NYMASA Salon Talks Spring 2020

 

The New York Metro American Studies Association is delighted to announce its series of Salon Talks for Spring 2020 Once again, we have a terrific array of scholars talking about their recently-published books.  Salon Talks are an opportunity for local American Studies scholars to share their published work with an intimate audience.  They tend to be small, lively, and informative; light refreshments are served.  This semester all Salon Talks will be held at 6:30 pm in the Faculty and Staff Lounge, on the 8th floor of the West Building, Hunter College (Lexington Avenue and 68th Street).

For directions, more information, or to rsvp, contact Sarah Chinn at sarah.chinn@hunter.cuny.edu

 

Tuesday, February 11th

Kerwin Kaye (Wesleyan University) , Enforcing Freedom: Drug Courts, Therapeutic Communities, and the Intimacies of the State (Columbia University Press)

 

In 1989, the first drug-treatment court was established in Florida, inaugurating an era of state-supervised rehabilitation. Such courts have frequently been seen as a humane alternative to incarceration and the war on drugs. Enforcing Freedom offers an ethnographic account of drug courts and mandatory treatment centers as a system of coercion, demonstrating how the state uses notions of rehabilitation as a means of social regulation.

Situating drug courts in a long line of state projects of race and class control, Kerwin Kaye details the ways in which the violence of the state is framed as beneficial for those subjected to it. He explores how courts decide whether to release or incarcerate participants using nominally colorblind criteria that draw on racialized imagery. Rehabilitation is defined as the preparation for low-wage labor and the destruction of community ties with “bad influences,” a process that turns participants against one another. At the same time, Kaye points toward the complex ways in which participants negotiate state control in relation to other forms of constraint in their lives, sometimes embracing the state’s salutary violence as a means of countering their impoverishment. Simultaneously sensitive to ethnographic detail and theoretical implications, Enforcing Freedom offers a critical perspective on the punitive side of criminal-justice reform and points toward alternative paths forward.

 

Monday, March 16

Anna Mae Duane (University of Connecticut), Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys Who Grew Up to Change a Nation

 

In the 1820s, few Americans could imagine a viable future for black children. Even abolitionists saw just two options for African American youth: permanent subjection or exile. Educated for Freedom tells the story of James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet, two black children who came of age and into freedom as their country struggled to grow from a slave nation into a free country.

Smith and Garnet met as schoolboys at the Mulberry Street New York African Free School, an educational experiment created by founding fathers who believed in freedom’s power to transform the country. Smith and Garnet’s achievements were near-miraculous in a nation that refused to acknowledge black talent or potential. The sons of enslaved mothers, these schoolboy friends would go on to travel the world, meet Revolutionary War heroes, publish in medical journals, address Congress, and speak before cheering crowds of thousands. The lessons they took from their days at the New York African Free School #2 shed light on how antebellum Americans viewed black children as symbols of America’s possible future. The story of their lives, their work, and their friendship testifies to the imagination and activism of the free black community that shaped the national journey toward freedom.

 

Tuesday, April 7

Michael Aaron Rockland (Rutgers University), The George Washington Bridge : Poetry in Steel (revised and expanded; Rutgers University Press)

 

Since opening in 1931, the George Washington Bridge, linking New York and New Jersey, has become the busiest bridge in the world, with 103 million vehicles crossing it in 2016. Many people also consider it the most beautiful bridge in the world, yet remarkably little has been written about this majestic structure.

Intimate and engaging, this revised and expanded edition of Michael Rockland's rich narrative presents perspectives on the GWB, as it is often called, that span history, architecture, engineering, transportation, design, the arts, politics, and even post-9/11 mentalities. This new edition brings new insight since its initial publication in 2008, including a new chapter on the infamous “Bridgegate” Chris Christie-era scandal of 2013, when members of the governor's administration shut down access to the bridge, causing a major traffic jam and scandal and subsequently helping undermine Christie’s candidacy for the US presidency.

                    

Thursday, May 7

Stuart Schrader (Johns Hopkins University), Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (University of California Press)

 

From the Cold War through today, the U.S. has quietly assisted dozens of regimes around the world in suppressing civil unrest and securing the conditions for the smooth operation of capitalism. Casting a new light on American empire, Badges Without Borders shows, for the first time, that the very same people charged with global counterinsurgency also militarized American policing at home.

 

In this groundbreaking exposé, Stuart Schrader shows how the United States projected imperial power overseas through police training and technical assistance—and how this effort reverberated to shape the policing of city streets at home. Examining diverse records, from recently declassified national security and intelligence materials to police textbooks and professional magazines, Schrader reveals how U.S. police leaders envisioned the beat to be as wide as the globe and worked to put everyday policing at the core of the Cold War project of counterinsurgency. A “smoking gun” book, Badges Without Borders offers a new account of the War on Crime, “law and order” politics, and global counterinsurgency, revealing the connections between foreign and domestic racial control.