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Social and political change is impossible in the absence of gifted male charismatic leadership—this is the fiction that shaped African American culture throughout the twentieth century. If we understand this, Erica R. Edwards tells us, we will better appreciate the dramatic variations within both the modern black freedom struggle and the black literary tradition.
By considering leaders such as Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Barack Obama as both historical personages and narrative inventions of contemporary American culture, Edwards brings to the study of black politics the tools of intertextual narrative analysis as well as deconstruction and close reading. Examining a number of literary restagings of black leadership in African American fiction by W. E. B. Du Bois, George Schuyler, Zora Neale Hurston, William Melvin Kelley, Paul Beatty, and Toni Morrison, Edwards demonstrates how African American literature has contested charisma as a structuring fiction of modern black politics.
Though recent scholarship has challenged top-down accounts of historical change, the presumption that history is made by gifted men continues to hold sway in American letters and life. This may be, Edwards shows us, because while charisma is a transformative historical phenomenon, it carries an even stronger seductive narrative power that obscures the people and methods that have created social and political shifts.
The Cloud Cult Story
“Cloud Cult’s grand, unkempt indie rock is at once jam band, emo, and avant-garde. Their songs, born out of personal tragedy, are otherworldly lessons in being human.” —Pitchfork During the past decade, Minnesota-grown band Cloud Cult has become one of the most inspirational indie bands, with a deeply devoted fan base and an approach to music and the environment that is hard not to admire. Beyond a musical biography, Chasing the Light tells the story of the heartbreaking yet affirming journey of lead singer and songwriter Craig Minowa and delves into the career of the band known by music lovers as the least cynical and most idealistic band in the country.
Tracing Cloud Cult’s rise to critical acclaim, author Mark Allister details the band’s defining moments, beginning with the death of Craig and Connie Minowa’s two-year-old son and the hundreds of songs that grew out of the tragic loss. Allister describes the band’s unique philosophy and principles, including how Minowa created a zero carbon footprint for the band’s recording and touring, adopting DIY and green-sustainable practices well before the ideas became mainstream. Allister also presents a first-person account of a day in the life of a quintessential indie band and conveys the immense emotional impact of Cloud Cult’s albums and live shows. Described by a fan in the book as “the anthem for the soul searcher in us all,” Cloud Cult’s music and message are both stirring and sincere.
Featuring rarely seen photos from Cloud Cult’s history and passionate testimonials by fans, Chasing the Light is a testament to the profound influence one band’s personal evolution can have on its followers and on indie rock aficionados in search of beauty, meaning, and redemption.
Gangs, Gangsta Rap, and Social Class
On September 4, 2012, Joseph Coleman, an eighteen-year-old aspiring gangsta rapper, was gunned down in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Police immediately began investigating the connections between Coleman’s murder and an online war of words and music he was having with another Chicago rapper in a rival gang. In Chicago Hustle and Flow, Geoff Harkness points out how common this type of incident can be when rap groups form as extensions of gangs. Gangs and rap music, he argues, can be a deadly combination.
Set in one of the largest underground music scenes in the nation, this book takes readers into the heart of gangsta rap culture in Chicago. From the electric buzz of nightclubs to the sights and sounds of bedroom recording studios, Harkness presents gripping accounts of the lives, beliefs, and ambitions of the gang members and rappers with whom he spent six years. A music genre obsessed with authenticity, gangsta rap promised those from crime-infested neighborhoods a ticket out of poverty. But while firsthand experiences with gangs and crime gave rappers a leg up, it also meant carrying weapons and traveling collectively for protection.
Street gangs serve as a fan base and provide protection to rappers who bring in income and help to recruit for the gang. In examining this symbiotic relationship, Chicago Hustle and Flow ultimately illustrates how class stratification creates and maintains inequalities, even at the level of a local rap-music scene.
Agency in Domestic Violence, Assisted Reproduction, and Sex Work
Mormonism and Race in Hawai’i
Christianity figured prominently in the imperial and colonial exploitation and dispossession of indigenous peoples worldwide, yet many indigenous people embrace Christian faith as part of their cultural and ethnic identities. A Chosen People, a Promised Land gets to the heart of this contradiction by exploring how Native Hawaiian members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (more commonly known as Mormons) understand and negotiate their place in this quintessentially American religion.
Mormon missionaries arrived in Hawai‘i in 1850, a mere twenty years after Joseph Smith founded the church. Hokulani K. Aikau traces how Native Hawaiians became integrated into the religious doctrine of the church as a “chosen people”—even at a time when exclusionary racial policies regarding black members of the church were being codified. Aikau shows how Hawaiians and other Polynesian saints came to be considered chosen and how they were able to use their venerated status toward their own spiritual, cultural, and pragmatic ends.
Using the words of Native Hawaiian Latter-Day Saints to illuminate the intersections of race, colonization, and religion, A Chosen People, a Promised Land examines Polynesian Mormon articulations of faith and identity within a larger political context of self-determination.
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.
The Films of Péter Forgács
Péter Forgács, based in Budapest, is best known for his award-winning films built on home movies from the 1930s to the 1960s that document ordinary lives soon to intersect with offscreen historical events. Cinema’s Alchemist offers a sustained exploration of the imagination and skill with which Forgács reshapes such film footage, originally intended for private and personal viewing, into extraordinary films dedicated to remembering the past in ways that matter for our future.
Contributors: Whitney Davis, U of California, Berkeley; László F. Földényi, U of Theatre, Film and Television, Budapest; Marsha Kinder, U of Southern California; Tamás Korányi; Scott MacDonald, Hamilton College; Tyrus Miller, U of California, Santa Cruz; Roger Odin, U of Paris III Sorbonne–Nouvelle; Catherine Portuges, U of Massachusetts Amherst; Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan U; Kaja Silverman, U of Pennsylvania; Ernst van Alphen, Leiden U, the Netherlands; Malin Wahlberg, Stockholm U.
Lesbianism and War in Early Twentieth-Century Britain
Disrupting Violence in Colombia
For two years, Clemencia Rodríguez did fieldwork in regions of Colombia where leftist guerillas, right-wing paramilitary groups, the army, and drug traffickers made their presence felt in the lives of unarmed civilians. Here, Rodríguez tells the story of the ways in which people living in the shadow of these armed intruders use community radio, television, video, digital photography, and the Internet to shield their communities from armed violence’s negative impacts.
Citizens’ media are most effective, Rodríguez posits, when they understand communication as performance rather than simply as persuasion or the transmission of information. Grassroots media that are deeply embedded in the communities they serve and responsive to local needs strengthen the ability of community members to productively react to violent incursions. Rodríguez demonstrates how citizens’ media privilege aspects of community life not hijacked by violence, providing people with the tools and the platform to forge lives for themselves and their families that are not entirely colonized by armed conflict and its effects.
Ultimately, Rodríguez shows that unarmed civilian communities that have been cornered by armed conflict can use community media to repair torn social fabrics, reconstruct eroded bonds, reclaim public spaces, resolve conflict, and sow the seeds of peace and stability.
Urbanism and Higher Education in Chicago