Berghahn Journals is the journals division of Berghahn Books, an independent scholarly publisher in the humanities and social sciences. A peer-review press, Berghahn is committed to the highest academic standards and seeks to enable innovative contributions to the scholarship in its fields of specialty.
The latest Environment and Society featured article is now available! This month’s article, “Humans, Animals, and Health: From Ecology to Entanglement,” comes from Volume 4 (2013). Alex M. Nading discusses historical approaches to the question of how health brings human and nonhuman animals together, arguing that health is one terrin for developing a critical environmental analysis of the production of life.
Visit the featured article page to download your copy of the article today before it’s gone! A new article is featured every month.
ALEX NADING is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and an affiliate of the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology. He is the author of Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health, and the Politics of Entanglement (2014, University of California Press), an ethnographic study of dengue fever prevention in Managua, Nicaragua. Alex’s other published work discusses the use of genetically modified organisms in global health, the relationship between microbial and human life, and role of climate in shaping disease epidemics. You can read about his ongoing research at www.alexnading.com.
The teachers’ campaign in defense of public education and against the neoliberal reforms being introduced by the Mexican government has ignited a new cycle of social struggles and an outbreak of violent repression in Mexico. This short article was written from within the barricade/encampment of San Cristobal de Las Casas (Chiapas), where, for nearly two weeks, organized teachers together with a supportive heterogeneous population are blockading the highway to Tuxtla Gutierrez—the state’s capital. The encampment of San Cristobal is one of the dozens of blockades that have been set up over the last few weeks all across the country.
In the early morning of Sunday, 19 June, in a joint operation, the federal and state police attacked with firearms organized teachers, students, and residents of Nochixtlán, a small town located some miles away from the city of Oaxaca. For one week the population of this community had being holding a barricade in resistance to the education reform being pushed through by the federal government. The aggression ended with the murder of eleven protesters. More than a hundred were injured, and eighteen people were arbitrarily removed from a funeral taking place nearby (having nothing to do with the picket) and jailed.
The National Security Commission hurriedly issued a statement declaring that its agents were totally unarmed—“they didn’t even carry batons,” they argued. However, the photos taken by a reporter of Cuartoscuro agency clearly show federal police agents triggering AR-15 rifles and 9mm guns against the crowd. One of these images, showing a uniformed man on his knees firing his assault rifle against the barricade from a nearby tire repair workshop, became viral on social networks, disproving the official version of the facts.
Few days after the shooting some anonymous street artists have painted a mural on that exact same spot, representing soldiers in the same position as they were portrayed in the above mentioned pictures.
This time, given the firm response of broad sections of the local population and independent media outlets, the federal police did not manage to pollute the crime scene and craft proofs incriminating third parties or the protesters themselves—as it happened, for example, with the massacre and mass kidnapping of Ayotzinapa (November 2014). The government was therefore forced to change its narrative and to issue a series of rectifications aimed at, once again, justifying the internal warfare politics through which the country is currently being ruled.
Teachers of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), Latin America’s largest union, have been on indefinite strike since 15 May. They are arguing that the idea of “educational reform” is totally misleading since there is no sign of pedagogy in the legislation being approved by the government. The reform presents itself more like a labor and administrative restructuring involving constitutional changes, the imposition of a new contract, and the establishment of a national evaluation system for teachers as a prelude to massive layoffs. Secretary of Public Education Aurelio Nuño has systematically refused to establish a dialogue with the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE, the leading board of SNTE). “Dialogue can not be established to negotiate on the educational reform,” he said.
Together with public health, land, and energy, education is part of the package of structural reforms being implemented by President Enrique Peña Nieto. They reflect a general process of reconfiguration of the Mexican state, responding to a new cycle of capitalist expansion and accumulation in the country. Indeed, an essential aspect of the seemingly “illogical” atrocities that the state is committing is that this violence assists the realization of tremendous infrastructural mega-projects that bring about enormous social and environmental impacts, such as the construction of new highways, airports, and dams; the massive implementation of monoculture systems in the countryside, and so on. These developments are functional to the new extractive policies for which the current administration has handed over 25 per cent of the national soil to (national and international) extractive enterprises.
Coincidence or not, on 1 June, just some days before the massacre of Nochixtlán, a new “scheme” was officially launched by the federal government, establishing “special economic zones” (SEZ) in the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Chiapas. This program aims at providing these regions with the necessary infrastructure for the exploitation of their mineral, energy, and agricultural resources, facilitating a dynamic of accumulation by dispossession.
The seizure and exploitation of land and resources by international capital brings about aggression toward the populations inhabiting targeted territories. Any bonds between people and the spaces that they inhabit need to be disrupted. The enforcement of a rationality of plain profit requires that societies be fragmented, individualized, and made dependent on external forces. It requires the destruction of traditional forms of state institutionality as depositary of the universal values associated to the idea of “public.” What is at stake here is an ontological transformation—the production of a different form of life (a different humanity) in those regions of the south of Mexico that are mainly inhabited by indigenous groups and legally organized under collective forms of tenure.
“Ejidos” and “agrarian communities” are egalitarian outcomes of the agrarian reform, which constituted one of the main political achievements of the Revolution of 1910, together with the education reform. These rural collectivities still hold a shared living memory of the Revolution, which motivates them to keep defending those lands from the predatory aggression of capital—against the geographic, economic, and social reconfiguration that this system imposes. Teachers have played a decisive historical role in constantly revitalizing and actualizing this memory, reproducing a national identity based on the principles of the Revolution and advocating an emancipatory pedagogy promoting autonomous and collective practices.
The rampant processes of militarization that the country is experiencing and the adoption of a strategy of internal low intensity warfare respond to the necessity of eroding the commons in favor of a “new” exploitative rationality. The logic of military operations as those witnessed in Ayotzinapa and Nochixtlán has to do with the production of chaos aimed at deterritorializing spaces toward the institution of, to use Fanon’s idea, “zone of non-being” where humanity is violated day after day. As a peasant told: “the politics of the government is to do away with communal life. They want you to leave your land, that you sell it—their aim is to individualize communities.”
In Chiapas, people are currently asking themselves if, with a local movement showing particular strength and determination, they will be the next victim of violent repression, after Oaxaca. Local entrepreneurs are urging the government of Manuel Velasco Coello to “apply the rule of law,” that is, to use force to evict the dissident teachers and their supporters holding blockades all around the region. The mayors of San Cristobal de las Casas and other neighboring towns have been accused by the movement to be contracting informal assault groups to attack the blockades. San Cristobal is home to the ALMETRACH, a paramilitary organization responsible for the recent assassination (March 2016) of Juan Carlos Jimenez, a teacher actively campaigning against the education reform and for the right to land of local indigenous groups.
The paramilitarization of conflicts has become a main issue in Chiapas and Mexico in general, where armed gangs related to various levels of state power are operating in the shadows, without any defined material or geographic limits, and acting solely in the name of whoever is paying—be it a narco boss, a politician, a state agency, a multinational corporation, or a coalition interested in, for example, intimidating a group opposing the implementation of a mining project on their communal lands.
Interestingly enough, many of these groups are previous revolutionary peasant mass organizations that in the ’90s went through profound processes of depoliticization (also due to the polarization produced by the Zapatista uprising) and turned into rural corporative and clientelistic apparatuses, constantly looking for remunerative opportunities and power positions. Along with this process they fell under the control of political/economic powers and are now used as paramilitary service providers, playing a decisive role as counterinsurgent forces and fostering warfare and social chaos.
In this perspective the massacre of Nochixtlán directly relates to the events of Ayotzinapa. These tragedies have ignited a conflict that goes beyond the opposition to the education reform. An increasingly heterogeneous subjectivity has mobilized around it. “It started as a magisterial protest, but it quickly became a widespread popular movement,” said a union member. This is because the protest managed to catalyze a latent disposition in Mexican society that was failing to find a concrete and organized expression. “It is not a manifestation that overflowed. Rather, an overflow is manifesting itself,” would argue the Invisible Committee.
The blockade/encampment of San Cristobal de Las Casas has turned into a rallying ground where every day a number of associations and independent groups are marching to show solidarity with the teachers and join their struggle. The area of several hectares is occupied by a diverse population that keeps it lively day and night. Several kitchens feed the protesters three times a day, and a number of local collectives have taken responsibility for coordinating cultural activities like the projection of films and documentaries and the organization of small gigs. Political meetings and assemblies are constantly taking place in the various regional tongues. A meticulously coordinated security commission is on duty to keep the camp safe. The access points to the area are constantly watched over and small brigades patrol the adjacent neighborhoods to detect eventual military or police activity. However, the national leadership of the teachers union (CNTE) has demanded the movement to remove all existing blockades in view of a strategy change. San Cristobal (among others) decided not to follow this directive.
In the meantime, the Zapatistas (EZLN)—who, just a few days before the massacre of Nochixtlán, had somehow predicted that something alike could eventually happen—have suspended their participation in the CompARTE Festival, an international arts event to take place in Chiapas in July, which they themselves had been organizing over the last six months. The official reason has to do with the Zapatistas not wanting to hinder the teachers’ movement in this delicate phase. “To put it more clearly, the most important thing now, on this calendar and from the limited geography in which we resist and struggle, is the struggle of the democratic teachers.” As a concrete act of solidarity, the Zapatistas have distributed tons of food among those who are on strike and conducting blockades on highways. However, the feeling is that the choice not to participate in CompARTE was dictated by security reasons. It might not have been prudent for the EZLN to expose themselves in such a risky conjuncture.
The organized teachers seem to be ready to pay the costs of resisting until the reforms collapse. As I said, the main danger that they are facing is violent repression. Arguably, this is the Mexican state’s current strategy, one of armed chaos in support of its capitalist plans of accumulation by dispossession.
The movement’s main challenge will be to keep control and not respond to provocations—avoiding to shift their politics into the field of war: a fertile one for the state/capital alliance.
Alessandro Zagato is research fellow in the Egalitarianism project at the University of Bergen. He is currently conducting fieldwork among rural communities in the south of Mexico. He has recently edited a volume titled The Event of Charlie Hebdo: Imaginaries of Freedom and Control.
1. For more information and a background on the “Ayotzinapa” case I recommend “After Ayotzinapa: building autonomy in a civil war.”
2. Ejidos are peasant collectivities occupying land given to them by the Mexican state after the Revolution (1910). Agrarian communities collectively manage a piece of land that was held by an “indigenous agrarian community before colonialism,” an ancestral property institutionalized by the postrevolutionary state.
4. My translation from Spanish.
6. EZLN 2016
Cite as: Zagato, Alessandro. 2016. “Teachers struggles and low intensity warfare in the south of Mexico.” FocaalBlog, 25 July. www.focaalblog.com/2016/07/25/alessandro-zagato-teachers-struggles-and-low-intensity-warfare-in-the-south-of-mexico.
We are delighted to inform you that Berghahn titles will be on display at The Council for European Studies Conference in Philadelphia, PA on April 14-16, 2016. Please stop by and don’t miss your chance to browse our selection of books at special conference price and pick up free journal samples.
If you are unable to attend, we would like to provide you with a special discount offer. For the next 30 days, receive a 25% discount on all Europe Studies titles found on our website. At checkout, simply enter the code CES16.
Here is a preview of some of our newest releases on display.
The State of the Art
Edited by Olivier Fillieule and Guya Accornero
Foreword by James Jasper
Volume 16, Protest, Culture & Society
Bringing together over forty established and emerging scholars, this landmark volume is the first to comprehensively examine the evolution and current practice of social movement studies in a specifically European context. While its first half offers comparative approaches to an array of significant issues and movements, its second half assembles focused national studies that include most major European states. Throughout, these contributions are guided by a shared set of historical and social-scientific questions with a particular emphasis on political sociology, thus offering a bold and uncommonly unified survey that will be essential for scholars and students of European social movements.
A Comparative History of a European Concept
Edited by Pasi Ihalainen, Cornelia Ilie, and Kari Palonen
Parliamentary theory, practices, discourses, and institutions constitute a distinctively European contribution to modern politics. Taking a broad historical perspective, this cross-disciplinary, innovative, and rigorous collection locates the essence of parliamentarism in four key aspects—deliberation, representation, responsibility, and sovereignty—and explores the different ways in which they have been contested, reshaped, and implemented in a series of representative national and regional case studies. As one of the first comparative studies in conceptual history, this volume focuses on debates about the nature of parliament and parliamentarism within and across different European countries, representative institutions, and genres of political discourse.
Making and Unmaking Heritage in Cyprus
WINNER OF THE 2016 PROSE AWARD FOR ANTHROPOLOGY
On the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, rural villages, traditional artefacts, even atmospheres and experiences are considered heritage. Heritage making not only protects, but also produces, things, people, and places. Since the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, heritage making and Europeanization are increasingly intertwined in Greek-Cypriot society. Against the backdrop of a long-term ethnographic engagement, the author argues that heritage emerges as an increasingly standardized economic resource, a “European product.” Implemented in historic preservation, rural tourism, culinary traditions, nature protection, and urban restoration projects, heritage policy has become infused with transnational market regulations and neoliberal property regimes.
Arranging Legality in European Labor Migration Policies
The conditions for non-EU migrant workers to gain legal entry to Britain, France, and Germany are at the same time similar and quite different. To explain this variation this book compares the fine-grained legal categories for migrant workers in each country, and examines the interaction of economic, social, and cultural rationales in determining migrant legality. Rather than investigating the failure of borders to keep unauthorized migrants out, the author highlights the different policies of each country as “border-drawing” actions. Policymakers draw lines between different migrant groups, and between migrants and citizens, through considerations of both their economic utility and skills, but also their places of origin and prospects for social integration. Overall, migrant worker legality is arranged against the backdrop of the specific vision each country has of itself in an economically competitive, globalized world with rapidly changing welfare and citizenship models.
Deportation, Punishment and Everyday Life
Volume 17, Dislocations
Focusing on the lived experience of immigration policy and processes, this volume provides fascinating insights into the deportation process as it is felt and understood by those subjected to it. The author presents a rich and innovative ethnography of deportation and deportability experienced by migrants convicted of criminal offenses in England and Wales. The unique perspectives developed here – on due process in immigration appeals, migrant surveillance and control, social relations and sense of self, and compliance and resistance – are important for broader understandings of border control policy and human rights.
Cultural Legacies of Europe at War, 1936-2016
Edited by Manuel Bragança and Peter Tame
Foreword by Richard Overy
Afterword by Jay Winter
Volume 17, Contemporary European History
In its totality, the “Long Second World War”—extending from the beginning of the Spanish Civil War to the end of hostilities in 1945—has exerted enormous influence over European culture. Bringing together leading historians, sociologists, and literary and film scholars, this broadly interdisciplinary volume investigates Europeans’ individual and collective memories and the ways in which they have shaped the continent’s cultural heritage. Focusing on the major combatant nations—Spain, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Russia—it offers thoroughly contextualized explorations of novels, memoirs, films, and a host of other cultural forms to illuminate European public memory.
Poverty, Welfare and Social Ties in Modern Europe
Edited by Beate Althammer, Lutz Raphael, and Tamara Stazic-Wendt
Volume 27, International Studies in Social History
In many ways, the European welfare state constituted a response to the new forms of social fracture and economic turbulence that were born out of industrialization—challenges that were particularly acute for groups whose integration into society seemed the most tenuous. Covering a range of national cases, this volume explores the relationship of weak social ties to poverty and how ideas about this relationship informed welfare policies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By focusing on three representative populations—neglected children, the homeless, and the unemployed—it provides a rich, comparative consideration of the shifting perceptions, representations, and lived experiences of social vulnerability in modern Europe.
Late Authoritarianism and Student Protest in Portugal
Volume 18, Protest, Culture & Society
Histories of Portugal’s transition to democracy have long focused on the 1974 military coup that toppled the authoritarian Estado Novo regime and set in motion the divestment of the nation’s colonial holdings. However, the events of this “Carnation Revolution” were in many ways the culmination of a much longer process of resistance and protest originating in universities and other sectors of society. Combining careful research in police, government, and student archives with insights from social movement theory, The Revolution before the Revolution broadens our understanding of Portuguese democratization by tracing the societal convulsions that preceded it over the course of the “long 1960s.”
Discourses of Trauma, Exclusion and Survival
Edited by Lynda Mannik
Volume 35, Forced Migration
At a time when thousands of refugees risk their lives undertaking perilous journeys by boat across the Mediterranean, this multidisciplinary volume could not be more pertinent. It offers various contemporary case studies of boat migrations undertaken by asylum seekers and refugees around the globe and shows that boats not only move people and cultural capital between places, but also fuel cultural fantasies, dreams of adventure and hope, along with fears of invasion and terrorism. The ambiguous nature of memories, media representations and popular culture productions are highlighted throughout in order to address negative stereotypes and conversely, humanize the individuals involved.
Asymmetry and Proximity at Europe’s Frontiers
Edited by Jutta Lauth Bacas and William Kavanagh†
“As befits anthropology, Border Encounters is rich in empirical detail. However, it is also an excellent introduction to border theory, with a helpful literature review. The theoretical framework clearly set out in the Introduction and the individual chapters do collectively illustrate why borders should be seen as constructs and as sites of asymmetrical social relationships…All in all, this is an intriguing and well-structured volume which will be of interest to students and scholars from a variety of academic disciplines.” · LSE Review of Books
Edited by Steven King and Anne Winter
Volume 23, International Studies in Social History
“…a valuable and engaging contribution to historical debates about labor, poverty, relief, and belonging…[The papers] are written by leaders in their fields…and pulled together [by the editors] in an elegant and convincing treatment of the case for such a geographical spread.” · Alannah Tomkins, University of Keele
The issues around settlement, belonging, and poor relief have for too long been understood largely from the perspective of England and Wales. This volume offers a pan-European survey that encompasses Switzerland, Prussia, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Britain. It explores how the conception of belonging changed over time and space from the 1500s onwards, how communities dealt with the welfare expectations of an increasingly mobile population that migrated both within and between states, the welfare rights that were attached to those who “belonged,” and how ordinary people secured access to welfare resources.
Student Resistance, Cultural Politics and the ‘Long 1960s’ in Greece
Volume 10, Protest, Culture & Society
Winner of the 2015 Keeley Book Prize of the Modern Greek Studies Association
“This long-anticipated… publication signals the beginning of a potentially fruitful and certainly long overdue examination of the 1960s and 1970s in Greece. After so many years of discussions and debates on the Greek Civil War, the time for a careful consideration of the junta and its afterlife seems to have finally come. Kornetis offers an enormously productive entry point by exploring the issue that is analytically most central and socially most sensitive concerning this period: resistance and its counterpart, complicity. For anyone with an interest in the period or in the broad range of theoretical issues raised by its study, Children of the Dictatorship is an indispensible book that is sure to anchor future discussion and debate of the military regime.” · Journal of Modern Greek Studies
Edited by Eric Langenbacher, Bill Niven, and Ruth Wittlinger
“Overall this is an interesting collection with a number of thought-provoking essays. Notably, several of the chapters bring new (social science) methodologies to the interdisciplinary field of memory studies. It is also a strength of the volume that, while the focus is clearly on memories of World War II and the Holocaust, it incorporates consideration of a range of pasts that continue to have a significant impact on the way Europeans understand themselves and others. The comparative perspective proves particularly fruitful in raising new questions regarding different kinds of remembrance at both the national and the European level.” · European Legacy
Previously published as Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures
Published since 1990, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures (AJEC) engages with current debates and innovative research agendas addressing the social and cultural transformations of contemporary European societies. The journal serves as an important forum for ethnographic research in and on Europe, which in this context is not defined narrowly as a geopolitical entity but rather as a meaningful cultural construction in people’s lives, which both legitimates political power and calls forth practices of resistance and subversion. By presenting both new field studies and theoretical reflections on the history and politics of studying culture in Europe anthropologically, AJEC encompasses different academic traditions of engaging with its subject, from social and cultural anthropology to European ethnology and empirische Kulturwissenschaften.
Aspasia is the international peer-reviewed annual of women’s and gender history of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe (CESEE). It aims to transform European women’s and gender history by expanding comparative research on women and gender to all parts of Europe, creating a European history of women and gender that encompasses more than the traditional Western European perspective. Aspasia particularly emphasizes research that examines the ways in which gender intersects with other categories of social organization and advances work that explores transnational aspects of women’s and gender histories within, to, and from CESEE. The journal also provides an important outlet for the publication of articles by scholars working in CESEE itself. Its contributions cover a rich variety of topics and historical eras, as well as a wide range of methodologies and approaches to the history of women and gender.
FPC&S is the journal of the Conference Group on French Politics & Society. It is jointly sponsored by the Institute of French Studies at New York University and the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University.
European Comic Art is the first English-language scholarly publication devoted to the study of European-language graphic novels, comic strips, comic books and caricature. Published in association with the American Bande Dessinée Society and the International Bande Dessinée Society, European Comic Art builds on existing scholarship in French-language comic art and is able to draw on the scholarly activities undertaken by both organisations. However, our editorial board and consultative committee bring expertise on a wider European area of comic art production and the journal will emphasise coverage of work from across Europe, including Eastern Europe.
FPC&S is the journal of the Conference Group on French Politics & Society. It is jointly sponsored by the Institute of French Studies at New York University and the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University.
French Politics, Culture & Society explores modern and contemporary France from the perspectives of the social sciences, history, and cultural analysis. It also examines France’s relationship to the larger world, especially Europe, the United States, and the former French Empire. The editors also welcome pieces on recent debates and events, as well as articles that explore the connections between French society and cultural expression of all sorts (such as art, film, literature, and popular culture). Issues devoted to a single theme appear from time to time. With refereed research articles, timely essays, and reviews of books in many disciplines, French Politics, Culture & Society provides a forum for learned opinion and the latest scholarship on France.
French Politics, Culture & Society is now available on JSTOR!
German Politics and Society is a joint publication of the BMW Center for German and European Studies (of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). These centers are represented by their directors on the journal’s Editorial Committee.
German Politics and Society is a peer-reviewed journal published and distributed by Berghahn Journals. It is the only American publication that explores issues in modern Germany from the combined perspectives of the social sciences, history, and cultural studies.
German Politics and Society is now available on JSTOR!
A Journal for the New Europe
Published in association with the Leo Baeck College and the Michael Goulston Education Foundation.
For over 40 years, European Judaism has provided a voice for the postwar Jewish world in Europe. It has reflected the different realities of each country and helped to rebuild Jewish consciousness after the Holocaust.
The journal offers: stimulating debates exploring the responses of Judaism to contemporary political, social, and philosophical challenges; articles reflecting the full range of contemporary Jewish life in Europe, and including documentation of the latest developments in Jewish-Muslim dialogue; new insights derived from science, psychotherapy, and theology as they impact upon Jewish life and thought; literary exchange as a unique exploration of ideas from leading Jewish writers, poets, scholars, and intellectuals with a variety of documentation, poetry, and book reviews section; and book reviews covering a wide range of international publications.
European Judaism is now available on JSTOR!
Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology
Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology is a peer-reviewed journal advocating an approach that rests in the simultaneity of ethnography, processual analysis, local insights, and global vision. It is at the heart of debates on the ongoing conjunction of anthropology and history as well as the incorporation of local research settings in the wider spatial networks of coercion, imagination, and exchange that are often glossed as “globalization” or “empire.”
Introducing: FocaalBlog, which aims to accelerate and intensify anthropological conversations beyond what a regular academic journal can do, and to make them more widely, globally, and swiftly available.
From The Bookseller’s website:
The British Book Industry Awards will celebrate the greatness of the British book trade and the people behind it – the best books, the best writers, the best bookshops, the best publishers – from industry greats to those starting out. Building on the success and legacy of The Bookseller Industry Awards (the trade “Nibbies”), 2016 will mark the first step, and a step-change, in the way the book trade presents itself to itself and to the wider world.
The winners will be announced 9th May 2016. Stay tuned!
The following is a guest blog post written by Michael G. Cornelius, author of the article Sexuality, Interruption, and Nancy Drew, which appeared in Volume 8, Number 2 of the journal Girlhood Studies.
It’s admittedly an odd thing, to be a Nancy Drew scholar.
Strictly speaking, “Nancy Drew Scholar” is not the official occupation listed on my tax forms. And when strangers ask me what I do for a living—whenever such casual conversations between strangers bubble up, such as on an airplane—I never reply “Nancy Drew scholar.” I usually say “English teacher” or “professor” or even “medievalist” (which raises more than a few eyebrows on its own, trust me.) And, at the risk of sounding like an actor who worries about typecasting, I’m more than a Nancy Drew scholar. I write on a wide variety of subject matter: sword-and-sandal movies; science fiction; sexuality in the premodern and early modern eras—a quick perusal of my CV would reveal books and articles with words like “Chaucer” and “Shakespeare” and “Gawain” in the titles (there’s also one that includes the word “Farts,” but that’s a subject of a whole different blog post.)
Despite all that, around half my scholarly output involves Nancy Drew, Vicki Barr, Trixie Belden, Shirley Flight, Rick Brant, Christopher Cool, or some other girls’ or boys’ series protagonist. I can’t help it. My obsession started at a young age when a prescient elementary-school librarian pressed a copy of Secret of the Forgotten City (Nancy Drew #52) into my hands at the impressionable age of 9. This book had everything: mystery, adventure, secret codes, archaeology, thrilling discoveries, friendship—safe and sane as these books may be, for a farm-town kid ensconced in an upstate village of 200 people and 8000 dairy cattle, this was heady stuff indeed. I never looked back, and I never outgrew my love of Nancy Drew.
If you ever need evidence of this, feel free to come to my house. I can show you my collection. I have 900 Nancy Drew books (and growing). Collectible dot shelves here and there; a few pieces of original Nancy Drew artwork adorn the walls. And my CV reflects this: I’ve written about Nancy Drew and primitivism; Nancy Drew and the Awkward Age; Nancy Drew and Shakespeare; Nancy Drew and sacrality; Nancy Drew and teleological perfection; Nancy Drew and illness; Nancy Drew and motherhood; and, for the piece included in the most recent edition of the the journal of Girlhood Studies (8.2, 2015), “Sexuality, Interruption, and Nancy Drew.”
People sometimes look at me funny when they find out about my obsession with Nancy Drew. I don’t blame them. There are precious few of us out there (though I have always contended there are not nearly enough of us out there.) Many social critics have observed that it is our leisure time, and not our working hours, that truly defines us, whether we obsess over baseball statistics or knitting patterns or growing a pumpkin the size of a Winnebago. I obsess over Nancy Drew and her fellow girl and boy sleuths. I belong to two different girl sleuth societies; I attend Nancy Drew conventions (yes, we have them, and they are spectacular); I re-read the books; I ponder them. And I use them to understand the world. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? What we academics are really doing, each in our discipline, each in our own way? Trying to understand the world—our world, each world, every world. And what better way to do that than through Nancy Drew? Everyone knows her name. She is a cultural zeitgeist—probably the most well-known female literary character of all time. New Nancy Drew books have been produced for the last 85 years, with no signs of stopping. And over the course of hundreds and hundreds of mysteries solved, criminal conspiracies uncovered, and villains locked behind bars, Nancy Drew—directly and indirectly—has confronted nearly every aspect of society, all while remaining a blank slate and a figure of mythopoesis. She is larger-than-life and yet, at the same time, utterly scribe-able to every reader, so that we may place ourselves, not in her shoes (for, indeed, no one is Nancy Drew), but next to her, in her flashlight’s glow, part of her coterie, part of her circle of friends, part of her adventures and part of her world. That is the real power of Nancy Drew. The worlds of characters like Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur are too rarified for us—one has to be extraordinary just to be let in the front door (even Watson, for all his bluster, is a pretty good writer). With Nancy Drew, however, one just has to be curious, and a little bit brave. We can all do that.
“Sexuality, Interruption, and Nancy Drew” looks, quite literally, at the verbal tactic of interruption in the Nancy Drew books, pondering why it is, whenever the topic of conversation turns to marriage, Nancy abruptly and vigorously changes the narrative, altering the course of conversation away from any hint of romance, marriage, coupling, and dyadism, and back to more important matters—like mysteries. Take, for example, the conclusion to The Mystery at Lilac Inn, where Nancy finds it necessary to interrupt two chums whose conversation dares to veer toward their upcoming nuptials:
Later, as Nancy, Helen, and Emily were talking, the two older girls suddenly stopped speaking on the subject of their forthcoming weddings. Helen said, “Goodness, Nancy, you must be tired of hearing us talk about steady partners when—” Nancy interrupted. Laughing gaily, she said, “Not at all. For the present, my steady partner is going to be mystery!” (Keene 1961: 180)
As a scholar, I sometimes feel as Nancy does. I love spying riddles in texts and television shows and trying to ascertain what it all might mean. Of course being a Nancy Drew scholar makes perfect sense in this imperfect world. Who is better at solving mysteries than Nancy? A Nancy Drew scholar? I’m proud to be identified as such.
Keene, Carolyn. 1961. The Mystery at Lilac Inn. New York: Grosset and Dunlap.
MICHAEL G. CORNELIUS is the author/editor of fifteen books, including nancy drew and her sister sleuths: essays on the fiction of girl detectives (co-edited with Melanie E. Gregg; McFarland, 2008) and the companion book, The Boy Detectives: Essays on the Hardy Boys and Others (McFarland, 2010). He has published extensively on Nancy Drew, Vicki Barr, and other girls’ and boys’ series literature. Cornelius is the chair of the Department of English and Communications at Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA.
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German Politics & Society, vol.24, #3, Autumn 2006
Rape Culture and the Feminist Politics of Social Media
Girlhood Studies, vol. 7, #1, Summer 2014
Less Than One But More Than Many: Anthropocene as Science Fiction and Scholarship-in-the-Making
Environment and Society, vol. 6, #1, Summer 2015
Staging "small, small incidents": Dissent, gender, and militarization among young people in Kashmir
Focaal, vol. 2011, #60, Summer 2011
An Inquiry into the Roots of the Modern Concept of Development
Contributions to the History of Concepts, vol. 4, #2, Autumn 2008
Misunderstood, misrepresented, contested? Anthropological knowledge production in question
Focaal, vol. 2015, #72, Summer 2015
Theatres of virtue: Collaboration, consensus, and the social life of corporate social responsibility
Focaal, vol. 2011, #60, Summer 2011
Libraries may purchase at a special discount (with the option to purchase the backfiles in addition) the entire Berghahn collection or Berghahn journals bundled by subjects.
Berghahn Journals New Online Platform
Berghahn Journals is pleased to announce the launch of our new journals online platform starting April 1. We will be working with all subscribers to make the transition process as seamless as possible and will contact you in the coming weeks with more information about access procedures.
March 31 is the last day Berghahn will be hosting its journal content on IngentaConnect. Starting April 1, all Berghahn journal content will be hosted by PubFactory on the new Berghahn Online platform.
Berghahn Online will offer a high-performing platform with the following innovative features and services in addition to those already offered to Institutional Users
- Seamless content authorization based on institutional IP address
- Marc Records support that allows for easy download on a per subscription basis
- More purchase options for custom journal collections
- Customization to include institutional branding, including library name, logo and URL
- Continuous access to up-to-date COUNTER reports and SUSHI support
- Mobile optimized responsive site design
- Increased content discoverability through OAI-PMH support
- Improved search results
- User-defined personalization including saved searches, bookmarking, and annotation
Please find more information, including FAQ, here
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Recent Blog Articles
‘Is it inevitable you’ll turn into your mother?’
by Siân Pooley and Kaveri Qureshi On the 2nd March this year, ahead of Mother’s Day, there was a thoughtful discussion on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour addressing the question: ‘is it inevitable you’ll turn into your mother?’. For counsellor Myira Khan, who was interviewed on the programme, this is a topic that comes up […]
Look for Berghahn at The EASA 2016 Conference
We are delighted to inform you that we will be present at The European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Conference in Milan, Italy from the 20th-23rd of July 2016. Please stop by our table to browse the latest selection of books at discounted prices, pick up some free journal samples, or chat to Marion […]
Celebrate National Parks and Recreation Month
Each year since 1985, Americans have celebrated national Park and Recreation Month during the month of July to recognize the importance of parks and recreation in establishing and maintaining the quality of life for, and contributing to the physical, economic and environmental well-being of communities. To find out more please visit National Recreation and […]
Hot Off the Press – New Journal Issues Published in June
Berghahn titles at The Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth Conference
We are delighted to inform you that Berghahn will be present at The Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth Conference in Durham, UK from the 4th-7th July 2016. Please stop by our table to browse the latest selection of books at discounted prices and pick up some free journal samples. If you are […]
Celebrating Canada Day
Canada Day is the national day of Canada, a holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act, which united three colonies into a single country called Canada! As Canada celebrates its birthday, Berghahn is delighted to highlight some of our authors and editors who are […]