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Aberrations In Black
Toward a Queer of Color Critique
Roderick A. Ferguson
University of Minnesota Press, 2003

A hard-hitting look at the regulation of sexual difference and its role in circumscribing African American culture

The sociology of race relations in America typically describes an intersection of poverty, race, and economic discrimination. But what is missing from the picture—sexual difference—can be as instructive as what is present. In this ambitious work, Roderick A. Ferguson reveals how the discourses of sexuality are used to articulate theories of racial difference in the field of sociology. He shows how canonical sociology—Gunnar Myrdal, Ernest Burgess, Robert Park, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and William Julius Wilson—has measured African Americans’s unsuitability for a liberal capitalist order in terms of their adherence to the norms of a heterosexual and patriarchal nuclear family model. In short, to the extent that African Americans’s culture and behavior deviated from those norms, they would not achieve economic and racial equality.

Aberrations in Black tells the story of canonical sociology’s regulation of sexual difference as part of its general regulation of African American culture. Ferguson places this story within other stories—the narrative of capital’s emergence and development, the histories of Marxism and revolutionary nationalism, and the novels that depict the gendered and sexual idiosyncrasies of African American culture—works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Toni Morrison. In turn, this book tries to present another story—one in which people who presumably manifest the dysfunctions of capitalism are reconsidered as indictments of the norms of state, capital, and social science. Ferguson includes the first-ever discussion of a new archival discovery—a never-published chapter of Invisible Man that deals with a gay character in a way that complicates and illuminates Ellison’s project.

Unique in the way it situates critiques of race, gender, and sexuality within analyses of cultural, economic, and epistemological formations, Ferguson’s work introduces a new mode of discourse—which Ferguson calls queer of color analysis—that helps to lay bare the mutual distortions of racial, economic, and sexual portrayals within sociology.

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Above the Gene, Beyond Biology
Toward a Philosophy of Epigenetics
Jan Baedke
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018
Epigenetics is currently one of the fastest-growing fields in the sciences. Epigenetic information not only controls DNA expression but links genetic factors with the environmental experiences that influence the traits and characteristics of an individual. What we eat, where we work, and how we live affects not only the activity of our genes but that of our offspring as well. This discovery has imposed a revolutionary theoretical shift on modern biology, especially on evolutionary theory. It has helped to uncover the developmental processes leading to cancer, obesity, schizophrenia, alcoholism, and aging, and to facilitate associated medial applications such as stem cell therapy and cloning.

Above the Gene, Beyond Biology explores how biologists in this booming field investigate and explain living systems. Jan Baedke offers the first comprehensive philosophical discussion of epigenetic concepts, explanations, and methodologies so that we can better understand this “epigenetic turn” in the life sciences from a philosophical perspective.
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Abundant Earth
Toward an Ecological Civilization
Eileen Crist
University of Chicago Press, 2019
In Abundant Earth, Eileen Crist not only documents the rising tide of biodiversity loss, but also lays out the drivers of this wholesale destruction and how we can push past them. Looking beyond the familiar litany of causes—a large and growing human population, rising livestock numbers, expanding economies and international trade, and spreading infrastructures and incursions upon wildlands—she asks the key question: if we know human expansionism is to blame for this ecological crisis, why are we not taking the needed steps to halt our expansionism?

Crist argues that to do so would require a two-pronged approach. Scaling down calls upon us to lower the global human population while working within a human-rights framework, to deindustrialize food production, and to localize economies and contract global trade. Pulling back calls upon us to free, restore, reconnect, and rewild vast terrestrial and marine ecosystems. However, the pervasive worldview of human supremacy—the conviction that humans are superior to all other life-forms and entitled to use these life-forms and their habitats—normalizes and promotes humanity’s ongoing expansion, undermining our ability to enact these linked strategies and preempt the mounting suffering and dislocation of both humans and nonhumans.

Abundant Earth urges us to confront the reality that humanity will not advance by entrenching its domination over the biosphere. On the contrary, we will stagnate in the identity of nature-colonizer and decline into conflict as we vie for natural resources. Instead, we must chart another course, choosing to live in fellowship within the vibrant ecologies of our wild and domestic cohorts, and enfolding human inhabitation within the rich expanse of a biodiverse, living planet.
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The African Exchange
Toward a Biological History of Black People
Kenneth F. Kiple
Duke University Press, 1988
David Eltis has observed that "in terms of immigration, America was an extension of Africa rather than Europe until late in the 19th century." The unwilling African immigrants were not spread evenly across the Americas; the overwhelming majority arrived in tropical and subtropical "plantation America" with the result that the disease and nutritional environments of this region also became extensions of Africa. While the implications of disease ecology for world history have been examined, and the details of the "Colombian exchange" of plants and pathogens between Europe and the Americas studied, we have no comparable study of the "African exchange."
The essays in this volume form the cutting edge of biohistorical research that promises to rewrite the story of humankind's past in significant ways.
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Algorithmic Desire
Toward a New Structuralist Theory of Social Media
Matthew Flisfeder
Northwestern University Press, 2021

In Algorithmic Desire, Matthew Flisfeder shows that social media is a metaphor that reveals the dominant form of contemporary ideology: neoliberal capitalism. The preeminent medium of our time, social media’s digital platform and algorithmic logic shape our experience of democracy, enjoyment, and desire. Weaving between critical theory and analyses of popular culture, Flisfeder uses examples from The King’s SpeechBlack MirrorGone Girl, The Circle, and Arrival to argue that social media highlights the antisocial dimensions of twenty‑first-century capitalism. He counters leading critical theories of social media—such as new materialism and accelerationism—and thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, proposing instead a new structuralist account of the ideology and metaphor of social media. Emphasizing the structural role of crises, gaps, and negativity as central to our experiences of reality, Flisfeder interprets the social media metaphor through a combination of dialectical, Marxist, and Lacanian frameworks to show that algorithms may indeed read our desire, but capitalism, not social media, truly makes us antisocial. Wholly original in its interdisciplinary approach to social media and ideology, Flisfeder’s conception of “algorithmic desire” is timely, intriguing, and sure to inspire debate.
 

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Anthropological Demography
Toward a New Synthesis
Edited by David I. Kertzer and Tom Fricke
University of Chicago Press, 1997
Although in its early years anthropology often used demographic research and showed interest in demographic issues, anthropology and demography have more recently grown to distrust each other's guiding assumptions and methods. Demographers have stressed universal causal models and standardized survey methods, while sociocultural anthropologists have increasingly focused on the uniqueness of different peoples and their cultures.

Showing that the two disciplines have much to offer each other, this book bridges the demography/anthropology divide. The editors begin the volume with an in-depth historical account of the relations between the fields. Eminent contributors from both disciplines then examine the major issues and controversies in anthropological demography, including the demographic implications of differing family and kinship systems; the influence of new developments in cultural, gender, and identity theory on population study; the limits of quantitative approaches in demographic study; and demographers' views of the limits of anthropological methods.
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Aquinas and the Market
Toward a Humane Economy
Mary L. Hirschfeld
Harvard University Press, 2018

Economists and theologians usually inhabit different intellectual worlds. Economists investigate the workings of markets and tend to set ethical questions aside. Theologians, anxious to take up concerns raised by market outcomes, often dismiss economics and lose insights into the influence of market incentives on individual behavior. Mary L. Hirschfeld, who was a professor of economics for fifteen years before training as a theologian, seeks to bridge these two fields in this innovative work about economics and the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.

According to Hirschfeld, an economics rooted in Thomistic thought integrates many of the insights of economists with a larger view of the good life, and gives us critical purchase on the ethical shortcomings of modern capitalism. In a Thomistic approach, she writes, ethics and economics cannot be reconciled if we begin with narrow questions about fair wages or the acceptability of usury. Rather, we must begin with an understanding of how economic life serves human happiness. The key point is that material wealth is an instrumental good, valuable only to the extent that it allows people to flourish. Hirschfeld uses that insight to develop an account of a genuinely humane economy in which pragmatic and material concerns matter but the pursuit of wealth for its own sake is not the ultimate goal.

The Thomistic economics that Hirschfeld outlines is thus capable of dealing with our culture as it is, while still offering direction about how we might make the economy better serve the human good.

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