Outstanding Academic Titles 2021: Sociology

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight some 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles in Sociology

1. Classic writings in anarchist criminology: a historical dismantling of punishment and dominations
ed. by Anthony J. Nocella, Mark Seis, and Jeff Shantz AK Press, 2020

None of the classical anarchists represented here would have self-identified as criminologists and, conversely, those criminologists who are quite heavily influenced by anarchist thinking rarely declare themselves as such either. An initial reaction to this volume might therefore be to ask, What’s the point? However, the editors are to be commended for this rather comprehensive collection of anarchist writings. The omission of Max Stirner is unfortunate, but Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, William Godwin, Errico Malatesta, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and most notably Peter Kropotkin are all represented here, as are other less-well-known but nevertheless relevant thinkers. As the editors correctly state, “illiteracy of anarchism has stunted criminology and criminal justice studies.” It thus becomes necessary to clarify the unjustified assumptions underpinning these “bodies of knowledge.” Germanely, anarchism identifies the state/corporate nexus as the primary source of social discord, hence both state and corporate agencies are patently ill fitted to resolve this disunity. View on Amazon

2. Race and the senses: the felt politics of racial embodiment
Sekimoto, Sachi. by Sachi Sekimoto and Christopher Brown Bloomsbury Academic, 2020

Sekimoto and Brown (both, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato) offer a daring, provocative analysis of how race is reified and negotiated through sensory experiences, placing the individual within an embodied social structure. Uniquely, they write not only about the senses but seemingly through the senses. This approach enables them to unfold a novel critique that extends readers’ potential understanding of the race construct through sensory imagination. Moving beyond common analytic categories (e.g., analyzing language and discourse as constitutive of social structures) into the realm of sensing (e.g., describing weight, movement, and rhythm), they examine manifestations of race in personal experience. Anchored in a robust body of multidisciplinary research, the text adopts a phenomenological and autoethnographic approach, examining how the authors’ own speech gestures embody their racialized everyday realities. Particularly, the authors recount their experiences of learning the nuances of Standard American English: for Sekimoto through learning English as a second language and for Brown as he navigated the requirements of “speaking white-while-black.”

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3. Crunch time: how married couples confront unemployment
Rao, Aliya Hamid. California, 2020

Rao (methodology, London School of Economics, UK) interrogates one of the most pressing matters facing couples in the early 21st century: persistent unemployment and underemployment. Based on extensive interviews with both partners of several couples, many of whom the author interviewed multiple times, Rao’s research reveals the gendered ways in which couples manage unemployment and underemployment. Though the study was completed before the COVID-19 global pandemic, its findings can be extrapolated to the stresses that are currently afflicting millions of couples in the US navigating unemployment and underemployment as a result of the pandemic. This is a must read for students and scholars interested in the gendered negotiations and gendered patterns of work for pay and housework. View on Amazon

4. Chemical heroes: pharmacological supersoldiers in the US military
Bickford, Andrew. Duke, 2021

Over three sections, Bickford (Georgetown Univ.) analyzes the US military’s efforts to biomedically enhance soldiers to better prepare them for the imagined battlefields of the future. Part 1 frames the argument, noting how the quest for “supersoldiers” has involved both “skin-out” or external body armor and, more recently, “skin-in” or internal biological armor, which is Bickford’s focus. Part 2 chronicles the US military’s attempts to create pharmacologically enhanced “kill-proof” soldiers from WW II to the Cold War. While protecting soldiers has been a paramount concern, so has preserving and projecting US imperial power. Part 3 examines the modern US supersoldier and the current drugs used to enhance soldiers to make them stronger, faster, bolder, less prone to fatigue, resistant to PTSD, more resilient to disease, and able to quickly acclimatize to any environment. Bickford argues that such performance enhancement has ethical, political, and sociocultural implications, such as the promotion of a bolder US foreign policy, freed from concerns over casualties, and the creation of citizen supersoldiers who, because of their previous marginalization, may pose a threat to the status quo.
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5The New feminist literary studies
ed. by Jennifer Cooke Cambridge, 20212020

The 16 essays in this collection are uniformly well researched, intellectually rigorous, and grounded in theory. The word literary in the title is interpreted broadly to embrace not only fiction, poetry, and memoir but also images such as magazine covers and graphic narratives, song lyrics, the “texts” of celebrities, protest movements such as #MeToo, and the concept of the Anthropocene. Cooke’s goal in commissioning the essays was to address 21st-century issues in an innovative and influential manner. She asserts in the introduction that “the feminist commitments that emerge from these pages are trans-affirmative and intersectional, attentive to how classism, racism, ableism, geographical location and other forms of discrimination and privilege differentially shape women’s lives” (p. 4). The contributors, most of whom are independent scholars and academics in the UK, discuss such topics as disability studies, queer theory, Black motherhood, feminist manifestos, sex work, migration and refugees, dystopias, domesticity, and YA fiction.
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