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Race, Asthma, and the Contested Meaning of Genetic Research in the Caribbean
Steadily increasing numbers of Americans have been diagnosed with asthma in recent years, attracting the attention of biomedical researchers, including those searching for a genetic link to the disease. The high rate of asthma among African American children has made race significant to this search for genetic predisposition. One of the primary sites for this research today is Barbados. The Caribbean nation is considered optimal because of its predominantly black population. At the same time, the government of Barbados has promoted the country for such research in an attempt to take part in the biomedical future.
In Biomedical Ambiguity, Ian Whitmarsh describes how he followed a team of genetic researchers to Barbados, where he did fieldwork among not only the researchers but also government officials, medical professionals, and the families being tested. Whitmarsh reveals how state officials and medical professionals make the international biomedical research part of state care, bundling together categories of disease populations, biological race, and asthma. He points to state and industry perceptions of mothers as medical caretakers in genetic research that proves to be inextricable from contested practices around nation, race, and family.
The reader's attention is drawn to the ambiguity in these practices, as researchers turn the plurality of ethnic identities and illness meanings into a science of asthma and race at the same time that medical practitioners and families make the opaque science significant to patient experience. Whitmarsh shows that the contradictions introduced by this "misunderstanding" paradoxically enable the research to move forward.
Community Control, Affirmative Action, and the Construction Industry
Black Power at Work chronicles the history of direct action campaigns to open up the construction industry to black workers in the 1960s and 1970s. The book's case studies of local movements in Brooklyn, Newark, the Bay Area, Detroit, Chicago, and Seattle show how struggles against racism in the construction industry shaped the emergence of Black Power politics outside the U.S. South. In the process, "community control" of the construction industry-especially government War on Poverty and post-rebellion urban reconstruction projects- became central to community organizing for black economic self-determination and political autonomy.
The history of Black Power's community organizing tradition shines a light on more recent debates about job training and placement for unemployed, underemployed, and underrepresented workers. Politicians responded to Black Power protests at federal construction projects by creating modern affirmative action and minority set-aside programs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but these programs relied on "voluntary" compliance by contractors and unions, government enforcement was inadequate, and they were not connected to jobs programs. Forty years later, the struggle to have construction jobs serve as a pathway out of poverty for inner city residents remains an unfinished part of the struggle for racial justice and labor union reform in the United States.
Race in the Making of American Military Empire after World War II
By the end of World War II, many black citizens viewed service in the segregated American armed forces with distaste if not disgust. Meanwhile, domestic racism and Jim Crow, ongoing Asian struggles against European colonialism, and prewar calls for Afro-Asian solidarity had generated considerable black ambivalence toward American military expansion in the Pacific, in particular the impending occupation of Japan. However, over the following decade black military service enabled tens of thousands of African Americans to interact daily with Asian peoples-encounters on a scale impossible prior to 1945. It also encouraged African Americans to share many of the same racialized attitudes toward Asian peoples held by their white counterparts and to identify with their government's foreign policy objectives in Asia.
In Black Yanks in the Pacific, Michael Cullen Green tells the story of African American engagement with military service in occupied Japan, war-torn South Korea, and an emerging empire of bases anchored in those two nations. After World War II, African Americans largely embraced the socioeconomic opportunities afforded by service overseas-despite the maintenance of military segregation into the early 1950s-while strained Afro-Asian social relations in Japan and South Korea encouraged a sense of insurmountable difference from Asian peoples. By the time the Supreme Court declared de jure segregation unconstitutional in its landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, African American investment in overseas military expansion was largely secured. Although they were still subject to discrimination at home, many African Americans had come to distrust East Asian peoples and to accept the legitimacy of an expanding military empire abroad.
Fighting for Safe Workplaces and Healthy Communities
What do unions and environmental groups have to gain by working together and how do they overcome their differences? In Blue-Green Coalitions, Brian Mayer answers these questions by focusing on the role that health-related issues have played in creating a common ground between the two groups. By recognizing that the same toxics that cause workplace hazards escape into surrounding communities and the environment, workers and environmentalists are able to collaborate for the protection of all.
Mayer examines three contemporary cases of successful labor-environmental alliances to demonstrate how health and safety issues are used to create durable and politically influential social movement coalitions:
•Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, a coalition of environmental, labor, community, and public health organizations in Massachusetts that has developed a successful prevention-based approach to safe workplaces and a clean environment;
•the Work Environment Council in New Jersey, which succeeded in passing the first statewide right-to-know law and concentrates on protecting citizens from the dangerous toxics generated by the state's chemical industries;
•the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an organization that began in the 1980s fighting hazardous high-tech practices that were affecting the Valley residents and the high-tech industry's largely immigrant workforce.
In Mayer's ethnographic accounts of the challenging work of bringing these blue-green coalitions together, it becomes clear that stereotypes about environmentalists and workers are largely irrelevant when thinking about who is at risk of exposure to dangerous toxic substances. Both movements share a common concern for protecting their members' health from toxic hazards that are by-products of the modern industrial economy.
International NGOs in the United States, Britain, and France
In Borders among Activists, Sarah S. Stroup challenges the notion that political activism has gone beyond borders and created a global or transnational civil society. Instead, at the most globally active, purportedly cosmopolitan groups in the world-international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs)-organizational practices are deeply tied to national environments, creating great diversity in the way these groups organize themselves, engage in advocacy, and deliver services.
Stroup offers detailed profiles of these "varieties of activism" in the United States, Britain, and France. These three countries are the most popular bases for INGOs, but each provides a very different environment for charitable organizations due to differences in legal regulations, political opportunities, resources, and patterns of social networks. Stroup's comparisons of leading American, British, and French INGOs-Care, Oxfam, Médicins sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and FIDH-reveal strong national patterns in INGO practices, including advocacy, fund-raising, and professionalization. These differences are quite pronounced among INGOs in the humanitarian relief sector, and are observable, though less marked, among human rights INGOs.
Stroup finds that national origin helps account for variation in the "transnational advocacy networks" that have received so much attention in international relations. For practitioners, national origin offers an alternative explanation for the frequently lamented failures of INGOs in the field: INGOs are not inherently dysfunctional, but instead remain disconnected because of their strong roots in very different national environments.
Living and Losing the Good Life in Socialist Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia was unique among the communist countries of the Cold War era in its openness to mixing cultural elements from both socialism and capitalism. Unlike their counterparts in the nations of the Soviet Bloc, ordinary Yugoslavs enjoyed access to a wide range of consumer goods and services, from clothes and appliances to travel agencies and discotheques. From the mid-1950s onward the political climate in Yugoslavia permitted, and later at times encouraged, a consumerist lifestyle of shopping, spending, acquiring, and enjoying that engaged the public on a day-to-day basis through modern advertising and sales techniques. In Bought and Sold, Patrick Hyder Patterson reveals the extent to which socialist Yugoslavia embraced a consumer culture usually associated with capitalism and explores the role of consumerism in the federation's collapse into civil war in 1991.
Patterson argues, became a land where the symbolic, cultural value of consumer goods was a primary factor in individual and group identity. He shows how a new, aggressive business establishment promoted consumerist tendencies that ordinary citizens eagerly adopted, while the Communist leadership alternately encouraged and constrained the consumer orientation. Abundance translated into civic contentment and seemed to prove that the regime could provide goods and services equal to those of the capitalist West, but many Yugoslavs, both inside and outside the circles of official power, worried about the contradiction between the population's embrace of consumption and the dictates of Marxist ideology. The result was a heated public debate over creeping consumerist values, with the new way of life finding fierce critics and, surprisingly for a communist country, many passionate and vocal defenders.
Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay
Lively and well written, Bread and Circuses analyzes theories that have treated mass culture as either a symptom or a cause of social decadence. Discussing many of the most influential and representative theories of mass culture, it ranges widely from Greek and Roman origins, through Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Ortega y Gasset, T. S. Eliot, and the theorists of the Frankfurt Institute, down to Marshall McLuhan and Daniel Bell. Brantlinger considers the many versions of negative classicism and shows how the belief in the historical inevitability of social decay—a belief today perpetuated by the mass media themselves—has become the dominant view of mass culture in our time. While not defending mass culture in its present form, Brantlinger argues that the view of culture implicit in negative classicism obscures the question of how the media can best be used to help achieve freedom and enlightenment on a truly democratic basis.
The Culture of Illicit Liquor in Sri Lanka
"I'm going to break the ashes," yelled one daily drinker to another as their paths crossed early in the morning in the Sri Lankan village Michele Ruth Gamburd calls Naeaegama. The drinker's cryptic comment compared the warming power of alcohol-in the form of his first shot of kasippu, the local moonshine-with the rekindled heat of a kitchen fire. As the adverse effects of globalization have brought poverty to many areas of the world, more people, particularly men, have increased their use and abuse of alcohol. Despite Buddhist prohibitions against the consumption of mind-altering substances, men in Naeaegama are drinking more, at a younger age, and the number of problem drinkers has begun to grow.
In Breaking the Ashes, Gamburd explores the changing role of alcohol. Her account is populated with lively characters, many of whom Gamburd has known since visiting the village for the first time as a child. In wonderfully clear prose Gamburd offers readers an understanding of the cultural context for social and antisocial alcohol consumption, insight into everyday and ceremonial drinking in Naeaegama, and an overview of the production of illicit alcohol. Breaking the Ashes includes a discussion of the key economic aspects that fuel conflicts between husbands and wives, moonshine-makers and police. Addressing Western and indigenous ways to conceptualize and treat alcohol dependence, Gamburd explores the repercussions-at the family as well as the community level-of alcohol's abuse.
The Politics of Marital Strife in Late Imperial Russia
Russia's Great Reforms of 1861 were sweeping social and legal changes that aimed to modernize the country. In the following decades, rapid industrialization and urbanization profoundly transformed Russia's social, economic, and cultural landscape. Barbara Alpern Engel explores the personal, cultural, and political consequences of these dramatic changes, focusing on their impact on intimate life and expectations and the resulting challenges to the traditional, patriarchal family order, the cornerstone of Russia's authoritarian political and religious regime. The widely perceived "marriage crisis" had far-reaching legal, institutional, and political ramifications. In Breaking the Ties That Bound, Engel draws on exceptionally rich archival documentation-in particular, on petitions for marital separation and the materials generated by the ensuing investigations-to explore changing notions of marital relations, domesticity, childrearing, and intimate life among ordinary men and women in imperial Russia.
Engel illustrates with unparalleled vividness the human consequences of the marriage crisis. Her research reveals in myriad ways that the new and more individualistic values of the capitalist marketplace and commercial culture challenged traditional definitions of gender roles and encouraged the self-creation of new social identities. Engel captures the intimate experiences of women and men of the lower and middling classes in their own words, documenting instances not only of physical, mental, and emotional abuse but also of resistance and independence. These changes challenged Russia's rigid political order, forcing a range of state agents, up to and including those who spoke directly in the name of the tsar, to rethink traditional understandings of gender norms and family law. This remarkable social history is thus also a contribution to our understanding of the deepening political crisis of autocracy.