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Beijing from Below
Stories of Marginal Lives in the Capital's Center
Harriet Evans
Duke University Press, 2020
Between the early 1950s and the accelerated demolition and construction of Beijing's “old city” in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, the residents of Dashalar—one of the capital city's poorest neighborhoods and only a stone's throw from Tian’anmen Square—lived in dilapidated conditions without sanitation. Few had stable employment. Today, most of Dashalar's original inhabitants have been relocated, displaced by gentrification. In Beijing from Below Harriet Evans captures the last gasps of subaltern life in Dashalar. Drawing on oral histories that reveal memories and experiences of several neighborhood families, she reflects on the relationships between individual, family, neighborhood, and the state; poverty and precarity; gender politics and ethical living; and resistance to and accommodation of party-state authority. Evans contends that residents' assertion of belonging to their neighborhood signifies not a nostalgic clinging to the past, but a rejection of their marginalization and a desire for recognition. Foregrounding the experiences of the last of Dashalar's older denizens as key to understanding Beijing's recent history, Evans complicates official narratives of China's economic success while raising crucial questions about the place of the subaltern in history.
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Below the Line
Producers and Production Studies in the New Television Economy
Vicki Mayer
Duke University Press, 2011
Below the Line illuminates the hidden labor of people who not only produce things that the television industry needs, such as a bit of content or a policy sound bite, but also produce themselves in the service of capital expansion. Vicki Mayer considers the work of television set assemblers, soft-core cameramen, reality-program casters, and public-access and cable commissioners in relation to the globalized economy of the television industry. She shows that these workers are increasingly engaged in professional and creative work, unsettling the industry’s mythological account of itself as a business driven by auteurs, manned by an executive class, and created by the talented few. As Mayer demonstrates, the new television economy casts a wide net to exploit those excluded from these hierarchies. Meanwhile, television set assemblers in Brazil devise creative solutions to the problems of material production. Soft-core videographers, who sell televised content, develop their own modes of professionalism. Everyday people become casters, who commodify suitable participants for reality programs, or volunteers, who administer local cable television policies. These sponsors and regulators boost media industries’ profits when they commodify and discipline their colleagues, their neighbors, and themselves. Mayer proposes that studies of production acknowledge the changing dynamics of labor to include production workers who identify themselves and their labor with the industry, even as their work remains undervalued or invisible.
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Below the Radar
Informal Civic Engagement in Ukraine
Svitlana Krasynska
Harvard University Press

Using Ukraine as a case-in-point, Svitlana Krasynska engages diverse bodies of literature and rich empirical data to reveal the vital role and unique potential of below-the-radar civic engagement in contexts where informal practices abound—a phenomenon largely neglected by scholars of civil society who traditionally focus on formal civic organizations.

Civil society in Eastern Europe has long been labeled weak based on a general lack of citizen participation in formal civil society organizations—a key criterion for assessing civic engagement in comparative studies. However, such assessment of civil society fails to recognize the role and impact of informal civic engagement in contexts where informality permeates economic, political, and social spheres. Ukraine offers a valuable counterargument of the importance of informal civil society in Eastern Europe, especially in the post-Soviet countries.

Krasynska convincingly shows that informality constitutes an essential component of civil society, shaping popular approaches to addressing social, economic, and political issues. The trailblazing findings in Below the Radar will be of interest to scholars of democratization, informality, and area studies, and they will aid development practitioners and policy makers in determining a more effective approach to helping fledgling democracies around the world.

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Below the Stars
How the Labor of Working Actors and Extras Shapes Media Production
By Kate Fortmueller
University of Texas Press, 2021

Longlisted for the 2022 Kraszna-Krausz Book Award, Moving Image Category

Despite their considerable presence in Hollywood, extras and working actors have received scant attention within film and media studies as significant contributors to the history of the industry. Looking not to the stars but to these supporting players in film, television, and, recently, streaming programming, Below the Stars highlights such actors as precarious laborers whose work as freelancers has critically shaped the entertainment industry throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By addressing ordinary actors as a labor force, Kate Fortmueller proposes a media industry history that positions underrepresented and quotidian experiences as the structural elements of the culture and business of Hollywood.

Resisting a top-down assessment, Fortmueller explores the wrangling of labor unions and guilds that advocated for collective action for everyday actors and helped shape professional norms. She pulls from archival research, in-person interviews, and firsthand observation to examine a history that cuts across industry boundaries and situates actors as a labor group at the center of industrial and technological upheavals, with lasting implications for race, gender, and labor relations in Hollywood.

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Capitalism from Below
Victor Nee and Sonja Opper
Harvard University Press, 2012

More than 630 million Chinese have escaped poverty since the 1980s, reducing the fraction remaining from 82 to 10 percent of the population. This astonishing decline in poverty, the largest in history, coincided with the rapid growth of a private enterprise economy. Yet private enterprise in China emerged in spite of impediments set up by the Chinese government. How did private enterprise overcome these initial obstacles to become the engine of China’s economic miracle? Where did capitalism come from?

Studying over 700 manufacturing firms in the Yangzi region, Victor Nee and Sonja Opper argue that China’s private enterprise economy bubbled up from below. Through trial and error, entrepreneurs devised institutional innovations that enabled them to decouple from the established economic order to start up and grow small, private manufacturing firms. Barriers to entry motivated them to build their own networks of suppliers and distributors, and to develop competitive advantage in self-organized industrial clusters. Close-knit groups of like-minded people participated in the emergence of private enterprise by offering financing and establishing reliable business norms.

This rapidly growing private enterprise economy diffused throughout the coastal regions of China and, passing through a series of tipping points, eroded the market share of state-owned firms. Only after this fledgling economy emerged as a dynamic engine of economic growth, wealth creation, and manufacturing jobs did the political elite legitimize it as a way to jump-start China’s market society. Today, this private enterprise economy is one of the greatest success stories in the history of capitalism.

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Citizenship from Below
Erotic Agency and Caribbean Freedom
Mimi Sheller
Duke University Press, 2012
Citizenship from Below boldly revises the history of the struggles for freedom by emancipated peoples in post-slavery Jamaica, post-independence Haiti, and the wider Caribbean by focusing on the interplay between the state, the body, race, and sexuality. Mimi Sheller offers a new theory of "citizenship from below" to describe the contest between "proper" spaces of legitimate high politics and the disavowed politics of lived embodiment. While acknowledging the internal contradictions and damaging exclusions of subaltern self-empowerment, Sheller roots out from beneath the historical archive traces of a deeper freedom, one expressed through bodily performances, familial relationships, cultivation of the land, and sacred worship.

Attending to the hidden linkages among intimate realms and the public sphere, Sheller explores specific struggles for freedom, including women's political activism in Jamaica; the role of discourses of "manhood" in the making of free subjects, soldiers, and citizens; the fiercely ethnonationalist discourses that excluded South Asian and African indentured workers; the sexual politics of the low-bass beats and "bottoms up" moves in the dancehall; and the struggle for reproductive and LGBT rights and against homophobia in the contemporary Caribbean. Through her creative use of archival sources and emphasis on the connections between intimacy, violence, and citizenship, Sheller enriches critical theories of embodied freedom, sexual citizenship, and erotic agency in all post-slavery societies.


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The City on the Hill From Below
The Crisis of Prophetic Black Politics
Authored by Stephen Marshall
Temple University Press, 2012

Within the discipline of American political science and the field of political theory, African American prophetic political critique as a form of political theorizing has been largely neglected. Stephen Marshall, in The City on the Hill from Below, interrogates the political thought of David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison to reveal a vital tradition of American political theorizing and engagement with an American political imaginary forged by the City on the Hill.

Originally articulated to describe colonial settlement, state formation, and national consolidation, the image of the City on the Hill has been transformed into one richly suited to assessing and transforming American political evil. The City on the Hill from Below shows how African American political thinkers appropriated and revised languages of biblical prophecy and American republicanism.

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Decentralization and Popular Democracy
Governance from Below in Bolivia
Jean-Paul Faguet
University of Michigan Press, 2013

Bolivia decentralized in an effort to deepen democracy, improve public services, and make government more accountable. Unlike many countries, Bolivia succeeded. Over the past generation, public investment shifted dramatically toward primary services and resource distribution became far more equitable, partly due to the creation of new local governments. Many municipalities responded to decentralization with transparent, accountable government, yet others suffered ineptitude, corruption, or both. Why? Jean-Paul Faguet combines broad econometric data with deep qualitative evidence to investigate the social underpinnings of governance. He shows how the interaction of civic groups and business interests determines the quality of local decision making.

In order to understand decentralization, Faguet argues, we must understand governance from the ground up. Drawing on his findings, he offers an evaluation of the potential benefits of decentralization and recommendations for structuring successful reform.

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Globalization From Below
Transnational Activists And Protest Networks
Donatella della Porta Della Porta
University of Minnesota Press, 2006
When violence broke out at the demonstrations surrounding the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, the authors of this book were there. The protests proved to be a critical moment in the global justice movement.

Presenting the first systematic empirical research on the global justice movement, Globalization from Below analyzes a movement from the viewpoints of the activists, organizers, and demonstrators themselves. The authors traveled to Genoa with anti-G8 protesters and collected data from more than 800 participants. A year later, they surveyed 2,400 activists at the European Social Forum in Florence. To understand how this cycle of global protest emerged, they examine the interactions between challengers and elites, and discuss how these new models of activism fit into current social movement work.

Globalization from Below places the protests within larger debates, revealing and investigating the forces that led to a clash between demonstrators and the Italian government, which responded with violence.

Donatella della Porta is professor of political science; Massimiliano Andretta is a researcher in political science and sociology; Lorenzo Mosca is a researcher in information and communication technologies; Herbert Reiter is a researcher in history, all at the European University Institute.
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Making Haiti
Saint Domingue Revolution From Below
Carolyn E. Fick
University of Tennessee Press, 1991

In 1789 the French colony of Saint Domingue was the wealthiest and most flourishing of the Caribbean slave colonies, its economy based on the forced labor of more than half a million black slaves raided from their African homelands.  The revolt of this underclass in 1791—the only successful slave rebellion in history—gained the slaves their freedom and set in motion the colony's struggle for independence as the black republic of Haiti.

In this pioneering study, Carolyn E. Fick argues that the repressed and uneducated slaves were the principal architects both of their own freedom and of the successful movement toward national independence.  Fick identifies "marronage," the act of being a fugitive slave,  as a basic unit of slave resistance from which the revolution grew and shows how autonomous forms of popular slave participation were as important to the success of the rebellion as the leadership of men like Toussaint Louverture, Henri Christophe, and Dessalines. Using contemporary manuscripts and previously untapped archival sources, the author depicts the slaves, their aspirations, and their popular leaders and explains how they organized their rebellion.

Fick places the Saint Domingue rebellion in relation to the larger revolutionary movements of the era, provides background on class and caste prior to the revolution, the workings of the plantation system, the rigors of slave life, and the profound influence of voodoo.  By examining the rebellion and the conditions that led to it from the perspective of the slaves it liberated, she revises the history of Haiti.

Carolyn Fick is currently a Canada Research Fellow at Concordia University in Montreal.

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Mau Mau From Below
Eastern African Studies
Greet Kershaw
Ohio University Press, 1996

John Lonsdale says in his introduction:

“This is the oral evidence of the Kikuyu villagers with whom Greet Kershaw lived as an aid worker during the Mau Mau ‘Emergency’ in the 1950s, and which is now totally irrecoverable in any form save in her own field notes.

Professor Kershaw has uncovered long local histories of social tension which could have been revealed by no other means than patient enquiry, of both her neighbour’s memory and government archives…

Nobody, whether Kikuyu participant, Kenyan or European scholar, has provided such startlingly authoritative ethnographic insights into the values, fears and expectations of Kikuyu society and thus of the motivation of Kikuyu action…

Her data suggests, as other scholars have also accepted, that there never was a single such movement and that none of its members, even those who supposed themselves to be its leaders, ever saw it whole, not because they did not have a political aim, but because that agenda was contested within different political circles over which they had no control and of which they may scarcely have had any knowledge.

And why is this finding important? It is because others, including almost all the movement’s enemies, did see Mau Mau whole in order to try to comprehend it, a first step towards defeating it.”

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Neoliberalism from Below
Popular Pragmatics and Baroque Economies
Verónica Gago
Duke University Press, 2017
In Neoliberalism from Below—first published in Argentina in 2014—Verónica Gago examines how Latin American neoliberalism is propelled not just from above by international finance, corporations, and government, but also by the activities of migrant workers, vendors, sweatshop workers, and other marginalized groups. Using the massive illegal market La Salada in Buenos Aires as a point of departure, Gago shows how alternative economic practices, such as the sale of counterfeit goods produced in illegal textile factories, resist neoliberalism while simultaneously succumbing to its models of exploitative labor and production. Gago demonstrates how La Salada's economic dynamics mirror those found throughout urban Latin America. In so doing, she provides a new theory of neoliberalism and a nuanced view of the tense mix of calculation and freedom, obedience and resistance, individualism and community, and legality and illegality that fuels the increasingly powerful popular economies of the global South's large cities.
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The People beside Paul
The Philippian Assembly and History from Below
Joseph A. Marchal
SBL Press, 2015

Who are the people beside Paul, and what can we know about them?

This volume brings together an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars with a broad range of expertise and a common interest: Philippi in antiquity. Each essay engages one set of contextual particularities for Paul and the ordinary people of the Philippian assembly, while simultaneously placing them in wider settings. This 'people's history' uses both traditional and more cutting-edge methods to reconsider archaeology and architecture, economy and ethnicity, prisons and priestesses, slavery, syncretism, stereotypes of Jews, the colony of Philippi, and a range of communities. The contributors are Valerie Abrahamsen, Richard S. Ascough, Robert L. Brawley, Noelle Damico, Richard A. Horsley, Joseph A. Marchal, Mark D. Nanos, Peter Oakes, Gerardo Reyes Chavez, Angela Standhartinger, Eduard Verhoef, and Antoinette Clark Wire.

Features

  • An examination of the social forms and forces that shaped and affected the Philippian church
  • Essays offer insight into standard questions about the letter s hymn and audience, Paul's 'opponents,' and the sites of the community and of Paul's imprisonment
  • A focused exploration of more marginalized topics and groups, including women, slaves, Jews, and members of localized cults
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The Politics of Writing Studies
Reinventing Our Universities from Below
Robert Samuels
Utah State University Press, 2017

A friendly critique of the field, The Politics of Writing Studies examines a set of recent pivotal texts in composition to show how writing scholarship, in an effort to improve disciplinary prestige and garner institutional resources, inadvertently reproduces structures of inequality within American higher education. Not only does this enable the exploitation of contingent faculty, but it also puts writing studies—a field that inherently challenges many institutional hierarchies—in a debased institutional position and at odds with itself.

Instead of aligning with the dominant paradigm of research universities, where research is privileged over teaching, theory over practice, the sciences over the humanities, and graduate education over undergraduate, writing studies should conceive itself in terms more often associated with labor. By identifying more profoundly as workers, as a collective in solidarity with contingent faculty, writing professionals can achieve solutions to the material problems that the field, in its best moments, wants to address. Ultimately, the change compositionists want to see in the university will not come from high theory or the social science research agenda; it must come from below.

Offering new insight into a complex issue, The Politics of Writing Studies will be of great interest to writing studies professionals, university administrators, and anyone interested in the political economy of education and the reform of institutions of higher education in America.

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Sciences from Below
Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities
Sandra Harding
Duke University Press, 2008
In Sciences from Below, the esteemed feminist science studies scholar Sandra Harding synthesizes modernity studies with progressive tendencies in science and technology studies to suggest how scientific and technological pursuits might be more productively linked to social justice projects around the world. Harding illuminates the idea of multiple modernities as well as the major contributions of post-Kuhnian Western, feminist, and postcolonial science studies. She explains how these schools of thought can help those seeking to implement progressive social projects refine their thinking to overcome limiting ideas about what modernity and modernization are, the objectivity of scientific knowledge, patriarchy, and Eurocentricity. She also reveals how ideas about gender and colonialism frame the conventional contrast between modernity and tradition. As she has done before, Harding points the way forward in Sciences from Below.

Describing the work of the post-Kuhnian science studies scholars Bruno Latour, Ulrich Beck, and the team of Michael Gibbons, Helga Nowtony, and Peter Scott, Harding reveals how, from different perspectives, they provide useful resources for rethinking the modernity versus tradition binary and its effects on the production of scientific knowledge. Yet, for the most part, they do not take feminist or postcolonial critiques into account. As Harding demonstrates, feminist science studies and postcolonial science studies have vital contributions to make; they bring to light not only the male supremacist investments in the Western conception of modernity and the historical and epistemological bases of Western science but also the empirical knowledge traditions of the global South. Sciences from Below is a clear and compelling argument that modernity studies and post-Kuhnian, feminist, and postcolonial sciences studies each have something important, and necessary, to offer to those formulating socially progressive scientific research and policy.

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Seeing Like a Smuggler
Borders from Below
Shahram
Pluto Press, 2022

Stories of smuggling as acts of resistance and decolonization.

'This conceptually vivid book refreshes our vision' - Ruth Wilson Gilmore

The word smuggler often unleashes a simplified, negative image painted by the media and the authorities. Such state-centric perspectives hide many social, political, and economic relations generated by smuggling. This book looks at the practice through the eyes of the smugglers, revealing how their work can be productive, subversive, and deeply sociopolitical.

By tracing the illegalized movement of people and goods across borders, Seeing Like a Smuggler shows smuggling as a contradiction within the nation-state system, and in a dialectical relation with the national order of things. It raises questions about how smuggling engages and unsettles the ethics, materialities, visualities, histories, and the colonial power relations that form borders and bordering.

Covering a wide spectrum of approaches from personal reflections and ethnographies to historical accounts, cultural analysis, and visual essays, the book spans the globe from Colombia to Ethiopia, Singapore to Guatemala, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and from Kurdistan to Bangladesh, to show how people deal with global inequalities and the restrictions of poverty and immobility.

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The Servant's Hand
English Fiction from Below
Bruce W. Robbins
Duke University Press, 1993
A work of innovative literary and cultural history, The Servant's Hand examines the representation of servants in nineteenth-century British fiction. Wandering in the margins of these texts that are not about them, servants are visible only as anachronistic appendages to their masters and as functions of traditional narrative form. Yet their persistence, Robbins argues, signals more than the absence of the "ordinary people" they are taken to represent. Robbins's argument offers a new and distinctive approach to the literary analysis of class, while it also bodies forth a revisionist counterpolitics to the realist tradition from Homer to Virginia Woolf. Originally published in 1986 (Columbia University Press), The Servant's Hand is appearing for the first time in paperback.
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The Solutions are Already Here
Strategies of Ecological Revolution from Below
Peter Gelderloos
Pluto Press, 2022
Are alternative energies and Green New Deals enough to deliver environmental justice? Peter Gelderloos argues that international governmental responses to the climate emergency are structurally incapable of solving the crisis. But there is hope.

Across the world, grassroots networks of local communities are working to realize their visions of an alternative revolutionary response to planetary destruction, often pitted against the new megaprojects promoted by greenwashed alternative energy infrastructures and the neocolonialist, technocratic policies that are the forerunners of the Green New Deal.

Gelderloos interviews food sovereignty activists in Venezuela, Indigenous communities reforesting their lands in Brazil and anarchists fighting biofuel plantations in Indonesia, looking at the battles that have cancelled airports, stopped pipelines, and helped the most marginalized to fight borders and environmental racism, to transform their cities, to win a dignified survival.
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Urban Latin America
The Political Condition from Above and Below
By Alejandro Portes and John Walton
University of Texas Press, 1976

Much research on the city in developing societies has focused mainly on one of three areas—planning, demography, or economics—and has emphasized either power elites or the masses, but not both. The published literature on Latin America has reflected these interests and has so far failed to provide a comprehensive view of Latin American urbanization. Urban Latin America is an attempt to integrate research on Latin American social organization within a single theoretical framework: development as fundamentally a political problem. Alejandro Portes and John Walton have included material on both elites and marginal populations and on the three major areas of research in order to formulate and address some of the key questions about the structure of urban politics in Latin America.

Following an introduction that delineates the scope of Latin American urban studies, Portes discusses the Latin American city as a creation of European colonialism. He goes on to examine political behavior among the poor, with central reference to system support and countersystem potential. Walton provides material for a comparative study of four cities: Monterrey and Guadalajara in Mexico and Medellín and Cali in Colombia. He also summarizes a large number of urban elite studies and develops a theoretical interpretation of their collective results, based on class structure and vertical integration. Material in each chapter is cross-referenced to other chapters, and the authors have used a common methodological approach in synthesizing and interpreting the research literature. In the final chapter they generalize current findings, elaborating on the interface between elite and mass politics in the urban situation. They make some observations on approaching changes and pinpoint possible research strategies for the future.

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Women and Social Movements in Latin America
Power from Below
By Lynn Stephen
University of Texas Press, 1997

Women's grassroots activism in Latin America combines a commitment to basic survival for women and their children with a challenge to women's subordination to men. Women activists insist that issues such as rape, battering, and reproductive control cannot be divorced from women's concerns about housing, food, land, and medical care.

This innovative, comparative study explores six cases of women's grassroots activism in Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, and Chile. Lynn Stephen communicates the ideas, experiences, and perceptions of women who participate in collective action, while she explains the structural conditions and ideological discourses that set the context within which women act and interpret their experiences. She includes revealing interviews with activists, detailed histories of organizations and movements, and a theoretical discussion of gender, collective identity, and feminist anthropology and methods.

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