University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! It’s been a few weeks since our last installment so we have quite a bit of catching up to do. Our list of links is quite a bit longer than usual! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

The University of Washington Press has a beautiful new blog, and one of their first posts is a fascinating Q&A with Peter Berkery, the Executive Director of the AAUP. Berkery discusses his “Listening Tour” of the AAUP member presses, saying that his “initial goal was to embrace more aggressively my own learning curve; I knew from prior association management experience that there’s no substitute for meeting with members in their own offices to quickly and fully grasp the challenges and opportunities they—and by extension their association—face.” His conclusion from the tour thus far? “I think the most important thing the LT has done is reinforce the need for AAUP to devote more resources to advocating within the academy on behalf of its members. This need was articulated before I arrived—indeed it was a critical conversation in the vetting process—but being on campus and seeing where administrators “get it” and where they don’t really drives home the challenge.”

Many university presses are now active on various social media platforms. In his column at the University of Nebraska Press Blog, UNP Marketing Manager Martyn Beeny argues that “the symbiosis between marketing and acquisitions seems most relevant to the overall social media presence of a university press.” He endorses a unified strategy that incorporates individual and press-wide accounts while allowing room for individuality in each account, and claims that “collaboration is key to the success of this aligned social media presence.”

It’s now been over two years since the beginning of the popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Over the past two weeks, the Stanford University Press Blog has been posting an excellent series of articles and interviews looking back at the Egyptian uprising. All are well worth reading, starting with an excerpt from Samer Soliman’s The Autumn of Dictatorship, written after the protests began but before Mubarak was forced out of office, and ending with Joel Beinin’s examination of the current state of the Egyptian revolution.

In honor of the Chinese New Year, Matthias Messmer and Hsin-Mei Chuang have created a small gallery of photos from their book, China’s Vanishing World, in a post at the MIT Press blog. These pictures and the brief reflections of the authors that go along with them show and describe a side of China that isn’t often seen, and one that they believe is disappearing.

Detroit is perhaps best known today for the economic crises that have greatly reduced the city’s wealth and population. At the UNC Press Blog, Beth Tompkins Bates draws parallels between the city’s current state and its situation in the early twentieth century, when “the City Council was reorganized and the judicial system was transformed when an autocratic structure that denied the majority access to due process was overturned. The issue of judicial reorganization emerged as the city’s industrial elite attempted to seize control of the courts. It was the last in a series of maneuvers created and led by Henry Ford to regulate and manage the lives of Detroit’s demographically diverse autoworkers.”

Also at the UNC Press Blog, Shane J. Maddock discusses the complicated history of U.S.-Iranian relations. He starts with the recent agreement that went into effect almost two weeks ago, and from takes a look back at the events that led to such an agreement becoming necessary. Maddock argues that, while “the roots of the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program lay in the late 1960s, … more recent errors were less excusable and have played a larger role in delaying U.S.-Iranian reconciliation.”

Steve McQueen’s recent movie, 12 Years a Slave, is based on the memoir of Solomon Northrup and has been critically lauded. However, in an article at From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Sylviane A. Diouf points out a few important ways that the film falls short of Northrup’s actual account. She takes particular issue with McQueen’s failure to integrate the ways that the black slaves in Louisiana showed a sense of community solidarity and resistance. Whole communities of “maroons” made up of escaped slaves formed in the woods and swamps, carving out free lives from inhospitable conditions. Of course, as David Williams argues at fifteeneightyfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press, the collective agency of black slaves in freeing themselves from slavery is one of the most frequently ignored topics in American history, and has been since W. E. B. Du Bois pointed to a biography of Ulysses S. Grant that wrote “of blacks as having been the only people in the world who simply had freedom handed to them for free. They just sat around, twanged their banjos, and waited for some Yankee to come along and free them.” Williams points out the problems with this idea, and notes that “pursing that question in my own research made me realize that leaders often lead where so-called followers press them.”

Can we make the political process fun again? At fifteeneightyfour, Margaret Scammell recounts the lessons that political marketers have learned since over the last few presidential elections and attempts to apply their conclusions to the political system at large. Chief among those lessons: if you want participation, “above all, make it fun.” In an era of top-down political communication, there doesn’t seem to be much fun to be had anywhere in the process. Scammell, however, argues that “spaces are opening up for citizens to influence marketing. There is room for optimism.”

Speaking of citizens attempting to influence political process through the power of online marketing, Island Press Field Notes has been running a series of posts by authors in reaction to President Obama’s November executive order on climate preparedness. Each author has the opportunity to design their own executive order that would have positive environmental benefits if a President were to actually give it. The most recent of these posts is “Transparency on Wetland Mitigation Requirements and Results,” by Royal Gardner.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama announced the creation of MyRA, a new retirement savings plan for workers without 401(k) plans. While it’s good that Obama recognizes the growing retirement crisis facing aging Americans, claims James W. Russell at Beacon Broadside, the blog of Beacon Press, MyRA “is at best a token response and in doing so perpetuates the very myths and fallacies that caused the crisis.” Instead, Russell blames the disappearance of traditional pension plans in favor of the 401(k) plans as the root cause of the retirement problem in America.

“America’s suburbs are in the middle of a profound racial/ethnic and socioeconomic transformation.” In a post at Voices in Education, the Blog of Harvard Education Publishing, Genevieve Siegel-Hawley contends that this rapid demographic change in suburban schools offers us a chance to better prepare students for our multiracial global society. She argues that schools must attempt to take advantage of this shift by redistricting in a way that will promote diversity in all school districts.

Ever wonder how the new Common Core standards in education written? At the JHU Press Blog, Jason Zimba, an author of the Common Core State Standards in math, has a guest post explaining the Common Core creation process, as well as giving insight into the goals he and other educators involved in the process had when getting involved in the project.

There are many theories about where language comes from, and few clear answers. Surprisingly, the issue that has only recently been the subject of serious research. As Derek Bickerton relates in his post at the Harvard University Press Blog, “the Linguistic Society of Paris got things off to a bad start in 1866 by banning discussions of language origins from its proceedings. Since then, things have been worsened by the way schools and universities teach linguistics.” The lack of academic focus has been a problem for the study of where languages came from and where they are going, as has the fact that, according to linguist Ray Jackendoff, “your theory of language evolution depends on your theory of language.” In his post, Bickerton gives a brief history of the study of the origin of language, and takes a guess at where the field might go in the future.

When researching and writing a historical novel, one is made increasingly aware of the many ways in which the past can and does influence the present. In a post at the University of Minnesota Press Blog, Mary Relindes Ellis, the author of The Turtle Warrior and The Bohemian Flats, explains how one of Faulkner’s most famous quotes (“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”) gave her perspective in her own writing.

When thinking about how the past affects the present is the tricky way that we use (and misuse) the word “cause.” At the OUPblog, Tim Harris looks at the many “causes” of the English Civil War, and argues for the importance of understanding the long-term contexts in which events take place as well as the short-term triggers that actually start the events: “This is my quibble with the quest for causes. Historians, I would suggest, are less interested in identifying causes (at least ‘causes’ so narrowly defined) as they are in understanding why things happened in the way that they did. Factors that don’t possess causal significance might nevertheless possess explanatory significance. The search for understanding and explanation forces us to address the long-term.”

The first post at newly redesigned UPNEblog of the University Press of New England takes a look at the recently released Brandeis UP title Everyday Jewish Life in Imperial Russia, a collection of documents that “come together to form a history-telling of czarist Russia as it is rarely told, giving voice and name to up-till-now voiceless, nameless, everyday Jewish citizens.”

For fans of the FX show American Horror Story: Coven, the Florida Bookshelf, the blog of the University Press of Florida, is running an ongoing series of posts looking at different aspects of the show and fact-checking them to determine which are verifiably fact and which are fantasy. The show focuses on Madame Lalaurie and Marie Laveau in New Orleans, and Carolyn Long, the author of Lalaurie and Laveau, breaks down their stories episode by episode in the Florida Bookshelf series, starting with the first episode.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with a few excellent interviews. First, at the University of Toronto Press Blog, Myra Giberovitch, author of Recovering from Genocidal Trauma discusses her work as a social worker interacting with the community of Holocaust survivors. At Yale Books Unbound, David Sedlak, author of Water 4.0, answers questions about the future of clean water and how we can sustainably protect our urban water systems. And last but not least, Leigh Moscowitz, the author of The Battle Over Marriage, talks about the history and future of same sex unions in the American political sphere.

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

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