Disappointing. Davis attempts a monumental task, to be sure, but ultimately the scope of analysis promised by the title and first few chapters is lackDisappointing. Davis attempts a monumental task, to be sure, but ultimately the scope of analysis promised by the title and first few chapters is lacking. Towards the latter half of the book, the focus turns almost entirely to the United States, with the rest of the Americas serving as a contextual backdrop at best. Two chapters are devoted to a blow-by-blow account of the Civil War era in the US, but abolition in Cuba and Brazil are relegated to half of the epilogue. The latter half of the book also abandons the meaningful social history, political economic analysis, and case studies that periodically appear in the first half for a fairly narrow political history of major events in Anglophone abolitionist movements. The book does offer many useful signposts to other relevant works by historians and social scientists....more
Phenomenal. W.E.B. DuBois crafts a masterful and comprehensive narrative of the politics of the Reconstruction period. Beginning with a prelude aboutPhenomenal. W.E.B. DuBois crafts a masterful and comprehensive narrative of the politics of the Reconstruction period. Beginning with a prelude about slavery, he plunges first into the role of the slaves in the Civil War against the context of a North that was unclear and uncoordinated on its purposes in the war. His notion of the slaves as having conducted a "general strike" as well as his detailed exploration of the symbolic and material impact of black soldiers in the Union profoundly shape his approach to the forthcoming Reconstruction period. He offers both a thorough treatment of the national politics behind the Reconstruction Amendments and the battles between Johnson and congressional Republicans, using these sagas as a way to examine the complex role of white elites from both North and South and the divisions of class among whites during the war and postwar periods. His treatment of state-by-state Reconstruction politics focuses on the role of the newly freed slaves, and his detailed account of South Carolina and Louisiana in particular are excellent insights into how the color line was built and how class and race were mutually constitutive. He then explores the legacy of intermittent black suffrage and leadership in the South, and the politics and impact of how the South was recaptured by a new alliance of ex-planters and poor whiles, before turning to a stinging critique of the historiography of the Civil War as a "lost cause" by the Dunning school, John W. Burgess, and others.
Throughout, DuBois offers a specific and dynamic view of politics that demonstrates the endless complexities of the era while demonstrating how race again and again was the driving factor in American politics. Importantly, however, he gives ample attention to how "race" itself was changed by the war and by Reconstruction, and the role that black agency had to play in that reproduction. Many have criticized DuBois for having an overly Marxist or economic reductionist approach to Reconstruction, but his attention to dynamic politics and the symbolic, psychological and material role of racial identity belies a Marxist focus on the fundamental robustness of class formation. Rather than applying a Marxist analysis to the period, he uses Marxist expectations as a way to examine a path-not-taken for labor struggles in the United States (anticipating arguments by Foner, Frymer, and others) and to demonstrate how race and empire confound a class-based approach to explaining political economy. He also shows early efforts at connecting black struggle and white backlash during Reconstruction to growing American imperialism in the era, advancing an anti-colonial critique that exceeds and defies Marxist orthodoxy.
As many have noted, this book is a long and challenging read, and might take you a few weeks. I recommend allowing exactly that -- taking it in small chunks not only made it easier to read, but also allowed me to really absorb the impact and breadth of DuBois' narrative. With a careful reading, you will learn a great deal not only about Reconstruction America, but also about racial politics in the 1930s, when this book was written.
This edition includes an excellent introduction that will prove particularly useful to readers unfamiliar with the historiographical debates that DuBois engages in throughout the book....more
Excellent and clear analysis of how two-party competition in US politics is an manifestation of institutional racism. Frymer introduces the concept ofExcellent and clear analysis of how two-party competition in US politics is an manifestation of institutional racism. Frymer introduces the concept of 'electoral capture', where a marginalized group is captured within one party's coalition, and whose substantive representation suffers because that party finds it within their interest to not make direct appeals to them. The bulk of the book focuses on African Americans, the exception being chapter 7, a fascinating exploration of whether other groups such as the LGB community or the Christian Right might be considered electorally captured (short answer: maybe and no). Tracing the development of the relationship between black voters and the Second party system in the antebellum era, the Republican Party during Reconstruction, and the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights Movement, Frymer moves beyond the simple observation that parties do little to represent black citizens, demonstrating that electoral incentives undergird political parties' relationship to black voters and their interests. As one party addresses black interests during periods such as Reconstruction or the Civil Rights Movement, the other party finds that making its opponent appear closely tied to black interests helps them win white moderate votes. In the process, even though they constitute an important voting bloc, black voters become captured in one party and invisible to it, and party competition shifts to contesting white median voter. Connecting this analysis of how electoral incentives relate to the substantive representation of marginalized groups, Frymer then examines descriptive representation of African Americans through an analysis of the Congressional Black Caucus from its inception to the 1990s, observing that while they have played a key role in representing black interests, they often do so through the use of antimajoritarian legislative rules and *despite* electoral incentives facing the Democratic Party. The afterword addresses Barack Obama's election and early tenure, and makes some key observations about the continued capturing of African American voters as an invisible group within the Democratic Party, but this addition came perhaps a little too early. An updated version after the end of the Obama presidency might shed even further light on the continuing transformation of the uneasy alliance between African Americans and the US party system....more
Excellent overview of the passage, implementation, and effects of California's paid family leave (PFL) program. Includes a history of the bill's passaExcellent overview of the passage, implementation, and effects of California's paid family leave (PFL) program. Includes a history of the bill's passage that highlights strong influence of organizing by labor and women's groups, as well as the vociferous but largely ineffective opposition of the Chamber of Commerce. The use of both qualitative and quantitative surveys, of employers and workers, gives a clear and nuanced picture of the first 6 years of PFL in California. Results include expected findings that health and economic outcomes improve for workers who take family leave and that employers are largely unaffected (despite fearmongering during the bill's proposal), as well as unexpected finding that lower-income and minority individuals are less aware of the bill and less likely to use PFL (particularly because employers are not incentivized to advertise availability of PFL to these workers). The latter finding, along with data on the increasing use of PFL by fathers since the bill's passage, lead Milkman and Appelbaum to conclude that the bill alleviated gender inequality to a certain extent, but that class inequality was reproduced due to low awareness and usage of PFL by those who need it the most....more
This book is ambitious in scope and does not disappoint. Jodi Melamed traces the development of race-liberal orders in the United States and US-led neThis book is ambitious in scope and does not disappoint. Jodi Melamed traces the development of race-liberal orders in the United States and US-led neoliberal globalization formations after the post-WWII racial break. She periodizes the orders into race-liberal, liberal-multicultural, and neoliberal-multicultural. The analytic lens of the book focuses on racial capitalism and rationalizing discourses and constructions deployed in the violences, biopolitics, and necropolitics of racial capitalism. While there is plenty of academic language, each chapter always moves into powerful examples in which the theoretical language becomes manifest. For each era, Melamed analyzes literary studies discourses (and sometimes state instruments) in both race-liberal orders and what she terms race-radical orders that resist liberalized and antimaterialist official state antiracisms. The concluding chapter is aptly titled "materializing antiracism," and Melamed here provides a rigorous analytic tool with which to think through such projects.
A few stray thoughts I had re: concerns with the approach taken in this book (apologies for this being disorganized; will try to clean up after sitting with my thoughts for a while): - The focus on literary studies discourses is fascinating, and Melamed makes very compelling arguments about the privileged role given to literary studies in the official state antiracisms accounted for. But I'm not sure that it was necessary to suggest that literary analysis is the central or main site for this. Surely there can be multiple overlapping sites of fluid importance? My intuition is that texts read as examples would be just as powerful if considered just very good examples rather than also being constructed as definitively representative of the structure of official state antiracisms, which was intermittently suggested. - The shift from chapters 2-3 to 4-5, where she moves from the race-liberal and liberal-multicultural orders to the neoliberal-multicultural order, also involves a shift in the site of analysis from the United States to global sites of capital and conflict. This does make sense in tracing the change in the form of United States imperialism towards a neoliberal orientation, but I worry that it obscures the differential official antiracisms that existed and continue to exist outside the US and that overlap and conflict with neoliberal-multiculturalism as it develops. - The section on neoliberal-multiculturalism makes reference to the relationship between globalized discourses and official state discourses, but there was very little discussion of this -- definitely understandable considering the scope of the book, but this was a key element that made the latter chapters feel underdeveloped and less rich compared to the earlier chapters....more
A classic and important study of the development of Asian American panethnicity from the 1960s through the early 1990s. There is a focus to the develoA classic and important study of the development of Asian American panethnicity from the 1960s through the early 1990s. There is a focus to the development of and tensions in panethnic institutions, which is key to the book's defense of ethnicization as simultaneously a reactive and creative process. However, Espiritu does overemphasize the role of racial lumping in panethnic boundary construction, relegating the role of state categorization to one that is primarily relevant in resource distribution rather than also having symbolic importance. Corollary to this, she importantly fails to address powerful differences in the ethnicization of South Asians and Pacific Islanders from that of East and Southeast Asian communities. More attention to these differential ethnicizations would allow the study of panethnicity to better account for race as nuanced and situational beyond Espiritu's "multitiered" model where racial identity categories remain hierarchical and mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, this was a pathbreaking study for its time and is full of sharp and prescient analyses about the political agency of Asian Americans in their own identity formation, and the potentials and limits of various approaches to panethnic organization....more
Phenomenal. Lisa Lowe reads across an incredible range of texts to build an approach to thinking through the relationship between European liberalismPhenomenal. Lisa Lowe reads across an incredible range of texts to build an approach to thinking through the relationship between European liberalism and the colonialism, slavery, indentured servitude, and dispossessions that define(d) the relationship between Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Lowe resists the urge to be totalizing in her analysis or to craft a grand narrative of history; rather, she precisely resists and refutes these to craft means of thinking through the intimacies of these four continents as a "history of the present". This book is not so much interdisciplinary as blowing disciplinary boundaries out of the water with seeming ease. It is certainly difficult and precise in its use of academic language, but careful attention to the way Lowe sets up its schema yields unfailingly powerful and creative analysis....more
Great content, but writing is hit or miss -- mostly in that some chapters are quite verbose. As with any collection of essays on a broad topic, be preGreat content, but writing is hit or miss -- mostly in that some chapters are quite verbose. As with any collection of essays on a broad topic, be prepared to switch between close reading and skimming based on your interests as well. Of the eight chapters, the ones I found to be the best written and most analytically compelling were chapters three (Disciplining Desire in Making the Home: Engenering Ethnicity in Indian Immigrant Families), five (Filipino American Youth Gangs, "Party Culture," and Ethnic Identity in Los Angeles), and eight (Second Generation Asian American Identity: Clues from the Asian Ethnic Experience)....more
Reader's history of the potato is straightforward and unironic, and all the better for it. He excels at painting vignettes of how societies shape themReader's history of the potato is straightforward and unironic, and all the better for it. He excels at painting vignettes of how societies shape themselves and come into conflict around the crop, and resists giving it a character of its own. He is best when dealing with the potato in its South American origins, the colonial conditions of its travels, and the tremendous influence it had on ordinary peasant life in Europe. He falters somewhat with profiles of scientists and botanists that seem a little dry and global economics of the contemporary period, but is still in those sections readable if not as thoroughly compelling....more