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 (or, in this case, Monday).)

MIT Press’s blog features an interview with Keith E. Stanovich, Richard F. West, and Maggie E. Toplak, authors of the book The Rationality Quotient: Toward a Test of Rational Thinking. This book explores our understanding of cognitive functions in addition to the way in which rational thinking and intelligence can be measured. Stanovich, West, and Toplak clarify their aim in writing this book. “Our goal always has been to give the concept of rationality a fair hearing— almost as if it had been proposed prior to intelligence.” The authors also explain the dangers behind labelling all forms of thought as “intelligent.” “Rational thinking skills vanish under permissive definitions of intelligence. Rationality assessments become part of intelligence if the latter is conceptualized broadly.”

This week, Johns Hopkins University Press published a post by Dinah Miller, instructor in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and co-author of Committed: The Battle over Involuntary Psychiatric Care. While some patients are grateful for involuntary care, others view the experience as restricting, traumatizing, and humiliating. According to Miller, “the issue is not black-and-white and we hope to start a discussion that will not be so polarized and will allow all voices to be heard at the table.” Miller features these voices through the highly personal nature of her book. “I wanted a book about the human beings and their stories– who they are and how forced care touched the lives of patients, family members, doctors, the police officers who brought the patients to the ER and the judges who retained them.” How did she go about compiling all of these experiences? “I cajoled people into talking to me, made call after call which sometimes led to dead ends, trolled message boards, shadowed a variety of psychiatrists, judges and a crisis intervention police officer, attended legislative hearings, and sat in on government work groups,” says Miller. “We finally realized we had to pick a point and just stop writing, knowing that it would be impossible to get the book out completely up to date because the target of involuntary care and its related aspects move every day.”

Oxford University Press’s blog recently published a post by Jon Montgomery and David Bodznick, authors of the book Evolution of the Cerebellar Sense of Self. In this post, Montgomery and Bodznick discuss the cerebellum’s function, in addition to its role in our understanding of human identity. The authors approach the development of the cerebellum from a biological perspective. “Early lineages, like lamprey, have cerebellum-like structures in their hindbrain, but no cerebellum. Sharks and rays have both cerebellum-like structures and a true cerebellum. So cerebellum evolved in concert with jaws and paired fins.” This post also examines the relationship between biological functions and our sense of self. “The idea of ‘cerebellar sense of self’, captures the key elements of distinguishing self and other in our sensory interactions with the world. Both in the way that the shark distinguishes ‘prey’ from ‘self’ in its electrosensory system, but also in the way we distinguish the sensory consequences of what we do, from sensory consequences of what is done to us.”

The University of North Carolina Press’s blog features a post by John Mac Kilgore, the author of Mania for Freedom: American Literatures of Enthusiasm from the Revolution to the Civil War. In this post, Kilgore comments on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular Broadway musical, Hamilton. According to Kilgore, Alexander Hamilton’s portrayal in the musical was skewed. “Hamilton is the voice of ‘the 1%’ par excellence. This is a man who wanted to create a ‘fiscal-military state.’ A man who opposed a Bill of Rights. A man who desired to integrate banking interests, patrician power, and the ‘federal government.’” Kilgore views Hamilton’s portrayal of Alexander Hamilton as one that “relies heavily on the portrait of Hamilton as an immigrant himself, a self-made man of humble origins, as if this bootstrap narrative were crucial to his political identity.”

The life of Arthur Johnson, a sixty-four year old man who spent thirty-seven years in solitary confinement, is the subject of a recent Yale University Press blog post. This post was written by Keramet Reiter, the author of 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Reiter begins her post by reminding readers that Johnson’s horrifying experience in solitary confinement “is disturbingly common.” She addresses this issue through highlighting the injustices faced by inmates, like Johnson, who were sentenced to a life in prison at a very young age. “States have only recently began to reconsider whether human brains are fully developed at seventeen or eighteen, and whether kids of that age should be eligible for such long sentences,” she states. Attempts to advocate on behalf of Johnson’s liberation have increased over the years. Bret Grote, an attorney with the Abolitionist Law Center in Pennsylvania, argued on behalf of Johnson’s liberation, on the grounds that “Johnson’s constitutional rights had been violated.” His efforts led to Johnson’s release. Is progress being made? According to Reiter, “the question is whether these reforms will be sustainable in light of the pervasive and persistent practice of solitary confinement across the United States.”

Beacon Broadside Press’s blog features an interview with Adrienne Berard, the author of the book Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South. This book recreates the untold story of the Lum family, a family of Chinese immigrants who played a key role in the desegregation of Southern schools during the 1920s. Berard’s connection to this family is highly personal. “My grandmother went to school in the same district as the case I explore in the book,” says Berard. In discussing her methods of research, Berard calls our attention to the limitations of existing historical documents. “Some crucial records were never kept, and the accuracy of the records that exist is questionable. The racism of their time affected how their story was remembered, or in this case, not remembered.” When asked about the Lum family’s relevance to current issues, Berard states, “The rhetoric surrounding immigrants today, the efforts of entire political parties to stoke a fear of immigrants, mirrors the kind of xenophobia and racism the Lum family would have experienced in the 1920s. It would be great to say that the issues brought forward by the Gong Lum v. Rice case have no relevance today, but unfortunately the case is more relevant than ever.”

Thanks for reading! As always, we hope that you enjoyed the links. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

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