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Beyond Germs

Native Depopulation in North America

Edited by Catherine M. Cameron, Paul Kelton, and Alan C. Swedlund

There is no question that European colonization introduced smallpox, measles, and other infectious diseases to the Americas, causing considerable harm and death to indigenous peoples. But though these diseases were devastating, their impact has been widely exaggerated. Warfare, enslavement, land expropriation, removals, erasure of identity, and other factors undermined Native populations. These factors worked in a deadly cabal with germs to cause epidemics, exacerbate mortality, and curtail population recovery.

Beyond Germs: Native Depopulation in North America challenges the “virgin soil” hypothesis that was used for decades to explain the decimation of the indigenous people of North America. This hypothesis argues that the massive depopulation of the New World was caused primarily by diseases brought by European colonists that infected Native populations lacking immunity to foreign pathogens. In Beyond Germs, contributors expertly argue that blaming germs lets Europeans off the hook for the enormous number of Native American deaths that occurred after 1492.

Archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians come together in this cutting-edge volume to report a wide variety of other factors in the decline in the indigenous population, including genocide, forced labor, and population dislocation. These factors led to what the editors describe in their introduction as “systemic structural violence” on the Native populations of North America.

While we may never know the full extent of Native depopulation during the colonial period because the evidence available for indigenous communities is notoriously slim and problematic, what is certain is that a generation of scholars has significantly overemphasized disease as the cause of depopulation and has downplayed the active role of Europeans in inciting wars, destroying livelihoods, and erasing identities.

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Beyond the Page

Poetry and Performance in Spanish America

Jill S. Kuhnheim

Poetry began as a spoken art and remains one to this day, but readers tend to view the poem on the page as an impenetrable artifact. This book examines the performance of poetry to show how far beyond the page it can travel. Exploring a range of performances from early twentieth-century recitations to twenty-first-century film, CDs, and Internet renditions, Beyond the Page offers analytic tools to chart poetry beyond printed texts.

Jill S. Kuhnheim, looking at poetry and performance in Spanish America over time, has organized the book to begin with the early twentieth century and arrive at the present day. She includes noteworthy poets and artists such as José Martí, Luis Palés Matos, Eusebia Cosme, Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo, and Nicolás Guillén, as well as very recent artists whose performance work is not as well known. Offering fresh historical material and analysis, the author illuminates the relationship between popular and elite cultural activity in Spanish America and reshapes our awareness of the cultural work poetry has done in the past and may do in the future, particularly given the wide array of technological possibilities. The author takes a broad view of American cultural production and creates a dialogue with events and criticism from the United States as well as from Spanish American traditions.

Oral and written elements in poetry are complementary, says Kuhnheim, not in opposition, and they may reach different audiences. As poetry enjoys a revival with modern media, performance is part of the new platform it spans, widening the kind of audience and expanding potential meanings.

Beyond the Page will appeal to readers with an interest in poetry and performance, and in how poetry circulates beyond the page. With an international perspective and dynamic synthesis, the book offers an innovative methodology and theoretical model for humanists beyond the immediate field, reaching out to readers interested in the intersection between poetry and identity or the juncture of popular-elite and oral-written cultures.

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Biography of a Hacienda

Work and Revolution in Rural Mexico

Elizabeth Terese Newman

Biography of a Hacienda is a many-voiced reconstruction of events leading up to the Mexican Revolution and the legacy that remains to the present day. Drawing on ethnohistorical, archaeological, and ethnographic data, Elizabeth Terese Newman creates a fascinating model of the interplay between the great events of the Revolution and the lives of everyday people.

In 1910 the Mexican Revolution erupted out of a century of tension surrounding land ownership and control over labor. During the previous century, the elite ruling classes acquired ever-increasingly large tracts of land while peasants saw their subsistence and community independence vanish. Rural working conditions became so oppressive that many resorted to armed rebellion. After the war, new efforts were made to promote agrarian reform, and many of Mexico’s rural poor were awarded the land they had farmed for generations. 

Weaving together fiction, memoir, and data from her fieldwork, Newman reconstructs life at the Hacienda San Miguel Acocotla, a site located near a remote village in the Valley of Atlixco, Puebla, Mexico. Exploring people’s daily lives and how they affected the buildup to the Revolution and subsequent agrarian reforms, the author draws on nearly a decade of interdisciplinary study of the Hacienda Acocotla and its descendant community. Newman’s archaeological research recovered information about the lives of indigenous people living and working there in the one hundred years leading up to the Mexican Revolution.

Newman shows how women were central to starting the revolt, and she adds their voices to the master narrative. Biography of a Hacienda concludes with a thoughtful discussion of the contribution of the agrarian revolution to Mexico’s history and whether it has succeeded or simply transformed rural Mexico into a new “global hacienda system.”

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Bitter Water

Diné Oral Histories of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute

Malcolm D. Benally

Many know that the removal and relocation of Indigenous peoples from traditional lands is a part of the United States’ colonial past, but few know that—in an expansive corner of northeastern Arizona—the saga continues. The 1974 Settlement Act officially divided a reservation established almost a century earlier between the Diné (Navajo) and the Hopi, and legally granted the contested land to the Hopi. To date, the U.S. government has relocated between 12,000 and 14,000 Diné from Hopi Partitioned Lands, and the Diné—both there and elsewhere—continue to live with the legacy of this relocation.

Bitter Water presents the narratives of four Diné women who have resisted removal but who have watched as their communities and lifeways have changed dramatically. The book, based on 25 hours of filmed personal testimony, features the women’s candid discussions of their efforts to carry on a traditional way of life in a contemporary world that includes relocation and partitioned lands; encroaching Western values and culture; and devastating mineral extraction and development in the Black Mesa region of Arizona. Though their accounts are framed by insightful writings by both Benally and Diné historian Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Benally lets the stories of the four women elders speak for themselves.

Scholars, media, and other outsiders have all told their versions of this story, but this is the first book that centers on the stories of women who have lived it—in their own words in Navajo as well as the English translation. The result is a living history of a contested cultural landscape and the unique worldview of women determined to maintain their traditions and lifeways, which are so intimately connected to the land. This book is more than a collection of stories, poetry, and prose. It is a chronicle of resistance as spoken from the hearts of those who have lived it.

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Blonde Indian

An Alaska Native Memoir

In the spring, the bear returns to the forest, the glacier returns to its source, and the salmon returns to the fresh water where it was spawned. Drawing on the special relationship that the Native people of southeastern Alaska have always had with nature, Blonde Indian is a story about returning. Told in eloquent layers that blend Native stories and metaphor with social and spiritual journeys, this enchanting memoir traces the author’s life from her difficult childhood growing up in the Tlingit community, through her adulthood, during which she lived for some time in Seattle and San Francisco, and eventually to her return home. Neither fully Native American nor Euro-American, Hayes encounters a unique sense of alienation from both her Native community and the dominant culture. We witness her struggles alongside other Tlingit men and women—many of whom never left their Native community but wrestle with their own challenges, including unemployment, prejudice, alcoholism, and poverty. The author’s personal journey, the symbolic stories of contemporary Natives, and the tales and legends that have circulated among the Tlingit people for centuries are all woven together, making Blonde Indian much more than the story of one woman’s life. Filled with anecdotes, descriptions, and histories that are unique to the Tlingit community, this book is a document of cultural heritage, a tribute to the Alaskan landscape, and a moving testament to how going back—in nature and in life—allows movement forward.

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The Body as Capital

Masculinities in Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Vinodh Venkatesh

Through economic liberalization and the untethering of labor and production markets, masculinity as hegemon has entered a crisis stage. Renegotiated labor and familial orders have triggered a widespread cultural renegotiation of how masculinity operates and is represented. This holds especially true in Latin America.

Addressing this, Vinodh Venkatesh uses contemporary Latin American literature to examine how masculinity is constructed and conceived. The Body as Capital centers socioeconomic and political concerns, anxieties, and paradigms on the male anatomy and on the matrices of masculinities presented in fiction. Developing concepts such as the “market of masculinities” and the “transnational theater of masculinities,” the author explains how contemporary fiction centers the male body and masculine expressions as key components in the relationship between culture, space, and global tensile forces.

Venkatesh includes novels by canonical and newer writers from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Peru, and Chile. He focuses on texts produced after 1990, coinciding with what has popularly been termed the neoliberal experiment. In addition to probing well-known novels such as La fiesta del Chivo and La mujer habitada and their accompanying body of criticism, The Body as Capital defines and examines several masculine tropes that will be of interest to scholars of contemporary Latin American literature and gender studies. Ultimately, Venkatesh argues for a more holistic approximation of discursive gender that will feed into other angles of criticism, forging a new path in the critical debates over gender and sexuality in Latin American writing.

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The Book of Want

a novel

A Novel by Daniel A. Olivas

When Moses descended Mount Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments, he never could have foreseen how one family in Los Angeles in the early twenty-first century would struggle to live by them.

Conchita, a voluptuous, headstrong single woman of a certain age, sees nothing wrong with enjoying the company of handsome—and usually much younger—men . . . that is, until she encounters a widower with unusual gifts and begins to think about what she really wants out of life.

Julieta, Conchita’s younger sister, walks a more traditional path, but she and her husband each harbor secrets that could change their marriage and their lives forever. Their twin sons, both in college, struggle to find fulfillment. Mateo refuses to let anyone stand in the way of his happiness, while Rolando grapples with his sexuality and the family’s expectations. And from time to time, Belén, the family’s late matriarch, pays a visit to advise, scold, or cajole her hapless descendants.

A delightful family tapestry woven with the threads of all those whose lives are touched by Conchita, The Book of Want is an enchanting blend of social and magical realism that tells a charming story about what it means to be fully human.

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Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream

From one of the prominent Chicano poets writing today comes a collection of poems to take your breath away. With dazzling speed and energy, Juan Felipe Herrera sends readers rocketing through verbal space in a celebration of the rhythms and textures of words that will make you want to shout, dance, and read out loud. Lika a wild ride in a fast car, Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream moves at breakneck speed, a post-Lorca journey across the new millennium terrain. Words careen through space and time, through blighted urban landscapes, past banjos and bees, past AIDS faces and mad friars, past severed heads and steel-toed border-crosser boots.

To the rhythm of "The Blue Eyed Mambo that Unveils My Lover's Belly" and the sounds of the Last Mayan Acid rock band, Herrera races through the hallucinations of a nation that remains just outside of paradise. With dazzling poems that roar from the darkest corners of our minds toward an ecstatic celebration of the lushness of language, Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream is a celebration of a world that is both sacred and cruel, a world of "Poesy Chicano style undone wild" by one of the most daring poets of our time.

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The Borders of Inequality

Where Wealth and Poverty Collide

By Íñigo Moré; Translated by Lyn Dominguez

Recently U.S. media, policymakers, and commentators of all stripes have been preoccupied with the nation’s border with Mexico. Airwaves, websites, and blogs are filled with concerns over border issues: illegal immigrants, drug wars, narcotics trafficking, and “securing the border.” While this is a valid conversation, it’s rarely contrasted with the other U.S. border, with Canada— still the longest unguarded border on Earth.

In this fascinating book, originally published in Spain to much acclaim, researcher Íñigo Moré looks at the bigger picture. With a professionally trained eye, he examines the world’s “top twenty most unequal borders.” What he finds is that many of these border situations share similar characteristics. There is always illegal immigration from the poor country to the wealthy one. There is always trafficking in illegal substances. And the unequal neighbors usually regard each other with suspicion or even open hostility.

After surveying the “top twenty,” Moré explores in depth the cases of three borders: between Germany and Poland, Spain and Morocco, and the United States and Mexico. The core problem, he concludes, is not drugs or immigration or self-protection. Rather, the problem is inequality itself. Unequal borders result, he writes, from a skewed interaction among markets, people, and states. Using these findings, Moré builds a useful new framework for analyzing border dynamics from a quantitative view based on economic inequality.

The Borders of Inequality illustrates how longstanding “multidirectional misunderstandings” can exacerbate cross-border problems—and consequent public opinion. Perpetuating these misunderstandings can inflame and complicate the situation, but purposeful efforts to reduce inequality can produce promising results.

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Born of Resistance

Cara a Cara Encounters with Chicana/o Visual Culture

Edited by Scott L. Baugh and Víctor A. Sorell

This collection of essays interrogates the most contested social, political, and aesthetic concept in Chicana/o cultural studies—resistance.

If Chicana/o culture was born of resistance amid assimilation and nationalistic forces, how has it evolved into the twenty-first century? This groundbreaking volume redresses the central idea of resistance in Chicana/o visual cultural expression through nine clustered discussions, each coordinating scholarly, critical, curatorial, and historical contextualizations alongside artist statements and interviews. Landmark artistic works—illustrations, paintings, sculpture, photography, film, and television—anchor each section. Contributors include David Avalos, Mel Casas, Ester Hernández, Nicholas Herrera, Luis Jiménez, Ellen Landis, Yolanda López, Richard Lou, Delilah Montoya, Laura Pérez, Lourdes Portillo, Luis Tapia, Chuy Treviño, Willie Varela, Kathy Vargas, René Yañez, Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, and more. Cara a cara, face-to-face, encounters across the collection reveal the varied richness of resistant strategies, movidas, as they position crucial terms of debate surrounding resistance, including subversion, oppression, affirmation, and identification.

The essays in the collection represent a wide array of perspectives on Chicana/o visual culture. Editors Scott L. Baugh and Víctor A. Sorell have curated a dialog among the many voices, creating an important new volume that redefines the role of resistance in Chicana/o visual arts and cultural expression.

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