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Latinos, Asian Americans, and the Achievement Gap
Today the achievement gap is hotly debated among pundits, politicians, and educators. In particular this conversation often focuses on the two fastest-growing demographic groups in the United States: Asian Americans and Latinos. In Academic Profiling, Gilda L. Ochoa addresses this so-called gap by going directly to the source. At one California public high school where the controversy is lived every day, Ochoa turns to the students, teachers, and parents to learn about the very real disparities—in opportunity, status, treatment, and assumptions—that lead to more than just gaps in achievement.
In candid and at times heart-wrenching detail, the students tell stories of encouragement and neglect on their paths to graduation. Separated by unequal middle schools and curriculum tracking, they are divided by race, class, and gender. While those channeled into an International Baccalaureate Program boast about Socratic classes and stress-release sessions, students left out of such programs commonly describe uninspired teaching and inaccessible counseling. Students unequally labeled encounter differential policing and assumptions based on their abilities—disparities compounded by the growth in the private tutoring industry that favors the already economically privileged.
Despite the entrenched inequality in today’s schools, Academic Profiling finds hope in the many ways students and teachers are affirming identities, creating alternative spaces, and fostering critical consciousness. When Ochoa shares the results of her research with the high school, we see the new possibilities—and limits—of change.
Habits of Being I
Photography in Nineteenth-Century India
Afterimage of Empire provides a philosophical and historical account of early photography in India that focuses on how aesthetic experiments in colonial photography changed the nature of perception. Considering photographs from the Sepoy Revolt of 1857 along with landscape, portraiture, and famine photography, Zahid R. Chaudhary explores larger issues of truth, memory, and embodiment.
Chaudhary scrutinizes the colonial context to understand the production of sense itself, proposing a new theory of interpreting the historical difference of aesthetic forms. In rereading colonial photographic images, he shows how the histories of colonialism became aesthetically, mimetically, and perceptually generative. He suggests that photography arrived in India not only as a technology of the colonial state but also as an instrument that eventually extended and transformed sight for photographers and the body politic, both British and Indian.
Ultimately, Afterimage of Empire uncovers what the colonial history of the medium of photography can teach us about the making of the modern perceptual apparatus, the transformation of aesthetic experience, and the linkages between perception and meaning.
Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World
Against Ecological Sovereignty is a passionate defense of radical ecology that speaks directly to current debates concerning the nature, and dangers, of sovereign power. Engaging the work of Bataille, Arendt, Levinas, Nancy, and Agamben, among others, Mick Smith reconnects the political critique of sovereign power with ecological considerations, arguing that ethical and political responsibilities for the consequences of our actions do not end with those defined as human.
Against Ecological Sovereignty is the first book to turn Agamben’s analysis of sovereignty and biopolitics toward an investigation of ecological concerns. In doing so it exposes limits to that thought, maintaining that the increasingly widespread biopolitical management of human populations has an unrecognized ecological analogue—reducing nature to a “resource” for human projects. Smith contends that a radical ecological politics must resist both the depoliticizing exercise of sovereign power and the pervasive spread of biopolitics in order to reveal new possibilities for creating healthy human and nonhuman communities.
Presenting a stinging critique of human claims to sovereignty over the natural world, Smith proposes an alternative way to conceive of posthumanist ecological communities—one that recognizes the utter singularity of the beings in them.
Humanity has sat at the center of philosophical thinking for too long. The recent advent of environmental philosophy and posthuman studies has widened our scope of inquiry to include ecosystems, animals, and artificial intelligence. Yet the vast majority of the stuff in our universe, and even in our lives, remains beyond serious philosophical concern.
In Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, Ian Bogost develops an object-oriented ontology that puts things at the center of being—a philosophy in which nothing exists any more or less than anything else, in which humans are elements but not the sole or even primary elements of philosophical interest. And unlike experimental phenomenology or the philosophy of technology, Bogost’s alien phenomenology takes for granted that all beings interact with and perceive one another. This experience, however, withdraws from human comprehension and becomes accessible only through a speculative philosophy based on metaphor.
Providing a new approach for understanding the experience of things as things, Bogost also calls on philosophers to rethink their craft. Drawing on his own background as a videogame designer, Bogost encourages professional thinkers to become makers as well, engineers who construct things as much as they think and write about them.
Visions of Race, Death, and the Maternal
Narrating across Species Lines
Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan
In Anime’s Media Mix, Marc Steinberg convincingly shows that anime is far more than a style of Japanese animation. Beyond its immediate form of cartooning, anime is also a unique mode of cultural production and consumption that led to the phenomenon that is today called “media mix” in Japan and “convergence” in the West.
According to Steinberg, both anime and the media mix were ignited on January 1, 1963, when Astro Boy hit Japanese TV screens for the first time. Sponsored by a chocolate manufacturer with savvy marketing skills, Astro Boy quickly became a cultural icon in Japan. He was the poster boy (or, in his case, “sticker boy”) both for Meiji Seika’s chocolates and for what could happen when a goggle-eyed cartoon child fell into the eager clutches of creative marketers. It was only a short step, Steinberg makes clear, from Astro Boy to Pokémon and beyond.
Steinberg traces the cultural genealogy that spawned Astro Boy to the transformations of Japanese media culture that followed—and forward to the even more profound developments in global capitalism supported by the circulation of characters like Doraemon, Hello Kitty, and Suzumiya Haruhi. He details how convergence was sparked by anime, with its astoundingly broad merchandising of images and its franchising across media and commodities. He also explains, for the first time, how the rise of anime cannot be understood properly—historically, economically, and culturally—without grasping the integral role that the media mix played from the start. Engaging with film, animation, and media studies, as well as analyses of consumer culture and theories of capitalism, Steinberg offers the first sustained study of the Japanese mode of convergence that informs global media practices to this day.