Trump, the Religious Right, and Public Religion

By Michael S. Evans, author of Seeking Good Debate: Religion, Science, and Conflict in American Public Life

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump recently appointed an “evangelical executive advisory board” to provide guidance to his presidential campaign. For those of us old enough to remember the 80s and 90s, it’s a familiar list. James Dobson from Focus on the Family. Jerry Falwell, Jr., from, well, Jerry Falwell (and Liberty University). Ralph Reed from Christian Coalition and its successors. As Emma Green put it in her article for the Atlantic, “the old-guard religious right is making its return.”

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Treating Trump’s move as a shocking throwback to the 90s makes for good headlines. But, as I discovered while interviewing Americans from various religious backgrounds for my book Seeking Good Debate, the Religious Right never left. Thinking that religious background might shape thinking about religion and politics, I asked respondents to name people who represent religion in American public life. I expected huge differences. Yet liberal Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestants, Unitarian Universalists, agnostics and atheists alike gave similar responses: James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson. It turns out that when Americans think of religion in public life, they usually think of leaders from the Religious Right.

That doesn’t mean everybody likes the Religious Right. Far from it. But it does mean that when Americans think about religion in public life, the categories of “religious” and “not religious” turn out to be more like “the Religious Right” and “everyone else.” Over and over again I heard respondents treating any mention or use of religion as bad, even when it came from liberal or moderate religious figures. For my respondents, any religious talk signaled the illiberal politics of the Religious Right.

In Seeking Good Debate I say that the Religious Right “owns the space” of public religion. They don’t win every vote or get their way on every issue. They often fail to mobilize support. Their politics alienate many Americans. But, for most Americans, the Religious Right defines what it means to be religious in public.

From a political perspective, this presents candidates from moderate or liberal religious traditions with an intractable dilemma. Talk about religion, and many Americans will think you’re like the Religious Right, using religion to make politics worse. Don’t talk about religion, and opponents can paint you as not religious (enough), and then once again hoist the banner of the Religious Right as the true flag of public religion. Either way you’re at a disadvantage to the Religious Right and their allies, with no obvious way forward.

So don’t call it a comeback. The Religious Right has been here all along. Trump is just the latest candidate to wave their flag. And as long as the Religious Right owns the space of public religion, they’re not going anywhere.

Seeking Good DebateMichael S. Evans is a Neukom Fellow at the Neukom Institute for Computational Science, Dartmouth College. He received a PhD in sociology from the Science Studies Program, University of California, San Diego.

His recent article, ‘The Hidden Religion and Science Debate’ appeared on the Huffington Post blog. Follow him on Twitter to join the debate.


Lights Out: Brexit and the Environment

Today’s post concerning the Brexit referendum and its potential impact on the environment comes from Jeremy Davies, author of The Birth of the Anthropocene. This re-blog appears courtesy of Made Ground, a website on the anthropocene era where it originally appeared.

There is a half-plausible Left case against the European Union (for the member states in general, not for Britain in particular). But this afternoon, Farage’s victory feels absolute—victory “without a bullet being fired” as he shouted this morning, overlooking in the heat of the moment the assassination of Jo Cox. In comparison to Farage, even Johnson seems to me almost diminished rather than conquering—among the political class, at least, if not necessarily with the voters. Johnson was generally taken to be the leader of the Out campaign; his great gamble has paid out against the odds; and he may well be Prime Minister in four months’ time. And despite all that, just now both he and the souverainiste ideologues—Redwood, Cash, Hannan, Carswell, Gove, Rees-Mogg (all of them linked by that same curious closely studied masculinity)—seem secondary to Farage’s achievement.

There was a terrible fluency to Farage’s invocation of the “decent people” whose triumph it was. The odd thing is that a few hours earlier he’d been convinced he was going to lose; at 11 o’clock last night he was already setting loose a conspiracy theory about the voter registration process. But instead he’s turned out to be the first politician since Blair really able to mould events in England to his will, instead of just trimming his policy agenda to accommodate the popular mood. Tough-looking UKIP men congregated round him all night.

“Environmental issues” were virtually absent from mainstream discussion, except briefly when the out-supporting farming minister made some insufficiently coded remarks about “coming up with new, interesting ways to protect the environment,” “based on realistic assessments of risk.” But it’s understood that the most hardline extractivists have been disproportionately Leavers, and that this morning they were taken off the leash.

An autarkic agenda of fracking and fresh opencast coalmining is obviously a close fit with the new nativist ascendancy, though presumably there will also be rhetorical concessions (not necessarily practical ones) to the sensibility that wants the countryside protected from houses built for immigrants. Britain has tended for a long time to be ahead of the rest of Europe in attention to animal welfare, so the inevitable campaign to level down British environmental standards to those of the US in the interests of “buccaneering” free trade might encounter some struggles in that respect, if no other. But agricultural soil mining can presumably intensify without attracting much public awareness. The promised “bonfire of regulations” is likely to burn brightest among the EU’s controls on pollution—pesticides and herbicides, industrial toxicity, threats to public health, waste disposal—since that’s necessarily the most highly technical of domains; the skirmishes over neonicotinoids and Johnson’s record on air pollution as Mayor of London are ominous signs. And the carbon cycle… it’s hard to mourn the disruption of the EU Emissions Trading System (though perhaps in fact we should), but structural resistance to an energy transition within Britain seems bound to grow still stronger, and we’ve surely already lost the whole sense of a European vanguard on global climate policy in which Britain participates (and within which it even made the running, at least until 2010). That’s a horrifying blow.

Jeremy Davies teaches in the School of English at the University of Leeds.

For Liberation and in Solidarity: Recommended Reading for LGBT Pride 2016

From the earliest marches in 1970 to this month’s events around the Bay Area and worldwide, Pride has celebrated and commemorated the LGBT community’s culture and heritage for over 40 years.

We at UC Press are honored to have published titles that recognize the past accomplishments and document the ongoing struggles of the community. As SF Pride, the largest gathering of the community in the nation, approaches, we’ve prepared a selection of books (including a few exciting upcoming titles!) to shed light on the unique experiences of LGBT individuals across just some of the many varied and diverse queer spaces.

Happy Pride, and happy reading!

Gay L.A.:
A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians

by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons

The exhortation to “Go West!” has always sparked the American imagination. But for gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, the City of Angels provided a special home and gave rise to one of the most influential gay cultures in the world. Drawing on rare archives and photographs as well as more than three hundred interviews, Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons chart L.A.’s unique gay history, from the first missionary encounters with Native American cross-gendered “two spirits” to cross-dressing frontier women in search of their fortunes; from the bohemian freedom of early Hollywood to the explosion of gay life during World War II to the underground radicalism set off by the 1950s blacklist; and from the 1960s gay liberation movement to the creation of gay marketing in the 1990s.


Lavender and Red:
Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left

by Emily K. Hobson | Available October 2016

LGBT activism is often imagined as a self-contained struggle, inspired by but set apart from other social movements. Lavender and Red recounts a far different story: a history of queer radicals who understood their sexual liberation as intertwined with solidarity against imperialism, war, and racism. This politics was born in the late 1960s but survived well past Stonewall, forming a gay and lesbian left that flourished through the end of the Cold War. The gay and lesbian left found its center in the San Francisco Bay area, a place where sexual self-determination and revolutionary internationalism converged. Across the 1970s, its activists embraced socialist and women of color feminism and crafted queer opposition to militarism and the New Right. In the Reagan years, they challenged U.S. intervention in Central America, collaborated with their peers in Nicaragua, and mentored the first direct action against AIDS. Bringing together archival research, oral histories, and vibrant images, Emily K. Hobson rediscovers the radical queer past for a generation of activists today.


Eccentric Modernisms: Making Differences in the History of American Art
by Tirza True Latimer | Available December 2016

“What if we ascribe significance to aesthetic and social divergences rather than waving them aside as anomalous? What if we look closely at what does not appear central, or appears peripherally, or does not appear at all, viewing ellipses, outliers, absences, and outtakes as significant?” Eccentric Modernisms places queer demands on art history, tracing the relational networks connecting cosmopolitan eccentrics who cultivated discrepant strains of modernism in America during the 1930s and 1940s. Building on the author’s earlier studies of Gertrude Stein and other lesbians who participated in transatlantic cultural exchanges between the world wars, this book moves in a different direction, focusing primarily on the gay men who formed Stein’s support network and whose careers, in turn, she helped to launch, including the neo-romantic painters Pavel Tchelitchew and writer/editor Charles Henri Ford. Eccentric Modernisms shows how these “eccentric modernists” bucked trends by working collectively, reveling in disciplinary promiscuity, and sustaining creative affiliations across national and cultural boundaries.


A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability

by Jack Halberstam

(This title is part of the American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present series and will be available in E-book format in November 2016 and in paperback in February 2017.)

In the last decade, public discussions of transgender issues have increased exponentially. However, with this increased visibility has comes not just power, but regulation, both in favor of and against trans people. What was once regarded as an unusual or even unfortunate disorder has become an accepted articulation of gendered embodiment as well as a new site for political activism. What happened in the last few decades to prompt such an extensive rethinking of our understanding of gendered embodiment? How did a stigmatized identity become so central to US and European articulations of self? And how have people responded to the new definitions and understanding of sex and the gendered body? In Trans, Jack Halberstam explores these recent shifts in the meaning of the gendered body and representation, and explores the possibilities of a non-gendered, gender optional, or gender-hacked future.


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.


Plane Queer:
Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants

by Phil Tiemeyer

In this vibrant new history, Phil Tiemeyer details the history of men working as flight attendants. Beginning with the founding of the profession in the late 1920s and continuing into the post-September 11 era, Plane Queer examines the history of men who joined workplaces customarily identified as female-oriented. It examines the various hardships these men faced at work, paying particular attention to the conflation of gender-based, sexuality-based, and AIDS-based discrimination. Tiemeyer also examines how this heavily gay-identified group of workers created an important place for gay men to come out, garner acceptance from their fellow workers, fight homophobia and AIDS phobia, and advocate for LGBT civil rights. All the while, male flight attendants facilitated key breakthroughs in gender-based civil rights law, including an important expansion of the ways that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act would protect workers from sex discrimination. Throughout their history, men working as flight attendants helped evolve an industry often identified with American adventuring, technological innovation, and economic power into a queer space.

The UK, from Empire to Isolationism?

The news that the UK has voted to leave the EU has shocked many, and in the comings weeks we’ll learn more about what is next to come. For a respite from the #Brexit news, why not take a sanity break and read some history? Edmund Burke is long dead, but what would he have thought about the results? Would he have advocated for “remain” or for “leave”? While we can’t answer these questions, we can look at how Burke felt about the British Empire in his lifetime, and the role of Britain on the worldwide stage. In Edmund Burke and the Conservative Logic of Empire Daniel O’Neill shows that rather than being an opponent of empire, Burke was a staunch defender of the British Empire. How would he feel about the signal towards isolationism that prevailed in the referendum yesterday?

Please enjoy the following excerpt from Edmund Burke and the Conservative Logic of Empire.

The first thing to stress about Burke’s notion of empire is that it was truly global. Burke was one of the earliest thinkers to embrace the idea of a British Empire that encompassed not only Great Britain and Ireland but also the North American colonies, the Caribbean, and India. In this respect, the speed with which Burke incorporated India into his vision of empire was extraordinary. Far sooner than most, Burke understood British possessions as a unified whole, despite the great differences between places such as the New World, India, and Ireland. As early as 1774, for example, in his Speech at the Conclusion of the Poll, which outlined his notion of political representa­tion to his Bristol constituents, Burke told them that MPs were “Members for that great Nation, which is itself but part of a great Empire, extended by our Virtue and our Fortune to the farthest limits of the East and of the West.” While fully aware of the historical dangers of imperial overstretch and corruption that had plagued the Alexandrine, Roman, Spanish, and French Empires, Burke nevertheless embraced the possibility that a well-conducted empire might escape these perils.

The other main points that need to be stressed about Burke’s vision of empire relate to the centrality of a deeply entwined pair of features, “its pre- eminence and its heterogeneity.” Taken together, these principles led Burke to view the empire “as a diversified structure of subordination” under the sovereign authority of king in Parliament, which were understood as absolute, at least in principle. Combining these points in 1773, Burke wrote, “If it be true, that the several bodies, which make up this complicated mass, are to be preserved as one Empire, an authority sufficient to preserve that unity. . . must reside somewhere: that somewhere can only be in England.” Thus, the colonies were “placed in a subordinate situation,” as Burke put it, “not for oppression but for order.” Inversion of this principle, he concluded, would “destroy the happy arrangement of the entire Empire.” Therefore, despite his sympathy for the colonists, Burke held steadfastly to the principle of imperial subordination announced in the Declaratory Act, until after the Americans had declared their independence.

However, because empire had to be exercised over such widely diverse populations, Burke also argued that the extent to which sovereign power should press its rightful claims to preeminence was highly dependent on the nature of the people over whom it was exercised. For this reason, it was both deeply contingent and variable. In his Speech on Conciliation with America, Burke set this forth in unmistakable fashion when he described what he called “my idea of an Empire, as distinguished from a single State or Kingdom.” His vision stressed that sovereign authority and local privileges, immunities, and exemptions from that authority could and should coexist in order for empire to flourish:

My idea of it is this; that an Empire is the aggregate of many States, under one common head; whether this head be a monarch, or a presiding republic. It does, in such constitutions frequently happen . . . that the subordinate parts have many local privileges and immunities. Between these privileges, and the supreme common authority, the line may be extremely nice. Of course disputes, often too, very bitter disputes, and much ill blood, will arise. But though every privilege is an exemption (in the case) from the ordinary exer­cise of the supreme authority, it is no denial of it. The claim of a privilege seems rather, ex vi termini [from the very meaning of the word], to imply a superior power.

That is, according to Burke the British Empire was a unified entity composed of many deeply differentiated and subordinate components amenable to a wide range of special exemptions and privileges owing to their particular character and local circumstances. However, this fact did not attenuate the notion of imperial sovereignty but in fact presupposed it by definition. After all, what good was it to speak of special “privileges” if no superior power existed to supplicate and grant them in the first instance?

Over the coming weeks our authors will be providing unique essays on what Brexit means, beyond any economic implications, for the UK.

Daniel I. O'NeillDaniel I. O’Neill is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. He is the author of The Burke-Wollstonecraft Debate: Savagery, Civilization, and Democracy.


Myriad Atlases: Now Available as E-Books

UC Press is pleased to announce that the following titles in the Myriad Atlas Series The Atlas of Climate Change, The Atlas of Religion, The Atlas of Food, The State of China Atlas, The Atlas of Global Inequalities, and The Atlas of California are now available for the first time, in addition to their print format versions, as e-book editions.


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Sample interior spreads (please click to expand):




About Myriad Atlases:

Myriad’s award-winning atlases, some of which are published in the United States by University of California Press, are unique visual surveys of economic, political and social trends. By ingeniously transforming statistical data into valuable, user-friendly resources, they make a range of global issues – from climate change to world religions – accessible to general readers, students and professionals alike.

Have a Radical Summer

Whether you plan to spend your summer protesting for change or lounging by the pool (or both), there’s no bad time to enlighten yourself to the injustices of the world and to read about the possibilities of a better future. Right now, during the UC Press summer sale, you can get 40% off all of our books by using the code 15W4890 during checkout on our website. Below is a selection of suggested books to get you started, but go wild! It’s summer! And it’s 40% off!

Get your Solnit During our Summer Sale

Our summer sale is the perfect time to pick up the Atlas series from Rebecca Solnit. You can order the first two atlases, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas and Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas for 40% off each. This is also your first chance to pre-order Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas at 40% off—you don’t want to miss out on what is sure to be one of the biggest books this Fall.


The Immigration Issue for Election 2016

Yet again, immigration has become a pivotal issue in the elections. Presidential candidates have shared their varying stances. And in response, many Latinos did their best to register to vote despite various obstacles.

Many believe that the Latino vote will be a game-changer. From now until November elections, as candidates continue to discuss immigration in regards to paths to citizenship, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), deportation raids, or border control, we should remember that every immigrant’s story is a personal one.

Below are some titles that share the immigrant experience. You can see more titles on our website re: Immigration and Emigration. And save 40% on these and all other UC Press titles, including upcoming Fall ’16 new release pre-orders, by participating in our Summer Sale from June 14th-June 21st. Use discount code 15W4890 at checkout. (Sale excludes e-books and journals, and some restrictions apply; please see Summer Sale info).

UC Press Online Summer Sale Starts Today


Stock up for your summer reading needs and take 40% off all titles on from June 14th-June 21st, including upcoming Fall ’16 new release pre-orders.

(Sale excludes e-books and journals, and some restrictions apply; please see below). 

Use discount code 15W4890 at checkout.

Happy summer shopping and reading!

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Discount cannot be applied to e-books, journals, and Sam Francis: Catalog Raisonneé of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946-1994. Discount is taken from original list price. Standard shipping rates apply. This offer is not applicable to previous orders, nor can it be combined with any other promotional offers. Online ordering is currently available in the U.S. and Canada only. For customers in the UK and Europe, call John Wiley & Sons +44 (0) 1243 843291. For all other territories, visit:

Budget Cuts and Burning Buildings in Flint, Michigan

This post was originally featured on Medium and has been reblogged with the permission of the author.

by Gordon Young, author of Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City

“Three years after being named arson capital of the nation, Flint’s Arson Squad is being cut in half after the decision was made to pull Flint police from the team.” 

— Molly Young, MLive, December 4, 2015

The fires started in late March of 2010, around the time Flint residents typically start fantasizing about the spring thaw. Like any city with widespread blight, Flint had an ongoing arson problem, but this was different.

The sight of smoke plumes was commonplace, along with an acrid, charred smell that wafted through the city. It seemed like everyone had a fire story, and a friend of mine named Guy was no different.

Guy was born and raised in Flint. Though his grandfather had been a prominent local doctor, Guy’s dad landed on the line at Chevy in the Hole, took to drinking, and ended up living in an apartment above Vechell’s Lounge, a well-known bar near the factory.

Guy learned to play the piano growing up. He landed gigs at various union halls around Flint, found work in a band down in Houston, and eventually made his way to Las Vegas, where he joined the house band at The Dunes. The pay wasn’t bad, and he had a room with two king-size beds at the casino hotel, but he saw no future in it.

He returned to Flint and got a degree in psychology from the University of Michigan with nearly perfect grades. He took a creative writing class, and the professor was so impressed that he urged him to apply to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. But before long Guy was drinking heavily, just like his dad, and his marriage was on the rocks. He bounced around, living in Lansing for a while before returning to Flint in 1993 with his new wife, Maggie. He got sober, and they bought a 750-square-foot house on Arlington Street on the East Side, now one of Flint’s toughest neighborhoods.

Guy was a salesman at a mattress warehouse making seven dollars an hour, plus a little money on the side designing websites, a skill he picked up on his own. He didn’t have enough money to move. “I’m trapped on the East Side,” he said during one of the long conversations we had when things were slow at the mattress store.

Flint had a way of intruding on our talks. One day a woman showed up at the warehouse. Guy thought he had a customer, but she was selling frozen meat out of a cooler in the backseat of her car, most likely stolen. “You wanna buy some steaks?” she asked.

“Do you accept plasma as payment?” Guy replied.

She didn’t get the joke and left quickly.

“Man, that encounter pretty much sums up Flint,” he told me.

Guy thought of himself as someone who didn’t scare easily. After all, he’d seen some weird shit in the neighborhood: high-speed car crashes, a little boy drowning in a backyard pool, neighbors drinking and fighting, child abuse in plain sight, random gunshots, and even a sword fight in the middle of the street.

“When we first moved here, there were some GM retirees and a few other people on the block who kept their homes immaculate,” Guy said. “But all those ‘normal’ people — for lack of a better term — either died or moved away. There’s almost a complete absence of middle-class homeowners now. Almost everyone’s renting, and it’s like they’re feral people. On warm summer days the street is a cacophony of profanity. I’m amazed how quickly my street declined,” he told me.

There’s no doubt Guy would have liked better neighbors — or the money to move — but he still maintained a large measure of sympathy for his fellow East Siders, even if they were making his life miserable and all but eliminating any value left in his house. “There’s a prevalence of hopelessness coupled with contempt for authority in the neighborhood,” he said. “There’s just a lot of disillusionment. They never got a real piece of the American dream. And the piece they got is getting increasingly smaller.”

Guy had a highly personal take on the arson spree. He and Maggie had been asleep one morning when they were awakened by pounding on their front door. Groggy, disoriented, and naked — Guy volunteered that he’s not fond of pajamas — he jumped out of bed, thinking it was a break-in. “I’m not a gun nut, but I live on the East Side, so of course I have a shotgun and a couple handguns,” he said. “I was wondering if I was going to have to defend myself.”

He threw on a pair of boxers and headed for the door. He could hear someone screaming for everyone to get out of the house. Guy opened the door, walked onto his front porch, and discovered that the two-story house next door, just fifteen feet away across the driveway, was engulfed in flames. Burning debris was floating down onto his house. He could feel the fire.

It was so hot he smelled his hair starting to singe.

A drunk man in his fifties had banged on the door. He was riding a child’s bike home from a party and saw the fire. He had probably saved Guy and Maggie’s lives.

“Armageddon’s happening on the other side of the driveway, and I’m in there sawing logs,” Guy said. “Our bedroom window was open, smoke was billowing in, and we didn’t even notice.”

Maggie quickly joined him on the porch. As Guy stood there in his underwear, a wave of anxiety washed over him. He and his wife had three Chihuahuas, two cats, a blind Cocker Spaniel, and a German Shepherd named Buddy they had found on the street and nursed back to health. They were all in the house. He needed to get them out. And what about his computers? If they went up in flames, so did half his income. And there was the fact that he’d just paid off the house four months earlier and canceled the homeowners’ insurance because it was too expensive.

“I just had this overwhelming feeling that I was doomed,” he said. “Everybody and their brother had just been laid off from the fire department, and I had no insurance. We were going to lose everything, and it was my fault. I was going to hate myself for the rest of my life, if I had one when this was all over.”

But just maybe all that time in Vegas had earned Guy a little luck, because the drunken bike rider had managed to call 911 on his cell phone. Guy could hear sirens in the distance. They were getting louder. The city’s beleaguered fire department, decimated by budget cuts, was on the way. When the trucks rolled up, the neighbor’s place was long past saving. The goal was to contain the blaze. Firefighters set up big sprinklers to soak Guy’s house. He pulled himself together and jumped in his beat up Dodge Dakota — baking in the driveway — and saved it from the fire. Maggie herded all the animals safely outside.

TeardownAs dawn broke, their little house was still standing.

But this relatively happy ending didn’t give guy a new outlook on life in Flint. “The fact that they saved our house and no one died is just amazing,” he said. “But when people start burning down every empty building, it’s still shocking. I live in fear all the time, because there doesn’t appear to be any end to this. I don’t see this getting better. Ever.”

Gordon Young grew up in Flint, Michigan. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Utne Reader, and numerous other publications. Young has published Flint Expatriates, a blog for the long-lost residents of the Vehicle City, since 2007. He is a senior lecturer in the Communication Department at Santa Clara University and lives in San Francisco. Learn more about Teardown on his website and listen to his UC Press Podcast on the book.