Amanda Lucia on New Books in Religion

Amanda Lucia, author of Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace, was interviewed on New Books in Religion. New Books in Religion is  part of a collection of podcasts hosted by the Amherst College Library dedicated to public discourse and the discussion of new books by their authors.


Listen to the full interview at the New Books Network’s website, where you can also read Kristian Petersen’ full review.

“Waiting several hours in line for a hug is well worth it for thousands of people, the devotees of the Guru, Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi. … Amanda Lucia, Associate Professor of Religion at UC Riverside, provides a rich ethnographic account of Amma’s American followers and convincingly argues that there is much to learn here about gender, interpretation, and contemporary American religiosity. Amma’s devotees in the United States are usually “inheritors” or “adopters” of Hindu traditions, which shapes their interpretive vantage point and understandings of Amma as Hindu goddesses or feminist. American multiculturalism and romantic orientalist attitudes frequently reifiy cultural differences further structuring the interrelations between South Asian and non-Indian devotees in the American context. In our conversation we discuss female religious leaders, darshan, gurus in American context, purity and ritual, women’s empowerment, village and urban transformations, Devi Bhava, and gendered interpretations of Hinduism.”

Banned Books Week: For Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more after this year’s Banned Books Week festivities, here are some suggestions to deepen the conversation about freedom of speech and the censorship of literature and other media through the years.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn9780520266100-1
Mark Twain (Author), Victor Fischer (Editor), Lin Salamo (Editor), Harriet E. Smith (Editor), Walter Blair (Editor)

Read the oft-challenged classic! This 125th Anniversary edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is expanded with thoroughly updated notes and references, and a selection of original documents—letters, advertisements, playbills—some never before published, from Twain’s first book tour.

See more of our Mark Twain titles here.





Film Criticism, the Cold War, and the Blacklist: Reading the Hollywood Reds
Jeff Smith (Author)

This book examines the long-term reception of several key American films released during the postwar period, focusing on the two main critical lenses used in the interpretation of these films: propaganda and allegory. Produced in response to the hearings held by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) that resulted in the Hollywood blacklist, these films’ ideological message and rhetorical effectiveness was often muddled by the inherent difficulties in dramatizing villains defined by their thoughts and belief systems rather than their actions. Whereas anti-Communist propaganda films offered explicit political exhortation, allegory was the preferred vehicle for veiled or hidden political comment in many police procedurals, historical films, Westerns, and science fiction films. Jeff Smith examines the way that particular heuristics, such as the mental availability of exemplars and the effects of framing, have encouraged critics to match filmic elements to contemporaneous historical events, persons, and policies.


9780520283381The Essential Mario Savio: Speeches and Writings that Changed America
Robert Cohen (Editor), Tom Hayden (Editor)

This compendium of influential speeches and previously unknown writings offers insight into and perspective on the disruptive yet nonviolent civil disobedience tactics used by Mario Savio during the 1960s Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, California. The Essential Mario Savio is the perfect introduction to an American icon and to one of the most important social movements of the post-war period in the United States.




8975.160Outspoken: Free Speech Stories
Nan Levinson (Author)

With the government granting itself sweeping new surveillance powers, castigating its critics as unpatriotic, and equating differing opinions with abetting “America’s enemies,” free speech seems an early casualty of the war on terrorism. But as this book brilliantly demonstrates, to sacrifice our freedom of speech is to surrender the very heart and soul of America.

Nan Levinson tells the stories of twenty people who refused to let anyone whittle away at their right to speak, think, create, or demur as they pleased. In an engaging, anecdotal style, Levinson explores the balance between First Amendment and other rights, such as equality, privacy, and security; the relationship among behavior, speech, and images; the tangle of suppression, marketing, and politics; and the role of dissent in our society. These issues come to vibrant life in the stories recounted in Outspoken, stories that—whether heroic or infamous, outrageous or straightforward—remind us again and again of the power of words and of the strength of a democracy of voices.


9780520248601The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten
Gerald Horne (Author)

Before he attained notoriety as Dean of the Hollywood Ten—the blacklisted screenwriters and directors persecuted because of their varying ties to the Communist Party—John Howard Lawson had become one of the most brilliant, successful, and intellectual screenwriters on the Hollywood scene in the 1930s and 1940s. After his infamous, almost violent, 1947 hearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee, John Howard Lawson spent time in prison and his career was effectively over. Lawson’s life becomes a prism through which we gain a clearer perspective on the evolution and machinations of McCarthyism and anti-Semitism in the United States, on the influence of the left on Hollywood, and on a fascinating man whose radicalism served as a foil for launching the political careers of two Presidents: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In vivid, marvelously detailed prose, Final Victim of the Blacklist restores this major figure to his rightful place in history as it recounts one of the most captivating episodes in twentieth century cinema and politics.

9780520242319Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War, Updated with a New Preface
John R. MacArthur (Author), Ben H. Bagdikian (Foreword)

Now updated with a new preface that examines the current conflict in Iraq, this brilliant work of investigative reporting reveals the government’s assault on the constitutional freedoms of the American media during Operation Desert Storm. John R. MacArthur’s engaging and provocative account is as essential and alarming today as when the first paperback edition was published.



9780520239661Policing Cinema: Movies and Censorship in Early-Twentieth-Century America
Lee Grieveson (Author)
White slave films, dramas documenting sex scandals, filmed prize fights featuring the controversial African-American boxer Jack Johnson, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation—all became objects of public concern after 1906, when the proliferation of nickelodeons brought moving pictures to a broad mass public. Lee Grieveson draws on extensive original research to examine the controversies over these films and over cinema more generally. He situates these contestations in the context of regulatory concerns about populations and governance in an early-twentieth-century America grappling with the powerful forces of modernity, in particular, immigration, class formation and conflict, and changing gender roles.This book develops new perspectives for the understanding of censorship and regulation and the complex relations between governance and culture. In this work, Grieveson offers a compelling analysis of the forces that shaped American cinema and its role in society.

Save 30% with UC Press during the 2015 American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) Annual Meeting

The 17th Annual American Society for Bioethics and Humanities Annual Meeting convenes from October 22 through 25 in Houston, Texas.

Check out the following titles and save 30% online with discount code 16E7568, or request an exam copy for consideration to use in your upcoming classes. The discount code expires November 25th.

Be sure to check out ASBH’s website, Facebook, and #ASBH15 on Twitter for current meeting news.

Banned Books Week: Film Quarterly and The Hollywood Blacklist

While not subject to outright ban, UC Press’ own Film Quarterly was caught up in Red Scare hysteria early in its history.

Formerly known as the Quarterly of Film, Radio, and Television, which had descended from the earlier journal Hollywood Quarterly, it was because of this long-standing journal that the University of California Press itself garnered a “subversive” label in the 1950s.

In a 2008 retrospective, Ernest Callenbach, editor of Film Quarterly from 1958 to 1991, wrote:

Cover images clockwise from top left: Man of La Mancha (Arthur Hiller, 1972). The Tin Drum (Volker Schlöndorff). Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (Isaac Julien, 1996), The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (Judy Irving, 2003). Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995), Institute Benjamenta (Brothers Quay, 1995).
Cover images clockwise from top left: Man of La Mancha (Arthur Hiller, 1972). The Tin Drum (Volker Schlöndorff). Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (Isaac Julien, 1996), The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (Judy Irving, 2003). Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995), Institute Benjamenta (Brothers Quay, 1995).

“That journal had been born from an unlikely union of the Press with the post-war Hollywood Writers Mobilization—a group of smart Hollywood reds who thought the post-war American film deserved intelligent discussion. (The connection ultimately got the Press listed on the California legislature’s subversive list.) As the blacklist took its toll in Hollywood, Hollywood Quarterly’s writers mostly went underground and left the journal to evolve in a sociological direction, focusing on mass media studies under the new title.”

Fortunately for what was to become Film Quarterly, new editor Callenbach and the board for the developing journal persevered.

“Our goal in 1958 was to collect a team of knowledgeable and ardent people who could energize an American film magazine on a reasonably high intellectual level. We wanted to cover narrative features and also documentaries and experimental films, new trends in style and structure and content; we wanted to keep in touch with film history … it became normal for educated people to take film directors as seriously as they took novelists. Film won acceptance as a kind of visual literature, part of a vibrant political-cultural life, something urgently talked and argued about, and Film Quarterly plunged into this pool of energy.”

You can read more about the fascinating history behind Film Quarterly here.

Film Quarterly has published substantial, peer-reviewed writing on cinema and media for nearly sixty years, earning a reputation as one of the most authoritative academic film journals in the United States, as well as an important English-language voice of cinema studies abroad. Find Film Quarterly on UC Press Journals, Facebook and Twitter.

Escape to Prison: A Look Inside


 In Escape to Prison, the culmination of years of international research, noted criminologist Michael Welch explores ten prison museums on six continents, examining the complex interplay between culture and punishment. From Alcatraz to the Argentine Penitentiary, museums constructed on the former locations of surveillance, torture, colonial control, and even rehabilitation tell unique tales about the economic, political, religious, and scientific roots of each site’s historical relationship to punishment.

Below are a collection of photographs taken by the author from all ten locations. Click the link to view. Continue reading “Escape to Prison: A Look Inside”

The 2015 American Studies Association is Coming to Toronto!

Join University of California Press this fall at the 2015 American Studies Association Annual Meeting. The meeting convenes October 8-11 in Toronto, Ontario.

Please visit us at booth 300 in the Sheraton Centre Grand Ballroom West to purchase our latest American Studies publications. We’re also offering the following promotions for attendees:

  • 40% conference discount.
  • Submit exam copy requests for course adoption for your upcoming classes
  • Win $100 worth of books! Join our eNews subscription

Our American Studies Association list is comprised of an interdisciplinary selection of titles perfect for research and course usage. While at our booth, explore topics ranging from American history, music, politics, race, and immigration. We’ll also offer subscription rates for our history journals.

Please see our conference program ad for our latest offerings. Acquisitions and marketing staff will be available for your publishing questions.

Follow @AmerStudiesAssn and hashtag #2015ASA for current meeting news.



Banned Books Week: United States v Mark Twain

As part of our mission to advance knowledge and drive change in our world, we at UC Press are excited to recognize Banned Books Week, a celebration of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read all books. And, of course, would be a challenge to recognize banned books without taking a look at one of the most challenged books of all time– The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


Over 100 years after Mark Twain’s death, Huck Finn is still as controversial as ever. Benjamin Griffin, one of the editors of Mark Twain’s autobiography, addresses the book’s 130-year history of banning in an article for BookPage. Check out the full interview here.

“Huckleberry Finn was “banned” several times in Mark Twain’s lifetime—always by librarians. In 1885, when the book was new, the public library in Concord, Massachusetts, withdrew it, citing the characters’ “low grade of morality” and “irreverence.” Huck lies, talks dialect, is friends with a black man, steals and fails to return stolen property (the black man).

Mark Twain’s response to the ban was immediate. He told his publisher: “That will sell 25,000 copies for us, sure.” The commercial blessings of banning, in this country, are well known. Howard Hughes campaigned to ban his own film, The Outlaw, in order to get it released.”


“Back in 1885, the book’s detractors feared that children would become too comfortable with Huck: with his “low” company—and, I suspect, with Jim’s. Mark Twain’s response to this criticism, in his Autobiography, was that children were already routinely damaged by a book the library kept on open shelves—the Bible:

“The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old.”

It was only right, he said, for librarians to escort Huck and Tom out of that book’s “questionable company.”

For more Mark Twain, see our Twain list, and the upcoming final volume of Twain’s autobiography— releasing worldwide next month.

The Women of Can’t Catch a Break: Following Up

by Susan Starr Sered, co-author of Can’t Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs, and the Limits of Personal Responsibility


We continue to spend time with some of the women described in Can’t Catch a Break and as we do we learn more about their lives – both the challenges they face and the strategies they use to address those challenges. It is important for us to convey to readers that these women are not “objects of inquiry” but real human beings who, like all of us, change their attitudes and their circumstances over periods of years, months and even days.

In order to help readers keep up with the women, we have created a blog in which we post updates about the women featured in the book. Some posts include the women’s responses to what we wrote in the book. Some posts narrate the big changes: deaths, births, marriages. And some posts tie the women’s experiences into current news headlines. This blog — intended for a broad audience — will be of particular use for professors as a pedagogical tool. Through the blog, students will gain a clearer understanding of the research process, have opportunities to comment on posts, and be able to ask us questions that arise in their reading — including questions they’d like us to ask the women of Can’t Catch a Break.

This free resource is designed to enhance the use of the book in courses and to help keep students engaged. The URL for our blog is

Es6YWOS0_400x400Susan Starr Sered is Professor of Sociology and Senior Researcher at the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University in Boston. She is the author of Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity.

Is Climate Change a Religious Issue?

by Evan Berry, author of Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism

Some Americans, especially among the most trenchant ranks of conservative Catholics, have expressed outrage about Pope Francis’ direct engagement with environmental issues. For example, in his open letter explaining his boycott of the Pope’s address to Congress, Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) decried the Vatican’s unfortunate departure from “standard Christian theology.” In a different line of attack, the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, claims to have identified the creeping influence of “paganism” in Laudato Si, the Pope’s encyclical on climate change. One the other side of the aisle, many political liberals, both inside and outside the American Catholic community, are thrilled about Pope Francis’ candid discussion of climate change and his message of justice and mercy. Setting aside for the moment the embittered and divisive tenor of American politics, this public scuffle reminds us that many people in the U.S. continue to disagree not just about what bearing religion might have on environmental issues, but about whether it should have any bearing at all.

Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 7), 1452
Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 7), 1452

When climate skeptics suggest we “leave science to the scientists,” they are asserting a partition between the technocratic process of policy construction and various other forms of knowledge, including especially religiously grounded moral convictions. This is an old ideology about the place religion ought have in American public life, one that holds that religion is primarily about private beliefs and that it should not be publicly invoked in political discourse. A number of excellent books have described the way this paradigm held sway throughout the middle decades of the 20th century, but receded into the background along with the rise of the Christian Right as an internally coherent voting block (e.g. Christian Smith’s Christian America). Although it is ironic that this point of view should reappear among precisely the same constituency that once tore it down, the underappreciated story about conservative religious objections to religious environmentalism is that they are historically wrongheaded.

9780520285736The idea that Christianity is a radically anthropocentric religion drove a deep wedge between environmentalists and traditionalists, but as religiously inflected ecological movements continue to grow and mature, other stories about Christianity’s environmental legacy are resurfacing. Devoted to Nature tells such a story, arguing not that Christians have been central to the development of the American environmental movement, but that Christian theological ideas have had a profound impact on the particular shape the movement took, especially during the formative decades at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Questions about whether or not human beings should be understood as part of the natural order or as something apart from it are equally essential to both environmentalism and to Christian theology. Efforts to reconcile humanity to a broken and betrayed environment are deeply indebted to the Genesis account of human origins. As Pope Francis and other religious leaders continue to agitate for climate justice, we would do well not to ask whether their voices have a legitimate place in environmental politics, but instead to ask more probing questions about how our environmental politics themselves are generated by our religious histories.

Evan Berry is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at American University and Codirector of its Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs master’s program.

Reading Basquiat wins the PEN Literary Awards’ UCP First Book Award

We are pleased to announce that Reading Basquiat by Jordana Saggese is the winner of the 2015 PEN Literary Awards’ UC Press First Book Award.


The University of California Press has partnered with the PEN Center for the last few years. This year, the UC Press First Book Award was judged by UC Press Foundation Board of Trustee members Judith Maxwell, Elizabeth Birka-White, and Patricia Klaus. The two finalists for the UCP First Book Award were Marianne Cooper’s Cut Adrift and Cristiana Giordano’s Migrants in Translation.

Among the winners is Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, winning a lifetime achievement award; see the official announcement at the PEN Center’s website for more. These results were also shared in the LA Times, Entertainment Weekly, the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Indiewire. Aisha Tyler will be hosting a gala ceremony to recognize the honorees at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on November 16th. We are honored to have published with these fantastic authors!