Announcing the publication of Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies

Temple University Press is pleased to announce the publication of
Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies

Kalfou

Kalfou is the Haitian Kreyòl word for “crossroads.” It is a scholarly journal focused on social movements, social institutions, and social relations. Editor George Lipsitz explained, “The publication of Kalfou ushers in a new era in engaged scholarship. This first issue blends contributions from the leading scholars in ethnic studies with compelling writings from artists and activists. This journal constitutes a new public square for addressing the most important issues of our time.”

The journal seeks to promote the development of community-based scholarship in ethnic studies among humanists and social scientists and to connect the specialized knowledge produced in academe to the situated knowledge generated in aggrieved communities.

Kalfou is published by Temple University Press on behalf of the Center for Black Studies Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Spring 2014, Volume 1, Issue 1

Introduction: A New Beginning • George Lipsitz

Feature Articles
Martin Luther King Encounters Post-racialism • Kimberlé Crenshaw
Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and the “Illegible” Politics of (Inter)personal Justice • Tricia Rose
The Ideological Alchemy of Contemporary Nativism: Revisiting the Origins of California’s Proposition 187 • Daniel Martinez HoSang
Beyond Conflict and Competition: How Color-Blind Ideology Affects African Americans’ and Latinos’ Understanding of Their Relationships • Chrisshonna Grant Nieva and Laura Pulido, with Nathan J. Sessoms
From College Readiness to Ready for Revolution! Third World Student Activism at a Northern California Community College, 1965–1969 • Jason Ferreira

Talkative Ancestors
Chris Iijima on Asian American Identity

Keywords
Critical Ethnic Studies • Chandan Reddy

La Mesa Popular
The Alchemy of Race and Affect: “White Innocence” and Public Secrets in the Post–Civil Rights Era • Paula Ioanide

Art and Social Action
Music and Mobilization: Kombit Pou Haiti 2010 • Chuck D and Gaye Theresa Johnson

Mobilized 4 Movement
Race, Municipal Underbounding, and Coalitional Politics in Modesto, California, and Moore County, North Carolina • Emily Tumpson Molina

Teaching and Truth
The Bigger Scandal • Pauline Lipman

In Memoriam
Afro-Asian People’s Warrior: Richard Aoki, 1938–2009 • Diane C. Fujino

Book Reviews
The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory, by Catherine S. Ramírez • Reviewed by María Angela Díaz
From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International since the Age of Revolution, edited by Michael O. West, William G. Martin, and Fanon Che Wilkins • Reviewed by Michael E. Brandon

 

KALFOU EDITORIAL BOARD

Senior Editor: George Lipsitz, University of California, Santa Barbara

Associate Editors:
Enrique Bonus, University of Washington, Seattle
Maria Herrera-Sobek, University of California, Santa Barbara
Roberta Hill, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Tricia Rose, Brown University

Book Review Editor:
Paul Ortiz, University of Florida, Gainesville

Founding Editors:
Claudine Michel, University of California, Santa Barbara
Melvin Oliver, University of California, Santa Barbara

Managing Editor:
Rose Elfman, University of California, Santa Barbara

 

Questioning French Republican Politics

In this blog entry, Jennifer Fredette, author of Constructing Muslims in France, writes about Marine Le Pen’s reaction to Muslim soldiers who gave their lives for France during WWII.

French president François Hollande recently paid his respects at a memorial in Paris dedicated to the 100,000 Muslim soldiers who gave their lives for France during the First World War. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, responded by saying, “It makes me vomit.”

Strong words, to be sure.

What was it that made Le Pen vomit? In her words, it was the very idea of “dividing the French” along the lines of religion: these soldiers should be celebrated as soldiers, and as French; their religion should be immaterial.

On its surface, Le Pen’s statement reflects the French way of doing politics, the “republican tradition.” Americans are accustomed to hearing political leaders speak openly about race, gender, and religion. In fact, our political leaders even appeal to such group identities for the purpose of elections (consider “Women for Hillary” or the “Moral Majority”). French republicanism, however, abhors the recognition of difference. French republicanism is a political philosophy that demands that people engage in politics purely as a citizen, leaving their other identities and affiliations (such as race, gender, religion) at home. Why the distaste for identity politics? The short answer French republicanism offers is that identity politics rip a nation apart. They make it impossible for citizens to appreciate one another as equals, sharing a nation and its future together.

Constructing Muslims_sm We really need to examine Le Pen’s comment a bit deeper, however. After all, Le Pen is no difference-blind republican. She is the head of a xenophobic, anti-immigration political party whose manifesto boldly announces that France’s national culture is profoundly influenced by Christianity. In 2010, Le Pen equated Muslims praying in the street (a result of insufficient prayer space, not religious fanaticism) with living in Nazi-occupied France. True, French republicanism would criticize those who pray in the streets for bringing religion into the public sphere in a highly visible way; but equating them with Nazis was a rhetorical flourish all Le Pen’s own, suggesting that Muslims are dangerous outsiders seeking to invade and even oppress France.

Beneath the surface, Le Pen’s comments about the memorial communicate something else: the power of political omission. Le Pen says these soldiers should be celebrated as French, not Muslims. But many of these soldiers fought for France as French colonial subjects. To celebrate them simply as “French” is to conveniently forget France’s participation in the systematic domination and oppression of parts of the Muslim world. Furthermore, media coverage and political discussion of French Muslims today often portrays them in a negative light, questioning their Frenchness and depth of “integration.”

A 2012 French Institute of Public Opinion poll indicates that nearly half of the French would describe Muslims in France as a threat to national identity, and the National Consulting Committee for Human Rights recently warned that Muslims are increasingly subject to violence at the hands of their fellow citizens. In light of this highly charged and certainly not difference-blind climate, it seems a problematic oversight to celebrate these soldiers without recognizing that they happened to be Muslim, and that Muslims have indeed contributed to the betterment of the nation.

Temple University Press staff selects the Books of the Year to give, get, and read

As we wish everyone Happy Holidays and happy reading, the staff at Temple University Press selects the memorable titles of 2013.

Micah Kleit, Executive Editor

The Press published a bounty of riches this year, from Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer’s Envisioning Emancipation to Dean Bartoli Smith’s Never Easy, Never Pretty, an exciting account of the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl win. But the book I’d most like to give as a gift is Philipp H. Lepenies’ Art, Politics, and Development: How Linear Perspective Shaped Policies in the Western World. It’s the kind of work that represents, to me at least, the best of what university presses do in advancing scholarship.Art, Politics, and Development_sm

I’d love it if someone bought me a copy of Boris Kachka’s Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.  It’s just the kind of inside-publishing book that reminds me of why I love what I do!

The book I’m planning to read over the holiday — in preparation for the “sequel” that’s due early this Spring —  is Robert Coover’s The Origin of the Brunists.  It’s one of his earliest novels, and I’m excited that he’s returning to this story and continuing it, since it speaks (like so much of his work) powerfully to the ideas of what makes up the American character.

2013 was a great year for big novels from emerging and established writers, and the very best I read this year had to be Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, a book that was at once really economical in style but epic in scope: about 70s radicals, motorcycles, Italy and America.  I don’t think I’m the only one who thought of Don DeLillo when reading Kushner’s wonderful novel.

Sara Cohen, Rights and Contracts Manager

G-000865-20111017.jpgThe best TUP book to give?   My loved one are going to have to wait until Presidents’ Day to receive their Christmas gifts so that I can give them Thomas Foster’s Sex and the Founding Fathers.

The book I most want to receive for the holidays? The first book of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. A friend sent me Zadie Smith’s New York Review of Books piece “Man vs. Corpse,” which cites My Struggle, and I’ve been looking forward to reading it ever since.  I also hope to receive a vegan cookbook (maybe Veganomicon)  so that I can start the new year off with good dietary intentions.

The book I plan to read over the break?  I’m supposed to be reading A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn with my husband and one of our friends.  I’m going to spend the break trying to catch up to the two of them.

Aaron Javsicas, Senior Editor

MoreMuralsEarlier this year I read and very much enjoyed Red Plenty, by Francis Spufford. It’s engrossing historical fiction about what it might have been like to live in the Khrushchev-era Soviet Union, and to feel real optimism about the country’s future even while beginning to see cracks that would spread and destroy it.
I look forward to reading and giving Temple University Press’s Philadelphia murals books Philadelphia Murals and the Stories they Tell, and  More Philadelphia Murals the the Stories They Tell, as a new volume, Philadelphia Mural Arts @ 30,  is forthcoming in 2014. I’m from Philadelphia but only recently moved back, after thirteen years in New York, to come on board at the Press. The terrific Mural Arts Program expanded a great deal while I was gone, and I’m excited to catch up with it through these beautiful books.

Charles Ault, Production Director

This year I read A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, which is now on my all-time favorites list. Ruth Ozeki is a 40-ish Buddhist priest who lives with her husband on an island near Vancouver, Canada. Her book features a writer named Ruth who lives with her husband on an island near Vancouver. She discovers the diary of a 16-year-old Japanese girl in a waterproofed bundle that washes up on the shore. The girl is contemplating suicide and has decided to write down the story of her grandmother, a Buddhist nun, as her last act. We (the reader) read pieces of the diary as Ruth does and then we read Ruth’s reaction to the same thing we just read (and reacted to). But I haven’t mentioned the Zen philosophy and ritual that pervades the story. Or the discussion of quantum mechanics. Or contemporary Japanese pornography….

Joan Vidal, Production Manager

Justifiable Conduct_smThe best TUP book to give: If you have a group of friends who like to read and discuss books, I recommend Erich Goode’s Justifiable Conduct . Filled with examples from the memoirs of public figures who seek absolution for their transgressions, this book is sure to spark conversation.

The book I most want to receive for the holidays: I would like to have The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss, by Theodor Geisel.

The book I plan to read over the break: Next on my list is Waiting for Snow in Havana, by Carlos Eire.

Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director

Don't Call Me_smThe best book I read this year?  The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. This year’s National Book Award fiction winner is the wild story about John Brown and his raid, narrated by a freed slave boy masquerading as a girl.  It’s hilarious.

The best TUP book to give? Don’t Call Me Inspirational, Harilyn Rousso’s compelling memoir.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.

The book I plan to read over the break: I will finish Edwidge Dandicat’s
Claire of the Sea Light and begin Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck.

Brian Murray, Marketing Assistant

How We DIe Now_smThe best TUP book to give this season is Never Easy, Never Pretty by Dean Bartoli Smith. My father has been a Ravens fan his whole life and reminisces about going to games with his father when he was growing up. This book is perfect for him and perfect for any other Ravens’ fan or football fan in general.
The book I plan to read over break is Karla Erickson’s  How We Die Now. What better way to celebrate the holidays with my immediate family and older relatives than to evaluate my own mortality and the cost of living longer? Also a perfect gift for my great Aunt Lenora who will be celebrating her 82nd birthday this January.

Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

WHAT I WILL GIVE: Music, Style, and Aging by Andy Bennett. Because holidays should be filled with sex, drugs, rock and roll and reading, right? Music Style Aging_sm

WHAT I WILL READ: Ink, by Sabrina Vourvoulias (one of the co-authors of 200 Years of Latino History in Philadelphia by the staff of Al Día). Ink looks at immigration issues through multiple lenses and I really admire Vourvoulias’ work.

THE BEST BOOK I READ IN 2013: Night Film, by Marisha Pessl, is not so much a book you read as a story you investigate. It involves a disgraced journalist and a cult filmmaker, whose daughter has died—or possibly been murdered. What’s intriguing is not just the mystery, but the format of the book: an impressive collection of photographs, website downloads, dossiers, missing persons reports, institution assessments, and created articles. It’s a fascinating interactive experience.

WHAT I WANT TO READ: I’m almost ashamed to admit that I really want to read James Franco’s Actors Anonymous.  I’m an unabashed  Francofile and a completist. I’ll also likely see his film adaptation of As I Lay Dying over the break as well.

Remembering 9/11

On the 12th anniversary of September 11th, we offer a trio of Temple University Press titles that put the 9/11 tragedy in context.

History and September 11th edited by Joanne Meyerowitz; The contributors to this landmark collection set the attacks on the United States in historical perspective. They reject the simplistic notion of an age-old “clash of civilizations” and instead examine the particular histories of American nationalism, anti-Americanism, U.S. foreign policy, and Islamic fundamentalism among other topics. With renewed attention to Americans’ sense of national identity, they focus on the United States in relation to the rest of the world. A collection of recent and historical documents—speeches, articles, and book excerpts—supplement the essays. Taken together, the essays and sources in this volume comment on the dangers of seeing the events of September 11 as splitting the nation’s history into “before” and “after.” They argue eloquently that no useful understanding of the present is possible without an unobstructed view of the past.

Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans after 9/11 by Lori Peek; As the nation tried to absorb the shock of the 9/11 attacks, Muslim Americans were caught up in an unprecedented wave of backlash violence. Public discussion revealed that widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islam persisted, despite the striking diversity of the Muslim community.
Letting the voices of 140 ordinary Muslim American men and women describe their experiences, Lori Peek’s path-breaking, award-winning book, Behind the Backlash presents moving accounts of prejudice and exclusion. Muslims speak of being subjected to harassment before the attacks, and recount the discrimination they encountered afterwards. Peek also explains the struggles of young Muslim adults to solidify their community and define their identity during a time of national crisis.
Abuse of Power: How Cold War Surveillance and Secrecy Policy Shaped the Response to 9/11 by Athan Theoharis; Theoharis, long a respected authority on surveillance and secrecy, shows that the events that occurred 11 years ago are still felt everyday by Americans in the sense of government security. Passionately argued, this timely book speaks to the costs and consequences of still-secret post-9/11 surveillance programs and counterintelligence failures. Ultimately, Abuse of Power makes the case that the abusive surveillance policies of the Cold War years were repeated in the government’s responses to the September 11 attacks.

Comments on Closure from the Charles Horton Cooley Award Committee Chair

This week in North Philly Notes, Charles Horton Cooley Award committee chair Leslie Irvine honors Nancy Berns and her award-winning book, Closure.

The Charles Horton Cooley Award is given annually to an author for a book that represents an important contribution to the perspective of symbolic interaction. This year’s Award committee members were Joel Best, Michael Flaherty, and Leslie Irvine. The committee had the privilege of considering a number of books, attesting to the productivity and creativity of scholars working in the interactionist perspective. The book we chose to receive the 2013 Cooley Award is Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us, written by Nancy Berns and published by Temple University Press.

Closure smIn this carefully researched and beautifully written book, Nancy Berns examines how the term “closure” has come to  represent a new emotional state regarded as the appropriate end to grief, loss, and trauma.

We hear about the need for closure after school shootings, natural disasters, divorces, and deaths. Although the term is widely used, no one can truly define it. Nor can they agree on how to reach it. People seek closure through an endless list of strategies that includes witnessing executions, planting trees, writing letters, burning letters, and getting tattoos.

Drawing on documentary evidence from print and online media, court cases, autobiographies, and other sources, Nancy examines how the idea of closure became a popular concern. She reveals that although the term has origins in psychology dating back to the 1920s, it gained traction in popular culture during the 1990s largely through the influence of therapeutic techniques and victims’ rights discourses. In her analysis, Nancy combines insights from the sociology of emotions and the social construction of social problems. By shedding new light on how social forces shape our understanding of emotions, Closure will be a resource for interactionists for many years to come.

The Charles Horton Cooley Award Committee is pleased to give the 2013 award to Nancy Berns.

Considering Edward Snowden

This week in North Philly Notes, Athan Theoharis, author of Abuse of Power, considers Edward Snowden and the questions his revelations raise about secrecy and accountability.

The recent debate over Edward Snowden’s revelations of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive surveillance programs raises serious questions about the conflict not only between security and liberty interests but, as important, between secrecy and accountability. These conflicts are particularly highlighted by the post-1970 revelations about the various surveillance programs instituted by the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during the Cold War era. The rationale then was that the FBI, CIA, and NSA must be accorded wide latitude if threats to the nation’s security interests posed by “subversives” were to be anticipated and prevented. In contrast, the rationale for granting the FBI, CIA, and NSA wide latitude today is to anticipate and prevent “terrorists.” Because the reality of the FBI’s, NSA’s, and CIA’s  surveillance programs during the Cold War years became known decades after their inception—either through congressional hearings of the mid-1970s or the subsequent release of these agencies’ records in response to Freedom of Information Act requests—we painfully learned that ideological criteria defined who was targeted and the duration of the targeting, that intelligence agency officials were emboldened to violate the law, and, ironically, that very few legitimate security threats were uncovered while real security threats were missed. As disturbingly, we learned, for one, that the acquired information (because serving no legitimate security interests or acquired illegally) was thereupon purposefully and surreptitiously leaked (whether to “friendly reporters or members of Congress) to promote the political and policy interests of intelligence bureaucrats and that intelligence agency officials acted without the effective oversight of White House officials and the Attorney General.  

Layout 1The claimed value of the NSA’s metadata program is challenged by our knowledge of one of these Cold War surveillance programs, the CIA’s code-named HTLINGUAL program. In 1953, CIA officials sought the Post Office’s approval for a mail cover program under which they would be allowed to copy the names and addresses of the senders and recipients of mail to and from the Soviet transmitted through the LaGuardia post office. Concluding that this program was not technically illegal in that the mail would not be opened and delivery would only be temporarily delayed, Post Office officials agreed to this request. When conceiving this program, CIA officials had hoped to acquire information about social and economic conditions in the Soviet Union, an objective that would require opening the mail. Without seeking Post Office approval, HTLINGUAL became a mail opening program.

Quite independently, FBI officials in 1958 sought Post Office approval for a similar mail cover program, hoping to be able to identify recruited Soviet espionage agents. Post Office officials referred them to the CIA and they were thereupon advised that Agency personnel were actually opening and photographing the contents of the mail. CIA officials agreed to provide the FBI with copies of the intercepted correspondence. In the 1960s, concerned about the “flap potential” should this illegal program be discovered, the CIA’s Inspector General eventually concluded that the program could continue (in part because the office staffed by CIA officers could be quickly dismantled allowing the CIA to deny that it was opening mail). During this review, CIA officials concluded that the program did not advance the Agency’s intelligence interests (after all, the Soviets censored the mail) but was of interest to the FBI. Questioned by Church Committee investigators about this program in 1975, FBI officials conceded that not one Soviet agent had been uncovered and that 95% of the contents was “junk”—this despite the fact that 215,820 letters were opened and photographed with the CIA compiling a data base of 1.5 million names of “subversive” Americans.

Why Borders Should Not Be Barriers

In this blog entry, Jane Juffer, author of Intimacy Across Borders, considers immigration reform, and asks, “Is it necessary to link legalization to border security?”

I followed the recent Senate debates on immigration reform with a familiar sense of foreboding. Whatever cautious optimism I might have allowed myself early in the debates dissipated with each step of compromise and concession—the “path to citizenship” for 11 million undocumented people already in the U.S. coming with the very expensive price tag of $46 billion in border reinforcements.  The historical pattern continues: when Congress considers expanding opportunities for legalization, they must simultaneously show that they are “securing the borders” against too many brown people from the south.

Hence the border control amendment: 700 more miles of fencing and 20,000 more Border Patrol agents, double the current number. In addition: observation towers, fixed cameras, drones, helicopters and planes, mobile surveillance systems, seismic detectors and ground radar. Proponents claim this investment would lead to “100 percent situational awareness, or full monitoring along the 1,900-mile southern U.S. border, and 90 percent operational control, or a 90 percent apprehension rate of those seen crossing.” Such rhetoric seems intended to produce the kind of anxiety about national borders and security that followed 9/11, an especially opportunistic move since border crossings now are at an all-time low. Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, for example, told ABC News in January that he would not support immigration reform without border reinforcement, based on his belief that the “porous” border could leave the U.S. “vulnerable to the sorts of attacks that we sustained on 9/11.” Even more egregiously, in the Washington Post, Iowa Rep. Steve King shamelessly used the Boston Marathon bombing to say that national security should be the focus now and that any talk about a path to legalization should be put on hold. “We need to be ever vigilant,” he said, echoing President Bush’s call for vigilance after 9/11 (which, in turn, became the motto of the Minutemen border vigilante group). Added King: “We need to go far deeper into our border crossings. . . .We need to take a look at the visa-waiver program and wonder what we’re doing. If we can’t background check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where.”

King’s warning reveals that the border control amendment will affect the same people who will have the opportunity for legalization because it casts all immigrants under the same suspicious eye. The irony, even the hypocrisy, of the deal is that in order to recognize 11 million people who are already within the borders of the nation, it must cast aspersion on their home countries. In making immigration reform contingent on a further militarization of the border, the Senate reinforces the discourses and material effects of xenophobia derived from the categories of Us and Them—even as it proclaims the nation’s inclusion of those already here. These othering discourses affect people perceived to be Other whether are not they are legal; just ask Latinos in Arizona stopped by police under the auspices of the infamous SB 1070.

Intimacy Across Borders_smThis reliance on categorical ways of thinking is the very issue I challenge in Intimacy Across Borders, where I draw on the work of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas to explore the idea that face-to-face encounters between peoples of different cultural backgrounds has considerable potential to break down identity categories. In the towns that serve as the focus of the book—small agricultural communities in northwest Iowa—Latino migration has transformed previously all-Anglo populations. While racism and xenophobia do of course exist, the everyday encounters that characterize life in a small town are more often characterized by mutual concerns and the desire to build community: has there been enough rain for this year’s corn crop to flourish? What are the prospects for this year’s high school football team? How will the local elementary school accommodate the growing number of children in each grade? When I return to visit my parents and take my young son to the park, he is just as likely to play with a child who speaks Spanish as one who speaks English, or, more likely, one who speaks both. The congressional obsession with border security seems so far removed from this life.

Yet of course legalization would make a big difference to the large number of undocumented Latinos in these small towns. People who fear being stopped by police and asked for their licenses would have some peace of mind. The meat-packing plant and the dairy farmers would need to worry less about their workers being deported. Children would need to worry less about their parents being deported.

Why, then, given the seeming congressional recognition of these concerns (as well as benefit to the U.S. economy), is it necessary to link legalization to border security? It seems ultimately that the latter will undermine the effects of the former, as anyone who at one point came from south of the border could still be linked to the threat of terrorism. When will the need to construct racialized and feared categories of Others no longer serve as the basis for U.S. immigration policy?

Live to Work or Work to Live?

In this blog entry, Benjamin Hunnicutt, author of Free Time, ponders the mysteries of living to work and the frantic pace of our lives.

July 4, 2013 looms. Fond vacation dreams return—for some of us at least. For an increasing number in the USA, however, vacations are shrinking. Expedia’s 2012 Vacation Deprivation Study, done by Harris Interactive Inc., found that Americans have far fewer vacations days that most people in the industrial world. If that were not bad enough, the study found that on average, we now fail to take about 20% of the vacation days we have earned. [1]

Widespread complaints (Google “overworked” for the past 24 hours!) about the frantic pace of our lives multiply.[2] Everyone seems to be progressively anxious, overworked, overbooked, and overstressed. Few expect relief, even when vacation season begins. “Live to work” seems to have become the unavoidable human condition.

On its face, this seems a strange state of affairs in this, the richest of nations. Set in relief against the backdrop of American history, it is incredible.

For nearly forty years I have been struggling to solve what I am convinced is one of the great mysteries of our time. Beginning early in the nineteenth century and continuing for over a hundred years, working hours in America were gradually reduced, cut in half according to most accounts.

No one predicted that this was going to end, much less that would be complaining about the frantic pace of our lives. On the contrary, prominent figures such as John Maynard Keynes and George Bernard Shaw regularly predicted that a “Golden Age of Leisure” would arrive well before the twentieth century ended when no one would have to work more than two hours a day. As late as the 1960s and 70s, the likes of Times Magazine’s Henry Luce, CBS’s Eric Sevareid, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy were sure that leisure would soon overtake work as the center of life.

However the century-long shorter work hour process stopped after the Great Depression. Since then we have had little or no decrease in our work – indeed, the work year has expanded over the last few decades. We work about five weeks longer now than we did when John Kennedy was president. Most of us would think a return to a forty hour week would be heaven-sent. Unlike previous generations, we no longer worry about leisure’s challenge.

What happened!?

Over the years, I have spent untold effort, overworking myself trying to solve these mysteries, exploring various social, economic, and historical developments. At last, I have come to the conclusion that the most important reason for the end of shorter hours, the frantic pace of life, and the unquestioning acceptance of “live to work” is something like a nation-wide amnesia.

We have forgotten what used to be the other, better half of the American dream. In our rushing about for more, we have lost sight of the better part of Freedom—of what Walt Whitman, with so many others throughout American history, called “higher progress.”

Hunnicut_approved_081412_smIn, Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream, I attempted to re-present the traditional American dream of steadily increasing freedom from work. As we began to “solve” what John Maynard Keynes called the “economic problem,” a host of Americans, from colonial days to the mid twentieth century, assumed that our time would become more valuable to us than new goods and services we had never needed, or even seen before. Then we would welcome the opportunity to live more of our lives outside the marketplace.

Then we could begin to make some real progress, developing our potential to live together peacefully and agreeably, spending more of our time and energy forming healthy families, neighborhoods, and cities, increasing our knowledge and appreciation of nature, history, and other peoples, freely investigating and delighting in the mysteries of the human spirit, exploring our beliefs and values together, finding common grounds for agreement and conviviality, practicing our faiths, expanding our awareness of God, wondering in Creation—a more complete (but far from exhaustive) catalogue of such free activities envisioned over the course of our nation’s history is one of the burdens of  my new book.

Claiming a vantage point as democracy’s poet that opened to him “Democratic Vistas,” Whitman recorded scenes of an American future in which all would be free to celebrate and sing. Monsignor John Ryan envisioned “higher progress” as increasing opportunities beyond necessary work and the marketplace to “know the best that is to be known, and to love the best that is to be loved.” Struggling to save the Jewish Sabbath in America, Abba Hillel Silver wrote that the Sabbath was “much more than mere relaxation from labor. It is a sign and symbol of man’s higher destiny.” The Sabbath provided a model for “higher progress” because it represented the importance of time for tradition, family, spiritual exercise and for developing our free, humane interests.

New voices joined in during the twentieth century, swelling in a magnificent chorus, singing the praises and possibilities of “higher progress.” Bubbling up from the ranks of workers and their organizations, the chorus was taken up by educators such as Dorothy Canfield Fisher, best selling-author and president of the Adult Education Association, and Robert Hutchins, legendary president of the University of Chicago, who urged teachers and administrators to retool their schools to teach people “the worthy use of leisure.” Conservative business people such as the celebrated cereal maker W. K. Kellogg took the initiative, instituting a six-hour workday in their factories in the 1920s and 1930s. Walter Gifford, president of AT&T from 1925 to 1948, reported that “industry . . . has gained a new and astonishing vision.” The final, best achievement of business and the free market need not be perpetual economic growth, eternal creation new work to do, and everlasting consumerism, but “a new type of civilization,” in which “how to make a living becomes less important than how to live.”

Radicals and socialists such as Helen and Scott Nearing, Norman O. Brown, and Herbert Marcuse saw increasing leisure as a form of bloodless, democratic revolution, and progressively shorter hours as the practical way for Americans to free themselves from the tyranny of corporations. They predicted that with abundant leisure and public education, ordinary citizens would begin to understand that perpetual work and everlasting scarcity were the creatures of capitalism and corporations rather than laws of nature. Increasing free time might translate into the political power necessary to counterbalance the building tyranny of concentrated wealth.

Naturalists and environmentalists such as Aldo Leopold and Sigurd Olson argued that an economy that produced more leisure instead of ever more consumption was the last, best hope for the preservation of the natural world. Parks, wilderness preserves, and national forests held open the possibility that humans could learn and nurture an alternative, leisure-relationship with nature, based on wonder and celebration rather than exploitation and development.

Poets such as Vachel Lindsay; playwrights and theater builders such as Percy MacKaye, Paul Green, and E. C. Mabie; painters such as Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton; architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Flagg; musicians such as Shin’ichi Suzuki; chefs such as Julia Child; and craftsmen such as Elbert Hubbard envisioned a world in which citizens wrote their own poetry, staged their own local dramas, performed pageants, played and sang their own music together as naturally as they spoke their mother tongue, cooked gourmet meals for each other, and helped design, build, and decorate their own homes in their free time.

Understanding our lives as the subjects of our own community-based literature, drama, sports, fine arts, and quotidian discourse, we moderns had the potential to transfigure the commonplace, elevating everydayness with the do-it-yourself creations of democratic artist and artisan. “Higher progress’s” free, creative endeavors would join people in vigorous, free civic engagement, creating communities held together by tolerance, conviviality, and perhaps even affection.

By the middle of the last century, the original American dream seemed to be coming to life. The days were arriving when Americans children devoted more and more of their lives to what John Ryan foresaw as opportunities to “know the best that is to be known, and to love the best that is to be loved.” The day of democratic community and culture was dawning. Real progress was just beginning.

I have long argued that this strange turn of events might be best explained by a new, primarily twentieth century view of work, what might be called, pace Max Weber, “the spirit of capitalism.” This novel belief elevated work, for the first time in history, as an end in itself rather than the means to other, better things— as the main arena in which to  realize the full potential of human beings. Two historical corollaries followed the advent of this belief: the perpetual need to regenerate work continually lost to technology; and perpetual economic growth necessary to support eternal work creation. This new American dream and its corollaries, together resembling, more and more, a new modern faith/religion (what Robert Hutchins called “salvation by work”) eclipsed both the “forgotten American dream” and the shorter working hours process that supported it for so long. As shorthand, I have called this new, thriving faith “Full-Time, Full Employment,” tracing its origins to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first two administrations and outlining its continuing, pervasive political, economic, and cultural ramifications, summed up in the politician’s mantra, “jobs, jobs, jobs”  and the corporate apologist’s  job-creation based justifications of obscene corporate salaries and practices.

But “Full-Time, Full Employment,” is not sustainable. The belief/expectation, “good jobs” for all, is a failing faith: a hopelessly utopian dream. The perpetual economic growth necessary is unsustainable on several levels. The environment: As so many have pointed out, sooner or later, the environment will be depleted— nature  is showing more and more signs of her exhaustion. Politically: governments’ efforts to sustain “Full-Time, Full Employment” have passed the point of diminishing returns as progressively slower economic recoveries and mounting debt complicate governments’ attempt to stimulate their economies. Economically: as governments’ efforts fail, chronic unemployment and more frequent and severe cycles result as job killing machines continue to outpace the job-creating abilities of modern economies (economic growth will have to advance at record high levels for decades in order for most of the modern industrial nations to grow themselves out of chronic unemployment). Globalization and the Internet compound the problem of chronic unemployment. Ideologically: what Robert Hutchins called “salvation by work” is progressively unable to fulfill its promise of good jobs for all, creating new generations that feel betrayed by their jobs.

Economic growth has become cancerous, destroying healthy culture and civility, destabilizing the vital functioning of society and undermining the essential foundations of trust. “Full-Time, Full Employment” has produced what Herbert Marcuse called  “one-dimensional man,” nearly incapable of imagining anything better than work for more work, or of recognizing when he has enough, pilling up evermore wealth, security, reputation, and consumer goods with no destination in sight.

Economists since John Stuart Mill have repeatedly suggested shorter working hours as one of the few solutions to the problems caused by capitalism’s cancerous growths. In order to encourage the renewal of the shorter hour process, we must recover the forgotten American dream. We need to hear again the words of Jonathan Edwards: “Labour to get thoroughly convinced that there is something else needs caring for more.” We need to listen again to Walt Whitman, passionately calling us to the “Open Road,” urging us to live out our humanity to its fullest—to search out and experience “the thing for itself” and to realize “only the soul is of itself . . . all else has reference to what ensues.” We need to hear again the voices of industrial feminists such as Fannia Cohn urging us to cultivate “deep community” in a shared “spirit of intimacy,” making progress in both aspects of our lives, “Bread and Roses.”

We are prevented from realizing the forgotten American dream by no inexorable political or economic reality. Shorter working hours remains the portal to the “realm of freedom,” offering an eminently more practical and sustainable future than the pursuit of eternal economic growth and everlasting job creation. What only is lacking is belief and commitment.

With the revival of the forgotten American dream the will to change might reemerge, either by government regulation of work hours or, much better still, at the level of individual firms such as Kellogg’s and through individual choices in the marketplace. Higher Progress will be possible once again when more of us choose freely to liberate more of our lives from the economy, making the most basic of consumer choices to forgo new spending and luxuries, as well as modern illusions about the everlasting need for more wealth and work, in favor of spending our lives beyond work and outside the marketplace.

Quoted passages are from Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream


[1] The 2012 study was conducted online by Harris Interactive among 8,687 employed adults in September and October 2012 on behalf of Expedia.com in North America, Europe, Asia, South America and Australia. Go to http://www.expedia.com/p/info-other/vacation_deprivation.htm

[2] see Tim Kreider’s “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” New York Times, Opinionator Blog, June 30, 2012

Why do we reflexively include a woman in an artistic rendering of a kitchen?

In this blog entry, Krista Jenkins, author of  Mothers, Daughters, and Political Socialization: Two Generations at an American Women’s College addresses how women’s roles have changed–or not–over the decades.

I’m endlessly interested in the state of gender relations in the 21st century. The women’s movement remains with us, but its revolutionary panache has dissipated as gender equality sounds more passé than novel. Women are encouraged to live lives unconstrained by traditional gender roles, and yet when it comes to who does the lion’s share of domestic work even in households with working moms, it’s the women who remain the go to sex for cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, school volunteering, and the like. Look at the statistics. A recent Pew Research and American Time Use Survey found that within dual income households, working women spend almost twice as many hours engaged in housework and child care than their spouses or partners.

Not a big believer in stats? Ok, then consider the following: Back in April of 2010, Time Magazine included an article entitled “The Hazards Lurking at Home.” The story was about environmental toxins found in everyday household items, and was accompanied by a drawing of a home. Each room had items to identify its purpose, such as a crib in a baby’s room and television in the family room. The kitchen had the obvious items – refrigerator and sink, for example, but it also had a woman. The takeaway from this? Kitchens are unthinkable without a woman firmly ensconced in its environs.

So, what gives? If we’re almost four decades since the heyday of the modern women’s movement and women can be found in areas of life that were virtually unthinkable a generation ago, why does  a glass ceiling persist? Why are women disproportionately absent from certain high paying and high powered professions? Why do women with ambitious career goals choose to walk away once children arrive?  Why does dinosaur-ish behavior in the form of discrimination and harassment remain a part of the workplace for so many? And why do we reflexively include a woman in an artistic rendering of a kitchen?

To answer these questions, I did what social scientists often don’t do. That is, look at the forces in an individual’s life that are operative at the micro level. “Large N” surveys are the tool that’s most often used to examine the how and why behind a variety of political and social phenomenon. Although an invaluable tool, all too often we overlook what goes on at the micro level which, in the case of my book, means the influence of a mother on her daughter’s political development. Or, more specifically, what I consider in my book Mothers, Daughters and Political Socialization: Two Generations at an American Women’s College is the extent to which a mother influences whether her daughter accepts or rejects traditional gender roles.Mothers_Daughters_sm

My research is based on 23 paired interviews with mothers and daughters, both of whom attended the same women’s college a generation apart. They were selected because 1) their experiences at a women’s college should have made them especially receptive to the tenets of the women’s movement and 2) the mothers came from a cohort who were interviewed 25 years earlier while they were college undergraduates and experiencing the women’s movement during the peak of its heyday.

Ultimately, what I find is that mothers play an important role in how their daughters approach their understanding of gender roles. So, for example, I find a good amount of consistency between how a mother approached questions of professional and maternal responsibilities and how her daughter envisions her own life unfolding. If, despite her early career ambitions, a mother decided that caregiving was preferable for a variety of reasons to pursuing her professional goals, it was likely that her daughter would echo similar sentiments in her long term planning. This is just one of the interesting insights that I discovered through speaking with these smart, engaged, and verbose women.

Also considered is the role of coming of age during different political climates which, for the mothers, was an environment steeped in a revolutionary ethos while, for the daughters, post-feminism reigns. However, a central takeaway from my book is simply this: When it comes to the acceptance or rejection of traditional gender norms in one’s life, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

Mourning the loss of a pioneer of women’s history

Temple University Press is saddened to learn of the passing of women’s historian Gerda Lerner. In honor of Dr. Lerner, we are re-posting this interview from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Political Engagement as Therapy for the Intellect

By Danny Postel for The Chronicle of Higher Education, 3 May 2002

The writing of one’s life can offer an “explanatory myth” at worst and an “entertaining tale” at best, says Gerda Lerner, a professor emerita of history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Fireweed PBIn Fireweed: A Political Autobiography (Temple University Press), she recounts the prehistory of her career in what she calls the “intellectual revolution” of women’s history, a field on which she left a pioneering mark with such works as The Woman in American History (1971), The Creation of Patriarchy (1986), and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (1993).

Q: You grew up in Austria in the 1920s and ’30s. How did that experience influence the development of your political consciousness?
A: From an early age, I experienced revolution, counterrevolution, military occupation, and fascism. I was imprisoned, I was a hostage—I lived in great danger. I was essentially struggling for my life. Living through this makes you very much aware of politics as a force in life and of the need to struggle for human rights.

Q: After the war, in America, you were active in the Communist Party for a time and then left. You write that it took you some years “to think [your] way out, not of one political movement only, but out of Marxism, the theory.”
A: There was a period when, though I was disillusioned with the Communist Party, I was still a Marxist. Then, after 1958, when I began to study academically, I began to have serious problems with the doctrine in regard to women. It was my feminism that made me realize that Marxism was wrong.

Q: You went many decades without publicly discussing this chapter in your life, the Communist years. Why now?
A: Well, I’m 81 years old—when am I going to do it if not now? I felt uneasy about evading the issue based on fear. I felt that I owed it to myself and to the people who have learned from me and respect me to tell them the whole story. And I feel that there is something to be learned from my story.

Q: What, exactly, would you say that is?
A: That active political engagement is good for thinking. If you are engaged in the world, you have a way of testing your thinking. I tested Marxist thought. It didn’t work.

Q: At the very end of the book, you say that for many years you felt that you had nothing to apologize for, but you go on to say that you feel differently about this now. Why the change?
A: We learned things that we did not know at the time. I defended the Hitler-Stalin pact [over which thousands of Communists left the party] at the time, and I’m sorry I did. The decisions I made in my life seemed to have a good logic then, even if 60 years later, that logic may not stand up.

 

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