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.)

In environmental news, we have officially consumed more resources this year than our planet can regenerate; from now until the end of the year, we’re drawing on credit. Dawn Field at Oxford discusses the history and sobering implications of “Earth Overshoot Day.”

How can we recalibrate our relationship with the planet to avoid accruing environmental debt? There is no easy answer, but several articles this week call for us to “de-center the human being” (Mira Beth Wasserman) in our thinking in order to better understand our complex, interdependent relationships with non-humans and the material world. Alan and Josephine Smart, at the University of Toronto Press, ask what a posthumanist anthropology might look like. Over at Penn Press, Mira Beth Wasserman reflects on the posthumanist lessons of the Talmud and Planet of the Apes.

These authors ask us to think about the world in terms of interconnected systems rather than isolated actors; on a similar note, many articles this week put public health issues in their social and political contexts. Temple University Press discusses the potentially devastating impact of changes to colleges’ sexual violence response policies under the current administration. Over at Oxford, Emily Henderson argues that we can most effectively combat childhood obesity by tackling a range of socioeconomic and environmental issues related to obesity rather than attempting to change individual behavior; meanwhile, Richard S. Grossman claims that individual incentives for behavioral change in the form of cigarette taxes do have a significant impact on smoking.

Entertainment, like public health, both affects and is affected by its social context. Sometimes fiction raises the bar for reality: Clive James, at Yale Books, reflects on the lasting impact of The West Wing on TV storytelling and American political values, arguing that Aaron Sorkin’s visionary show represents our highest hopes for what the presidency could look like (spoiler alert: no real president has come close).

But pop culture can be used to divide and exclude as well as to inspire and uplift. Nick Yee looks at data to dispel sexist myths about female gamers, cautioning us not to misinterpret gendered variations in gaming behavior in ways that reinforce stereotypes. At Oxford University Press, Russell L. Johnson talks about what was lost in the transition from silent films to “talkies”—not just old artistic values and acting practices, but also the unique accessibility of pop culture to the Deaf community during the silent film era.

Whether formal or informal, entertainment frequently serves the dual function of lifting up its audience and excluding outsiders. Claire Schmidt at the University of Wisconsin Press talks about her research into prison staff humor, which helps workers build solidarity and cope with stressful working conditions while emphasizing the distinction between prison staff and inmates, as well as reinforcing sexual and racial hierarchies.

From the grab-bag of the eye-catching and the odd: Michael J. Altman at Oxford traces the etymology of the English word “juggernaut” back to religiously-fraught colonial encounters in India. Maureen Meister at the NYU Press Blog extols the magic of highly accurate reconstructions of historical buildings and landscapes in Central Park. And Jean Kazez at Oxford argues that we shouldn’t recommend parenthood to friends the way we might recommend anything else life-changing and wonderful, such as a vacation to Iceland.

Have a great week.

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