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Blaming the Poor

The Long Shadow of the Moynihan Report on Cruel Images about Poverty

Susan D. Greenbaum

In 1965, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan—then a high-ranking official in the Department of Labor—sparked a firestorm when he released his report “The Negro Family,” which came to be regarded by both supporters and detractors as an indictment of African American culture. Blaming the Poor examines the regrettably durable impact of the Moynihan Report for race relations and social policy in America, challenging the humiliating image the report cast on poor black families and its misleading explanation of the causes of poverty.
 
A leading authority on poverty and racism in the United States, Susan D. Greenbaum dismantles Moynihan’s main thesis—that the so called matriarchal structure of the African American family “feminized” black men, making them inadequate workers and absent fathers, and resulting in what he called a tangle of pathology that led to a host of ills, from teen pregnancy to adult crime. Drawing on extensive scholarship, Greenbaum highlights the flaws in Moynihan’s analysis. She reveals how his questionable ideas have been used to redirect blame for substandard schools, low wages, and the scarcity of jobs away from the societal forces that cause these problems, while simultaneously reinforcing stereotypes about African Americans. Greenbaum also critiques current policy issues that are directly affected by the tangle of pathology mindset—the demonization and destruction of public housing; the criminalization of black youth; and the continued humiliation of the poor by entrepreneurs who become rich consulting to teachers, non-profits, and social service personnel.  
 
A half century later, Moynihan’s thesis remains for many a convenient justification for punitive measures and stingy indifference to the poor. Blaming the Poor debunks this infamous thesis, proposing instead more productive and humane policies to address the enormous problems facing us today.
 

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Blues Music in the Sixties

A Story in Black and White

Ulrich Adelt

In the 1960s, within the larger context of the civil rights movement and the burgeoning counterculture, the blues changed from black to white in its production and reception, as audiences became increasingly white. Yet, while this was happening, blackness-especially black masculinity-remained a marker of authenticity. Blues Music in the Sixties discusses these developments, including the international aspects of the blues. It highlights the performers and venues that represented changing racial politics and addresses the impact and involvement of audiences and cultural brokers.

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Bodies in Crisis

Culture, Violence, and Women's Resistance in Neoliberal Argentina

Barbara Sutton

Born and raised in Argentina and still maintaining significant ties to the area, Barbara Sutton examines the complex, and often hidden, bodily worlds of diverse women in that country during a period of profound social upheaval. Based primarily on women's experiential narratives and set against the backdrop of a severe economic crisis and intensified social movement activism post-2001, Bodies in Crisis illuminates how multiple forms of injustice converge in and are contested through women's bodies. Sutton reveals the bodily scars of neoliberal globalization; women's negotiation of cultural norms of femininity and beauty; experiences with clandestine, illegal, and unsafe abortions; exposure to and resistance against interpersonal and structural violence; and the role of bodies as tools and vehicles of political action.


Through the lens of women's body consciousness in a Global South country, and drawing on multifaceted stories and a politically embedded approach, Bodies in Crisis suggests that social policy, economic systems, cultural ideologies, and political resistance are ultimately fleshly matters.

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Body Double

The Author Incarnate in the Cinema

Lucy Fischer

Body Double explores the myriad ways that film artists have represented the creative process. In this highly innovative work, Lucy Fischer draws on a neglected element of auteur studies to show that filmmakers frequently raise questions about the paradoxes of authorship by portraying  the onscreen writer. Dealing with such varied topics as the icon of the typewriter, the case of the writer/director, the authoress, and the omnipresent infirm author, she probes the ways in which films can tell a plausible story while contemplating the conditions and theories of their making.

            By examining many forms of cinema, from Hollywood and the international art cinema to the avant-garde, Fischer considers the gender, age, and mental or physical health of fictionalized writers; the dramatized interaction between artists and their audiences and critics; and the formal play of written words and nonverbal images.

            By analyzing such movies as Adaptation, Diary of a Country Priest, Naked Lunch, American Splendor, and Irezumi, Fischer tracks the parallels between film author and character, looking not for the creative figure who stands outside the text, but for the one who stands within it as corporeal presence and alter-ego.

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Body Evidence

Intimate Violence against South Asian Women in America

Edited by Shamita Das Dasgupta

When South Asians immigrated to the United States in great numbers in the 1970s, they were passionately driven to achieve economic stability and socialize the next generation to retain the traditions of their home culture. During these years, the immigrant community went to great lengths to project an impeccable public image by denying the existence of social problems such as domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, mental illness, racism, and intergenerational conflict. It was not until recently that activist groups have worked to bring these issues out into the open. In Body Evidence, more than twenty scholars and public health professionals uncover the unique challenges faced by victims of violence in intimate spaces . . . within families, communities and trusted relationships in South Asian American communities. Topics include cultural obsession with women's chastity and virginity; the continued silence surrounding intimate violence among women who identify themselves as lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; the consequences of refusing marriage proposals or failing to meet dowry demands; and, ultimately, the ways in which the United States courts often confuse and exacerbate the plights of these women.

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Borderlands Saints

Secular Sanctity in Chicano/a and Mexican Culture

by Desirée A. Martín

In Borderlands Saints, Desirée A. Martín examines the rise and fall of popular saints and saint-like figures in the borderlands of the United States and Mexico. Focusing specifically on Teresa Urrea (La Santa de Cabora), Pancho Villa, César Chávez, Subcomandante Marcos, and Santa Muerte, she traces the intersections of these figures, their devotees, artistic representations, and dominant institutions with an eye for the ways in which such unofficial saints mirror traditional spiritual practices and serve specific cultural needs.Popular spirituality of this kind engages the use and exchange of relics, faith healing, pilgrimages, and spirit possession, exemplifying the contradictions between high and popular culture, human and divine, and secular and sacred. Martín focuses upon a wide range of Mexican and Chicano/a cultural works drawn from the nineteenth century to the present, covering such diverse genres as the novel, the communiqué, drama, the essay or crónica, film, and contemporary digital media. She argues that spiritual practice is often represented as narrative, while narrative—whether literary, historical, visual, or oral—may modify or even function as devotional practice.

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Borrowed Voices

Writing and Racial Ventriloquism in the Jewish American Imagination

Jennifer Glaser

In the decades following World War II, many American Jews sought to downplay their difference, as a means of assimilating into Middle America. Yet a significant minority, including many prominent Jewish writers and intellectuals, clung to their ethnic difference, using it to register dissent with the status quo and act as spokespeople for non-white America. In this provocative book, Jennifer Glaser examines how racial ventriloquism became a hallmark of Jewish-American fiction, as Jewish writers asserted that their own ethnicity enabled them to speak for other minorities. Rather than simply condemning this racial ventriloquism as a form of cultural appropriation or commending it as an act of empathic imagination, Borrowed Voices offers a nuanced analysis of the technique, judiciously assessing both its limitations and its potential benefits. Glaser considers how the practice of racial ventriloquism has changed over time, examining the books of many well-known writers, including Bernard Malamud, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, Saul Bellow, and many others. Bringing Jewish studies into conversation with critical race theory, Glaser also opens up a dialogue between Jewish-American literature and other forms of media, including films, magazines, and graphic novels. Moreover, she demonstrates how Jewish-American fiction can help us understand the larger anxieties about ethnic identity, authenticity, and authorial voice that emerged in the wake of the civil rights movement.

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Breeding Contempt

The History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States

Mark A. Largent

Most closely associated today with the Nazis and World War II atrocities, eugenics is sometimes described as a government-orchestrated breeding program, other times as a pseudo-science, and often as the first step leading to genocide. Less frequently is it depicted as a movement having links to the United States. But eugenics does have a history in this country, and Mark Largent tells that story by exploring one of the most disturbing aspects, the compulsory asterilization of more than 64,000 Americans.

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The Bridges of New Jersey

Portraits of Garden State Crossings

Steven M. Richman

New Jersey is sandwiched between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers, with the Raritan, Passaic, and Navesink cutting swaths across it. In spite of the state's relatively small size, over six thousand bridges span its varied landscape. They traverse rivers, streams, railroads, and roadways. Several dozen bridges cut across the Delaware River alone, carrying pedestrian, vehicular, and railroad traffic. Three connect the state to Staten Island. Some are steeped in history, dating back to the colonial era and the Revolutionary war. Others are recognized worldwide for their size or significance in the annals of engineering.

In The Bridges of New Jersey, Steven M. Richman provides a rare photographic and poetic journey across sixty of the state's bridges, ranging from impressive suspension spans such as the Ben Franklin and George Washington Bridges, to the small wrought iron and stone bridges that are cherished by local citizens. The book provides a rich diversity of stories that place the bridges in the context of New Jersey history and culture. Richman also explores the contribution New Jersey bridges have made to engineering-some of the most prominent engineers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries either lived or established businesses in the Garden State or designed its bridges.

Lavishly illustrated with over seventy photographs, this book is much more than a documentary survey. It is a visual portrait that beautifully captures the metaphoric significance and aesthetic pleasures of New Jersey's bridges, and indeed all bridges. Perhaps more than any other structure built by humans, bridges typify progress and they give us a sense of connectedness. The Bridges of New Jersey provides a compelling visual demonstration of these symbolic functions, as well as their practical purposes and engineering accomplishments.

 

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Broadcasting Birth Control

Mass Media and Family Planning

Manon Parry

Traditionally, the history of the birth control movement has been told through the accounts of the leaders, organizations, and legislation that shaped the campaign. Recently, historians have begun examining the cultural work of printed media, including newspapers, magazines, and even novels in fostering support for the cause. Broadcasting Birth Control builds on this new scholarship to explore the films and radio and television broadcasts developed by twentieth-century birth control advocates to promote family planning at home in the United States, and in the expanding international arena of population control.

Mass media, Manon Parry contends, was critical to the birth control movement’s attempts to build support and later to publicize the idea of fertility control and the availability of contraceptive services in the United States and around the world. Though these public efforts in advertising and education were undertaken initially by leading advocates, including Margaret Sanger, increasingly a growing class of public communications experts took on the role, mimicking the efforts of commercial advertisers to promote health and contraception in short plays, cartoons, films, and soap operas. In this way, they made a private subject—fertility control—appropriate for public discussion.

Parry examines these trends to shed light on the contested nature of the motivations of birth control advocates. Acknowledging that supporters of contraception were not always motivated by the best interests of individual women, Parry concludes that family planning advocates were nonetheless convinced of women’s desire for contraception and highly aware of the ethical issues involved in the use of the media to inform and persuade.

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