Topical, Not Timeless

This story, written by Erica Ciccarone, first appeared on the Chapter 16 website on April 25, 2016 and is cross-posted here with their kind permission.

Rhodes College professor David McCarthy writes a history of protest art in America

9780520286702_McCarthyWhat role do artists play in a democracy? To what extent can their work affect political leadership? How does art shape our understanding of our place in the world? In American Artists Against War, 1935-2010, David McCarthy charts a history of art that has protested and challenged U.S. foreign policy since 1935. Beginning with the short-lived but influential American Artists’ Congress, which sponsored a viewing of Picasso’s seminal antiwar painting Guernica in the U.S., McCarthy establishes that art has the power not only to shape public consciousness but also to act as our public conscience.

In just a hair under 200 pages, McCarthy walks readers through a rich history of artists who have criticized U.S. foreign and domestic policy, sometimes to their own professional peril. This kind of work often runs counter to art’s usual goals. Antiwar art must be topical, not timeless. It is less interested with originality and influence and more dependent on viewer response. It requires contextualization that affects the way it is displayed to the public—it may appear in a New York gallery or on the side of a California highway. The artist must position political artwork so that its message is keenly felt.

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Author David McCarthy

Though it aims to affect behavior, political art is unlike advertising—the artist employs strategy, but the art itself is more than simply strategic. As McCarthy lays out in the book’s introduction, American antiwar artists begin from two key premises: one, that the U.S. is a guarantor of liberty; and two, that the individual has a right to voice her opinion in public discourse. Thus, the antiwar artist meets a simple obligation of citizenship.

McCarthy, a professor of art and art history at Rhodes College in Memphis who has published several books on this subject, writes elegant descriptions of artwork and pairs them with strong analysis. Thus individual artworks function like landing places throughout the book: the reader moves from one discussion to the next, picking up historical context and expert opinions along the way. The book opens with artists against fascism in during the 1930s and moves through World War II, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, and contemporary military interventions through 2010.

As might be expected, the intensity of the art reaches a peak during the Vietnam war, when artists like Nancy Spero, Robert Colescott, and Martha Rosler worked to expose the grotesque power wielded by the U.S. military, connecting it to sexism and racism at home. For these artists, McCarthy writes, “local civic conflict had to be understood in terms of global struggle.” Much like the feminism of the same time period, the personal became the political. These artists aimed to close the distance between Vietnam and the U.S. as a way of shedding light on economic, racial, and class-based strife at home.

McCarthy points to broad coalitions during the 1980s that opposed Reagan’s agenda in Central America and his arms race with the Soviet Union. American activist-artists networked with those in South and Central America to show solidarity and to help make direct-action protests viable. Art critics, academic institutions, museums, and curators joined in supporting grassroots coalitions like Political Art Documentation and Distribution (PAD/D) and Artists Call. The work was diverse, often employing dark humor and a sardonic wit, as in Mike Smith and Alan Herman’s Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter Snack Bar, an installation that situated a family room inside a bomb shelter, complete with a snack bar and entertainment.

McCarthy continues his history through Operation Desert Storm, noting the necessity of antiwar art at a time when the Bush Administration imposed a media blackout the conflict. With Storm, Hans Haacke constructed a beat-up shopping cart that held several motorized American flags waving in hysterical motion. The German-born expat expressed his concerns for “unfettered national pride and patriotic frenzy” and contested the notion that war in the Middle East could bring honor and glory to the U.S. In this work, however, U.S. foreign policy wasn’t the only problem Haacke and others were up against: they were also making art in a social climate of complacency. Artists were tasked with drawing attention to the human consequences of using “smart bombs” for “clean deaths.”

Tasks like these gained an international stage in 2004, when large-scale protests gained momentum and elicited media attention. Artists in the 2000s leveled their criticism at human-rights abuses in interrogation tactics, government censorship, the Patriot Act, and others, using diverse media to explore the consequences of U.S. foreign policy for men, women, and children at home and abroad. In his final chapter, McCarthy invites us to look into artists who are still working today, building adversarial narratives in opposition to those promulgated by the federal government.

American Artists Against War is not only a living history: it is a call to action. As McCarthy writes in his conclusion, art used as political protest is evidence “that imagination is a necessary component not only of creativity, but also of citizenship.” To McCarthy, artists are heroic when they insist that we acknowledge our own vulnerability and our limits as human beings.

Erica Ciccarone thumbnailErica Ciccarone is an independent writer living in Nashville. She holds an M.F.A. from the New School and contributes regularly to several arts magazines and to Nashville Public Radio.

Debunking El Cinco de Mayo

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we’re providing excerpts from El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition, by David E. Hayes-Bautista, which asks a curious question: Why is the holiday so widely celebrated across the United States and scarcely celebrated in Mexico?

Although the holiday celebrates a Mexican victory of the French at Puebla on May 5, 1862, the answer to this question is not to be found in Mexico. It is found instead in California, Nevada, and Oregon during the Gold Rush and the American Civil War—for the Cinco de Mayo is not, in its origins, a Mexican holiday at all, but rather an American one, created by Latinos in California in the middle of the nineteenth century.

It wasn’t until David had been asked time and time again by journalists, newspapers, and interviewers about this curious fact that he set out to chronicle the history of Cinco de Mayo. And there were some personal moments that drove him to find the answer to this question, as well:

The tremendous growth in Spanish-language media during the 1980s and 1990s attracted a number of reporters and journalists from Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, and, of course, Mexico. They too were puzzled by the celebration of the Cinco de Mayo in the United States…. A few years earlier, I happened to be in Guadalajara on May 5, so I had hurried downtown, expecting to find parades, music, dancers, and orators. I thought the center of action would be the cathedral plaza, so I picked out a spot on the sidewalk and waited to see the activities…and waited…and waited. Hours later, I returned to my cousin’s house, disappointed. Rather than witness the most spectacular Cinco de Mayo festivities of my life, I was witness to the fact that it is not a major celebration in Mexico.


David E. Hayes-Bautista is Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of La Nueva California: Latinos in the Golden State, also from UC Press.

Coral Reefs in the Age of Climate Change: Fragile as Glass

by Drew Harvell, author of A Sea of Glass: Searching for the Blaschkas’ Fragile Legacy in an Ocean at Risk

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Dendrophyllia ramea, a stony cup coral in glass (Photo: Guido Mocofico)

Over 150 years ago, the father-son glassmaking team of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka created a glass menagerie of over 800 marine invertebrate models, documenting life in oceans untouched by climate change and human impacts. They were captivated by sea slugs, octopus, squid, anemones, and even soft corals, and they spun their likeness into exquisite glass replicas. As described in A Sea of Glass, my quest to find what living representatives remain of the Blaschka’s subjects was surprisingly successful, even though their variety and numbers have dwindled since they were first captured in glass. Sadly, their losses are accelerating beyond expectation due to climate-related impacts such as ocean acidification and warming seas, particularly for coral reefs. The devastation this year is shocking. According to a new report in the journal Science, coral reefs around the globe have been devastated by the world’s largest bleaching event. Only 7 percent of all Great Barrier Reefs are unaffected, and in the northern GBR, 80 percent of reefs are severely affected. Over half the live coral has died on these severely affected reefs, once the most vibrant on the GBR. This means vast tracts of reef are no longer good habitat for all the extraordinary biodiversity and fisheries wealth that once lived there.

The loss of the corals that make these reefs is the big story, but it also translates into the loss of habitat for the beautiful invertebrates the Blaschkas so admired: countless sea anemones, nudibranchs, squid, and octopus are now homeless refugees. My colleague, Dr Terry Hughes, who directs the Australian Research Council Center of Coral Reef Excellence reports, “This dwarfs previous bleaching events by a long mark . . . the northern GBR won’t get back to what it was, certainly not in my lifetime.”

Tubipora hemprichi, the organ pipe coral in glass (Photo: Corning Museum of Glass)

Things are even worse in other places, like the tiny country of Kiribati where Dr Julia Baum of The University of Victoria estimates that 80 percent of the coral cover died. Those of us who study infectious disease know its not over yet; the remaining live, but severely stressed corals in both the GBR and Kiribati will still be susceptible to waves of lethal infectious disease yet to come.

Even before this disastrous year, coldwater corals that the Blaschkas once captured in glass, like the stunning precious red coral (Corallium rubrum) and the golden cup coral (Astroides calycularis) from the Mediterranean, have experienced multiple mass mortalities due to heat stress.

There is much that can be done to reverse the impacts of climate change; it is the grand challenge of our time, and our reward for success will be an ocean full of nature’s masterpieces. Otherwise, in fifty years it may be that all we’ll have left is our sea in glass.

Drew Harvell is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University and Curator of the Blaschka Marine Invertebrate Collection. Her research on the sustainability of marine ecosystems has taken her from the reefs of Mexico, Indonesia, and Hawaii to the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. She is a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, a winner of the Society of American Naturalist Jasper Loftus-Hills Award, and a lead author of the oceans chapter in the recent U.S. Climate Change Assessment. She has published over 120 articles in journals such as ScienceNature, and Ecology and is coeditor of The Ecology and Evolution of Inducible Defenses.


Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Without teachers and educators, where would the world be?

University of California Press is honored to collaborate with university professors who serve as authors of outstanding scholarship. The work of addressing society’s core challenges can be accelerated when scholarship assumes its role as an agent of engagement and democracy.

To that end we take a moment to celebrate our authors’ and professors’ contributions to our society. The following are just some titles that share how teachers make a difference in our world, everyday.  

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! #TeacherAppreciationDay


Grit and Hope: A Year with Five Latino Students and the Program That Helped Them Aim for College by Barbara Davenport

Grit and Hope tells the story of five inner-city Hispanic students who start their college applications in the midst of the country’s worst recession and of Reality Changers, the program that aims to help them become the first in their families to go college. This year they must keep up their grades in AP courses, write compelling essays for their applications, and find scholarships to fund their dreams. The book also follows Christopher Yanov, the program’s youthful, charismatic founder in a year that’s as critical for Reality Changers’ future as it is for the seniors. Told with deep affection yet without sentimentality, Grit and Hope shows that although poverty and cultural deprivation seriously complicate youths’ efforts to launch into young adulthood, the support of a strong program makes a critical difference.

Hicks.RoadOutThe Road Out: A Teacher’s Odyssey in Poor America by Deborah Hicks

Can one teacher truly make a difference in her students’ lives when everything is working against them? Can a love for literature and learning save the most vulnerable of youth from a life of poverty? The Road Out is a gripping account of one teacher’s journey of hope and discovery with her students—girls growing up poor in a neighborhood that was once home to white Appalachian workers, and is now a ghetto. Deborah Hicks, set out to give one group of girls something she never had: a first-rate education, and a chance to live their dreams. The author’s own life story—from a poorly educated girl in a small mountain town to a Harvard-educated writer, teacher, and social advocate—infuses this chronicle with a message of hope.



School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom by Catherine Connell

How do gay and lesbian teachers negotiate their professional and sexual identities at work, given that these identities are constructed as mutually exclusive, even as mutually opposed? Using interviews and other ethnographic materials from Texas and California, School’s Out explores how teachers struggle to create a classroom persona that balances who they are and what’s expected of them in a climate of pervasive homophobia. Catherine Connell’s examination of the tension between the rhetoric of gay pride and the professional ethic of discretion insightfully connects and considers complicating factors, from local law and politics to gender privilege. She also describes how racialized discourses of homophobia thwart challenges to sexual injustices in schools. Written with ethnographic verve, School’s Out is essential reading for specialists and students of queer studies, gender studies, and educational politics.


The Separation Solution? Single-Sex Education and the New Politics of Gender Equality by Juliet A. Williams

Since the 1990s, there has been a resurgence of interest in single-sex education across the United States, and many public schools have created all-boys and all-girls classes for students in grades K through 12. The Separation Solution? provides an in-depth analysis of controversies sparked by recent efforts to separate boys and girls at school. Reviewing evidence from research studies, court cases, and hundreds of news media reports on local single-sex initiatives, Juliet Williams offers fresh insight into popular conceptions of the nature and significance of gender differences in education and beyond.




The Real School Safety Problem: The Long-Term Consequences of Harsh School Punishment by Aaron Kupchik

Schools across the U.S. look very different today than they did a generation ago. Police officers, drug-sniffing dogs, surveillance cameras, and high suspension rates have become commonplace. The Real School Safety Problem uncovers the unintended but far-reaching effects of harsh school discipline climates. Evidence shows that current school security practices may do more harm than good by broadly affecting the entire family, encouraging less civic participation in adulthood, and garnering future financial costs in the form of high rates of arrests, incarceration, and unemployment. This text presents a blueprint for reform that emphasizes problem-solving and accountability while encouraging the need to implement smarter school policies.

May Day for Media Workers

May Day, “International Worker’s Day,” is a curiously un-American holiday. Celebrated by labor groups and political parties outside the United States, it began in 1890 as a global day of solidarity to commemorate those who lost their lives in Chicago’s Haymarket Square while demonstrating for an eight-hour workday. Haymarket, a symbol of labor’s rising activism, also sparked America’s first major “red scare,” a political backlash that created tensions within the U.S. labor movement and hived it off from its counterparts around the world. That legacy is still with us, as most American labor organizations 9780520290853continue to frame issues through the prism of national interest. Even in Hollywood, labor groups describe their most pressing challenges in terms of “runaway production,” which is industry parlance for out-sourcing. Consequently, many workers fail to grasp the larger set of forces that is killing jobs, intensifying workplace pressures, and undermining creativity. They also have a hard time making connections between the challenges they face and those confronted by counterparts overseas. Interestingly, the situation isn’t so different in Bollywood (Mumbai), Nollywood (Lagos), and Prague, as demonstrated by two dozen scholars in Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor, a newly released UC Press volume that’s also available through the Luminos open access platform.

As these scholars show, motion picture production practices in cities around the world are growing more closely aligned under the pressures of media globalization and corporate conglomeration. Distribution protocols and audience behaviors are also converging. Although these transformations offer fresh opportunities for media makers and their fans, they also open the door to managerial strategies that exact a heavy toll on workers and make it difficult for them to organize and respond. Interestingly, one of the most widely shared complaints is about the long workdays that run well past the eight-hour limit advocated by Haymarket demonstrators more than a hundred years ago!

A demonstration by VFX workers outside the 2013 Oscars when “Life of Pi” was winning the special effects award only two weeks after the company that made the effects went bankrupt and the workers were fired. Learn more here.

Precarious Creativity provides a window into the everyday lives of film, television, and video game workers, while also offering a critical perspective that makes connections and comparisons across the globe. Essays also reflect on the prospects for labor activism and transnational organizing. We are therefore delighted to have the opportunity to release it on the Luminos open access platform where it is already reaching a global audience. Only weeks after publication Precarious Creativity has been accessed by readers in Nigeria, India, and the Czech Republic; and it has generated a bit of buzz stateside as well, even in Hollywood.

So here’s to May Day, and to greater awareness of the diverse yet interwoven challenges facing media workers around the world!

curtin_photoMichael Curtin is the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Professor of Global Studies in the Department of Film and Media Studies and cofounder of the Media Industries Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His previous books include The American Television Industry; Reorienting Global Communication: Indian and Chinese Media Beyond Borders; Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV; andDistribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digitial Future of Film and Television.


eca5eb6b9121c94762157af75cda5077-bpfullKevin Sanson is a Lecturer in Entertainment Industries at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. He is coeditor of Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digital Future of Film and Television and Connected Viewing: Selling, Streaming, & Sharing Media in the Digital Era and is part of the founding editorial collective of Media Industries, the first peer-reviewed open-access journal for media industries research.


Puja and Piety exhibition now at Santa Barbara Museum of Art







While we could not be there for the recent opening of the Puja and Piety exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, we proudly co-published the impressive catalogue and have been savoring each piece among its richly illustrated pages.

Puja and Piety celebrates the complexity of South Asian representation and iconography by examining the relationship between aesthetic expression and the devotional practice, or puja, in the three native religions of the Indian subcontinent. Drawn from SBMA’s collection and augmented by loans, the exhibition presents some 160 objects created over the past two millennia for temples, home worship, festivals, and roadside shrines.

The below gallery provides a small visual sampling of the varied Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain works of art.


The exhibition runs April 17–July 31, 2016 at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

UC Press Titles at the 2016 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards

We’re delighted to announce that multiple UC Press titles are on the shortlist and longlist for the 2016 Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Awards.

The Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards are the UK’s leading prizes for books published in the fields of photography and the moving image (including film, television and new media). The KKF Book Awards celebrate excellence in photography and moving image publishing.

Shortlisted titles:

Longlisted titles:

These titles, along with the other Moving Image award finalists, will be among the 10 books exhibited at the Somerset House during the Photo London Exhibition this May.

Best of luck to all of the participants!

Beyond Mass Incarceration: The Cognitive Legacy of the Clinton Era

By Michela Soyer, author of A Dream Denied: Incarceration, Recidivism, and Young Minority Men in America 

SoyerheadshotWhen Bill Clinton signed the federal “Three Strikes Bill” in 1994, most of the teenagers I interviewed between 2010 and 2013 were barely a year old. Some of my interviewees were not even been born yet. For several of those young men, the upcoming presidential election will be the first one in which they are able to cast their vote. One of their likely choices will be the woman whose husband’s political choices in the mid-1990s have wrecked havoc in their communities. Twenty years later, Hillary Clinton works hard to put a distance between herself and her husband’s legacy; on her campaign website, she calls for an end of mass incarceration and criminal justice reform.

For the teenagers whose lives I describe in A Dream Denied, Clinton’s promise to undo some of her husband’s damage comes too late. Five of the young men I portray in my book won’t be allowed to vote in the upcoming election; they are either serving time in a state prison or are on parole for a felony. The others may have escaped the tragic cycle of incarceration and recidivism, but their formative teenagers years were nevertheless stunted. Their life trajectories have been shaped by a juvenile justice system unable to fill the void Clinton’s welfare reform has created. Their middle class counterparts may face anxieties about their lack of self-fulfillment and financial insecurities. The young men in my study learned early on that their basic freedom is nothing they should take for granted.

In June 2013, I conducted my final interview for the book. The young man I spoke with had just suffered through a string of family tragedies. His cousin and his aunt had been killed. “Why does this s*** keep happening to me and my family?” he asked. I didn’t know how to respond, and I still believe that there was nothing I could have said to ease his pain. His experience of incarceration, recidivism, fosSoyer.ADreamDeniedter care and death are deeply personal. On the other hand, the seeds for his troubled teenage years were laid around the time of his birth, when the Clinton administration ended “welfare as we know it.”

These young men grew up with the double disadvantage of a defunct welfare system and a racially biased highly punitive criminal justice system. Astonishingly, these young men still believed in a bright future. If Hillary Clinton were to meet with them, they probably would not confront her like a protestor did recently in South Carolina. Most of the young minority men whose lives I describe blamed themselves. They pointed to their lack of self-control, their laziness, or inability to listen to the adults in their lives. In that sense, they are true children of the Clinton years. They did not expect the government to help their families. Some even believe their punishment was justified. Worse than the time many young men have lost in the juvenile or criminal justice system, however, is that they were never able to develop any concept that they deserve better. This cognitive burden may be the most tragic legacy of the Clinton years, and it will shape the life trajectories of the young men in my study well beyond the presidential election this fall.

Michaela Soyer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Hunter College.

UC Press staff cook the book: New Mediterranean Jewish Table potluck

“A cookbook that educates as well as inspires.”—New York Times

With the critical mass of media coverage for Joyce Goldstein’s new cookbook, the New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home, some UC Press staff members were indeed inspired to get cooking themselves!

The cooks gathered for a celebratory potluck lunch last week, fortuitously aligned with the beginning of Passover.




The photos do not do justice to all the bright colors and flavors, but the dishes we feasted on were the following:

  • Red Pepper, Walnut, and Pomegranate Spread (Muhammara)
  • Turkish Nine-Ingredient Eggplant Salad (Dokuz Türlü Patlıcan Tarator)
  • Cucumber and Yogurt Salad (Cacık)
  • Beets with Yogurt (Borani ye Laboo)
  • Chickpea Purée with Tahini Dressing (Hummus ba Tahini)
  • Turkish Lentil Salad (Adas Salatası) with Mint Vinaigrette
  • Lebanese Bulgur and Parsley Salad (Tabbouleh)
  • Persian Yogurt Soup with Chickpeas, Lentils, and Spinach (Ashe Sbanikh)
  • Fried Eggplant with Sugar (Papeyada de Berenjena)
  • Tunisian Passover Stew with Spring Vegetables (Msoki)
  • Orange Custard (Flan d’Arancia)
  • Olive Oil, Orange, and Pistachio Cake
  • Greek Yogurt Cake (Yaourtopita)
  • Purim Butter Cookies (Ghorayebah)


Join in with sample recipes from the book, such as Hazelnut Sponge Cake; Persian Yogurt Soup with Chickpeas, Lentils and Spinach; Fish with Green Tahini, and Moroccan-Inspired Honeyed Eggplant.

Living at the Edges of Capitalism

The newly released Living at the Edges of Capitalism explores communities living in exilic spaces, or spaces outside of state capitalism—Cossacks on the Don River in Russia, Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, and prisoners in long-term isolation. Andrej Grubačić and Denis O’Hearn write from their personal experiences and solidarity with these groups. We’re happy to present an excerpt from the Preface below, which explains how they came to write this book:

The subject of this book is exile. Not in the sense it is usually expressed: as a longing for something lost or a hope to return to what one once had. For us exilic life is not Victor Hugo’s “long dream of hope,” a nostalgic longing to return to something, but rather a journey of hope for a future that has not yet been. The instances of hope we have chosen to research for this book are provided by people who left or were banished from places of discontent and sought something better.

Both of us hold an interest in exilic community that comes from our own experiences. We have both lived in places that attempted something akin to exilic community, one of us in a war zone where people had to practice mutual aid in order to exist, the other in a historic experiment in self-management. Both experiments ended, one in a peace process and a return to “normal” electoral politics, and the other in a tragic war and split-up of the trans-ethnic political community. Along the way, both of us became exiles in the usual political sense, unable to return to our communities because we were hunted by corrupt state police forces.


Andrej Grubačić is Professor of Anthropology and Social Change at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He is the author of Wobblies and Zapatistas and Don’t Mourn, Balkanize!

Denis O’Hearn is Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Binghamton and the author of Inside the Celtic Tiger: The Irish Economy and the Asian Model; The Atlantic Economy: Britain, the US, and Ireland; andNothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation, among other titles.