A rich ethnography of ecopolitics in Hong Kong in the late 1990s, as the region shifted to Chinese sovereignty, Ecologies of Comparison describes how ecological concepts of uniqueness and scale resonated among environmentalists, including those seeking to preserve a species of white dolphin, to protect an aging fishing village from redevelopment, and to legitimize air quality as an object of political and medical concern. During his research, Tim Choy became increasingly interested in the power of the notion of specificity. While documenting the expert and lay production of Hong Kong’s biological, cultural, and political specificities, he began comparing the logics and narrative forms that made different types of specificity—such as species, culture, locality, and state autonomy—possible and meaningful. He came to understand these logics and forms as “ecologies of comparison,” conceptual practices through which an event or form of life comes to matter in environmentalist and other political terms. Choy’s ethnography is about environmentalism, Hong Kong, and the ways that we think about environmentalism in Hong Kong and other places. It is also about how politics, freedom, culture, expertise, and other concepts figure in comparison-based knowledge practices.
"This body of research not only passes academic muster but is the best guidepost in existence for activists who are trying to use the ballot initiative process for larger policy and political objectives."
--Kristina Wilfore, Executive Director, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center and Foundation
Educated by Initiative moves beyond previous evaluations of public policy to emphasize the educational importance of the initiative process itself. Since a majority of ballots ultimately fail or get overturned by the courts, Smith and Tolbert suggest that the educational consequences of initiative voting may be more important than the outcomes of the ballots themselves. The result is a fascinating and thoroughly-researched book about how direct democracy teaches citizens about politics, voting, civic engagement and the influence of special interests and political parties. Designed to be accessible to anyone interested in the future of American democracy, the book includes boxes (titled "What Matters") that succinctly summarize the authors' data into easily readable analyses.
Daniel A. Smith is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida.
Caroline J. Tolbert is Associate Professor of Political Science at Kent State University.
Formal education is crucial for creating enlightened and active citizens. The better educated are more engaged, more knowledgeable, and more politically tolerant. Despite a dramatic increase in education attainment over the last quarter century, political engagement has not risen at a commensurate level. How and why education affects citizenship in these ways has until now been a puzzle.
Norman H. Nie, Jane Junn, and Kenneth Stehlik-Barry provide answers by uncovering the causal relationship between education and democratic citizenship. They argue that citizenship encompasses both political engagement in pursuit of interests and commitment to democratic values that temper what citizens can do to win in politics. Education affects the two dimensions in distinct ways. Especially significant is the influence of education on political engagement through occupational prominence and position in social networks. Formal education orders the distribution of social position and connections and creates an uneven political playing field.
"New theoretical propositions, original data, and rigorous empirical tests are what one looks for in cutting-edge social science. Fortunately, all three are apparent in Ethnic Cues. The author has pushed his thinking to develop new ways of understanding and explaining patterns of Latino voting behavior."
---Luis Ricardo Fraga, University of Washington, Seattle
"Matt Barreto investigates some of the ramifications of two new related developments in American political life: the stunning growth of the Latino immigrant population in recent decades and the accompanying exponential explosion in the number of Latino candidates running for political office at the local, state, and national levels."
---Reuel R. Rogers, Northwestern University
Until recently, much of the research on political participation has resisted the idea that Latino voters rely on ethnic cues. The discussion has become increasingly salient as political strategists have learned to define individual voting blocs and mobilize them in support of a candidate. Nourished by the debate over immigration, the search for the Latino voter has now blossomed into a national political obsession.
Against this background, Matt A. Barreto assays the influence of ethnic identification on Latinos' voting behavior. Barreto asks whether the presence of co-ethnic candidates actually does mobilize Latino voters in support of these candidates. His analysis of in-depth candidate interviews, public opinion surveys, official election results, and statistics finds that it does. He goes on to describe the dynamic of voting in the Latino community and sharpens our appreciation of how ethnic considerations influence the electoral choices of Americans more generally. In a time of intensely focused campaign appeals, Barreto's work has much to tell us about the mechanics of public opinion and the role of race and ethnicity in voting behavior.
Matt A. Barreto is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington and Director of the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality (WISER).