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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.
Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American Tropics
What happens if we abandon the assumption that a person is a discrete, world-making agent who acts on and creates place? This, Monique Allewaert contends, is precisely what occurred on eighteenth-century American plantations, where labor practices and ecological particularities threatened the literal and conceptual boundaries that separated persons from the natural world.
Integrating political philosophy and ecocriticism with literary analysis, Ariel’s Ecology explores the forms of personhood that developed out of New World plantations, from Georgia and Florida through Jamaica to Haiti and extending into colonial metropoles such as Philadelphia. Allewaert’s examination of the writings of naturalists, novelists, and poets; the oral stories of Africans in the diaspora; and Afro-American fetish artifacts shows that persons in American plantation spaces were pulled into a web of environmental stresses, ranging from humidity to the demand for sugar. This in turn gave rise to modes of personhood explicitly attuned to human beings’ interrelation with nonhuman forces in a process we might call ecological.
Certainly the possibility that colonial life revokes human agency haunts works from Shakespeare’s Tempest and Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws to Spivak’s theories of subalternity. In Allewaert’s interpretation, the transformation of colonial subjectivity into ecological personhood is not a nightmare; it is, rather, a mode of existence until now only glimmering in Che Guevara’s dictum that postcolonial resistance is synonymous with “perfect knowledge of the ground.”
The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil
In Brazil and throughout the African diaspora, black women, especially poor black women, are rarely considered leaders of social movements let alone political theorists. But in the northeastern city of Salvador, Brazil, it is these very women who determine how urban policies are established. Focusing on the Gamboa de Baixo neighborhood in Salvador’s city center, Black Women against the Land Grab explores how black women’s views on development have radicalized local communities to demand justice and social change.
In Black Women against the Land Grab, Keisha-Khan Y. Perry describes the key role of local women activists in the citywide movement for land and housing rights. She reveals the importance of geographic location for understanding the gendered aspects of urban renewal and the formation of black women–led social movements. How have black women shaped the politics of urban redevelopment, Perry asks, and what does this kind of political intervention tell us about black women’s agency? Her work uncovers the ways in which political labor at the neighborhood level is central to the mass mobilization of black people against institutional racism and for citizenship rights and resources in Brazil.
Highlighting the political life of black communities, specifically those in urban contexts often represented as socially pathological and politically bankrupt, Black Women against the Land Grab offers a valuable corrective to how we think about politics and about black women, particularly poor black women, as a political force.
Pious Neoliberalism and Islamic Charity in Egypt
Charity is an economic act. This premise underlies a societal transformation—the merging of religious and capitalist impulses that Mona Atia calls “pious neoliberalism.” Though the phenomenon spans religious lines, Atia makes the connection between Islam and capitalism to examine the surprising relations between charity and the economy, the state, and religion in the transition from Mubarak-era Egypt.
Mapping the landscape of charity and development in Egypt, Building a House in Heaven reveals the factors that changed the nature of Egyptian charitable practices—the state’s intervention in social care and religion, an Islamic revival, intensified economic pressures on the poor, and the subsequent emergence of the private sector as a critical actor in development. She shows how, when individuals from Egypt’s private sector felt it necessary to address poverty, they sought to make Islamic charities work as engines of development, a practice that changed the function of charity from distributing goods to empowering the poor. Drawing on interviews with key players, Atia explores the geography of Islamic charities through multiple neighborhoods, ideologies, sources of funding, projects, and wide social networks. Her work shifts between absorbing ethnographic stories of specific organizations and reflections on the patterns that appear across the sector.
An enlightening look at the simultaneous neoliberalization of Islamic charity work and Islamization of neoliberal development, the book also offers an insightful analysis of the political and socioeconomic movements leading up to the uprisings that ended Mubarak’s rule and that amplified the importance of not only the Muslim Brotherhood but also the broader forces of Islamic piety and charity.
Vol. 14 (2007) through current issue
Buildings & Landscapes examines the built world-houses and cities, farmsteads and alleys—churches and courthouses, subdivisions and shopping malls—that make up the spaces that most people experience every day. Strongly based on fieldwork and archival work that views buildings as windows into human life and culture, articles are written by historians, preservationists, architects, cultural and urban geographers, cultural anthropologists, and others whose work involves the documentation, analysis and interpretation of the built world. Formerly titled Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, Buildings & Landscapes is presently an annual publication that will begin publishing two issues a year beginning in 2009.
The Triumph of Charlie Parker
Within days of Charlie “Bird” Parker’s death at the age of thirty-four, a scrawled legend began appearing on walls around New York City: Bird Lives. Gone was one of the most outstanding jazz musicians of any era, the troubled genius who brought modernism to jazz and became a defining cultural force for musicians, writers, and artists of every stripe. Arguably the most significant musician in the country at the time of his death, Parker set the standard many musicians strove to reach—though he never enjoyed the same popular success that greeted many of his imitators. Today, the power of Parker’s inventions resonates undiminished; and his influence continues to expand.
Celebrating Bird is the groundbreaking and award-winning account of the life and legend of Charlie Parker from renowned biographer and critic Gary Giddins, whom Esquire called “the best jazz writer in America today.” Richly illustrated and drawing primarily from original sources, Giddins overturns many of the myths that have grown up around Parker. He cuts a fascinating portrait of the period, from Parker’s apprentice days in the 1930s in his hometown of Kansas City to the often difficult years playing clubs in New York and Los Angeles, and reveals how Parker came to embody not only musical innovation and brilliance but the rage and exhilaration of an entire generation.
Fully revised and with a new introduction by the author, Celebrating Bird is a classic of jazz writing that the Village Voice heralded as “a celebration of the highest order”—a portrayal of a jazz virtuoso whose gargantuan talent was haunted by his excesses and a view into the ravishing art of one of jazz’s most commanding and remarkable figures.
Race and Technology in Early Cinema
The Cinema and Its Shadow argues that race has defined the cinematic apparatus since the earliest motion pictures, especially at times of technological transition. In particular, this work explores how racial difference became central to the resolving of cinematic problems: the stationary camera, narrative form, realism, the synchronization of image and sound, and, perhaps most fundamentally, the immaterial image—the cinema’s “shadow,” which figures both the material reality of the screen image and its racist past.
Discussing early “race subjects,” Alice Maurice demonstrates that these films influenced cinematic narrative in lasting ways by helping to determine the relation between stillness and motion, spectacle and narrative drive. The book examines how motion picture technology related to race, embodiment, and authenticity at specific junctures in cinema’s development, including the advent of narratives, feature films, and sound. In close readings of such films as The Cheat, Shadows, and Hallelujah!, Maurice reveals how the rhetoric of race repeatedly embodies film technology, endowing it with a powerful mix of authenticity and magic. In this way, the racialized subject became the perfect medium for showing off, shoring up, and reintroducing the cinematic apparatus at various points in the history of American film.
Moving beyond analyzing race in purely thematic or ideological terms, Maurice traces how it shaped the formal and technological means of the cinema.
Challenges for the New South Africa
When the past is painful, as riddled with violence and injustice as it is in postapartheid South Africa, remembrance presents a problem at once practical and ethical: how much of the past to preserve and recollect and how much to erase and forget if the new nation is to ever unify and move forward? The new South Africa’s confrontation of this dilemma is Martin J. Murray’s subject in Commemorating and Forgetting. More broadly, this book explores how collective memory works—how framing events, persons, and places worthy of recognition and honor entails a selective appropriation of the past, not a mastery of history.
How is the historical past made to appear in the present? In addressing these questions, Murray reveals how collective memory is stored and disseminated in architecture, statuary, monuments and memorials, literature, and art—“landscapes of remembrance” that selectively recall and even fabricate history in the service of nation-building. He examines such vehicles of memory in postapartheid South Africa and parses the stories they tell—stories by turn sanitized, distorted, embellished, and compressed. In this analysis, Commemorating and Forgetting marks a critical move toward recognizing how the legacies and impositions of white minority rule, far from being truly past, remain embedded in, intertwined with, and imprinted on the new nation’s here and now.
Stories of Medicine and Mourning from Southeast Asians in Exile
In conversation with emigrants from Laos and Cambodia, Jean M. Langford repeatedly met with spirits: the wandering souls of the seriously ill, dangerous ghosts of those who died by violence, restless ancestors displaced from their homes. For these emigrants, the dead not only appear in memories, safely ensconced in the past, but also erupt with a physical force into the daily life and dreams of the present.
Inspired by these conversations, Consoling Ghosts is a sustained contemplation of relationships with the dying and the dead. At their heart, as Langford’s work reveals, emigrants’ stories are parables not of cultural difference but rather of life and death. Langford inquires how and why spirits become implicated in remembering and responding to violence, whether the bloody violence of war or the more structural violence of social marginalization and poverty. What is at stake, she asks, when spirits break out of their usual confinement as symbolic figures for history, heritage, or trauma to haunt the corridors of hospitals and funeral homes? Emigrants’ theories and stories of ghosts, Langford suggests, inherently question the metaphorical status of spirits, in the process challenging both contemporary bioethics of dying and dominant styles of mourning. Consoling Ghosts explores the possibilities opened up by a more literal existence of ghosts, from the confrontation of shades of past violence through bodily ritual to rites of mourning that unfold in acts of material care for the dead instead of memorialization.
Ultimately the book invites us to consider alternate ways of facing death, conducting relationships with the dead and dying, and addressing the effects of violence that continue to reverberate in bodies and social worlds.
Architecture and Civil Society in Cuba, 1933-1959
How does architecture make its appearance in civil society? Constitutional Modernism pursues this challenging question by exploring architecture, planning, and law as cultural forces. Analyzing the complex entanglements between these disciplines in the Cuban Republic, Timothy Hyde reveals how architects joined with other professionals and intellectuals in efforts to establish a stable civil society, from the promulgation of a new Cuban Constitution in 1940 up until the Cuban Revolution.
By arguing that constitutionalism was elaborated through architectural principles and practices as well as legal ones, Hyde offers a new view of architectural modernism as a political and social instrument. He contends that constitutionalism produced a decisive confluence of law and architecture, a means for planning the future of Cuba. The importance of architecture in this process is laid bare by Hyde’s thorough scrutiny of a variety of textual, graphical, and physical artifacts. He examines constitutional articles, exhibitions, interviews, master plans, monuments, and other primary materials as acts of design.
Read from the perspective of architectural history, Constitutional Modernism demonstrates how the modernist concepts that developed as an international discourse before the Second World War evolved through interactions with other disciplines into a civil urbanism in Cuba. And read from the perspective of Cuban history, the book explains how not only material products such as buildings and monuments but also the immaterial methods of architecture as a cultural practice produced ideas that had consequential effects on the political circumstances of the nation.