A Transition From Purchasing to Collaborating: The Relationships Behind Open Access 

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate Open Access week with a post by Ryan Mulligan, acquisitions editor at the Press, about our open access initiatives.

This week is Open Access Week, which celebrates the producers and distributors of information who remove the barriers to entry, namely cost but also legal apparatus, facing the potential readers who are trying to access scholarly work. There are plenty of open access models that attempt to resolve the impasse of cost-bearing, turning from readers as bearers of those costs to libraries, grant institutions, and universities themselves, the institutions that ultimately hold the standard for scholarly productivity. Temple University Press is acutely aware that the benefits of book publishing as a means of public scholarship—editing, design, and marketing, that work to lift the most urgent and rigorous signals above the noise in the sea of information available to seekers— come at a cost. In traditional publishing, costs lie with the reader, often represented by a library, seeking the information. As library budgets have either shrunk or been allocated to high-priced journal subscriptions, individual readers—be they scholars or students—have had to cover more of the cost. Unsurprisingly, many readers find themselves unable to bear that cost and the gap between those who can and cannot furthers inequality in academia.

To that end and with an eye towards the future of scholarly publishing, Temple University Press engages with a number of open access publishing initiatives in an attempt to lift those costs from the shoulders of readers. The Press submits books each year to the Knowledge Unlatched program, in which participating libraries select the books to be added to the collection. Publishers are then paid a set amount to help subsidize production costs in order to release the book in an open access ebook edition. Temple University Press also embraces TOME’s Open Monograph program, in which academic authors are subsidized by their participating universities to publish with a participating university press like Temple. I personally love the concept of this program, because in many disciplines, it is the university itself that holds book publication as a standard for tenure and promotion. TOME reconciles the cost of that standard. Temple also has been able to publish books open access through funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities through their open books program, in particular books in the Press’s excellent labor history backlist. All of the Press’s open access books are available on our Manifold platform

University presses are non-profit, mission-based publishers who want to see the good scholarship they publish in as many hands as possible, just as readers and the librarians who serve them want to access that scholarship, and just as authors want to be widely read and cited. Scholarly authors may not typically derive much income from their royalties, but their institutions reward them for having vetted and published their work. Institutions want to have the best published, most knowledgeable faculties to offer their students, and the healthiest knowledge environments in which their students and scholars can share and communicate. Similarly, institutions have a role to play in preserving the scholarly publishing apparatus necessary to vetting and broadcasting the work of their scholars. The scholarly ecosystem continues to need the backing that once came through university library purchases to fund the production and circulation of knowledge. Open access publishing acknowledges that the onus on facilitating the continuation of good scholarship is not on the individual buyer of a book but on the full scholarly community. 

As our authors compose their books, they depend on a lack of barriers to engage with and build on the knowledge base of their discipline. No one produces knowledge out of whole cloth and no scholar is taken seriously who does not draw on the work of others with the expectation that others will draw on their work. They quote short text excerpts and create tables of data collected by their fellow researchers. They cite established theory or build on promising new hypotheses. They illustrate their books with maps and illustrations released into the public domain or Creative Commons by creators who don’t depend on individual sales to continue their work—they have an institution backing them up. Scholarly book publishing already depends on open access scholarship on some level. If the scholarly ecosystem that institutions depend upon is going to continue to be healthy, that level is going to rise and institutions are going to have to meet that cost, if not through individual purchases, then through open access funding. 

There is risk in shifting power and responsibility from a market to a collaboration. Readers’ needs and interests must continue to be protected even if their power in bearing costs shifts. The potential in that shift is in rethinking the responsibilities of the many organizations and institutional parties who have a stake in the knowledge ecosystem.

Announcing the Zane L. Miller Book Development Award

This week in North Philly Notes, we are pleased to announce an award to help mentor and support up-and-coming scholars.

Temple University Press and the editors of the Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy series are pleased to announce the Zane L. Miller Book Development Award, named in honor of our late founding series editor. Professor Miller, a renowned scholar of urban history, was equally well known as a devoted, tireless mentor to less-experienced fellow authors seeking to navigate the book development and publication process. This award was initially put forward by current series coeditor Davarian Baldwin, as a way of advancing the careers of scholars from underrepresented communities with limited financial resources while also honoring Miller, who died in 2016.

In that spirit, we invite first-time authors to apply for a grant of up to $2,500 to help defray costs such as travel, freelancer fees, permissions costs, and other expenses related to the development of an urban studies-focused book manuscript. Awardees will also be assigned to work directly with one of the series editors who will act as a mentor and sounding board through the proposal, peer review, board approval, and final manuscript stages, with the ultimate goal of publication in the series.

About the Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy series
Edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin, the series was founded by the late Zane L. Miller to publish books that examine past and contemporary cities. While preserving the series’ foundational focus on the policy, planning, and environmental issues so central to metropolitan life, we also join scholarly efforts to push the boundaries of urban studies. We are committed to publishing work at the shifting intersections of cultural production, community formation, and political economy that shape cities at all scales, from the neighborhood to the transnational.

About Temple University Press
Founded in 1969, Temple University Press chose as its inspiration Russell Conwell’s vision of the university as a place of educational opportunity for the urban working class. The Press is perhaps best known as a publisher of books in the social sciences and the humanities, as well as books about Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley region. Temple was an early publisher of books in urban studies, housing and labor studies, organizational reform, social service reform, public religion, health care, and cultural studies. It became one of the first university presses to publish in what later became the fields of women’s studies, ethnic studies— including Asian American and Latino studies, as well as African American Studies.

Moving Beyond Schoolhouse Rock and Understanding Regulatory Processes

This week in North Philly Notes, Sara Rinfret, editor of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, writes about why regulations do matter.

Former President Trump often used slogans on the campaign trail to “end bad regulations” or to halt the “war on coal.” These soundbites assisted the Trump administration’s efforts to rollback more than 100 environmental regulations in the United States during his presidency. But, why? Are regulations bad?

Teaching courses on U.S. government to high school or college students often only covers the Schoolhouse Rock‘s version of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” Unfortunately, we do not spend enough time examining in our curriculum what occurs after a piece of legislation becomes law.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, urges that we must increase our understanding of regulatory processes to document policymaking in the United States less complex, with a myriad of access points for public participation. The book uses illustrative environmental policy case studies to guide the reader through the stages of administrative rulemaking. Unpacking these regulatory stages moves us beyond our Schoolhouse Rock mindset and illustrates how and why Congress delegates its decision-making authority to administrative agencies.

Congress delegates the implementation of policy to administrative agencies because it does not have the time or expertise to do so. This delegation of authority provides administrative agencies the ability to create law through the administrative rulemaking process. The stages of this process can be best understood by learning from the case studies that examine each of the distinct steps, such as rule development, public comment, to post-rulemaking activities. Our regulatory adventure does not stop after the stages of the rulemaking, but it is monitored and carried out by state environmental inspectors who ensure compliance with environmental law. These individuals, for example, ensure a nearby company is not improperly disposing of waste.

Unfortunately, the regulatory process is not discussed enough and often depicted as detrimental to business. Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? dispels this myth by inviting and encouraging the opportunity for students, practitioners and the general public to engage in a clear, step-by-step guide about the stages of the process. Specifically, we argue environmental policymaking is not made in a black hole. Instead, taking the time to understand regulatory processes is another access point for the American public to directly engage in providing input by using electronic platforms such as Regulations.gov.  

Regulations are not bad in general; they protect the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. The heavy lifters of environmental policy are career civil servants, your next-door neighbor who works for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Park Service, to name a few. We just need to do a better job of understanding the process, which is the goal of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? As Regulations.gov clearly states, “Make a difference. Submit your comments, and let your voice be heard!”

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase titles for Hispanic Heritage Month. View our full list of Latino/a Studies and Latin American/Caribbean Studies titles. (Also of interest Studies in Latin American and Caribbean Music series)

Accessible Citizenships shows how disability provides a new perspective on our understanding of the nation and the citizen.

Afro-Caribbean Religions provides a comprehensive introduction to the Caribbean’s African-based religions.

Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music recounts the life and times of one of Cuba’s most important musicians.

The Brazilian Sound is an encyclopedic survey of Brazilian popular music—now updated and expanded.

Caribbean Currents is the classic introduction to the Caribbean’s popular music brought up to date.

Chilean New Song provides an examination of the Chilean New Song movement as an organic part of the struggles for progressive social change, deeper democracy, and social justice in Chile in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The Coolie Speaks offers a remarkable examination of bondage in Cuba that probes questions of slavery, freedom, and race.

Daily Labors examines the vulnerabilities, discrimination, and exploitation—as well as the sense of belonging and community—that day laborers experience on an NYC street corner.

Democratizing Urban Development shows how community organizations fight to prevent displacement and secure affordable housing across cities in the U.S. and Brazil.

Dominican Baseball, from the author of Sugarball, looks at the important and contested relationship between Major League Baseball and Dominican player development.

Fernando Ortiz on Music features selections from the influential Fernando Ortiz’s publications on Afro-diasporic music and dance—now available in English.

From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia is a history of Puerto Rican immigration to Philadelphia.

Globalizing the Caribbean, now in Paperback, illustrates how global capitalism finds new ways to mutate and grow in the Caribbean.

How Did You Get to Be Mexican? is a readable account of a life spent in the borderlands between racial identity.

The International Monetary Fund and Latin America chronicles the sometimes questionable relationship between the International Monetary Fund and Latin America from 1944 to the present.

Latino Mayors is the first book to examine the rise of Latino mayors in the United States.

Latinos and the U.S. Political System is an analysis of American politics from the vantage point of the Latino political condition.

Latinx Environmentalisms puts the environmental humanities into dialogue with Latinx literary and cultural studies.

Liberation Theology asks: How does the church function in Latin America on an everyday, practical, and political level?

Merengue, now available as an ebook, is a fascinating examination of the social history of merengue dance music and its importance as a social and cultural symbol.

Migration and Mortality documents and denounces the violent impacts of restrictive migration policies in the Americas, linking this institutional violence to broader forces of racial capitalism.

Música Norteña is the first history of the music that binds together Mexican immigrant communities.

New Immigrants, Old Unions provides a case study of a successful effort to unionize undocumented immigrant workers.

The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation is a landmark history of the New York Young Lords, and what their activism tells us about contemporary Latino/a politics.

Not from Here, Not from There/No Soy de Aquí ni de Allá is a lively autobiography by Nelson Díaz, a community activist, judge, and public advocate who blazed a trail for Latinos in Philadelphia.

Revolution Around the Corner is the first book-length story of the radical social movement, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party.

Selecting Women, Electing Women offers an analytic framework to show how the process of candidate selection often limits the participation of women in various Latin American countries.

The Sorcery of Color is an examination of how racial and gender hierarchies are intertwined in Brazil.

Sounding Salsa takes readers inside New York City’s vibrant salsa scene.

Terrorizing Latina/o Immigrants is a comprehensive analysis of changes in immigration policy, politics, and enforcement since 9/11.

Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil explains what the rise and fall of Brazil’s first and only female president can teach us about women’s empowerment.

Celebrating Banned Book Week

This week in North Philly Notes, in honor of Banned Book Week, we highlight Temple University Press’ Critical Race Theory titles.

Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory, edited by Francisco Valdes, Jerome McCristal Culp and Angela P. Harris

Its opponents call it part of “the lunatic fringe,” a justification for “black separateness,” “the most embarrassing trend in American publishing.” “It” is Critical Race Theory. But what is Critical Race Theory? How did it develop? Where does it stand now? Where should it go in the future? In this volume, thirty-one CRT scholars present their views on the ideas and methods of CRT, its role in academia and in the culture at large, and its past, present, and future.

Critical race theorists assert that both the procedures and the substance of American law are structured to maintain white privilege. The neutrality and objectivity of the law are not just unattainable ideals; they are harmful actions that obscure the law’s role in protecting white supremacy. This notion—so obvious to some, so unthinkable to others—has stimulated and divided legal thinking in this country and, increasingly, abroad. The essays in Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory—all original—address this notion in a variety of helpful and exciting ways. They use analysis, personal experience, historical narrative, and many other techniques to explain the importance of looking critically at how race permeates our national consciousness.

Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, Third Edition, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

Critical Race Theory has become a dynamic, eclectic, and growing movement in the study of law. With this third edition of Critical Race Theory, editors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic have created a reader for the twenty-first century—one that shakes up the legal academy, questions comfortable liberal premises, and leads the search for new ways of thinking about our nation’s most intractable, and insoluble, problem—race. The contributions, from a stellar roster of established and emerging scholars, address new topics, such as intersectionality and black men on the “down low.” Essays also confront much-discussed issues of discrimination, workplace dynamics, affirmative action, and sexual politics. Also new to this volume are updated section introductions, author notes, questions for discussion, and reading lists for each unit. The volume also covers the spread of the movement to other disciplines such as education. Offering a comprehensive and stimulating snapshot of current race jurisprudence and thought, this new edition of Critical Race Theory is essential for those interested in law, the multiculturalism movement, political science, education, and critical thought.

The editors also published Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

A Q&A with Temple University Press’ new Editorial Assistant, Will Forrest

This week in North Philly Notes, we get to learn more about Temple University Press’s new editorial assistant, Will Forrest, who joined the Temple University Press staff this week.


You are “returning” to the Press having worked here as a student. Can you talk about your experiences at the Press?

I first worked as an intern for TUP during my senior year as an undergraduate, mostly working on rights and contracts. I was amazed at the variety of responsibilities I was handed and their importance. It was not your typical mindless gofer intern busy work. I loved my time as an intern and got a feel for nearly every aspect of what it takes to publish a book. I am overjoyed to return as an editorial assistant!

What book(s) do you like to read/are you currently reading?

I am currently reading By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age by Paul Boyer. History is probably my biggest love, and oddly enough, I have been interested in the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war for most of my life (although the Soviet Union did not exist when I was born). I am also rereading Anthony Heilbut’s The Gospel Sound, his look at the vibrant and often underappreciated world of African-American gospel music. It might be my favorite book on American music.

Has any single book made a particularly strong impression on you? (What and why or how)?

Many of my strongest responses to books came early in my life, and the book that I credit with really sparking my interest in writing and storytelling is Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. It was the first book I remembered reading where I felt like I identified with the character, understood that he was speaking from a unique point of view, and made me feel less isolated. It launched me into reading Blume’s other books as well as other stories about teenagers and young adults. I still find that I especially like reading novels and consuming other media about young people, and my creative ideas are often filled with young people working things out.

You have an interest in playwriting. Can you tell us about that?

I have loved theater for most of my life, and writing has also been a major part of my life, but it wasn’t until around college that the two began to dovetail. I like the freedom and sparseness of writing plays compared to other forms. Most of my play ideas end up being rooted in history one way or another, and often my plays are places to string together seemingly separate interests and ideas I have. I actually have a play I wrote being read online at Temple this fall called Window of Vulnerability about nuclear war planning and its psychological impact on ordinary people during the Cold War.

When and how do you read?

I am a very undisciplined reader. I typically read in the evenings after most of my daily business is done, and read essentially until I get tired or disinterested, whichever comes first. Even if I am very engaged by a book I don’t usually feel the urge to finish it right there and then, and I sometimes then end up reading multiple books at a time. 

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I would venture to say that many of my books on the Cold War might surprise some given the event took place before I was born. One that might surprise most people, especially people of a certain age, is Richard Zoglin’s biography HOPE of Bob Hope. It’s natural to wonder why any young person would be interested in the life of a comedian known for being a conservative square who performed well past his prime and toured the world with the USO. But American entertainment history is a major interest of mine, and like him or not (and some of his early movies aren’t bad), there are few entertainers as important to 20th century America as Bob Hope.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?

To be honest, I never really identified much with superheroes or superhero/comic culture in general aside from watching some of the films. I used to wear a Superman t-shirt that I won in a crane machine on the NJ boardwalk when I was much younger, and I suppose I still think he’s pretty cool. I also like Superman because he’s not as omnipresent as the Marvel heroes in today’s culture.

What Temple University Press book has particular meaning to you (and why)?

This is an unusual and obscure choice, but it is a book the Press published in 1974 called Broadcasting in Africa: A Continental Survey of Radio and Television. When my brother, who shares many of the same historical interests I do, found out I worked for the Temple University Press and that they had a library of their catalog, one of the first things he asked me about was this book. He wanted to know if they had it because it is very hard to find and one of the only books written during the era on the topic. It was this experience that made me realize the unique vision of TUP to publish pioneering works on topics that are not often written about, and it crystallized that the books TUP publishes are interesting to many diverse groups, including my brother.

What Temple University Press book would you recommend to someone?

I think Mary Lou Nemanic’s recent Metro Dailies in the Age of Multimedia Journalism is an incredibly important read for anyone who cares about truth. As local newspapers shutter around the country in the face of the digital revolution, especially in smaller communities, local stories and viewpoints slowly start to disappear from the nationwide conversation along with their invaluable investigations. Local dailies are often the first papers to report on what will become major national stories, and when they fall on hard times, things start to fall through the cracks.

What book will you read next?

My backlog of books to read is quite extensive. I have Peter Guralnick’s biography of Sam Cooke entitled Dream Boogie on my shelf, and as a huge fan of Cooke, that era of American music, and Guralnick’s other books, I will devour it. I also just bought Vincent J. Indonti’s African Americans Against the Bomb and am very excited to read it.

What three writers would you invite to a dinner party?

Even though I read largely non-fiction, I think great fiction storytellers might make better dinner party guests because of their natural inclination towards dreaming worlds and listening to their characters. So I would invite Judy Blume and Elena Ferrante, two of my favorite living novelists (I hopefully will have learned Italian to speak with Elena) as well as Sarah Ruhl, a playwright I admire very much. I would pay homage and hopefully we would spend the evening talking about everything other than their work. I’m also not much of a cook, so if any of them have any specialties or feel inclined to provide courses, I would be ecstatic.

Listen Up! Temple University Press Podcast Episode 3

This week in North Philly Notes, we debut the latest episode of the Temple University Press Podcast, which features host Sam Cohn interviewing author Stephen Feldman about his book Pack the Court!

The Temple University Press Podcast is where you can hear about all the books you’ll want to read next.

Click here to listen

The Temple University Press Podcast is available wherever you find your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Overcast, among other outlets.

About this episode

Should Democrats add justices to the Supreme Court if given the chance, whether in 2021 or afterward? Or would Democratic court packing destroy the Court as an apolitical judicial institution? In his new book, Pack the Court!, Feldman has written a defense of Supreme Court expansion—a topic that is very much in the news right now with Democrats looking to pass the Judiciary Act of 2021, a bill that proposes to increase the number of Justices and change the ideological balance of the conservative majority. 

One criticism of court packing is that it will destroy the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as a judicial institution. According to this view, the Court’s legitimacy is based on a law-politics dichotomy: The idea that law and politics must remain separate and independent. The justices must decide cases by neutrally applying the rule of law. If politics infects the Court and its decision making, then Court decisions are tainted. But as Feldman’s insightful book shows, law and politics are forever connected in judicial interpretation and decision making. Pack the Court! insists that court packing is not the threat to the Supreme Court’s institutional legitimacy that many fear.

Temple University Press podcast host Sam Cohn spoke with Stephen Feldman about his new book and expanding the Supreme Court.

What will work eventually look like?

This week in North Philly Notes, we focus on our new and forthcoming Labor Studies titles in honor of Labor Day.

 Workforce Development 

The Many Futures of Work reframes the conversation about contemporary workplace experience by providing both “top down” and “bottom up” analyses.  

America in the 20thcentury

Becoming Entitled examines Americans’ shift in thinking about government social insurance programs during the Great Depression.

Communists and Community shows what role Communists played in the advancement of social democracy. 

Elaine Black Yoneda (forthcoming) presents a critical biography of the Jewish labor activist and feminist pioneer. 

Industrial histories

“A Road to Peace and Freedom recounts the history of the International Workers Order.

From Collective Bargaining to Collective Begging analyzes the expansion and restriction of collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Social justice and social welfare 

Motherlands challenges preconceived notions of the states that support working mothers. 

Labor economics 

Daily Labors and its examination of Black and Latino day laborers’ experience on an NYC street corner.

Sociology of work 

A Collective Pursuit argues that teachers’ unions are working in community to reinvigorate the collective pursuit of reforms beneficial to both educators and public education.

Policing in Natural Disasters shows how disaster work impacts law enforcement officers and first responders.

Making Their Days Happen (forthcoming) explores the complexities of the interpersonal dynamics and policy implications affecting personal assistance service consumers and providers.

For all of our Labor Studies

Religion and politics mix – what matters is how they mix

This week in North Philly Notes, L. Felipe Mantilla, author of How Political Parties Mobilize Religion, writes about the rise of religious political parties.

A glance at global headlines suggests that religion is playing an ever-growing role in electoral politics. Islamist parties have become fixtures in Muslim-majority countries from Morocco to Indonesia, conservative Catholics are entrenched in Poland, Evangelicals flex their political muscles in Brazil, and Hindu nationalists are dominant across much of India. In all these settings, secularists often express fear that the political success of religious groups will threaten democratic institutions and endanger minorities.

My new book, How Political Parties Mobilize Religion: Lessons from Mexico and Turkey, aims to bring some nuance to the debates prompted by the rise of religious political parties. One of its main arguments is that religion often enters the electoral arena, but that it can do so in strikingly different ways. Religious mobilization by political parties is not monolithic, and secular laws and religious leaders can have a great deal of influence on how religious parties behave in practice.

In the United States, for example, the idea of a clear separation between church and state is embedded in American political tradition. Yet religion and partisanship are clearly intertwined. Candidates often speak publicly about faith, craft appeal to religious voters, and place their personal beliefs on public display. While churches risk losing their tax-exempt status if they engage in explicitly partisan activities, these restrictions are widely disregarded in practice. Given electoral laws that favor a two-party system, religious activists operate within broader coalitions rather than form their own party organizations. As a result, both Democrats and Republicans engage in religious mobilization.

Still, there is a great deal of diversity in how political parties engage with religion. Consider the contrast between the religious services attended by Donald Trump and Joseph Biden on the eve of the 2020 election. Biden sat at a pew in St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church and was treated like a regular parishioner; his presence was not mentioned in the sermon. Trump, attending an evangelical congregation in Las Vegas, was repeatedly praised and blessed, declared to be “lighting a bright light for God and for all those who believe in a good America, a noble America, a righteous America,” and was invited to speak to the congregation.

In my book, I argue that much of this difference can be explained by the contrasting patterns of religious organization among Evangelicals and Catholics. Individual leaders of Evangelical churches can benefit from the fervor and national visibility that brazen partisanship brings, even if their stances alienate most Americans and potentially antagonize elected officials. In contrast, the contemporary Catholic Church is a hierarchical, transnational organization, and as such is more wary of the potential costs of partisanship. Gaining a thousand devout converts by antagonizing millions is fine, perhaps even smart, if you are running a local church but makes little sense if you are leading a world religion.

These differences are not unique to the United States. In Peru’s recent elections, the absence of effective legal restrictions on religious partisanship created an opening for religious political mobilization. In that Catholic-majority country, it led some lay Catholics to launch campaigns based on appeals to religious values and identities. However, Catholic leaders largely withheld their blessing, preferring to make broad statements about the importance of electoral participation. In contrast, many clerics linked with Peru’s rapidly growing Evangelical minority engaged in openly partisan activities, such as praying with specific candidates and organizing events on their behalf.

My book also shows that changes in the rules and regulations governing elections can affect the mobilizing strategies used by religious parties. In 1950s Mexico, electoral rules that disadvantaged opposition parties drove away all but the most committed activists, many of whom were devout Catholics. This left opposition parties dependent on religious activists. As legal reforms gradually made it easier for challengers to gain seats, they began to attract more diverse supporters and the relative influence of religious activists waned. In Turkey in the 1970s, electoral laws gave a competitive edge to small parties. Religious activists took note and formed specialized organizations that catered exclusively to devout voters. However, when constitutional reforms made it harder for these organizations to gain seats in parliament, religious politicians reorganized and moderated their policy proposals to appeal to more mainstream voters. In both cases, religious activists responded strategically to incentives created by electoral laws.

In other words, it makes little sense to support or condemn religious political engagement in general. In democratic settings, religion and political parties are bound to interact. What matters is how political parties engage with religion, and that is something that can be shaped by legal reforms and religious leadership.

The Roots of Migrant Suffering

This week in North Philly Notes, Jamie Longazel and Miranda Cady Hallett, editor of Migration and Mortality, consider the lethal threat U.S. imperialism poses for migrants.

During a June visit to Guatemala, Vice President Kamala Harris had a simple, three-word message for those thinking about migrating to the United States: “Do not come.” Her stern statement received pushback from progressives, but Harris remained unwavering. “Listen,” she said, “I’m really clear we have to deal with the root causes and that is my focus. Period.”

But what exactly are the ‘root causes’ of the so-called migrant crisis? Who in actuality is being harmed and in what ways? Who is benefiting? And what is missing from political rhetoric of this sort?

We take on these questions in our new, edited book, Migration and Mortality. Our central argument is that capitalism, white supremacy, and U.S. imperialism—not poor individual choices or inherently despotic tendencies in the region—are at the root of death and social suffering among migrants in the Americas.

Simply saying “do not come” overlooks how systemic dynamics produce displacement in the Americas. It also changes the narrative. When it becomes an issue of individual choice, we lose sight of all the unnecessary social and biological death migrants experience, not just along the deadly U.S.-Mexico border and in detention centers, but at home, on the streets, and at work—in high-risk extractive industries and on the plantations of large agribusiness.

The Trump administration’s spectacularly harsh policies as well as the exclusion and risks faced by asylum seekers and other migrants during the coronavirus pandemic have brought this violence into sharp focus. Yet Migration and Mortality makes clear that these dynamics, and the harsh and undeniable differential mortality they reproduce, are bipartisan and longstanding.

The current conditions of violence faced by transnational migrants in this hemisphere are the product of long histories of U.S. interventionism. Without apology, ongoing policies from the Monroe Doctrine forward overtly seek regional control and domination, spurring violence and destabilization.

Domestically, brought on by a lethal mix of fearmongering, economic anxieties related to global restructuring, and the continued reactionary response to basic civil and human rights reforms, we’re seeing a rapid rise in xenophobic discourses and policies. Other forms of legal exclusion, too, threaten migrants’ lives: health policies that discriminate on the basis of status and labor law that fails to protect migrant workers, for example.

From our description, you may assume that we, like many others, argue that “the system is broken” and requires comprehensive reform. Our conclusion is a bit different: the system works just as it should for the most powerful and that is why it continues. Immigration policies and enforcement regimes underpin a system designed to give parasitic capitalists and corporations the ability to extract wealth from migrant bodies with impunity.

While this analysis frames the book, the chapters present diverse research reports and essays—drawing on empirical work from public health to cultural anthropology, and bringing critical social theory to bear on the devastating details. While some contributions trace the profiteering of private prison companies, for example, others describe migrants’ experiences of risk and solidarity through qualitative research with impacted communities.

Contributing authors also make a point to stay attuned to migrants’ survival and agency. Because even when non-migrants are sympathetic to the plight of people on the move, we have a tendency to dehumanize, to paint migrants as helpless victims. This is the other thing Harris gets wrong: of course her command won’t cause Guatemalans to relinquish their human urge to survive at all costs. The stories in our book are horrific, to be sure, but each also reveals people fighting back, engaging in collective resistance and personal resilience, and using solidarity and ingenuity to persist—not always surviving as individuals, yet enduring as a collective.

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