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The Ascent of Chiefs

Cahokia and Mississippian Politics in Native North America

Written by Timothy R. Pauketat

This ambitious book provides a theoretical explanation of how prehistoric Cahokia became a stratified society, and ultimately the pinnacle of Native American cultural achievement north of Mexico. Considering Cahokia in terms of class struggle, Pauketat claims that the political consolidation in this region of the Mississippi Valley happened quite suddenly, around A.D. 1000, after which the lords of Cahokia innovated strategies to preserve their power and ultimately emerged as divine chiefs. The new ideas and new data in this volume will invigorate the debate surrounding one of the most important developments in North American prehistory.

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The Astonishment Tapes

Talks on Poetry and Autobiography with Robin Blaser and Friends

Robin Blaser moved from his native Idaho to attend the University of California, Berkeley, in 1944. While there, he developed as a poet, explored his homosexuality, engaged in a lively arts community, and met fellow travelers and poets Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer. The three men became the founding members of the Berkeley core of what is now known as the San Francisco Renaissance in New American Poetry.
 
In the company of a small group of friends and writers in 1974, Blaser was asked to narrate his personal story and to comment on the Berkeley poetry scene. In twenty autobiographical audiotapes, Blaser talks about his childhood in Idaho, his time in Berkeley, and his participation in the making of a new kind of poetry. The Astonishment Tapes is the expertly edited transcript of these recordings by Miriam Nichols, Blaser’s editor and biographer.
 
In The Astonishment Tapes Blaser comments extensively on the poetic principles that he, Duncan, and Spicer worked through, as well as the differences and dissonances between the three of them. Nichols has edited the transcripts only minimally, allowing readers to make their own interpretations of Blaser’s intentions.
 
Sometimes gossipy, sometimes profound, Blaser offers his version on the inside story of one of the most significant moments in mid-twentieth century American poetry. The Astonishment Tapes is of considerable value and interest, not only to readers of Blaser, Duncan, and Spicer, but also to scholars of the early postmodern and twentieth-century American poetry.

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At Ease in Zion

Social History of Southern Baptists, 1865-1900

First published in 1967, Rufus Spain’s thorough investigation into Southern Baptist attitudes set the stage for research on religion in the American South. In At Ease in Zion, Spain questions the titular “ease” with society that Southern Baptists seemed to maintain following the Civil War. His analysis of denominational newspapers, as well as reports from the Southern Baptist Convention and state conventions, paint a compelling picture of the subjects’ complacency with their social existence, even as they criticized personal and recreational ethics.

While the South faced significant social, economic, and political changes after the Civil War, religion remained the primary moral influence. As the Southern Baptist denomination made up a significant majority of the population at that time, its leaders and attitudes had a clear and undeniable impact on social norms. Rufus Spain was one of the first writers to actively demonstrate the relationship between Southern religion and Southern society, and his work displays meticulous attention to the ways in which we are affected by complacency. He asserts that Southern Baptists viewed the American South as a version of God’s ideal society; any issues they wished to address were caused by individuals (such as those who did not conform to societal norms) or external attitudes (such as those in differing religions or regions).

At Ease in Zion is a critical part of the scholarly discussion on religion in society. Spain’s research offers a bold analysis of the American South and its citizens during one of the most tumultuous times in its history while providing a basis for arguments on “social Christianity” and its ever-shifting role in the world.


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Attack and Die

Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage

“In the first twenty-seven months of combat 175,000 Southern soldiers died. This number was more than the entire Confederate military force in the summer of 1861, and it far exceeded the strength of any army that Lee ever commanded. More than 80,000 Southerners fell in just five battles. At Gettysburg three out of every ten Confederates present were hit; one brigade lost 65 percent of its men and 70 percent of its field officers in a single charge. A North Carolina regiment started the action with some 800 men; only 216 survived unhurt. Another unit lost two-thirds of its men as well as its commander in a brief assault.”

            Why did the Confederacy lose so many men? The authors contend that the Confederates bled themselves nearly to death in the first three years of the war by making costly attacks more often than the Federals. Offensive tactics, which had been used successfully by Americans in the Mexican War, were much less effective in the 1860s because an improved weapon – the rifle – had given increased strength to defenders. This book describes tactical theory in the 1850s and suggests how each related to Civil War tactics. It also considers the development of tactics in all three arms of the service during the Civil War.
            In examining the Civil War the book separates Southern from Northern tactical practice and discusses Confederate military history in the context of Southern social history. Although the Southerners could have offset their numerical disadvantage by remaining on the defensive and forcing the Federals to attack, they failed to do so. The authors argue that the Southerners’ consistent favoring of offensive warfare was attributable, in large measure, to their Celtic heritage: they fought with the same courageous dash and reckless abandon that had characterized their Celtic forebears since ancient times. The Southerners of the Civil War generation were prisoners of their social and cultural history: they attacked courageously and were killed – on battlefields so totally defended by the Federals that “not even a chicken could get through.”

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Avenues of Faith

Shaping the Urban Religious Culture of Richmond, Virginia, 1900–1929

Written by Samuel C. Shepherd Jr

Avenues of Faith documents how religion flourished in southern cities after the turn of the century and how a cadre of clergy and laity created a notably progressive religious culture in Richmond, the bastion of the Old South. Famous as the former capital of the Confederacy, Richmond emerges as a dynamic and growing industrial city invigorated by the social activism of its Protestants.

By examining six mainline white denominations-Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Disciples of Christ, and Lutherans-Samuel C. Shepherd Jr. emphasizes the extent to which the city fostered religious diversity, even as "blind spots" remained in regard to Catholics, African Americans, Mormons, and Jews. Shepherd explores such topics as evangelism, interdenominational cooperation, the temperance campaign, the Sunday school movement, the international peace initiatives, and the expanding role of lay people of both sexes. He also notes the community's widespread rejection of fundamentalism, a religious phenomenon almost automatically associated with the South, and shows how it nurtured social reform to combat a host of urban problems associated with public health, education, housing, women's suffrage, prohibition, children, and prisons.

In lucid prose and with excellent use of primary sources, Shepherd delivers a fresh portrait of Richmond Protestants who embraced change and transformed their community, making it an active, progressive religious center of the New South.


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Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes

Amy Eisenberg

Aymara Indians are a geographically isolated, indigenous people living in the Andes Mountains near Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the most arid regions of the world. As rapid economic growth in the area has begun to divert scarce water to hydroelectric and agricultural projects, the Aymara struggle to maintain their sustainable and traditional systems of water use, agriculture, and pastoralism.

In Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes, Amy Eisenberg provides a detailed exploration of the ethnoecological dimensions of the tension between the Aymara, whose economic, spiritual, and social life are inextricably tied to land and water, and three major challenges: the paving of Chile Highway 11, the diversion of the Altiplano waters of the Río Lauca for irrigation and power-generation, and Chilean national park policies regarding Aymara communities, their natural resources, and cultural properties within Parque Nacional Lauca, the International Biosphere Reserve. 

Pursuing collaborative research, Eisenberg performed ethnographic interviews with Aymara people in more than sixteen Andean villages, some at altitudes of 4,600 meters. Drawing upon botany, agriculture, natural history, physical and cultural geography, history, archaeology and social and environmental impact assessment, she presents deep, multifaceted insights from the Aymara’s point of view.

Illustrated with maps and dramatic photographs by John Amato, Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development provides an account of indigenous perspectives and concerns related to economic development that will be invaluable to scholars and policy-makers in the fields of natural and cultural resource preservation in and beyond Chile.

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Back Home

Journeys through Mobile

After twenty years in New York City, a prize-winning writer takes
a "long look back" at his hometown of Mobile, Alabama.

In Back Home: Journeys through Mobile, Roy Hoffman
tells stories--through essays, feature articles, and memoir--of one of
the South's oldest and most colorful port cities. Many of the pieces here
grew out of Hoffman's work as Writer-in-Residence for his hometown newspaper,
the Mobile Register, a position he took after working in New York
City for twenty years as a journalist, fiction writer, book critic, teacher,
and speech writer. Other pieces were first published in the New York
Times
, Southern Living, Preservation, and other publications.
Together, this collection comprises a long, second look at the Mobile of
Hoffman's childhood and the city it has since become.
 

Like a photo album, Back Home presents close-up
portraits of everyday places and ordinary people. There are meditations
on downtown Mobile, where Hoffman's grandparents arrived as immigrants
a century ago; the waterfront where longshoremen labor and shrimpers work
their nets; the back roads leading to obscure but intriguing destinations.
Hoffman records local people telling their own tales of race relations,
sports, agriculture, and Mardi Gras celebrations. Fishermen, baseball players,
bakers, authors, political figures--a strikingly diverse population walks
across the stage of Back Home.

 

Throughout, Hoffman is concerned with stories and their
enduring nature. As he writes, "When buildings are leveled, when land is
developed, when money is spent, when our loved ones pass on, when we take
our places a little farther back every year on the historical time-line,
what we have still are stories."
 

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Banning Queer Blood

Rhetorics of Citizenship, Contagion, and Resistance

In Banning Queer Blood, Jeffrey Bennett frames blood donation as a performance of civic identity closely linked to the meaning of citizenship. However, with the advent of AIDS came the notion of blood donation as a potentially dangerous process. Bennett argues that the Food and Drug Administration, by employing images that specifically depict gay men as contagious, has categorized gay men as a menace to the nation. The FDA's ban on blood donation by gay men remains in effect and serves to propagate the social misconceptions about gay men that circulate within both the straight and gay communities today.

Bennett explores the role of scientific research cited by these banned-blood policies and its disquieting relationship to government agencies, including the FDA. Bennett draws parallels between the FDA's position on homosexuality and the historical precedents of discrimination by government agencies against racial minorities. The author concludes by describing the resistance posed by queer donors, who either lie in order to donate blood or protest discrimination at donation sites, and by calling for these prejudiced policies to be abolished.







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Barbecue

The History of an American Institution

Americans enjoy reading about barbecue almost as much as they love eating it. Books on the subject cover almost every aspect of the topic: recipes, grilling tips, restaurant guides, pit-building instructions, and catalogs of exotic variants such as Mongolian barbecue and Indian tandoor cooking. Despite this coverage, the history of barbecue in the United States has until now remained virtually untold.
 
Barbecue: The History of an American Institution draws on hundreds of sources to document the evolution of barbecue from its origins among Native Americans to its present status as an icon of American culture. This is the story not just of a dish but of a social institution that helped shape the many regional cultures of the United States. The history begins with British colonists' adoption of barbecuing techniques from Native Americans in the 16th and 17th centuries, moves to barbecue's establishment as the preeminent form of public celebration in the 19th century, and is carried through to barbecue’s iconic status today.
 
From the very beginning, barbecues were powerful social magnets, drawing together people from a wide range of classes and geographic backgrounds. Barbecue played a key role in three centuries of American history, both reflecting and influencing the direction of an evolving society. By tracing the story of barbecue from its origins to today, Barbecue: The History of an American Institution traces the very thread of American social history.

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