University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela passed away last night. At the OUPblog, Elleke Boehmer has a thoughtful post looking at Mandela’s status as a world icon, and discussing how “‘Mandela the icon’ tells us little to nothing of Nelson Mandela’s remarkable story: his complicated political legacy, his radiant magic as a leader, and his strength of character in surviving 27.5 years of incarceration.” Nor does treating Mandela as an icon “capture the complicated nature of the man and the interesting contradictions that cut across and disturb our sense of his political legacy.”

Meanwhile, the Duke University Press blog provides an excerpt from Mandela’s moving 1964 “Statement from the Dock,” given to a South African court before his conviction on charges of sabotage and treason. In his speech, Mandela lays out his understanding of his struggle against the South African government: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Amazon was in the news this week as Jeff Bezos revealed a plan to employ drones in delivering packages ordered online. The Harvard Press Blog examines the differences between the increasingly automated system of purchasing embraced by Amazon and the way that “small businesses stubbornly persist in their embrace of a more human touch,” exemplified in the recent campaign for authors to help sell books at independent bookstores on “Small Business Saturday.”

In a recent interview, comedian Russell Brand called attention to a growing disengagement with politics among the public (particularly among young people) in the UK and around the world. At the OUPblog, Matthew Flinders takes a deeper look at this disengagement, and proposes a few practical solutions that could have big long-term effects. Also at the OUPblog, psychologists Zaira Cattaneo and Marcos Nadal discuss the unique aesthetic capacities of human beings through the lens of our neural mechanisms. Are there specific neurons in our brain that deal with aesthetic experience? And if so, can judgments of beauty be artificially enhanced by brain stimulation?

How did a column from the Roman city of Ostia end up outside Soldier Field, the stadium where the Chicago Bears play football? At fifteeneightyfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press, Douglas Boin, who walked by the column regularly while growing up in Chicago and who has recently written a book called Ostia in Late Antiquity, tells the column’s story.

Tomorrow, December 7th, is the seventy-second anniversary of the “date which will live in infamy,” the bombing of Pearl Harbor that pushed America into World War II. At the JHU Press Blog, John Bodnar has written a guest post looking at the ways that Americans have viewed and used the history of the attack in the years since 1941.

What can we say about Banksy? According to Rafael Schacter in his post at the Yale Press Blog, “he’s not the most visually arresting of the so-called “street-artists”. He’s definitely not the most conceptually astute. He’s not the most innovative or emotive, nor the most site-specific or materially prolific. In truth, he’s not even the sharpest political commentator within the movement, nor the character most wanted by the police.” Instead, Schacter argues that Banksy is the street-artist with the best sense of how to capture the zeitgeist and to manipulate the media and the public into furthering and promoting his message.

At Penn State Press’s Are You Loving Publishing Today blog, Associate Press Director and Design & Production Manager Jennifer Norton describes the process (and joy) of selecting endsheets for books. Her post has a wealth of colorful examples, and she provides a link to the PSU Press Pinterest page of endsheet images.

In the Civil War, the Confederate government “impressed” a portion of the slave population of North Carolina and Virginia, taking them from white slave owners and putting them to work on fortifications for the Confederate army. At the UNC Press Blog, Jaime Amanda Martinez looks at what this part of the Civil War says about the power dynamics in the Confederacy, and also examines the recent creation of a memorial in Monroe, N.C., honoring the “pensioners of color” who represent a few of these “impressed” slaves.

Businesses are attempting to deal with marketplaces that seem to change overnight, and, at the AMACOM Press Blog, Rod Collins argues that the fundamental rules of business management have to change to reflect the need for flexibility entailed by these rapid changes. He provides a helpful list of five rules that will help managers to keep up with the pace of change.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up with an informative timeline of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a crucial episode in the Civil Rights Movement. On December 5, 1955, the Montgomery Improvement Association was created at a meeting of black leaders in Montgomery, Alabama, after over 90% of the black community of Montgomery agreed to take part in the boycott. Three days later, the MIA issued a list of formal demands for desegregation, the city refused to comply, and the boycott began. After a long year, on December 21, 1956, the Montgomery buses were officially desegregated.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

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