University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles 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. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and since each year we’re not entirely certain as to what that might mean, Oxford University Press author Kate Thompson discusses the historical, cultural, and ideological underpinnings of the tradition. Recalling the second century eponymous saint martyred for his religion, the ancient pagan fertility festivals heralding the approach of Spring, and our own modern considerations of romance as idealized (or left tragically unfulfilled) by Valentine’s Day, it’s clear that the meaning of the holiday remains largely rooted in not only where and when you are, but how you interpret the notion of romantic love when juxtaposed against the backdrop of its less glamorous context: reality. Perhaps it’s only in bearing these considerations in mind that we’re able to enjoy the holiday and its rituals while remaining cognizant of, say, those criticisms arguing the ways in which rampant consumerism have stripped Valentine’s Day of its saccharine abutments. In either case, do be sure to read the whole post for a trenchant sliver of insight from Balzac.

In keeping with the topic of amorous rituals, NYU Press’s Jane Ward, author of Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men, refutes the myth of rigidity in male sexuality by drawing on well-documented rituals of male homosexual interaction in which factors such as gender identity and sexual preference are tertiary considerations after tradition and utility.

While we are of course always interested in discussions of policy, administration, and difference in pedagogy, we look today to anthropologist David F. Lancy’s perspective on childhood education, citing differences learning between children from the Peruvian Amazon, the Sahara, Denmark, and Polynesia. Having compiled his research into ethnographies of childhood development spanning vastly different cultures from opposite sides of the globe, Lancy’s uniquely holistic view of the matter is far beyond the more familiar issues of “teachers, schools, curricula, or TV.” This might be the reason why the New York Times called Lancy’s The Anthropology of Childhood “the only baby book you’ll ever need.”

Here at the midpoint of Black History Month, Beacon Press’s Sheryll Cashin talks Martin Luther King, Jr. and his strategies for propelling civil rights, as well as recent events highlighting racial tensions and injustice, and the protests ongoing today (such as that summarized in the hashtag campaign, #BlackLivesMatter) to challenge paradigms of indifference and acceptance toward racial inequality.

This is a beginning, I hope, of a saner, multiracial politics for justice in law enforcement and other critical realms like housing and education. I believe the Black Lives Matter movement has the potential for staying power that the Occupy movement lacked because, like Jim Crow itself, there is a clear moral target and the activists coming to the cause span the rainbow. It is as true in 2015 as it was for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. King in 1965 that you have to have allies beyond your own tribe to win a victory. You don’t have to convince everyone, just the growing swath of people who are open to diversity and want to make it work.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Friday the 13th/Valentine’s Day! As always, we hope that you enjoyed the links. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

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