Oh, the Places You’ll Go (as a Temple University Press author)

This week in North Philly Notes, Laura Katz Rizzo, author of Dancing the Fairy Tale, describes “a crazy couple of weeks” in her life as she promotes her book at various events. 

On March 5, I will speak at the Pennsylvania Ballet’s annual Luncheon and Dress Rehearsal, which is being held at 11:00 am at Estia restaurant, across the the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The event is an opportunity for dance enthusiasts to have a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of ballet. Emceed by CBS 3’s Jessica Dean, the luncheon includes a presentation of my new book, Dancing the Fairy Talewhich concentrates on the important contributions women have made to the development of American classical ballet. I hope that Arantxa Ochoa, the principal of the company’s newly established school, and former principal dancer, will be there so she can hear what I have to say about how women bring the heart and soul to American ballet schools and companies. The lunch will be followed by a dress rehearsal of Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake at the Academy of Music.

Dancing the Fairy Tale_sm

Soon after this event, I am taking a group of 10 undergraduate and 5 graduate students to the Northeast Regional American College Dance Festival, at Westchester University, where I will be teaching ballet, partnering and variations…obviously from The Sleeping Beauty. With the research I did for my book on that ballet, as well as the accumulated experiences from my own performance career, I want students to dance the solos I write about. In embodying the protagonist role of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, students will get a great entry point into understanding the arguments at the heart of the book: that performers infuse life into characters, and that without the agency of dancers, the roles of the classical ballets would never come to life.

LKR1I will also present some of my new research on “The Architecture of Space as embodied in Neo-Classical Dance Choreography,” work that has emerged from my organization of an interdisciplinary workshop and exhibition featuring the work of New York City Ballet’s photographer, Paul Kolnik and former dancer, Kyra Nichols. This event will take place at Temple’s Center for the Arts on April 16th.  Part of my job as the Temple representative at the American College Dance Festival Association will also be driving a van full of students from North Philadelphia to Westchester, running rehearsals, checking in on students, and making sure the theater crew has all of the needed technical cues from our students.  Honestly, as long as I don’t have to call any cues, I will be OK.  Calling cues is my least favorite job in the theater!

Barbara WeisbergerAfter returning from ACDFA, I have a quick trip to the Society of Dance History Scholars’ Conference at the Peabody Institute at John’s Hopkins University where I will discuss the life of Barbara Weisberger, (in photo at left), the founding matriarch of the Pennsylvania Ballet. She was at all the right places in all the right times in order to be part of many of the significant developments in American Ballet throughout the 20th century.

Baltimore will be followed by a trip to New York City to see the finals of the Youth America Grand Prix and conduct a recruitment audition for any competitors interested in studying dance in higher education!  In the meantime, I am trying to keep up with teaching my classes at Temple University (my favorite activity) as well as work on new research in which I am exploring the intersections between ballet and entertainment wrestling. This semester I am teaching a repertory class where senior jazz musicians and sophomore dance majors are creating a collaborative piece together. I am also teaching a graduate seminar for master’s students about best practices and strategies for teaching dance.

LKR2My new research topic, that of entertainment wrestling, has taken the shape of both a performed wrestling match en pointe in concert dance venue (so much fun to both float across the stage and body slam my partner in the same ten minutes) as well as a book chapter in an upcoming volume entitled Wrestling and Performance. If you had asked me five years ago if I though The Sleeping Beauty had connections to the WWE, I’d certainly have had different answers and a changed perspective from how I see the practices today. Go figure…the world of dance studies takes me to unexpected places each day!

North Korea’s response to The Interview, the Charlie Hebdo shootings, and school violence—is there a link?

In this blog entry, Laura Martocci, author of Bullyingconsiders shame in our culture. And watch this video, where Laura Martocci talks about the relation between shame and bullying. 

Why’d they do it?

Why did Islamic radicals go on a rampage at Charlie Hebdo?
Why did the North Korean government threaten ‘merciless’ action against the US if SONY released The Interview?
Why have American students brought guns to school and opened fire on their peers?

Shame.

A quickly-posted on-line account of the Charlie Hebdo shooting stated:
“MOTIVE: Charlie Hebdo had attracted attention for its controversial depictions of Muhammad. Hatred for Charlie Hebdo ’s cartoons, which made jokes about Islamic leaders as well as Muhammad, is considered to be the principal motive for the massacre.”

EspritdeCorps tells us that “the basic plot [of The Interview] centres on two American journalists acquiring access to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and that rare opportunity prompts the CIA to ask the reporters to assassinate him. Not surprisingly, when the North Koreans learned that this film ends with the death of their actual leader and that the movie is considered a comedy, they took offence.” (italics added)

Comprehending Columbine compRalph Larkin [Comprehending Columbine, Temple, 2007] cites a report claiming that “people surrounded [Harris and Klebold] in the commons and squirted ketchup packets all over them, laughing at them, calling them faggots. That happened while teachers watched. They couldn’t fight back. They wore the ketchup all day and went home covered with it.”

Shame is the common denominator between these acts of violence, perpetrated against those held responsible for the degradation, humiliation, and loss of face.

Most analysts would hesitate to lump students who have gone on rampages with these two recent acts of terrorism. School shootings are not politically motivated, nor can their perpetrators be situated in a ‘shame culture.’ By positioning American culture as vastly different from both Islam and the Juche-influenced culture of North Korea, and by accounting for recent aggressions in terms of this difference, any similarity is easily obscured  A homicidal privileging of pride and honor seem a stark contrast to Occidential ‘guilt cultures’ steeped in rationality, individualism, free speech and the Christian value of forgiveness.

Unfortunately, this oversimplification denies the legitimacy of shame in American culture, and precludes an ability to fully understand the motivations behind our own ‘home-grown’ acts of violence. Simply put, even though America is not considered a shame-culture, shame may still drive acts of violence within it. In fact, denial may inadvertently promote such acts, because there are no cultural templates that instruct individuals on the processing of acutely distressful states of humiliation. While ‘shame-cultures’ may require individuals to seek revenge / restore honor, guilt cultures remain silent, offering no recipe to ease the degradation that gnaws from the inside, destabilizing a sense of self.

Shame is integral to human nature.
Embodied, it burns into and brands the psyche, even as it inscribes the social flesh.
Shame bears witness to the perversion of the self that I, and others, believe me to possess
As a moral emotion, it is linked to the exposure—and judgment—of who I am.
(That is, transgressions—perhaps merely ‘differences’—are not isolated acts that can be detached from self and remediated).

Viewed this way, the ridicule of one’s deeply held religious or political beliefs, on the world stage, can be  as deeply felt as any humiliation  in the cafeteria.

Rage against those who belittle and denigrate a foundational “truth” that anchors and sustains a cultural or social identity, and/or an individual’s sense of self, is not unexpected. Shame lives in the body. It has a somatic nature, and rage is an equally visceral response to the distress, agitation, and felt threat to identity; to belonging. It is the body’s resistance to psychic annihilation.

The violence prompted by rage marks an attempt to manage the (social and psychological) devastation prompted by shame. By its very ferocity, this violence demands that respect be restored. It promises to mitigate the agony of humiliation and rejection by (re)asserting both agency and authority, reclaiming dignity. It is bodily begotten social redemption—and socially begotten bodily redemption.

Bullying_smAs I argue in Bullying: The Social Destruction of Self, it is precisely the possibility of redemption—or its lack—that drives these acts of desperation.  Shame denigrates, but it is the inability to atone, to make amends and have respect restored/be readmitted to the group that looms large, and comes to overwhelm a number of our youth. Trapped in the fishbowl of their schools, unable to reclaim dignity and restore ‘face’ on a social level, and unable to negotiate the twisting, withering sense of inadequacy on a personal level, they seek only to make it stop.

And in order to do that, they may resort to the same extreme behavior that militants of shame-cultures embrace. This similarity of response is likely rooted in the neuro-firing of our brains.  Recent research and fMRI imaging has shown that the social pain linked to shame and rejection register in the same pain centers of the brain associated with tissue damage. And, when we are hurt, when we are humiliated, ostracized, and excluded, the pain (the threat to our social bond/personal well-being) may be so primal as to override any ‘rational’ responses.

In other words, not unlike physical pain, social pain interrupts cognitive functioning.
It impairs an individual’s ability to process information and self-regulate. 
This neurological response, likely a consequence of the interdependence between emotion and cognition processes, suggests that shame, whether experienced in relation to cultural values or to taunts in cyberspace, can debilitate, even incapacitate, the ability to think and act ‘rationally.’

And, it is the need to alleviate this pain—to restore face and redeem oneself (or one’s culture/religion)—that makes the tragedies in our own backyards not  dissimilar to violence occurring on the world stage.

Remembering the absences of history

This week in North Philly Notes, Roger Aden, author of Upon the Ruins of Liberty, writes about how absences in history can yield surprising tensions and stories.

I was reading a story the other day about a former college basketball coach who had in his possession an immensely valuable historical document: the text used by Martin Luther King, Jr. when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the Washington Mall in 1963. Stunningly, the most memorable portion of the speech did not appear in the text. Instead of concluding his remarks as planned, King both ad-libbed and drew upon previous orations as he shared his dream with the nation. The coach’s prized possession thus gains much of its symbolic power not just from its provenance, but also from the striking absence of language that still resonates in memory half a century later.

Our nation’s stories are full of absences. While we rightfully treasure historical artifacts in which powerful remnants of the past are embedded, we also tightly grasp the stories, memories, and events which remain meaningful to us even if we have few, if any, physical reminders of them. That’s what makes the stories of the President’s House site in Independence National Historical Park so compelling for me. Here, on the front porch of a new building dedicated to remembering and displaying one of our nation’s most treasured historical icons (the Liberty Bell), and less than a block away from a colonial-era structure in which the Declaration of Independence was approved, lies the site in which the revered George Washington dodged Pennsylvania law to ensure that the enslaved Africans toiling in the executive mansion in Philadelphia remained in bondage to him and his wife. We have little physical evidence about the lives of those enslaved Africans nor have we historically devoted many resources to telling the stories of any enslaved Africans in the national commemorative landscape, yet those stories have nonetheless lingered on the periphery of national memory. The excavation of these stories at the President’s House provided powerful reminders that the seemingly absent is always present and that our national embrace of liberty was imperfectly enacted—even in its birthplace.

Aden_2.inddIn Upon the Ruins of Liberty, I explore how this tension between absences and presences manifested itself throughout the development of the site. From the park’s initial reluctance to disrupt its relatively seamless stories of the triumph of liberty and the potency of American exceptionalism, to the dedicated efforts of historians, community activists, and dedicated political leaders to give a presence to the stories of liberty denied, even the initial controversy about how to handle Edward Lawler, Jr.’s discoveries about the site and all of its inhabitants sparked a great deal of soul-searching about the inclusion and exclusion of stories in the park, the commemorative landscape, and the nation’s history. Both the inertia of history and the passion of those whose stories have lingered on the edges of that history starkly emerged in the early stages of the controversy about what to do with Lawler’s revelations.

Nor did the inertia and passion dissipate during, and ever after, the completion of the first federal site dedicated to telling the stories of slavery. Every step in the project’s development—deciding what to do at the site, picking a design for a memorial installation, revising that design after the surprising results of an excavation revealed remnants of the original structure, and telling the stories within the design—featured discussions about how to make present, in the national historical park nicknamed “the cradle of liberty,” the absences of the past. I explore those tensions in Upon the Ruins of Liberty, while drawing upon the insights of those intimately involved with the project and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering which led to the site’s development as it stands today. And, because the stories of history are always open-ended, I illustrate how the completed site remains a place of controversy because of what it includes and excludes in its telling of history. The President’s House site and, I hope, the book which tells the story of its development prod us to remember that the absences of history are not forgotten, but nor are they easily integrated into narratives which possess the inertia of centuries of sharing. The story of the quest for liberty in America, as Dr. King reminded us, is a story we should continue to embrace, while we also work to make present and remember all such quests pursued by the people of the United States.

Temple University Press’ book lovers select the books they read or want to receive this year

This week in North Philly Notes, Temple University Press’ book lovers pick the titles they read or want to receive this year.

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

Early DecisionOf all the books I read this past year, Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy, by Lucy Crawford, was the one that stuck with me. The novel, written by a college admissions coach, describes such a coach working with five high-school seniors on their applications to top-tier schools. Their parents are overly involved, elitist, and pushy, and the kids struggle with achieving perfection in all areas IDed as key for admission to the college of their (or mom and dad’s) dreams. They’re caught up in balancing the need to stand out with not stepping too far outside the lines of expectation. As the mother of a high-school senior, this was a well-written cautionary tale. The book was poignant and, for me, depressing. It was the roadmap of a route I never intended to, and didn’t, travel.

Kate Nichols, Art Manager
AlltheLight

I just finished reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, a really intriguing, moving story, about the converging lives of a blind French girl and German boy during World War II. It is written beautifully, with such compelling detail, I was mesmerized.

 

 

Joan Vidal, Senior Production Editor

Mr. BoardwalkI hope to receive Mr. Boardwalk, by Louis Greenstein, the author’s debut novel about a boy’s infatuation with the wonders of summers on the Atlantic City boardwalk in the 1960s and 1970s and his subsequent nostalgia for Atlantic City in his adult life. Having spent many happy family vacations at the Jersey shore during the same era, I look forward to sharing in that nostalgia.

 

Micah Kleit, Interim Editor-in-Chief 
Eichmann in JerusalemBetween Bettina Stangneth’s new book on Eichmann and the recent revelations of Saskia Sassen’s “missing chapter” of her childhood in Argentina, Hannah Arendt has been in the news a lot this year, which lead me to re-read her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. I am amazed at how much of what she wrote, about the ironies of the trial and her description of totalitarianism (more contradictory than banal, as I read her), still remains essential today. Arendt was concerned, I think, with what it took to be moral and, perhaps more urgently, where morality could be found in world without absolutes, and her quest for both underpinned her reportorial and philosophical work, much of which was distilled through this excellent long essay. George Santayana famously said that “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” As Arendt shows (as did Philip Gourevitch and others who write in her shadow), we always forget history and are always repeating it. The challenge we face isn’t so much the fight to preserve memory to prevent more genocides, but to recognize the human impulses behind them, and to identify humanity wherever it persists.

Aaron Javsicas, Senior Editor

ShipofGoldI’m late to the party on this one, but this year I finally got around to reading Gary Kinder’s 1998 book Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. It’s a gripping popular history about the 1857 sinking of the SS Central America, a steamboat laden with California gold bound for New York, and heroic efforts to recover the wreck more than 100 years later. The loss of the Central America is thought to have been a significant contributing factor in sparking the Panic of 1857. Highly recommended!

 

Karen Baker, Operations Manager
GameofThronesThe book I want to receive/read is The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R. R. Martin, Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson. Yes, I am ‘one of those Game of Thrones fans, and I would like to read this book to get the history behind the story, worlds and characters in the show.

 

 

Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director

CosbyI was reading Cosby: His Life and Times by Mark Whitaker, and enjoying recalling “Fat Albert” cartoons, the “Huxtable” family, and reading how America’s favorite dad grew up in Philadelphia, attended Temple University, and tried his hand playing jazz.  I rejoiced in his climb to the top of one of the hardest industries—television. As an African American, I took pride in his accomplishments. I cried as I read about his only son being killed senselessly.  Then, the news stories broke and I put the book down.  I just couldn’t read it while the horrific stories circled; the book briefly mentioning his escapades as “womanizing.”  Resolved that the news was never going to end, I finished the book hurriedly this weekend.  I have never been more happy to put a book back on the shelf.

Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager
TakeThisManPerhaps the best non-fiction book I read this year was Brando Skyhorse’s exceptional memoir,  Take this Man. Skyhorse, who wrote one of my favorite novels, The Madonnas of Echo Park, chronicles his childhood, living with his mother and grandmother in Echo Park, LA. He describes the series of men his mother married and dated during his youth, and his interactions with them. Skyhorse’s adolescence was complicated  by his mother lying to him about being Native American, when he was in fact, Mexican. When he learns the truth, Skyhorse searches for his biological father and constructs his own identity. Take this Man speaks volumes about family and fatherhood, identity and passing as well as how one copes with dysfunction. These are themes that fascinate me, and Skyhorse’s story is as astonishing as his writing.

I loved you moreThe best fiction book I read in 2014 was Tom Spanbauer’s I Loved You More, which explores the intense bond between two writers — the gay Ben Grunewald and the straight Hank Christian—over two decades. Each chapter reads like a magnificent short story, but they are even more powerful as a novel. Spanbauer masterfully controls his characters’ romantic and dramatic experiences, right up to the book’s sucker-punch ending.

 

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading from everyone at Temple University Press.

We promise more great books in 2015.

Temple University Press Books of the Year

Temple University Press had much to celebrate in 2014. Ray Didinger’s The New Eagles Encyclopedia was the year’s best-sellerand it’s still selling strong.  Philadelphia Mural Arts @ 30, edited by Jane Golden and David Updike, was the third collaboration for the Press and the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. And Thomas Foster’s Sex and the Founding Fathers  was a History Book Club Selection. 

But wait, there’s more! Press titles were honored all year long.  Envisioning Emancipation by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Non-Fiction. Adia Harvey Wingfield’s No More Invisible Man won both the Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s section on Race, Gender, and Class as well as the Richard A. Lester Prize from the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. The Ethics of Care by Fiona Robinson won the J. Ann Tickner prize from the International Studies Association, and Bindi Shah’s Laotian Daughters received the Outstanding Book Award in the category Social Science from the Association of Asian American Studies.

Temple University Press also published it’s first journal, Kalfoumore about which is below. 

As the year comes to a close, the staff at Temple University Press reflects back on some titles they were proud of publishing in 2014. 

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

My best book of 2014 isn’t a book.  Despite the many great titles on our 2014 list, I have to go with our first journal, Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies.

Kalfou_smKalfou and I “launched” around the same time; the first issue was published shortly before I came to the Press in June. Adding a journal was an important step for us as a scholarly publisher and came with challenges big and small. We have years of experience publishing great books and had to learn quickly what was involved in publishing a great journal. The Press staff stretched, did what was needed, pulled together, and turned us into a journal publisher.

I chose Kalfou not only because of the accessible interdisciplinary content put together by a top-notch editorial board, the striking cover created by Art Manager Kate Nichols, or the electronic edition created with help from our friends in the Temple library. I chose it because it represents us stepping out of our comfort zone and expanding our own definition of who we are.

Kate Nichols, Art Manager

I am particularly proud of Kalfou, TUP’s first journal, published on behalf of the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research. Not only was the design and print/online publication a professional challenge (in collaboration with old and new colleagues), but the Kalfou’s content makes it especially rewarding.

kal´fü—a Haitian Kreyòl word meaning “crossroads” . . .

“This means that one must cultivate the art of recognizing significant communications, knowing what is truth and what is falsehood, or else the lessons of the crossroads—the point where doors open or close, where persons have to make decisions that may forever after affect their lives—will be lost.”—Robert Farris Thompson

Joan Vidal, Senior Production Editor 
Mobilizing Gay Singapore_sm

I’m particularly proud of Lynette J. Chua’s Mobilizing Gay Singapore: Rights and Resistance in an Authoritarian State for its analysis of the gay movement in a state that criminalizes homosexual acts and has no formal democratic process. Chua shows how activists have managed to put gay rights on the agenda by continuously adapting their strategies to circumstances under authoritarian rule.

 

Micah Kleit, Interim Editor-in-Chief 

Resisting Work_smA lot of what we publish in the social sciences confronts the challenges contemporary society places on the public sphere. Corporations, employers, social media; all of these parts of life make demands on us: on our identity and sense of self and other; our connection to the world; and, perhaps most subtly but crucially, our idea of who we are when we surround ourselves with friends and family.  Peter Fleming’s Resisting Work: The Corporatization of Life and Its Discontents grapples with these issues and offers real ways in which we can take back the public sphere from the forces of work and consumption in ways that recognize the destabilizing power of capitalism and neoliberalism.  It is a book that belongs to one of the great traditions of sociology, one that focuses on the power of social science as a force for transformation and liberation and affirms the importance of our existence as social beings.

Aaron Javsicas, Senior Editor


Dittmar_2.indd

Holman_v2_041614.indd

I was especially proud to publish two great new books on women and gender in politics: Navigating Gendered Terrain, by Kelly Dittmar, and Women in Politics in the American City, by Mirya Holman. This is an exciting, expanding area for us, and I’m pleased to say we’ll have additional strong projects on offer in coming years.

 

 

Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

Hughey_front_012814_smAs a film buff and critic, I was particularly excited by the publication of The White Savior Film by Matthew Hughey. His canny analysis of films such as The Blind Side and Children of Men made me rethink how these films should be viewed. I especially appreciated his methodological framework that incorporates critical and consumer perspectives to explore “White Savior” films sociologically. This speaks to what interests me most as a critic: Why do people watch what they watch? I’ve long thought that folks look to the silver screen as a mirror. Hughey deftly shows that mirror is a prism.

Announcing the latest issue of Temple University Press’ journal, Kalfou

Kalfou is a scholarly journal focused on social movements, social institutions, and social relations. We seek to build links among intellectuals, artists, and activists in shared struggles for social justice. 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 UCSB Center for Black Studies Research.

Kalfou

Vol 1, No 2 (2014)

Table of Contents

Feature Articles

Introduction: Banking without Borders: Culture and Credit in the New Financial World
Devin Fergus, Tim Boyd
Race, Market Constraints, and the Housing Crisis: A Problem of Embeddedness
Jesus Hernandez
Revisiting “Black–Korean Conflict” and the “Myth of Special Assistance”: Korean Banks, US Government Agencies, and the Capitalization of Korean Immigrant Small Business in the United States
Tamara K. Nopper
Reflections on the “Ownership Society” in Recent Black Fiction
David Witzling
United States, Inc.: Citizens United and the Shareholder Citizen
Lynn Mie Itagaki
Housing Desegregation in the Era of Deregulation
Christopher Bonastia

Talkative Ancestors

Walter Bresette: “All Struggles Are Related”

Keywords

The Model Minority: Asian American Immigrant Families and Intimate Harm
erin Khuê Ninh

La Mesa Popular

Sharing Knowledge, Practicing Democracy: A Vision for the Twenty-First-Century University
Seth Moglen

Art and Social Action

An Interview with Joe Bataan: Torrance, California, February 14, 2013
Tyrone Nagai

Mobilized 4 Movement

La Lucha Sigue: Latina and Latino Labor in the US Media Industries
Mari Castañeda

Teaching and Truth

“All You Needed Was Godzilla behind Them”: Situating (Racial) Knowledge and Teaching Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992
Jake Mattox

In Memoriam

Hearing the Community in Its Own Voice: Clyde Woods, 1957–2011
George Lipsitz

Book Reviews

Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California, by Daniel Martinez HoSang
Reviewed by Nisha N. Vyas

A distinctive California story

In this blog entry, William Issel author of Church and State in the City and For Both Cross and Flag,  discusses how his books make a significant contribution to the California exceptionalism narrative.

Church and State in the City: Catholics and Politics in 20th Century San Francisco tells the story of a unique Catholic community’s century-long work to shape the language and the outcome of debates over how to define the common good in an internationally famous city in an exceptional state, California – the Golden State.  Named by Spaniards after a mythical Queen Califia who ruled over a tribe of fierce Amazon warriors, the Ohlone people described it as a place where “you dance on the edge of the world.”  James Duval Phelan, the San Franciscan who served as city mayor and later as U.S. Senator once put into words what millions of the state’s residents and visitors have felt about the place.  “If I owned both Heaven and California,” Phelan said, “I would rent out Heaven and live in California.”

Issel_Church and State_smMy book about San Francisco tells a distinctly California story, and it is part of a tradition of writing showing how California has possessed exceptional qualities since the Gold Rush of  1849.  The English aristocrat James Bryce wrote in 1888 that “more than any other part of the Union, [California] is a country by itself.”  It is perhaps not surprising that the story of Catholics and politics in San Francisco history would be distinct from, rather than a copy of, the patterns we associate with East Coast and Midwest big cities.  On New Year’s Day 1938, John J. Mitty, the Archbishop of San Francisco, departed from the Catholic Church line and commissioned an outspoken editorial that criticized official anti-Semitism in Germany and Nazi attacks on Jews as contrary to the principles and traditions of – “The West Coast.”  Out here, “We are really a different people.  We do not need to follow as the East leads.”  And in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, Mitty organized a nationwide radio broadcast from Catholic University in Washington D.C. that condemned the Nazi depredations. Eleven years later, journalist and critic Carey McWilliams called the state “The Great Exception.”  “California” he wrote, “is not another state: it is a revolution within the states.”  McWilliams had a point, but he would have been more accurate had he written that California “is not just another state.”

Perhaps a more useful way to think about California and its “peculiarities” as the largest and arguably most important of the Western states, would be to say that California is not just another state, it is the United States but more so.  Ever since that day in January 1848 when Marshall picked those pieces of gold out of the raceway of John Sutter’s sawmill, the diverse people of California have often been the first to embrace, and frequently in a more exaggerated fashion, the social, cultural, political, and economic innovations that eventually caught on “Back East”, “Down South”, or in “the Midwest.”

Because Church and State in the City is the first book to tell the story of the city’s distinctive history of church and state relations, it makes a significant contribution to the California exceptionalism narrative. The book details the many innovations in political activism that San Francisco Catholics created as they cooperated with, competed with, and sometimes accommodated to a variety of other San Francisco interest groups in the political give and take that marked the city’s history from the 1890s to the 1980s.  This is done through mini-biographies of Church leaders and lay men and women whose relationships with business, labor, other interest groups, and city government, influenced politics and policy-making for nearly a century.  Readers will come away with a more evidence-based and more nuanced understanding of the policy-making process in such areas as education, civil rights, housing, transportation, redevelopment, and the rights of black, Asian American, Latino, and LGBTQ residents.

For Both Cross Flag sm compChurch and State in the City also sheds new light, also by including detailed profiles about the most important transnational challengers of both capitalism and Catholicism during the twentieth century – socialist men and women, especially members of the Communist Party. One chapter details the ways in which women reformers from the Left, Right, and Center contributed to shaping politics and policy in the City from the 1890s to the 1980s.  The book brings to life the ways that contests to define the public interest took on a distinctive character in San Francisco because of the particular way that struggles over power, privilege, and prestige involving capitalists, Catholics, secular liberals, and socialists and communists were fought out, in the context of national and international events, from the 1890s to the end of the 1970s.

Church and State in the City makes a significant contribution to the scholarship that is currently “putting religion back” into American history, and it is the first to demonstrate the importance of the Catholic versus Communist/Socialist rivalry in a major American city for nearly a century, from 1890 to 1980. The book also demonstrates how European rivalries played out in a major American city and how both women and men were active on both sides of the Catholic Church versus Communist Party rivalry, from the Bolshevik Revolution to the last decade of the Cold War.

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