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Against Purity

Living Ethically in Compromised Times

Alexis Shotwell

The world is in a terrible mess. It is toxic, irradiated, and full of injustice. Aiming to stand aside from the mess can produce a seemingly satisfying self-righteousness in the scant moments we achieve it, but since it is ultimately impossible, individual purity will always disappoint. Might it be better to understand complexity, and, indeed, our own complicity in much of what we think of as bad, as fundamental to our lives? Against Purity argues that the only answer—if we are to have any hope of tackling the past, present and future of colonialism, disease, pollution, and climate change—is a resounding yes. Proposing a powerful new conception of social movements as custodians for the past and incubators for liberated futures, AgainstPurity undertakes an analysis that draws on theories of race, disability, gender, and animal ethics as a foundation for an innovative approach to the politics and ethics of responding to systemic problems.

Being against purity means that there is no primordial state we can recover, no Eden we have desecrated, no pretoxic body we might uncover through enough chia seeds and kombucha. There is no preracial state we could access, no erasing histories of slavery, forced labor, colonialism, genocide, and their concomitant responsibilities and requirements. There is no food we can eat, clothes we can buy, or energy we can use without deepening our ties to complex webbings of suffering. So, what happens if we start from there?

Alexis Shotwell shows the importance of critical memory practices to addressing the full implications of living on colonized land; how activism led to the official reclassification of AIDS; why we might worry about studying amphibians when we try to fight industrial contamination; and that we are all affected by nuclear reactor meltdowns. The slate has never been clean, she reminds us, and we can’t wipe off the surface to start fresh—there’s no fresh to start. But, Shotwell argues, there is hope to be found in a kind of distributed ethics, in collective activist work, and in speculative fiction writing for gender and disability liberation that opens new futures.

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Against The Romance Of Community

Miranda Joseph

Community is almost always invoked as an unequivocal good, an indicator of a high quality of life, caring, selflessness, belonging. Into this common portrayal, Against the Romance of Community introduces an uncommon note of caution, a penetrating, sorely needed sense of what, precisely, we are doing when we call upon this ideal. 

Miranda Joseph explores sites where the ideal of community relentlessly recurs, from debates over art and culture in the popular media, to the discourses and practices of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, to contemporary narratives of economic transformation or "globalization." She shows how community legitimates the social hierarchies of gender, race, nation, and sexuality that capitalism implicitly requires.

Joseph argues that social formations, including community, are constituted through the performativity of production. This strategy makes it possible to understand connections between identities and communities that would otherwise seem disconnected: gay consumers in the United States and Mexican maquiladora workers; Christian right "family values" and Asian "crony capitalism." Exposing the complicity of social practices, identities, and communities with capitalism, this truly constructive critique opens the possibility of genuine alliances across such differences.

 

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The Age of Lovecraft

Carl H. Sederholm

Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the American author of “weird tales” who died in 1937 impoverished and relatively unknown, has become a twenty-first-century star, cropping up in places both anticipated and unexpected. Authors, filmmakers, and shapers of popular culture like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Guillermo del Toro acknowledge his influence; his fiction is key to the work of posthuman philosophers and cultural critics such as Graham Harman and Eugene Thacker; and Lovecraft’s creations have achieved unprecedented cultural ubiquity, even showing up on the animated program South Park.

The Age of Lovecraft is the first sustained analysis of Lovecraft in relation to twenty-first-century critical theory and culture, delving into troubling aspects of his thought and writings. With contributions from scholars including Gothic expert David Punter, historian W. Scott Poole, musicologist Isabella van Elferen, and philosopher of the posthuman Patricia MacCormack, this wide-ranging volume brings together thinkers from an array of disciplines to consider Lovecraft’s contemporary cultural presence and its implications. Bookended by a preface from horror fiction luminary Ramsey Campbell and an extended interview with the central author of the New Weird, China Miéville, the collection addresses the question of “why Lovecraft, why now?” through a variety of approaches and angles.

A must for scholars, students, and theoretically inclined readers interested in Lovecraft, popular culture, and intellectual trends, The Age of Lovecraft offers the most thorough examination of Lovecraft’s place in contemporary philosophy and critical theory to date as it seeks to shed light on the larger phenomenon of the dominance of weird fiction in the twenty-first century.

Contributors: Jessica George; Brian Johnson, Carleton U; James Kneale, U College London; Patricia MacCormack, Anglia Ruskin U, Cambridge; Jed Mayer, SUNY New Paltz; China Miéville, Warwick U; W. Scott Poole, College of Charleston; David Punter, U of Bristol; David Simmons, Northampton U; Isabella van Elferen, Kingston U London.


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Aging in Minnesota

Arnold Rose

Aging in Minnesota was first published in 1963.With a higher than average proportion of elderly citizens, Minnesota is in the forefront of social action on their behalf. This book presents a comprehensive survey of the elderly in that state and a detailed description of efforts to meet their problems.The book begins with a brief history of the state’s attention to the problems of old people. It then describes the range of activities which were stimulated in 1959-1961 by preparations for the White House Conference on Aging and, in later chapters, reports some of these activities in greater detail. The major innovating action program was a community organization effort to help the citizens of five rural counties undertake activities to improve the conditions of the aging in their area. This social experiment is reported in full. A wealth of data about the characteristics of old people, valuable for any future planning in this field, is presented in statistical fashion. The data were obtained through a complication of state government office records and through sample interviews with old persons. The statistical studies are illuminated by the final, interpretive chapters. In on, an 80-year-old writer, Aldena Carlson Thomason, tells what it is like to grow old. In the other, Arnold M. Rose and Bernard E. Nash define the problems facing older people, predict what the future will bring, and suggest what further social action is needed.

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Agitating Images

Photography against History in Indigenous Siberia

Craig Campbell

Following the socialist revolution, a colossal shift in everyday realities began in the 1920s and ’30s in the former Russian empire. Faced with the Siberian North, a vast territory considered culturally and technologically backward by the revolutionary government, the Soviets confidently undertook the project of reshaping the ordinary lives of the indigenous peoples in order to fold them into the Soviet state. In Agitating Images, Craig Campbell draws a rich and unsettling cultural portrait of the encounter between indigenous Siberians and Russian communists and reveals how photographs from this period complicate our understanding of this history.

Agitating Images provides a glimpse into the first moments of cultural engineering in remote areas of Soviet Siberia. The territories were perceived by outsiders to be on the margins of civilization, replete with shamanic rituals and inhabited by exiles, criminals, and “primitive” indigenous peoples. The Soviets hoped to permanently transform the mythologized landscape by establishing socialist utopian developments designed to incorporate minority cultures into the communist state. This book delves deep into photographic archives from these Soviet programs, but rather than using the photographs to complement an official history, Campbell presents them as anti-illustrations, or intrusions, that confound simple narratives of Soviet bureaucracy and power. Meant to agitate, these images offer critiques that cannot be explained in text alone and, in turn, put into question the nature of photographs as historical artifacts.

An innovative approach to challenging historical interpretation, Agitating Images demonstrates how photographs go against accepted premises of Soviet Siberia. All photographs, Campbell argues, communicate in unique ways that present new and even contrary possibilities to the text they illustrate. Ultimately, Agitating Images dissects our very understanding of the production of historical knowledge.

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The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada

A Survey Showing American Parallels

Paul Sharp

The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada was first published in 1948. A revised edition appeared in 1997. In the 1940s, two American graduate students travelled to the prairie provinces to research Canadian farm movements. One was Seymour Martin Lipset and the other was Paul F. Sharp. Subsequently, their revised dissertations were published as books. Lipset’s Agrarian Socialism (1950), a sociological study of Saskatchewan’s Cooperative Commonwealth (CCF), is the better known of the two and has remained the point of departure for scholarship on the CCF ever since. Though not as frequently cited, Sharp’s Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada is the standard work on its topic as well. It explores the history of agrarian insurgency in the prairie provinces from the turn of the century until the Depression of the 1930s. From Sharp’s perspective, his work outlined the background of both Alberta’s Social Credit and Saskatchewan’s CCF. What made it provocative at the time was its emphasis upon American influences in these earlier movements. Virtually all reviewers acknowledged its contribution, and W. L. Morton offered a particularly enthusiastic assessment of its merits. The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada provides an essential understanding of the development of agrarian movements in the prairie provinces, and a very useful perspective on such efforts south of the forty-ninth parallel.In honour of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada, the Canadian Plains Research Center is pleased to make this seminal study available once more to students of both the Canadian and American farm movements. New introductions by Professors William Pratt (University of Nebraska, Omaha) and Lorne Brown (University of Regina) examine Sharp’s legacy from a contemporary American and Canadian perspective respectively.

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Agricultural Research Policy

Vernon Ruttan

Agricultural Research Policy was first published in 1982.The ability to develop and manage an agricultural technology appropriate to a nation’s physical and cultural endowments is the single most important variable in achieving an increase in productivity.In this book on issues of agricultural research policy, Vernon W. Ruttan, a former economist with wide experience in agricultural development, addresses the problem of how to maximize gains by rethinking the organization and goals of global, national, and local systems of agricultural research. Ruttan asserts that an effective research institution must relate its goals to the particular economic and political environment in which it operates and discusses the ethical and social consequences of technological change. He then reviews the criticisms that have been leveled against agricultural development and attempts to provide research scientists and managers a larger context within which to make responsible decisions.Agricultural Research Policy will be a valuable sourcebook for all involved in agricultural research: institute directors, officers of ministries, agencies, and foundations which fund research, and students in agricultural research administration. Elmer Kiehl, Executive Director of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, says the book “will serve as a basic guideline for any country embarking on strengthening its capability.”

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Agriculture, Environment, and Health

Sustainable Development in the 21st Century

Vernon Ruttan

Agriculture, Environment, and Health offers a broad and challenging analysis of changes now under way at the global level in institutional design and policy reform that ultimately will promote sustainable growth in agricultural production.  Internationally known contributors from the agricultural, health, environmental, and social sciences argue that an interdisciplinary approach is essential to dealing with this global problem.  Particular attention is given to the institutions that conduct research and implement changes in technology and practice in the fields of agriculture and health as well as institutions that monitor the changes in resource endowments, the quality of the environment, and the health of productivity of the human resources employed in agricultural production.

Sustainable development, say the contributors - including Douglass C. North, Carl K. Eicher, and Godfrey Gunatilleke - will be achieved only if knowledge from separate areas is effectively communicated and integrated into the basis of all research conclusions and directives.  Agriculture, Environment, and Health contributes to the productive building of bridges  between research efforts across the fields of health, environment, and agriculture.


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Airport Urbanism

Infrastructure and Mobility in Asia

Max Hirsh

Thirty years ago, few residents of Asian cities had ever been on a plane, much less outside their home countries. Today, flying, and flying abroad, is commonplace. How has this leap in cross-border mobility affected the design and use of such cities? And how is it accelerating broader socioeconomic and political changes in Asian societies?

In Airport Urbanism, Max Hirsh undertakes an unprecedented study of airport infrastructure in five Asian cities—Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. Through this lens he examines the exponential increase in international air traffic and its implications for the planning and design of the contemporary city. By investigating the low-cost, informal, and transborder transport systems used by new members of the flying public—such as migrant workers, retirees, and Asia’s emerging middle class—he uncovers an architecture of incipient global mobility that has been inconspicuously inserted into places not typically associated with the infrastructure of international air travel.

Drawing on material gathered in restricted zones of airports and border control facilities, Hirsh provides a fascinating, up-close view of the mechanics of cross-border mobility. Moreover, his personal experience of growing up and living on three continents inflects his analyses with unique insight into the practicalities of international migration and into the mindset of people on the move.

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Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing

Ian Bogost

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.

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