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A Quadrant Book

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Lifeblood

Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital

Matthew T. Huber

If our oil addiction is so bad for us, why don’t we kick the habit? Looking beyond the usual culprits—Big Oil, petro-states, and the strategists of empire—Lifeblood finds a deeper and more complex explanation in everyday practices of oil consumption in American culture. Those practices, Matthew T. Huber suggests, have in fact been instrumental in shaping the broader cultural politics of American capitalism.

How did gasoline and countless other petroleum products become so central to our notions of the American way of life? Huber traces the answer from the 1930s through the oil shocks of the 1970s to our present predicament, revealing that oil’s role in defining popular culture extends far beyond material connections between oil, suburbia, and automobility. He shows how oil powered a cultural politics of entrepreneurial life—the very American idea that life itself is a product of individual entrepreneurial capacities. In so doing he uses oil to retell American political history from the triumph of New Deal liberalism to the rise of the New Right, from oil’s celebration as the lifeblood of postwar capitalism to increasing anxieties over oil addiction.

Lifeblood rethinks debates surrounding energy and capitalism, neoliberalism and nature, and the importance of suburbanization in the rightward shift in American politics. Today, Huber tells us, as crises attributable to oil intensify, a populist clamoring for cheap energy has less to do with American excess than with the eroding conditions of life under neoliberalism.

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Made to Hear

Cochlear Implants and Raising Deaf Children

Laura Mauldin

A mother whose child has had a cochlear implant tells Laura Mauldin why enrollment in the sign language program at her daughter’s school is plummeting: “The majority of parents want their kids to talk.” Some parents, however, feel very differently, because “curing” deafness with cochlear implants is uncertain, difficult, and freighted with judgment about what is normal, acceptable, and right. Made to Hear sensitively and thoroughly considers the structure and culture of the systems we have built to make deaf children hear.

Based on accounts of and interviews with families who adopt the cochlear implant for their deaf children, this book describes the experiences of mothers as they navigate the health care system, their interactions with the professionals who work with them, and the influence of neuroscience on the process. Though Mauldin explains the politics surrounding the issue, her focus is not on the controversy of whether to have a cochlear implant but on the long-term, multiyear undertaking of implantation. Her study provides a nuanced view of a social context in which science, technology, and medicine are trusted to vanquish disability—and in which mothers are expected to use these tools. Made to Hear reveals that implantation has the central goal of controlling the development of the deaf child’s brain by boosting synapses for spoken language and inhibiting those for sign language, placing the politics of neuroscience front and center.

Examining the consequences of cochlear implant technology for professionals and parents of deaf children, Made to Hear shows how certain neuroscientific claims about neuroplasticity, deafness, and language are deployed to encourage compliance with medical technology.


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More Than Shelter

Activism and Community in San Francisco Public Housing

Amy L. Howard


In the popular imagination, public housing tenants are considered, at best, victims of intractable poverty and, at worst, criminals. More Than Shelter makes clear that such limited perspectives do not capture the rich reality of tenants’ active engagement in shaping public housing into communities. By looking closely at three public housing projects in San Francisco, Amy L. Howard brings to light the dramatic measures tenants have taken to create—and sustain and strengthen—communities that mattered to them.

More Than Shelter opens with the tumultuous institutional history of the San Francisco Housing Authority, from its inception during the New Deal era, through its repeated leadership failures, to its attempts to boost its credibility in the 1990s. Howard then turns to Valencia Gardens in the Mission District; built in 1943, the project became a perpetually contested and embattled space. Within that space, tenants came together in what Howard calls affective activism—activism focused on intentional relationships and community building that served to fortify residents in the face of shared challenges. Such activism also fueled cross-sector coalition building at Ping Yuen in Chinatown, bringing tenants and organizations together to advocate for and improve public housing. The account of their experience breaks new ground in highlighting the diversity of public housing in more ways than one. The experience of North Beach Place in turn raises questions about the politics of development and redevelopment, in this case, Howard examines activism across generations—first by African Americans seeking to desegregate public housing, then by cross-racial and cross-ethnic tenant groups mobilizing to maintain public housing in the shadow of gentrification.

Taken together, the stories Howard tells challenge assumptions about public housing and its tenants—and make way for a broader, more productive and inclusive vision of the public housing program in the United States.

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The Nature of the Path

Reading a West African Road

Marcus Filippello

The Nature of the Path reveals how a single road has shaped the collective identity of a community that has existed on the margins of larger societies for centuries. Marcus Filippello shows how a road running through the Lama Valley in Southeastern Benin has become a mnemonic device that has allowed residents to counter prevailing histories. 

Built by the French colonial government, and following a traditional pathway, the road serves as a site where the Ọhọri  people narrate their changing relationship to the environment and assert their independence in the political milieus of colonial and postcolonial Africa. Filippello first visited the Yorùbá-speaking Ọhọri community in Benin knowing only the history in archival records. Over several years, he interviewed more than 100 people with family roots in the valley and discovered that their personal identities were closely tied to the community, which in turn was inextricably linked to the history of the road that snakes through the region’s seasonal wetlands. The road—contested, welcomed, and obstructed over many years—passes through fertile farmlands and sacred forests, both rich in meaning for residents.

Filippello’s research seeks to counter prevailing notions of Africa as an “exotic” and pristine, yet contrarily war-torn, disease-ridden, environmentally challenged, and impoverished continent. His informants’ vivid construction of history through the prism of the road, coupled with his own archival research, offers new insights into Africans’ complex understandings of autonomy, identity, and engagement in the slow process we call modernization.  

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Rebirth of the Clinic

Places and Agents in Contemporary Health Care

Cindy Patton

From physical location to payment processes to expectations of both patients and caregivers, nearly everything surrounding the contemporary medical clinic's central activity has changed since Michel Foucualt's Birth of the Clinic. Indebted to that work, but recognizing the gap between what the modern clinic hoped to be and what it has become, Rebirth of the Clinic explores medical practices that shed light on the fraught relationship between medical systems, practitioners, and patients.

Combining theory, history, and ethnography, the contributors to this volume ground today's clinic in a larger scheme of power relations, identifying the cultural, political, and economic pressures that frame clinical relationships, including the instrumentalist definition of health, actuarial-based medical practices, and patient self-help movements, which simultaneously hem in and create the conditions under which agents creatively change ideas of illness and treatment.

From threatened community health centers in poor African American locales to innovative nursing practices among the marginally housed citizens of Canada's poorest urban neighborhood, this volume addresses not just the who, what, where, and how of place-specific clinical practices, but also sets these local experiences against a theoretical backdrop that links them to the power of modern medicine in shaping fundamental life experiences.
 
Contributors: Christine Ceci, U of Alberta; Lisa Diedrich, Stony Brook U; Suzanne Fraser, Monash U; John Liesch, Simon Fraser U; Jenna Loyd, CUNY; Annemarie Mol, U of Amsterdam; Mary Ellen Purkis, U of Victoria.

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Removing Mountains

Extracting Nature and Identity in the Appalachian Coalfields

Rebecca R. Scott

A coal mining technique practiced in southern West Virginia known as mountaintop removal is drastically altering the terrain of the Appalachian Mountains. Peaks are flattened and valleys are filled as the coal industry levels thousands of acres of forest to access the coal, in the process turning the forest into scrubby shrublands and poisoning the water. This is dangerous and environmentally devastating work, but as Rebecca R. Scott shows in Removing Mountains, the issues at play are vastly complicated.

In this rich ethnography of life in Appalachia, Scott examines mountaintop removal in light of controversy and protests from environmental groups calling for its abolishment. But Removing Mountains takes the conversation in a new direction, telling the stories of the businesspeople, miners, and families who believe they depend on the industry to survive. Scott reveals these southern Appalachian coalfields as a meaningful landscape where everyday practices and representations help shape a community's relationship to the environment.

Removing Mountains demonstrates that the paradox that faces this community-forced to destroy their land to make a wage-raises important questions related not only to the environment but also to American national identity, place, and white working-class masculinity.

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Restaurant Republic

The Rise of Public Dining in Boston

Kelly Erby

Before the 1820s, the vast majority of Americans ate only at home. As the nation began to urbanize and industrialize, home and work became increasingly divided, resulting in new forms of commercial dining.

In this fascinating book, Kelly Erby explores the evolution of such eating alternatives in Boston over the nineteenth century. Why Boston? Its more modest assortment of restaurants, its less impressive—but still significant—expansion in commerce and population, and its growing diversity made it more typical of the nation’s other urban centers than New York. Restaurants, clearly segmented along class, gender, race, ethnic, and other lines, helped Bostonians become more comfortable with deepening social stratification in their city and young republic even as the experience of eating out contributed to an emerging public consumer culture.

Restaurant Republic sheds light on how commercial dining both reflected and helped shape growing fragmentation along lines of race, class, and gender—from the elite Tremont House, which served fashionable French cuisine, to such plebian and ethnic venues as oyster saloons and Chinese chop suey houses. The epilogue takes us to the opening, in 1929, near Boston, of the nation’s first Howard Johnson’s, and that restaurant’s establishment as a franchise in the next decade. The result is a compelling story that continues to shape America.

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Seizing Jerusalem

The Architectures of Unilateral Unification

Alona Nitzan-Shiftan

After seizing Jerusalem’s eastern precincts from Jordan at the conclusion of the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel unilaterally unified the city and plunged into an ambitious building program, eager to transform the very meaning of one of the world’s most emotionally charged urban spaces. The goal was as simple as it was controversial: to both Judaize and modernize Jerusalem. 

Seizing Jerusalem, the first architectural history of “united Jerusalem,” chronicles how numerous disciplines, including architecture, landscape design, and urban planning, as well as everyone from municipal politicians to state bureaucrats, from Israeli-born architects to international luminaries such as Louis Kahn, Buckminster Fuller, and Bruno Zevi, competed to create Jerusalem’s new image. This decade-long competition happened with the Palestinian residents still living in the city, even as the new image was inspired by the city’s Arab legacy. The politics of space in the Holy City, still contested today, were shaped in this post-1967 decade not only by the legacy of the war and the politics of dispossession, but curiously also by emerging trends in postwar architectural culture.

Drawing on previously unexamined archival documents and in-depth interviews with architects, planners, and politicians, Alona Nitzan-Shiftan analyzes the cultural politics of the Israeli state and, in particular, of Jerusalem’s influential mayor, Teddy Kollek, whose efforts to legitimate Israeli rule over Jerusalem provided architects a unique, real-world laboratory to explore the possibilities and limits of modernist design—as built form as well as political and social action. Seizing Jerusalem reveals architecture as an active agent in the formation of urban and national identity, and demonstrates how contemporary debates about Zionism, and the crisis within the discipline of architecture over postwar modernism, affected Jerusalem’s built environment in ways that continue to resonate today.

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The Slumbering Masses

Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life

Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer

Americans spend billions of dollars every year on drugs, therapy, and other remedies trying to get a good night’s sleep. Anxieties about not getting enough sleep and the impact of sleeplessness on productivity, health, and happiness pervade medical opinion, the workplace, and popular culture. In The Slumbering Masses, Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer addresses the phenomenon of sleep and sleeplessness in the United States, tracing the influence of medicine and industrial capitalism on the sleeping habits of Americans from the nineteenth century to the present.

Before the introduction of factory shift work, Americans enjoyed a range of sleeping practices, most commonly two nightly periods of rest supplemented by daytime naps. The new sleeping regimen—eight uninterrupted hours of sleep at night—led to the pathologization of other ways of sleeping. Arguing that the current model of sleep is rooted not in biology but in industrial capitalism’s relentless need for productivity, The Slumbering Masses examines so-called Z-drugs that promote sleep, the use of both legal and illicit stimulants to combat sleepiness, and the contemporary politics of time. Wolf-Meyer concludes by exploring the extremes of sleep, from cases of perpetual sleeplessness and the use of the sleepwalking defense in criminal courts to military experiments with ultra-short periods of sleep.

Drawing on untapped archival sources and long-term ethnographic research with people who both experience and treat sleep abnormalities, Wolf-Meyer analyzes and sharply critiques how sleep and its supposed disorders are understood and treated. By recognizing the variety and limits of sleep, he contends, we can establish more flexible expectations about sleep and, ultimately, subvert the damage of sleep pathology and industrial control on our lives.

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Spectacular Mexico

Design, Propaganda, and the 1968 Olympics

Luis M. Castañeda

In the wake of its early twentieth-century civil wars, Mexico strove to present itself to the world as unified and prosperous. The preparation in Mexico City for the 1968 Summer Olympics was arguably the most ambitious of a sequence of design projects that aimed to signal Mexico’s arrival in the developed world. In Spectacular Mexico, Luis M. Castañeda demonstrates how these projects were used to create a spectacle of social harmony and ultimately to guide the nation’s capital into becoming the powerful megacity we know today.

Not only the first Latin American country to host the Olympics, but also the first Spanish-speaking country, Mexico’s architectural transformation was put on international display. From traveling exhibitions of indigenous archaeological artifacts to the construction of the Mexico City subway, Spectacular Mexico details how these key projects placed the nation on the stage of global capitalism and revamped its status as a modernized country. Surveying works of major architects such as Félix Candela, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Ricardo Legorreta, and graphic designer Lance Wyman, Castañeda illustrates the use of architecture and design as instruments of propaganda and nation branding.

Forming a kind of “image economy,” Mexico’s architectural projects and artifacts were at the heart of the nation’s economic growth and cultivated a new mass audience at an international level. Through an examination of one of the most important cosmopolitan moments in Mexico’s history, Spectacular Mexico positions architecture as central to the negotiation of social, economic, and political relations.

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