time for Colby faculty to lead conversations about race and medicine.”

by Alissa Simon

Two of my favorite travel destinations are on the critically endangered list: the Amazon and the Great Barrier Reef. Both places left a profound effect on me and yet, I have never written much about them. This thought astonishes me and, in hindsight, is rather appalling. At first, I guess I thought that it would be elitist to write about places that I have been fortunate enough to visit. Yet, in The Meaning of Travel, Emily Thomas questions this notion. She suggests that not writing about my experience among disappearing landscapes might actually place them more at risk. 

In a chapter titled “The Ethics of Doom Tourism”, Thomas explains that tourists might be drawn to vanishing destinations simply because of the label. In other words, people want to see glaciers, or the Great Barrier Reef, or the Amazon solely because of the endangered label. There is a school of thought which believes that this type of tourism will lend itself to tourist ambassadors, or people who return to speak of their experiences with the intent of changing humanity’s destructive patterns. Unfortunately, Thomas notes, it does not seem to be working (183). Instead, after a grand experience, people return to a regular life of consumption (for many reasons). This pattern, then, actually buys into and reinforces the doom narrative, rather than focusing on proactive measures toward change. Furthermore, many travelers have not been educated on the complex issues that affect such places, and likely do not understand the philosophy behind their actions. This is certainly true of myself. 

So, one struggle with the idea of travel ambassadors is that tourists go, experience, and then return home to regular lives. Along with that, rather than actually learning about the region, travelers often look but do not understand. Therefore, tourism is founded upon superficial experiences at best. Thomas mentions Antarctic travelers who return from the region without having learned anything about arctic animals (184). Tourists want a “glimpse” of the life, but not an understanding of it. And to be honest, understanding comes at the expense of time, energy, effort, and education, which may not be accessible to everyone. In my case, I understood only a portion of the problem, and I did not view myself as an active participant in any sort of discussion. However, I also brought a somewhat fixed notion of place home with me, as if what I witnessed and experienced is the way it always is. Now, however, I understand fluidity more keenly than I did at the time of my travels. 

Next, the most obvious problem: tourists leave remains and footprints. Though the National Park message “Leave No Trace” has been popular for at least twenty years, many people may not fully understand the concept. At the Great Barrier Reef, for instance, our guide discussed ethical sunscreen brands because sunscreen can actually damage the reef and its inhabitants. I enjoy the knowledge provided by experts which includes (but is not limited to) authors, philosophers, historians, local artisans, and travel guides. These people guide us into their intimate spaces and we should pay attention to their teachings.

My trip to Ecuador offered a much more intense experience. Through the Iyarina Andes and Amazon Field School, I learned about the land, people, language, history and environment. In living with the community as student-tourists, we glimpsed a portion of the world very different from our own. Part of the school’s mission explains the school’s name: “The name of the station, ‘Iyarina,’ (ee-yah-ree-nah), is a Kichwa word that means to think by looking out at the land and remembering what has happened there; and from this remembering to envision the emerging future.” We traveled through the land with experienced guides. We learned elements of the language. We interacted with community members in order to understand their work, crafts, food and culture. This lifestyle definitely challenged my sense of the world in ways that have allowed me to ask more informed questions about land and community. I am grateful for the extensive education that this experience provided and continues to nourish. 

After reading Thomas’s chapter on “Doom Tourism,” I began to question the way we write about travel in general. There are books about the experience of a summit, or the glacier’s edge, or man versus nature on some pristine and untouched wilderness. What about, however, a narration from the land’s historical perspective? What is the effect of man on the land? What does ethical travel look like? Or, what about understanding the land that we live on in a more intimate way? 

In Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane writes about mountains. More specifically, he embodies the poet Nan Shepherd’s experience with the Cairngorms. Unlike explorers who sought peaks, Shepherd wandered aimlessly and without agenda. She looked for new bits and pieces of the land that raised her. This intimacy with the land was something she actively sought. It nourished her in a different way than those who fought summits and returned to city life. Macfarlane writes, “Knowledge is never figured in The Living Mountain as finite: a goal to be reached or a state to be attained” (71). Shepherd’s view of knowledge came with intimacy and observation, not perseverance and heights (though at times it arrives there as well). Macfarlane continues, “What Shepherd learns – and what her book taught me – is that the true mark of long acquaintance with a single place is a readiness to accept uncertainty: a contentment with the knowledge that you must not seek complete knowledge” (71). In other words, Shepherd’s book and her journey inspire a long-term curiosity which rises with knowledge of a place, rather than a goal-driven experience. This piece of advice seems instructive for our lives in general.

It may be that endangered lands should be reserved for knowledgeable visitors. Emily Thomas explains that exploration of disappearing spaces might be better cared for through educated views. Like the philosophy behind Iyarina, maybe one will see more if one understands the past, present and future of a space. Furthermore, one who knows what to look for can look more deeply and this deeper vision allows for a more meaningful connection. Thomas writes:   

“The Earth has undergone cycles of warming and cooling throughout its history but there is scientific consensus that its recent, accelerated period of warming is our doing. Burning fossil fuels like oil and coal has released carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere. Think of the atmosphere as a kind of blanket around the planet, trapping the sun’s heat. When the blanket gets thicker, less heat escapes, leading to a warmer Earth. Scientists estimate the planet is warming ten times faster than on its usual cooling-warming cycle (179) . … 

“Just as the art critic and art historian are ‘well equipped’ to appreciate the beauty of art, the naturalist and ecologist are well equipped to appreciate the beauty of nature. 

“If this argument is right, then learning about the geology or wildlife of Antarctica isn’t just worthwhile for Antarctica. Turning tourists into ambassadors is a benefit but not the only one. It’s also worthwhile for the tourists, because that knowledge will allow us to appreciate the continent’s beauty in new and enriched ways.” (186)

Thomas’s philosophy aligns very closely to my own ever-evolving ideas. More than making us fall in love with or seek the landscape of a particular region, we can fall in love with landscapes in general, with the idea of land. Furthermore, the philosophy that asks us to look at land simultaneously asks us to look at ourselves and our own preconceived notions. Travel literature too often remains in an overly superficial realm. I would much rather enter each day by questioning my own philosophy and have it be informed by a variety of landscapes (which includes my own backyard). But most crucially, we must question who we are, whether our actions are ethical, and what is our place on the Earth and beyond? As space travel becomes more than a topic of science fiction, we must seek to better understand ourselves on individual bases. On Earth, we are one species among many. What will we become in space?

What about, however, a narration from the land’s historical perspective? What is the effect of man on the land? What does ethical travel look like? Or, what about understanding the land that we live on in a more intimate way?

Emily Thomas’s book The Meaning of Travel masterfully blends many humanities fields together. Her research includes philosophy, history, fiction, geography, personal experience and more. In fact, her book provides a map for inclusive humanities. When combined with other disciplines and areas of research, the humanities provides necessary enrichment. Thomas gives the reader much to think about while also reminding us how minute and precious our presence on Earth really is.  

Works Cited

Iyarina Field School. 

Macfarlane, Robert. Landmarks. Penguin. 2016.

Thomas, Emily. The Meaning of Travel. Oxford University Press. 2020.

About the Author

Alissa Simon is a Tutor at Harrison Middleton University. Though she is interested in (and studies) all sorts of literature, she typically focuses on poetry and translation. When not reading and writing, she spends her time in the outdoors, rain or shine. Ms. Simon has previously contributed to Oh, the Humanities!, read her past story here:


This holiday reading list is courtesy of the Stanford Humanities Center. You can read the original post here:

Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter

Edited by Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton

This is a somewhat unusual and vitally important collection, as it brings together essays by scholars, artists, and activists around a topic that is more relevant than ever in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the resurgence of resistance to police brutality and systemic racism. The contributions by figures at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement and the critical and creative perspectives on policing and incarceration provide a thorough, highly compelling overview. It is enriched by bringing into play international perspectives, and sharpened by the chilling descriptions of poet Martín Espada. It is also a great read to prepare for the much-awaited publication by Ruth Wilson Gilmore—one of the volume’s contributors—in 2022, Abolition Geography: Essays Towards Liberation.

—Patricia Alessandrini
Internal Faculty Fellow
Department of Music, Stanford University

The Railway Journey

By Wolfgang Schivelbusch​ 

“In The Railway Journey, Schivelbusch examines the origins of this industrialized consciousness by exploring the reaction in the nineteenth century to the first dramatic avatar of technological change, the railroad.” (Amazon) I’m not sure this qualifies as a “holiday read,” but I have been pretty impressed by the book.

Anubha Anushree
Career Launch Fellow
Department of History, Stanford University

The Ministry of the Future

By Kim Stanley Robinson

It’s the most non-fiction science fiction book I’ve ever read about what the near future might look like due to rapid climate change. Harrowing and all too believable, but also hopeful.

—Eli Cook
External Faculty Fellow

Department of History, University of Haifa

Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration

By Nicole Fleetwood

MacArthur Fellow and NYU Professor Nicole Fleetwood shows how the brutal U.S. mass incarceration system is, nonetheless, filled with art made by the incarcerated, who assert their humanity in the face of a system that dehumanizes them. The book has sparked a series of projects foregrounding the artists Fleetwood chronicles, and it also generated a powerful exhibit in New York, covered here by NPR.

David Kazanjian
Marta Sutton Weeks External Fellow
Department of English, University of Pennsylviania

Lincoln in the Bardo

By George Saunders

Are you really alive? Or do you just think you’re alive? Do you have any regrets? Things you’ve always wanted to do but never found the time or courage to do them? Regardless of whether you’ve ever asked yourself these questions or not, and if you suspect that there is life after death and that Abraham Lincoln has something to do with it, then this book is for you. Brace yourselves for a polyphonic tour de force on life, death, mourning, and that tricky business of unfinished business.

—Ana Ilievska
Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities
Department of French and Italian, Stanford University

Writers and Lovers

By Lily King

This was my holiday book of the year. About what it’s like to write, and why, and the lives of writers and the foibles of love. And if you get hooked on her style, try the one she wrote on Margaret Mead, Euphoria.

Tanya Luhrmann
Violet Andrews Whittier Internal Fellow
Department of Anthropology, Stanford University


By Katie Kitamura

An unnamed woman leaves New York City, where her father recently died, and moves to The Hague, Netherlands to work as an interpreter at the International Criminal Court. The woman is assigned to interpret for the former president of a West African country on trial for war crimes. It is a great read.

Shu-mei Shih
Marta Sutton Weeks External Fellow

Department of Comparative Literature & East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA

Making Darkness Light: A Life of John Milton

By Joe Moshenska

“In Making Darkness Light, Oxford professor Joe Moshenska rediscovers a poet whose rich contradictions confound his monumental image. Immersing ourselves in the rhythms and textures of Milton’s world, we move from the music of his childhood home to his encounter with Galileo in Florence into his idiosyncratic belief system and his strange, electrifying imagination.” (Amazon) Moshenska does this by showing Milton’s relevance to his fascinating personal and family history: from his rich Jewish heritage, through taking his children to Liverpool on a Beatles pilgrimage, to learning the piano as an adult. He shows how great literature resonates through our intimate experiences, greatly and delightfully enriches them.

Nigel Smith
Marta Sutton Weeks External Fellow
Department of English, Princeton University

The Transit of Venus

By Shirley Hazzard

Add my voice to the chorus of rapturous applause that greeted the new edition of Shirley Hazzard’s 1980 masterpiece brought out by Penguin Classics in March of this year. The story of two orphaned sisters from Australia who immigrate to England in the 1950s is a profound, lyrical meditation on love’s and life’s transience. Nearly every sentence is a stand-alone miracle of composition, to be read and reread again. (Hazzard reportedly revised each page more than 20 times.) No book in recent memory better captures—paradoxically—the ephemeral: what it means to live and love in an unreliable and impermanent world.

—John Tennant
Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities
Department of Classics, Stanford University

The Conjuror’s Bird

By Martin Davies

This light, gripping novel follows a modern-day quest for a historic taxidermied bird in alternating timelines of the 18th-century past and the present. The tale is a love story, both in the traditional sense and in the protagonist’s desire for the bird itself.

Anna Toledano
SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow
Department of History, Stanford University





Thursday, October 7, 2021 (New York, NY)—Celebrating the many ways university press publishing has evolved and excelled over the last decade, the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) has chosen “Keep UP” as the theme for this year’s tenth annual University Press Week (UP Week). The event runs from Monday, November 8, through Friday, November 12.

“Keep UP” is significant in a time when great change has come to all quarters of book publishing and the media. For university presses, the past decade has presented opportunities that have allowed these nonprofit publishers to explore new ways to reach readers, amplify ideas, and sustain scholarly communities while remaining steadfast in their commitment to advancing knowledge. To mark a momentous and eventful decade of university press publishing and UP Weeks, this year AUPresses members have suggested a “Keep UP Gallery” and Reading List that showcase books, journals, open access reading platforms, podcasts, and other efforts that put member UPs at the forefront of today’s issues and ideas.

“The inaugural theme of University Press Week back in 2012 was ‘Contributing to an Informed Society,’” said AUPresses Executive Director Peter Berkery. “In the ten years since, the university press community has stayed true to this goal, keeping up the highest standards of scholarship and championing the power of ideas.”

AUPresses President, University of Georgia Press Director Lisa Bayer, agreed. “As the world changes, so do university presses, adapting subject areas, author lists, and publishing know-how to grow into an ever more diverse, ever more global community,” she said. “An informed society is as important as ever, and we are proud to honor the forward-thinking work that has made university presses leaders in their fields and a force to keep up with.”

University presses’ shared commitment to promoting new ideas is clearly represented by their choices for this year’s Keep UP Gallery and Reading List, which includes Pain and Shock in America: Politics, Advocacy, and the Controversial Treatment of People with Disabilities by Jan Nisbet (Brandeis University Press); Unconscious Bias in Schools: A Developmental Approach to Racism, Revised Edition by Tracey A. Benson and Sarah E. Fiarman (Harvard Education Press); Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource by and for Transgender Communities edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth (Oxford University Press); Black Snake: Standing Rock, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Environmental Justice by Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys (University of Nebraska Press); and Contemporary Asian American Activism: Building Movements for Liberation edited by Diane C. Fujino and Robyn Magalit Rodriguez (University of Washington Press).

Also trending in the Keep UP selections are projects that make books and authors more accessible to the wider world. Audio features prominently: the Southern Illinois University Press Blanket Fort Radio Theater features student-produced serialized audiobook podcasts, turning previously published titles into free audio versions. Syracuse University Press entered into an audiobook partnership with the Syracuse University Libraries’ Sound Beat: Access Audio. The University of the West Indies Press created the Caribbean Biography Audiobook Series and Wilfrid Laurier University Press launched the Amplify Podcast Network, which helps their authors share their research with academic and popular audiences. Other presses are showcasing ebook, online, and new format initiatives, such as Ediciones Uniandes’ online e-book platform—the first digital university press platform in Colombia (which offered most of its content for free during pandemic 2020)—and Harvard University Press’s Digital Loeb Classical Library, making Greek and Latin literary classics accessible to the broadest range of readers. Notably, Penn State University Press’ Graphic Mundi imprint is just one of several new UP efforts to publish graphic novels and nonfiction. 

When asked why they chose their book or project for the Keep UP Gallery, presses offered a variety of reasons. Publicity Manager Kait Heacock of the University of Washington Press said, “Asian American Activism was perfect for the Keep UP theme this year because it is the first anthology of its kind that centers intergenerational lessons from on-the-ground Asian American activists and activist-scholars. It moves beyond the frequently covered activism of the ’60s and ’70s to illuminate the story of present-day Asian American activism in struggles for environmental justice, workers’ rights, housing justice, prisoner rights, and movement-building in Asian American communities.” University of the West Indies Press series editor Funso Aiyejina offered several reasons why the press chose to feature its Caribbean Biography Audiobook Series this year: “Each biography is carefully curated, starting with the matching of each subject to a specialist scholar in the relevant field; each book is subjected to a rigorous process of writing and re-writing and editing to ensure that the tone is pitch-perfect; each book is reader-friendly, stripped of academic jargon; and each book is deliberately short and entertaining enough to be read at a sitting. The cover design for the Series also celebrates the visual vibrancy and intellectual confidence of the Caribbean.”

Events and promotions during the week will celebrate these and other achievements of the past decade as well as the bright future of university press publishing. The UP community will host online celebrations of this year’s theme via a blog tour, and industry supporters such as Ingram, NetGalley, and Baker & Taylor also will mark the week online through special messages and marketing. A virtual panel focused on the strengths and challenges of university press publishing organized by Seminary Coop in Chicago, will take place on Wednesday, November 10, at 2:00 PM ET, featuring bestselling University of West Virginia Press author Deesha Philyaw, University of North Carolina Press Publisher John Sherer, Point Reyes Books owner and longtime bookseller Stephen Sparks, and Seminary Coop’s own Alena Jones.  

University presses publish nearly 12,000 books each year, as well as more than 1,500 journals and numerous innovative digital works. One hundred and fifty-nine presses belong to AUPresses, and 20% of that number are presses based outside the U.S.

Since 1937, the Association of University Presses advances the essential role of a global community of publishers whose mission is to ensure academic excellence and cultivate knowledge. The Association holds intellectual freedom, integrity, stewardship, and diversity and inclusion as core values. AUPresses members are active across many scholarly disciplines, including the humanities, arts, and sciences, publish significant regional and literary work, and are innovators in the world of digital publishing. You can learn more at

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