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Beyond Desert Walls

Essays from Prison

"From the upper bunk where I write, a narrow window allows me a southern exposure of the desert beyond this prison. Saguaro cacti, residents here long before this rude concrete pueblo, fill the upper part of my frame. If I could open the window and reach out across the razed ground, sand traps, and shining perimeter fence, I might touch their fluted sides, their glaucous and waxen skins." For some people, even prison cannot shut out the natural world.

A teacher and family man incarcerated in Arizona State Prison—the result of a transgression that would cost him a dozen years of his life—Ken Lamberton can see beyond his desert walls. In essays that focus on the natural history of the region and on his own personal experiences with desert places, the author of the Burroughs Medal-winning book Wilderness and Razor Wire takes readers along as he revisits the Southwest he knew when he was free, and as he makes an inner journey toward self-awareness. Whether considering the seemingly eternal cacti or the desolate beauty of the Pinacate, he draws on sharp powers of observation to re-create what lies beyond his six-by-eight cell and to contemplate the thoughts that haunt his mind as tenaciously as the kissing bugs that haunt his sleep.

Ranging from prehistoric ruins on the Colorado Plateau to the shores of the Sea of Cortez, these writings were begun before Wilderness and Razor Wire and serve as a prequel to it. They seamlessly interweave natural and personal history as Lamberton explores caves, canyons, and dry ponds, evoking the mysteries and rhythms of desert life that elude even the most careful observers. He offers new ways of thinking about how we relate to the natural world, and about the links between those relationships and the ones we forge with other people. With the assurance of a gifted writer, he seeks to make sense of his own place in life, crafting words to come to terms with an insanity of his own making, to look inside himself and understand his passions and flaws.

Whether considering rattlesnakes of the hellish summer desert or the fellow inmates of his own personal hell, Lamberton finds meaningful connections—to his crime and his place, to the people who remained in his life and those who didn't. But what he reveals in Beyond Desert Walls ultimately arises from language itself: a deep, and perhaps even frightening, understanding of a singular human nature.

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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 Indigeneity

Coca Growing and the Emergence of a New Middle Class in Bolivia

Alessandra Pellegrini Calderón

In Bolivia, the discourse on indigenous peoples intensified in the last few decades, culminating in the election of Evo Morales as president in 2005. Indigenous people are portrayed by the Morales government as modest, communitarian, humble, poor, anticapitalist, and economically marginalized. In his 2006 inaugural speech, Morales famously described indigenous people as “the moral reserve of humanity.” His rhetoric has reached all levels of society—most notably the new political constitution of 2009. This constitution initiated a new regime of considerable ethnic character by defining thirty-six indigenous nations and languages.

Beyond Indigeneity offers new analysis into indigenous identity and social mobility that changes the discourse in Latin American social anthropology. Author Alessandra Pellegrini Calderón points out that Morales’s presidency has led to heightened publicity of coca issues and an intensification of indigeneity discourse, echoing a global trend of increased recognition of indigenous peoples’ claims. The “living well” attitude (vivir bien) enshrined in the new political constitution is generally represented as an indigenous way of life, one based on harmony and reciprocity, in sharp contrast to the capitalist logic of “living better” that is based on accumulation and expansion.

In this ethnography, Pellegrini explores the positioning of coca growers in Bolivia and their reluctance to embrace the politics of indigeneity by rejecting the “indigenous peoples’ slot,” even while they emerge as a new middle class. By staying in a space between ethnic categories and also between social classes, the coca growers break with the traditional model of social mobility in Latin America and create new forms of political positioning that challenge the dominant culturalist framework about indigeneity and peasants.

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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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Bisbee '17

Bisbee, Arizona, queen of the western copper camps, 1917. The protagonists in a bitter strike: the Wobblies (the IWW), the toughest union in the history of the West; and Harry Wheeler, the last of the two-gun sheriffs. In this class-war western, they face each other down in the streets of Bisbee, pitting a general strike against the largest posse ever assembled. Based on a true story, Bisbee '17 vividly re-creates a West of miners and copper magnates, bindlestiffs and scissorbills, army officers, private detectives, and determined revolutionaries. Against this backdrop runs the story of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, strike organizer from the East, caught between the worlds of her ex-husband—the Bisbee strike leader—and her new lover, an Italian anarchist from New York. As the tumultuous weeks of the strike unfold, she struggles to sort out what she really feels about both of them, and about the West itself.

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Bitter Water

Diné Oral Histories of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute

Edited and Translated by Malcolm D. Benally; Foreword by Jennifer Nez Denetdale

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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Bodies at War

Genealogies of Militarism in Chicana Literature and Culture

Belinda Linn Rincón

In the wake of U.S. military intervention abroad and collapsing domestic economies, scholars have turned their attention to neoliberalism and militarization, two ideological and material projects that are often treated as coincident, though not interdependent. Bodies at War examines neoliberal militarism, a term that signifies the complex ways in which neoliberalism and militarism interanimate each other as they naturalize dis/empowering notions of masculinity and femininity, alter democratic practices, and circumscribe the meaning of citizenship and national belonging.

Bodies at War examines the rise of neoliberal militarism from the early 1970s to the present and its transformation of political, economic, and social relations. It charts neoliberal militarism’s impact on democratic practices, economic policies, notions of citizenship, race relations, and gender norms by focusing on how these changes affect the Chicana/o community and, more specifically, on how it shapes and is shaped by Chicana bodies. The book raises important questions about the cultural legacies of war and the gendering of violence—topics that reach across multiple disciplinary fields of inquiry, including cultural and media studies. It draws attention to the relationship between war and society, to neoliberal militarism’s destructive social impact, and to the future of Latina soldiering. Through Chicana art, activism, and writing, Rincón offers a visionary foundation for an antiwar feminist politic.
 

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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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