Tag Archives: higher education

  • November Round-Up

    Here's what we were up to last month:

    Awards:

     

    Conferences:

    • Our European History and Slavic Studies acquisitions editor, Stephen Shapiro, was at The 2017 ASEEES Annual Convention in Chicago, IL from November 9-12, 2017.
    • Our History Editor in Higher Education, Natalie Fingerhut, and Editorial Assistant Julia Cadney both attended the History of Science Society annual meeting in Toronto, November 9-12, 2017.
    • Len Husband, acquisitions editor for Canadian and Native History, Philosophy, and History, had some really productive meetings at the annual meeting for American Academy for Religion in Boston, MA from November 18-21, 2017; we look forward to adding many more titles to our Lonergan Studies series.
    • Anne Brackenbury, Jodi Lewchuk, and Kristopher Gies represented the press at the 116th meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, D.C. from November 29 - December 3, 2017. Anne also participated in a panel on Drawing Culture: or the Art of Ethnography in Graphic Form: The Making of Lissa, the first title in our ethnoGRAPHIC series.

     

    Media Highlights:

     

    New Releases:

  • Language, Capitalism, Colonialism: Toward a Critical History

    As this year’s annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association begins, we would like to recognize the publication of an important new anthropology text, published by our Higher Education Division. Language, Capitalism, Colonialism: Toward a Critical History by Monica Heller and Bonnie McElhinny is an original introduction to linguistic anthropology that is situated in the political and economic contexts of colonialism and capitalism. To mark the publication of the book, the authors provide some background on how the project was initially conceived, how the book is structured, and how they hope to offer up new ways of thinking about language. If you’re currently attending the AAA annual meeting (#AmAnth17) in Washington, DC, pick up your copy at UTP’s book display. Or, order your copy online!

    This book began perhaps a bit oddly. Anne Brackenbury, Executive Editor at University of Toronto Press, approached Monica with the idea that perhaps it was time for a new textbook in linguistic anthropology. She approached Bonnie with the idea of doing an accompanying reader. Both of us (Bonnie and Monica) agreed that it was time for a reboot, but neither was enthusiastic about the format. Our feeling about the field certainly was that the existing canon wasn’t allowing us to readily talk about the things we wanted to talk about. These were things like how language is bound up in the making of social difference and social inequality, but in different ways under different circumstances. Things like how and why (and when) it acts as a terrain for crucial political struggles. Things like why thinking about language in different ways matters—and what, precisely, have been the consequences of thinking about language the way we have: as an autonomous system, as a cognitive faculty, as one property of social groups.

    And of course these are not just the ideas specialists have. One thing about working on language is that you find out quickly that everyone has an opinion, usually fervently clung to as irrefutable fact. They can’t be refuted on the basis of empirical data. They include such beliefs as: some languages are harder to learn than others; the language you speak shapes the thoughts you can have; some languages just sound beautiful, or ugly; there is a difference between real languages and dialects, patois, jargon, and slang, and the latter don’t really count for anything. Many of these ideas are deeply consequential for speakers whose competence and worth are judged on the basis of them, and which shape the language policies on which we spend lots of money. Indigenous and minority languages get repressed; speakers of creoles get judged as incompetent speakers of metropolitan, imperial standards; working class and racialized minority students are placed in special education classes on the basis of how they speak.

    So we wanted a way to speak both to what has counted as knowledge about (and of) language in academic disciplines, but also in social institutions and in everyday life, since all of that matters, and matters deeply. But we had no counter-canon to propose, nor, frankly, did we want to produce one. That would have been exactly counter to our concerns. How could we worry about what has been and is now at stake in thinking about language in these specific ways and then turn around and impose one of our own?

    Nonetheless, Anne had started something, something that made us attentive not only to issues specifically connected to “language” but also to the role of language in broader struggles over what counts as knowledge and who gets to decide. These include movements that are in the news today and which are part of our personal and professional lives—Indigenous and Black decolonization and anti-racism movements, environmentalist struggles around climate change, exposures of endemic sexual harassment, minority nationalisms (think Catalonia, Quebec, Scotland), the rise of the alt-right... And as these struggles gain prominence, so does the backlash. What does linguistic anthropology have to say about this?

    So we did a kind of bait-and-switch: ok Anne, we’ll propose a book, but a different one. The book we proposed suggests we take a step back. We take the position that linguistic anthropology can be most helpful if it understands the conditions that make language matter, and matter in specific ways. Those conditions are political, economic, and social; in particular, they concern the intertwining of capitalism and colonialism. Ideas about, and practices of, language facilitate the relations of power that they involve, and the making of social difference that legitimize them.

    For us, these conditions revolve centrally around the intertwining of capitalism and colonialism as the major processes driving the linkage between symbolic and material domination and relations of difference and inequality. Having been trained in the rather presentist approach of North American linguistic anthropology, we had already been attending for some time to the importance of history; the approach we wanted to take here required a deep dive. Building largely on secondary sources, with some forays into archival and ethnographic work, we structured the book in a loosely chronological manner around three moments: mercantile, industrial, and contemporary “late” or neoliberal capitalism.

    Each moment has a pair of chapters devoted first to the dominant approaches to language found there, and then to responses to those dominant discourses. We look first at how missionaries co-constructed the languages of colonizer and colonized in efforts to use Christian conversion to extend and strengthen the hard power of the imperial state. We then examine how these efforts were taken over by secular colonial administrators who borrowed biblical images of genealogy and descent to construct language “families” in complex processes of rendering colonizer and colonized both intimate and distant. These efforts were reinforced by the application of theories of evolution to linguistic difference, racializing language in the construction of “civilizational” hierarchies. They were also resisted, notably by dialectologists and creolists attentive to the difficulty of drawing neat boundaries, and by Americanist anthropologists led by Franz Boas who in arguing for the systematicity and significance of all cultures and languages, nonetheless re-inscribed hierarchical differences among the languages of Indigenous groups, descendants of slaves, and settlers in North American society (he understood the first to be on the verge of disappearance and requiring salvage in the form of material traces; he understood the second as needing access to assimilation).

    The second set of chapters examines the work done in the making of the modernist, bounded, uniformized, and standardized industrial capitalist and liberal democratic nation-state, and three distinct responses to the inequalities that process created: internationalist movements constructed around international auxiliary languages like Esperanto; fascism, with its extreme version of evolutionary ideas about race and language and its attention to the importance of propaganda in the construction of fascist structures of feeling (what did it mean to act appropriately “fanatical”, say?); and communism, which struggled to make a Marxist idea of language in contradistinction to bourgeois European philology, but ended up converging with the west in Cold War turns to nation-states as centres of empire, and technology as the main technique of competition.

    The third pair of chapters takes up the Cold War and the focus on technique, skill, technology, and the repression of overtly political forms of political engagement among linguists and anthropologists, with a focus on the United States; and then on the ways in which the Cold War soft power front of international development served as a foundation for the institutionalization of what we now call “sociolinguistics.” This part of the book also examines how the emancipatory movements of the 1960s led to critiques of mainstream sociolinguistics as masculine, white, and neo-colonial.

    We end with an examination of neoliberalism and late capitalism, with a focus both on the role of language in work on the globalized new economy, and resistance to the forms of inequality we experience now. These include radical rethinking of the idea of language as uniquely human, and other attempts to reverse the extraction of language from social process we argue operated from the end of the nineteenth through to the beginning of the twenty-first centuries. They include questions like how we might recognize “consent” or “redress” and what a “refusal” or an “apology” or “reclamation” might look like.

    Throughout, we attend to how hegemony happens, that is, how and why certain ideas about language help advance ideologies that legitimate specific political economic arrangements, and which themselves become hegemonic. Who is deemed worthy to speak, and how? We have tried therefore to also be attentive to the silenced and the marginalized, as well as to the more explicit struggles that have emerged from time to time (and for empirically discoverable reasons).

    Our hope (because that too is a thread throughout the book) is that this book will offer not a new canon, but a new way of thinking about language, one that opens up new questions to be asked, and new ways of asking them.

    Monica Heller is Professor of Anthropology and Education at the University of Toronto, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a past president of the American Anthropological Association.

    Bonnie McElhinny is Principal of New College, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto, and former Director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute.

  • Selling the Books that Matter: Experiences of a Higher Ed Sales Rep

    In our third blog post for University Press Week (running November 6-11), our Higher Education sales representative, Mike Byer, shares his experiences from the road. In particular, he explores the impact that selling books with powerful messages can have both on their intended audiences but also on those charged with the task of bringing them to a wider public. This year's theme for UP Week is #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters.

    I’ve been a book rep for University of Toronto Press since August of 2012. In the past five years we’ve published so many great books, but my favourite book is still from the fall of 2012. Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism was the first book that I had a lot of success selling, and anyone who’s worked in sales will understand why that makes me think fondly of it. But there’s also more to it than that. This book was fundamental to helping me understand the role of gender in society; it helped change how I see myself and my relationships.

    My initial success with Feminisms Matter was mostly due to the fact that it’s a great book with a unique approach. It’s a textbook with a bit of an attitude. In this case, you can judge the book by the cover. However, as I continued to make my sales pitch on campuses across North America, I began to notice that the arguments made in the book were starting to come out of my mouth in non-work situations. It was never an intentional decision, but I began to use my own experience in my sales pitch. It just made sense to me that if this book could have this kind of effect on a 30-year-old male, then it would certainly make an impact on 18-year-olds who were still trying to figure out a lot of these questions.

    Since 2012, I’ve had countless conversations about textbooks and their value in a classroom. Recently, I’ve noticed that the questions I hear from instructors have begun to change. There are still the usual concerns about cost and student engagement, but more and more I’m hearing anxiety about inclusion and student safety in the classroom. Instructors are asking how our books can teach about diversity, tolerance, and global citizenship. They are looking for books that are more than baskets of facts and charts. They are looking for books like Feminisms Matter.

    One example of this occurred earlier this year: It’s January 2017, and the weather in the Pacific Northwest is much more comfortable than at my home near Toronto. I have a bounce in my step as I walk to my rental car because this is the first time I’ve visited this school. Days like today feel like they are full of opportunity. At familiar schools, I’ve met with most professors several times. I know who is friendly and who isn’t interested. A new campus means all new faces and new conversations. Perhaps the previous book rep has been told a half dozen times that someone is happy with their books and stopped trying. I don’t know anything about that, so I knock on every open door.

    I follow the map to the Anthropology Department. We publish a lot of anthropology books, so I can have productive conversations with most anthropologists. When I see an open door, I check the nameplate, cross-check with my course and faculty lists, knock, and introduce myself: “Hi, my name’s Mike Byer. I’m a book rep from University of Toronto Press. Do you have a few minutes to chat about books?”

    I’m invited to sit down, and based on my course and faculty info, I start talking about our new intro to cultural anthropology text. This part of the meeting is a success. They’re interested in the new text, and I agree to send them a complimentary copy to review. As sometimes happens in these meetings, the conversation moves past the immediate sales pitch to other topics. In this case, we can’t avoid discussing the elephant in the room—the quickly approaching inauguration of Donald Trump.

    This professor is feeling a lot of anxiety about the new president and the impact his rhetoric during the campaign is having on the United States. Specifically, she is worried about the minority students on campus. This campus has a diverse student body, but it is located in smaller community that is not as diverse. She knows that some of her students are undocumented immigrants, and she sees students wearing visible symbols of their (non-Christian) religion, including hijabs and turbans. She asks for my perspective as a Canadian, and I explain that Trump’s rhetoric is also having an impact in Canada—hate crimes are getting more media attention, and Trump-like ideas are being promoted by candidates for the Conservative Party leadership. Canadian and American university campuses have many of the same controversies about free speech, safe spaces and inclusive language, and academic freedom.

    Eventually, we circle back around to textbooks and the challenge of teaching a diverse audience in a time when ideas of inclusion, tolerance, and citizenship are being contested. Of course, I jump at the chance to talk about Feminisms Matter and my own experience of having my eyes widened. It’s not an anthropology text, but it’s a great example of the power of a good book. This specific book spoke to me, but any of our books could have a similar effect on someone else.

    In the North American higher education market, UTP is a small fish. We publish great books, but sometimes people don’t hear about them. It’s my job to make sure as many people as possible have a chance to consider using them in their courses. Like any job, this can get tiring and repetitive. We’ve all had feelings of banging our head against a rock that won’t budge. On the days that campus is dreary and quiet, and I’d rather be anywhere else, I try to focus on Feminisms Matter. Not just because of the success I’ve had, but because I know that the books I’m selling can make a difference. That’s what keeps me knocking on the next open door…

    Mike Byer
    Publisher's Representative

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    This post is part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. Please visit our colleagues' blogs:

    University of Minnesota Press: Interviews with a few of their favorite booksellers.

    University of Hawai’i Press: A round-up of interesting, peer-reviewed facts published by their journals.

    Columbia University Press: A post by Conor Broughan, Northeast Sales Representative for the Columbia University Press Sales Consortium, discussing making sales calls during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    University Press of Kentucky: A guest post by UK Libraries exploring the societal benefits in university presses continuing to publish and readers continuing to have access to well-researched, low-controversy, long-form published content in an age of distraction, manufactured outrage, and hyper partisanship.

  • Winning Hearts and Minds: Publishing that Matters

    In our second blog post for University Press Week (running November 6-11), our Executive Editor, Anne Brackenbury, discusses how academic publishing needs to go beyond just the facts in order to truly engage a wider public. She uses as her example our soon-to-be-published graphic ethnography, Lissa, and how decisions around the publication of this book will hopefully help capture both hearts and minds. This year's theme for UP Week is #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters.

    Objective. Rigorous. Evidence-based. Peer reviewed. This is what university presses do best, right? We appeal to reason over passion, evidence over opinion, intellect over emotion. Or do we? While I have published many books that would fall under this description, I have published others that actually critique this assumption of pure reason and scientific objectivity. These works criticize scientific approaches for their hubris, their lack of attention to the human lives that are impacted by this work, and the messy, often uneven, contexts in which this research is produced.

    And yet we find ourselves in a moment where critique—once the norm in the humanities and social sciences—has suddenly gone out of fashion. The response to the new normal where “alternative facts” often carry more weight than peer-reviewed research is to consider ourselves the protectors of the scientific process, and as the channel in which the “truth” needs to be made available as facts. Even some high profile critics are now joining the mission to save science from the unbelievers. Others have decried the death of expertise at the hands of postmodernism, which they believe has emptied all authority of value, encouraging a rampant anti-intellectualism that privileges personal opinion over evidence, and passion over reason.

    And yet, as Alex Golub suggests, the growth of populism and its associated anti-intellectual tendencies isn’t going to be solved by facts alone. The people we want so desperately to convince are not going to hear facts that they don’t want to hear unless we can somehow tap into the culture they are part of. Because that’s the thing. People (including those of us who consider ourselves liberal) understand facts in the context of a broader belief system, a culture if you will. And if we don’t somehow account for that culture, relying solely on a discussion of the facts means we will only ever be talking to ourselves.

    So what does that mean for scholarly publishing? There’s no question the work has to start with solid, rigorous, peer-reviewed research. After that, however, opportunities abound. Research can be cast in many different ways that win not only minds, but hearts as well. For belief is located as much in the heart as it is in the mind.

    Case in point: the launch of a new series, ethnoGRAPHIC, and the publication of our first graphic ethnography. Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution is a project that emerged out of a collaboration between two academics who have done related but very different medical anthropology research. One dealt with kidney transplants in Egypt, the other with genetic pre-testing for breast cancer in the US. When put into conversation with one another, the authors were able to ask larger questions about not just the limitations of science and medical technology, but the ways in which we understand this technology vis-à-vis our own bodies. These very different ways of understanding health, and bodies, and risk, and the future end up offering an opportunity to make connections where they are often not easily made.

    Two important decisions were made that I think move this book from being a traditional academic venture with a relatively limited audience to potentially exploding across age, culture, national, and disciplinary boundaries. The first was to develop a fictional story with two fully relatable and human main characters from very different cultures. Layla and Anna are not just instruments developed to further a message—they are living, breathing, human beings with complex emotions and even more complex motivations. This is what moves readers to feel empathy for them. Even when set in far-away Egypt, in a context that feels foreign, the characters and the relationship that develops between them makes it possible to explore beliefs and cultures in a fresh, non-threatening way.

    The second choice was to render this in graphic novel form, using the unique power of this format—a sequential narrative realized in image form that can make visible the invisible, bend and twist time, and create places and spaces that become characters in their own right. Comics aren’t what they used to be (or maybe we’re only now discovering how powerful they are in their simplicity). Both sophisticated and accessible, engaging and subversive, comics combine the best of text (linear narrative) with the strength of images (quick, affective, and holistic interpretation) to speak to both young and old, skeptic and believer, and hearts and minds.

    As a comic Lissa stands on its own. But it was clear from the beginning of this project that we wanted to make sure the real world context and the research that supported the story wasn’t erased, but made visible in the form of supplementary material (both in the book and on a companion website). Timelines of real world events, a teaching guide with probing discussion questions, links to further resources—on breast cancer and genetic testing, on kidney disease and organ transplants, and on the Egyptian revolution—as well as a documentary film that explores how the authors and artists transformed their research into a comic, create a supportive scaffolding for the book.

    It has been a massive collaborative experiment on a number of levels, and while a more commercial press could easily have published the comic, I’m not sure they would have shown as much interest in the intellectual contribution that constitute the supplementary materials surrounding the comic. The mandate of a trade press is to engage readers in a good story. Ours, as a university press, is to engage readers in a good story that might also lead to a change in public discourse and public policy, and to ongoing scholarly discussions.

    We can’t control how people use the book. Some might only read the graphic novel and ignore the rest (unless smart instructors assign it as required reading!). And that’s okay. They will still learn a lot in the process. But for those who become curious, or those who want to use the story as a way to probe more deeply into issues of modern technology and its limits, bioethics, religion, gender, health and political inequality, and the comic medium itself, we hope they will find this scaffolding useful. In the process, who knows? Maybe reading, discussing, and teaching this book can build a tentative bridge across a cultural divide, and in the process a new neural pathway will be reinforced that allows us to talk about these issues differently.

    In my experience, that isn’t just publishing that provides evidence for the mind, it’s publishing that matters for both hearts and minds.

    Anne Brackenbury
    Executive Editor, Higher Education

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    This post is part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. Please visit our colleagues' blogs:

    WLU Press: A post from Indigenous scholar and fiction writer Daniel Heath Justice on the importance of Indigenous literatures and scholarship.

    Temple University Press: A post about books and authors that focus on racism and whiteness.

    University Press of Colorado: A feature on the press's Post-Truth-focused titles.

    Princeton University Press: Al Bertrand on the importance of non-partisan peer reviewed social science in today's climate.

    Cambridge University Press: A post about Marie Curie and her struggle for recognition within a French scientific community dominated by male scientists.

  • The Power of History to Galvanize and Energize

    In honour of University Press Week (November 6-11), our history editor, Natalie Fingerhut, reflects on how she sees scholarship making a difference in her everyday world, both on and off the page, and in her day-to-day job as an editor of higher education materials for students. This year's theme for UP Week is #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters

    In my day job, I spend a lot of quality time in the fifth and fifteenth centuries, acquiring books that teach students about the Middle Ages. After hours, my personal reading is focused on the twentieth century and specifically on the territory that Yale historian Timothy Snyder refers to as the “Bloodlands”: the area of Europe that ping-ponged between Hitler and Stalin and where millions of men, women, and children, including Jews, Poles, and Russians, were massacred by bullets, starvation, disease, and gas. In Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Snyder references the work of Jewish journalist and fiction writer Vasily Grossman, who in 1944 visited the remains of one of the death camps located in the Bloodlands, Treblinka, and wrote a searing account entitled “The Hell of Treblinka.” In a particularly graphic passage, Grossman describes final moments in the gas chambers:

    The door of the concrete chamber slammed shut […] Can we find within us the strength to imagine what the people in these chambers felt, what they experienced during their last minutes of life? All we know is that they cannot speak now… Covered by a last clammy mortal sweat, packed so tight that their bones cracked and their crushed rib cages were barely able to breathe, they stood pressed against one another; they stood as if they were a single human being. Someone, perhaps some wise old man, makes the effort to say, “Patience now—this is the end.” Someone shouts out some terrible curse. A holy curse—surely this curse must be fulfilled? With a superhuman effort a mother tries to make a little more space for her child: may her child’s dying breaths be eased, however infinitesimally, by a last act of maternal care. A young woman, her tongue going numb, asks, “Why am I being suffocated? Why can’t I love and have children?” Heads spin. Throats choke. What are the pictures now passing before people’s glassy dying eyes? Pictures of childhood? Of the happy days of peace? Of the last terrible journey? Of the mocking face of the SS man in that first square by the station: “Ah, so that’s why he was laughing…” Consciousness dims. It is the moment of the last agony… No, what happened in that chamber cannot be imagined. The dead bodies stand there, gradually turning cold.

    Around the same time I first read this essay, private sponsorship of Syrian refugees began in earnest in Toronto. Under the influence of Grossman and the horrors he had witnessed, I volunteered to do communications work for my synagogue’s refugee efforts and I am pleased to report that we managed to bring in a set of grandparents, parents, and a little boy. Five people saved from another inferno.

    This is the power of history to galvanize and energize. And while I realize that there are educators who stamp “Trigger Warning” on material such as Grossman, doing so suppresses the energy that causes those readers impacted by such horror to act.

    As a history editor at a university press, I am constantly privileged to speak with professors who are galvanized and energized to bring out the best instincts in their students—more so now than when I started a dozen years ago. I have medievalists who are trying to tell another and more complicated story of pre-modern relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims: a story that looks at cooperation rather than just conflict. They hope, I think, that if their students see that interfaith relations are more complex, that understanding will trickle into their consciousness when they look at the Middle East today and maybe, just maybe, they will spend their careers trying to repair that troubled region.

    I have authors who spend their time curating powerful primary sources related to trials in order to teach students about justice and agency and gender and superstition. They believe that the trial of a sixteenth-century literate woman who was put to death for being a witch has lessons to teach budding lawyers, judges, and leaders of women’s groups.

    In the last year, I have received brilliant proposals for projects that teach Canadian undergraduates our sordid history of Indigenous relations by emphasizing the invaluable skill of “reading against the grain.” What isn’t being said? By asking questions to reveal silences, lies, and contradictions, students learn to empathize with the silenced and hopefully take that empathy into their futures as activists.

    There has been a dramatic change in the proposals I have received in the last two years especially. I used to receive proposals for books that covered dates and personalities and events. Now, the proposals contain sections such as “Historical Skills for Students.” This is not a coincidence. We seem to be moving forward into the backwardness of the century we have just left. My authors feel compelled to do their part to put on the brakes. To ask their students to read and read carefully. To think carefully. To remember that the past is a teacher, and then ideally, to have this generation armed with the skills of the historian to act positively on the future’s behalf.

    Natalie Fingerhut
    History Editor, Higher Education

    *  *  *

    This post is part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. Please visit our colleagues' blogs:

    WLU Press: A post from Indigenous scholar and fiction writer Daniel Heath Justice on the importance of Indigenous literatures and scholarship.

    Temple University Press: A post about books and authors that focus on racism and whiteness.

    University Press of Colorado: A feature on the press's Post-Truth-focused titles.

    Princeton University Press: Al Bertrand on the importance of non-partisan peer reviewed social science in today's climate.

    Cambridge University Press: A post about Marie Curie and her struggle for recognition within a French scientific community dominated by male scientists.

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