Celebrating an exciting and insightful analysis of the central role cities and urban spaces have played in globalization

This week, the Urban History Association’s Kenneth Jackson Award Committee provides their comments on Jerome Hodos’ Second Cities, winner of the award for Best Book  in North American Urban History published in 2011. 

With meticulous attention to a long view of historical process and a sociological eye for theoretical frameworks that illuminate complex social phenomenon, Second Cities: Globalization and Local Politics in Manchester and Philadelphia, by  Jerome I. Hodos, has offered an exciting and insightful analysis of the central role cities and urban spaces have played, and continue to play, in the complicated drama called “globalization.”

Hodos removes the contemporary buzz from the word, globalization, and he demonstrates how old, and how central to modern human existence, is humanity’s connectedness though, and awareness of, the world as a single place. Even as humans are able to transport themselves, digital information, money and financing systems, and material goods, at remarkably fast rates, and from decentralized spaces, Hodos shows, in a subtle analysis and with wonderfully straightforward prose, that cities continue to matter. In fact, Hodos skillfully proves that “globalization is a profoundly urban process.”

Probably the most wonderful contribution of this book is the way it forces readers to examine the history and social impact of globalization in places outside the usual suspect cities of New York, London, and Tokyo, or cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai and Singapore that, in the past decade or so, have increasingly become economic weathervanes by which to note the emerging directions of the global economy. Instead, Hodos skillfully proves the importance of “second cities,” places like Philadelphia and Manchester, where people actively seek to “hold down the global,” to capture some of the worldwide flows of capital, people, ideas, culture and networks, for themselves. By looking at urban places further down the list of impactful global cities, Hodos reminds readers that globalization is indeed a dynamic process, and that all the time people are jockeying for new positions within an expanding global system of trade, travel, and technology.

“Globalization is about the establishment of new connections as much as it is about the disruption of old ones,” Hodos argues. He adeptly proves that some of the best places in which to witness this process are “second cities,” places that do not necessarily experience or participate in globalization the same way as larger, trendier, or more economically robust cities, but nonetheless reveal important lessons about the trajectory of globalization, and the centrality of cities and urbanity to this process.

The female phenomenon in sports

In this blog entry, Sportista co-author Andy Markovits considers how women have become a significant fanbase at sporting events and how they have attained virtual parity with men.

NBC’s viewership for the London Olympics was nothing short of amazing. On a number of evenings, around 30 million Americans tuned in to watch this global event. At least half of these viewers were women.  With our Olympic team featuring more female than male athletes for the first time in history; and with the former winning a majority of the medals (including gold); women seem to have arrived on sports scene, until recently a decidedly male domain.

But how will this phenomenon carry over into the just-commencing college football and NFL seasons and does it have any bearing on the pennant races in MLB that are about to heat up across the land?

Our book Sportisa: Female Fandom in the United States sheds some light on precisely these questions. We argue that on sports’ production side – meaning the world of athletes – women have attained virtual parity with men. Almost solely due to the immense changes wrought by Title IX and the political, social and cultural atmosphere that gave rise to it; women’s success in having made their presence as sports producers totally ordinary is quite amazing, especially considering where things stood nary three decades ago.

But “doing” sports and “following” them are two (almost entirely) different things. And we found that women follow sports differently than men. Still fewer in numbers, women that follow sports love their teams, know their players, despair over a loss, rejoice with a win; in short appear to exhibit all the fan-like characteristics that men have displayed since the late 19th century. But rare is still the woman who revels in spouting obscure statistics pertaining to all of the North American Big Four sports past and present; who knows line ups of teams which she has never seen and which might not even exist any longer; who, in short, is a sports omnivore to whom knowledge of (usually team) sports is at least as important as passion for them; and to whom performing such sports may actually be irrelevant (possibly even counterproductive) to their loving and following them.

But such women exist as well, and in increasing numbers by the day. We chose to call them “sportistas” analogous to “fashionistas” denoting a person who not only loves fashion but is also profoundly knowledgeable about it. Thus, our sportista loves her sports and also knows them.  Alas, neither of these attributes suffices for her to be seen as an equal to her much more numerous male counterparts. Men continue to regard sports as their own domain where women are little more than tolerated intruders. They may learn the stuff, know it well, but somehow will remain outsiders, tolerated to be sure, but not seen as truly authentic. To be sure, a rare group of women attain such authenticity – and thus full acceptance and membership in the club – after having passed countless non-specific but very real “tests” that men place in their path by constantly raising an ill-defined bar. As we argue at our book’s end, women have come to learn the language of sports perfectly, but they will continue to speak it with an accent that may not even be discernible to them, but remain all the more so to men.

Thus, while women have come to follow events like the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Series and others outwardly just like men, the two genders’ involvement in the quotidian manifestations of the few team sports that constitute what we have termed “hegemonic sports culture” – meaning the Big Four of baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey in the United States; ice hockey in Canada; soccer in Europe and Latin America; cricket and various rugby codes in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – remains well apart. Thus, in the next few months of this post-Olympic period, women will passionately follow their favorite NFL team, root for their college team, and hope that their baseball team wins the pennant and the World Series. But the way they will do so, and the deeper meaning of this activity, will be quite different from that of men’s.  

Andrei S. Markovits is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan. He has published prolifically on German and European politics, and sports. His latest book is Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture.

What critics are saying about Temple University Press books

This week, we feature a trio of recent reviews of Temple University Press titles.

Lori Peek’s Behind the Backlash was reviewed in the March 2012 issue of Perspectives on Politics. The review read, “Behind the Backlash is distinctive in the careful attention Peek gives to the voices of her 140 interviewees and in her effort to explain the development of the backlash itself from the framework of disaster studies…. The author does an excellent job of documenting the experiences of Muslim Americans in the immediate post-9/11 environment, especially those from New York City, whose exposure to the backlash was frequently more intense than that experienced at a greater distance from Ground Zero. The two most effective chapters…detail the climate of fear that descended on Muslim Americans after the attacks and the initial strategies pursued by Muslims as they sought to deflect hostility, largely through efforts to educate Americans about Islam and to protect Muslim claims on public space. Peek’s subjects articulate a wide array of experiences, both positive and negative, illustrating the frenzy and the creativity that shaped Muslim life in 2002 and 2003 as people sought to make sense of their new status…. Behind the Backlash will be of greatest value to readers who want to understand the 9/11 attacks as a disaster with distinctly negative effects, an approach ideally suited to the early years of the so-called War on Terror…. Peek’s study provides an excellent point of entry into the rich body of scholarship now available on this topic.”

Andrew Hurley’s  Beyond Preservation was reviewed in the January 2012 issue of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. The review read, “Beyond Preservation emphasizes the role of public history and public archeology in preserving inner-city landscapes and cultivating a shared sense of purpose and belonging. Author Andrew Hurley offers a blueprint for interpreting elements of historic preservation in a manner that directly advances community objectives. Hurley’s argument is that historic preservation can be employed more constructively in America’s inner cities. Despite the prevalence of innovative practices and perspectives of historical preservation, there is a distinguishable tradeoff between community building and economic development. Although in recent decades preservation made gains in admiration measured according to economic criteria, preservation’s capacity to harmonize past and present to unify people around a broad civic vision should also be brought into the agenda…. Hurley has made an important contribution to historic preservation theory and practice. The book provides valuable principles to guide the economic revitalization in our cities by harnessing the power of history through historic preservation. Hurley wants preservationists to be more aware of public engagement with history as a winning political tool to enhance a community’s potential to direct change that honors the history that shapes us. Hurley’s theme is outside the normal narrative of historic preservation, but he should not ignore these insights on understanding the vital importance of historic preservation as a whole.” 

 Ladies and Gents, edited by Olga Gershenson and Barbara Penner, was reviewed in the April 2012 issue of Gender & Society. The review read, “While public toilets are a necessity of public life, their association with human waste, germs, gender performance, and sexuality render them a treacherous subject for public discussion as well as academic discourse. However, the history, design, and social policies surrounding public toilets provide distinct insights into patterns of gender and cultural inequality. With their edited volume Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender, Olga Gershenson and Barbara Penner make an essential contribution to this burgeoning area of inquiry…. [T]his collection includes contributions from the fields of art, architecture, urban planning, graphic design, history, film, cultural studies, women’s studies, and queer studies. It also addresses specific locales in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia. Gershenson and Penner begin this volume with a deft and thorough introduction to existing sociological, anthropological, psychoanalytic, architectural, and queer theoretical approaches to public toilets and gender as well as a succinct discussion of their representation in art, film, and literature…. Ladies and Gents forms an important, remarkably diverse, and at times divergent collection of scholarship on a long neglected topic essential to gender studies. It clearly demonstrates that finding ways to engage in public discourse about public toilets will allow us a more nuanced and rigorous discussion of gender hegemony and inequality. Toward that end, this volume would be useful in graduate seminars, advanced undergraduate course work, or as an addition to any gender researcher’s library.”


Examining how narrative accounts of mob violence produced by vigilantes legitimized frontier justice and lynching

This week, Lisa Arellano, author of Vigilantes and Lynch Mobs, describes what triggered her interest in writing about vigilantism and vigilante narratives.

People are sometimes surprised that I have written a book about vigilantes.  I spent most of my college and early graduate school years studying political movements and the ways that people use language and stories to create ideas about their identities, and possibilities for political change.  When I finally found my way into a history graduate seminar, I discovered that history sometimes works in very similar ways.  So now, I work on politics and history and on the ways that these two types of knowledge intersect. 

I remember very clearly the moment in graduate school that triggered my interest in vigilantism.  During a history seminar, we were reading Neil Foley’s The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture.  Foley quotes a Mexican American man who said, about a man who immigrated to the U.S. after him, “I’d lynch him if I could.”  My fascination with that formulation was the genesis for my dissertation about vigilantes.  What was this man trying to express about himself and his place in the U.S. when he made this claim?  As someone who grew up in the West, I was already familiar with the positive spin sometimes put on frontier vigilantism.  The writings of anti-lynching activists like Ida B Wells and Walter White had familiarized me with the horrors of Southern lynching and the work of scholars like Jacquelyn Dowd Hall and Robyn Wiegman had helped me to think about the narrative and representational qualities of lynching violence.  The line from Foley’s book seemed to be about all, and none, of these familiar aspects of vigilantism and lynching.  The primary goal of my dissertation was to explain how all of these pieces were connected.

After travelling to archives around the country, and after looking at a wide array of different kinds of records left by vigilante groups, I discovered that oftentimes vigilantes worked very hard to leave glorified accounts of what they had done. They actually wrote histories of their own movements in order to create a favorable record of their actions!  These vigilante histories are still the centerpiece of my work and are the basis of my argument that a particular narrative formation was what created the form of violence we know as lynching.  According to this vigilante narrative, “an ideal vigilance committee convened and acted in an organized and even-handed fashion in response to uncontrolled criminal conditions and was roundly supported and applauded by its community for doing so.” 

When it came time to revise my dissertation for publication as a book, it was important to me to that I offer a fuller explanation of the ways that the vigilantes’ histories and accounts about themselves became so widely influential in histories of the region.  Some additional research on western archivist and historian Hubert Howe Bancroft allowed me to link up the vigilantes’ histories about themselves with histories about the west and with the process of regional archive building.  The vigilantes, their historians, and early local archivists and history writers did a remarkably good job creating positive accounts of vigilantism until Ida B. Wells intervened.  Among the anti-lynching activists, it was really Wells who figured out how important language, stories and narratives were in legitimizing vigilante practice.

While Vigilantes and Lynch Mobs is about the past and the ways that we remember and write history I believe that its most important lessons are for the present day.  The vigilante narrative continues to appear in a variety of contexts—from border patrols to community anti-crime groups.  The historical vigilantes help us understand how and why these practices can be understood, by some, as heroic (as well as the reasons that this self-understanding is often misplaced.)  The vigilante example also clearly demonstrates how violence, like politics and history, is both constituted and legitimated through language and stories.  My new research focuses on violence, gender and sexuality from 1950 to the present in order to understand these ideas in a different context.

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