Category Archives: Guest Post

Furry Attractions: Polar Bears in the Zoo

International Polar Bear Day, which falls every year on February 27, raises awareness about the conservation status of polar bears in a warming Arctic. In this guest post, Ice Bear author Michael Engelhard shares this photo essay about the history of polar bears kept in zoos.

In the western hemisphere, polar bears have lived in our midst since the Middle Ages, a result of our fascination with these charismatic carnivores. From their very beginnings as cultural institutions, zoos have tried to balance entertainment and education. Today, with climate change and habitat loss from development threatening the polar bear’s natural habitat, many have added conservation to their mission, with captive breeding programs and scientific research. This gallery offers a brief stroll through zoos past and present, a glimpse at how we have kept and presented the Arctic White Bear.

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Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

The menagerie in the Tower of London, one of Europe’s oldest and longest-operating zoos, in an illustration from 1808. Already in 1252, Henry III of England kept a muzzled and chained polar bear there, which was allowed to catch fish and frolic about in the Thames.

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Courtesy of E. K. Duncan.

Polito’s Royal Menagerie at the Exeter ’Change in London, 1812. A collection of exotic animals owned by Stephen Polito, a touring showman in Georgian England of Italian descent who had come from his own country to find fortune in London and the provinces. The artist Edwin Landseer came here to study and paint polar bears “true to life.” Continue reading

10 things a clueless eater can do: Guest post by ‘The Deepest Roots’ author Kathleen Alcalá

DeepestRoots_AlcalaKathleen Alcalá is a Bainbridge Island writer who has long been one of the Pacific Northwest’s most powerful voices in fiction, essays, and memoir. Her most recent book, The Deepest Roots: Finding Food and Community on a Pacific Northwest Island, combines deep historical research and personal interviews in a rousing narrative that uses her home island as an example for exploring issues around sustainability and society. Alcalá meets Japanese Americans imprisoned during World War II, and learns the unique histories of the blended Filipino and Native American community, the fishing practices of the descendants of Croatian immigrants, and the Suquamish elder who shares with her the food legacy of the island itself.

In the spirit of the New Year, this guest post from the author offers steps each of us can take to live more thoughtfully and sustainably, so we can take better care of ourselves and our communities—both now and for the future.

10 Things a Clueless Eater Can Do

Join us for this special author event:

January 10 at 7 p.m. // Elliott Bay Book Company co-presented with Friends of the Farms, Capitol Hill

Kathleen Alcalá makes her welcome Elliott Bay return with her newest book. Joining will be Heather Burger, director of Friends of the Farms, a nonprofit that helps the farmers tell their stories as well as market their products, and Bob and Nancy Fortner of Sweetlife Farm, who are eager to share their back to the land story.

1. Keep a garden!
Even if you have no land, or in our case, sun, you can borrow or rent land suitable for gardening. If not, keep potted herbs on your windowsill. Indoor plants also improve the quality of the air.

2. Save seeds.
If your garden grows in abundance, note which plants do especially well in your climate. Let a couple go to seed, and keep some of the seeds to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place for the following year. Be sure and label them with the date, and anything else you know about the plants. This means that the seeds best suited to your micro-climate will be preserved and passed on.

3. Join Community Supported Agriculture.
Subscribe to a local CSA that will provide you with groceries almost year-round. You can pick up your groceries once or twice a week, and many deliver to a location near you. Besides vegetables, many CSAs now offer dairy and meat products. Continue reading

From the Desk of Tom Helleberg: The Charleston Conference

2016_charleston-conferenceThe first week of November, I was fortunate enough to travel across the southeast visiting with printers in Tennessee and representing the University of Washington Press at the 36th annual Charleston Conference in South Carolina.

The Charleston Conference is billed as an “informal gathering of librarians, publishers, consultants, and vendors to discuss issues of importance to them all.” While the conference may have humble origins, with a scant twenty participants in early meetings, 2016 featured over 1,600 attendees spread across a dozen hotels and venues with a program as thick as a phone book and as many as twenty concurrent sessions at any given time. This was a big to-do, even in comparison to the annual meeting of the Association of American University Presses.

Since 2014, there has been an increasing publisher presence at Charleston, with many attendees from the AAUP as well as academic publishers. This has been driven by publisher-focused pre-sessions; by an increase in publisher panels and presentations (such as the “What’s the Big Idea” talk by the directors of Michigan, Mississippi, and National Academies); and by the growing realization that university presses and libraries not only share a mission, but are often approaching the same challenges from different directions. Continue reading

Q&A with ‘Ice Bear’ author Michael Engelhard

The following interview originally appeared in the Smithsonian magazine newsletter and is adapted and used with permission. The product of meticulous research, Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon by Michael Engelhard traces and illuminates over 8,000 years of history between polar bears and humans. With more than 160 color illustrations, Engelhard brings into focus the powerful and elusive White Bear—and explains how and why it endures as a source of wonder, terror, and fascination.


What new angle does your book bring out about polar bears?

I am proud to say that Ice Bear is the only book available in any language that focuses entirely on the cultural aspects of polar bears—on 8,000 years of history shared between them and us.

Why have polar bears captured the human imagination?

For a number of reasons: From their physique to their behavior, they resemble us in many ways. They are big, charismatic top predators living in one of Earth’s most unforgiving environments. They are symbolic of the Arctic, one of the last frontiers of the human imagination. Lastly, we’ve long associated whiteness in animals with certain qualities: the rare, the pure, or the sacred.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about the polar bears?

That they’re ruthless “man killers.” I think they are just getting a bad rap, often getting in trouble for what only amounts to curiosity—a trait that, ironically, makes them survivors in a sparse environment. The statistics show that brown bears kill and maul more people per year than polar bears do. Of course their smaller numbers and remoteness also play a role there. Like most creatures, polar bears just want to eat, to keep living, and to protect their young.

"The bear gripped them both." Art by Adrien Marie and Barbant from "Le Docteur Ox" by Jules Verne (1874).

“The bear gripped them both.” Art by Adrien Marie and Barbant from “Le Docteur Ox” by Jules Verne (1874).

Which individual story or fact were you most surprised to uncover?

It’s hard to choose. But I enjoyed learning about a scheme to train polar bears to pull Amundsen’s sleds to the pole. It involved the German circus entrepreneur and animal trader Carl Hagenbeck, who also revolutionized zoo design. Also, the early medieval commerce in Greenlandic polar bear cubs, which Norse settlers traded to European royalty, for their menageries.

How has writing the book changed the way you see polar bears?

I only now realize the degree to which they have been instrumentalized, how we always have molded them to fit our agendas. With all the symbolic ballast and history, it is hard, perhaps even impossible, to see them objectively. That’s because hardly any other animal has been burdened more with our projections. It’s as if their whiteness and remoteness invited that.


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Photo by Melissa Guy.

Michael Engelhard works as a wilderness guide in Arctic Alaska and holds an MA in cultural anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His books include Where the Rain Children Sleep: A Sacred Geography of the Colorado Plateau, the anthology Wild Moments: Adventures with Animals of the North, and a recent essay collection, American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean. His writing has also appeared in Sierra, Outside, Audubon, National Wildlife, National Parks, High Country News, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

UP Staff Spotlight: Niccole Leilanionapae‘āina Coggins on community and food sovereignty

Today is UP Staff Spotlight day on the 2016 University Press Week blog tour. The fifth annual University Press Week of the American Association of University Presses (AAUP) continues all week (November 14 – 19, 2016) with the theme Community. Today’s blog tour posts feature staffers making good and doing interesting things in their local communities. Please share this and today’s other posts on social media with the #ReadUP and #UPWeek hashtags:

upweek2016_logosmallUniversity of Chicago Press

Johns Hopkins University Press

University Press of Mississippi

Seminary Co-op Bookstores

Wayne State University Press

University of Wisconsin Press

Our UP Staff Spotlight contribution to the #UPWeek blog tour offers a guest post from 2016-2017 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow and assistant editor, Niccole Leilanionapae’aina Coggins.

Niccole Coggins staff news photoOn October 26, I attended a talk entitled, “hishuk’ish tsawalk—Everything Is One:  Revitalizing Nuu-chah-nulth Foodways and Ecological Knowledge,” by Dr. Charlotte Coté, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington. Professor Coté’s lecture was about her community, the Nuu-chah-nulth-aht, and their history of colonialism and imperialism, as well as their resistance and revival. One way that communities, and indigenous communities in particular, resist colonialism and imperialism is through food sovereignty. The Nyéléni Declaration (2007) defines food sovereignty as, “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustained methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.”

Coté spoke of her mother teaching her to explore and try various wild plants—minus mushrooms—like qaalh qawi (wild blackberry), may’ii (salmonberry shoots), and quilhtsuup (wild celery), even t’uts’up (sea urchin) from the ocean. Coté shared stories of her aunt going blackberry picking; the family women fishing, in the traditional way, with a net for the first time, and the buckets of salmon they caught, and the hours it took to smoke (and how good salmon jerky is). Coté also talked about her community reclaiming traditional ways of fishing and preparing salmon, kuch’as (salmon cooked over an open pit fire); and reviving the tradition of a whale hunt and the environmentalists that protested.

As Coté talked I started thinking about other communities, especially those in “food deserts,” where it’s hard to access affordable, healthy, quality food, in particular fruits and vegetables. My cousin worked at the Kaiser Permanente Center in Watts where, with the leadership of the community, a weekly farmer’s market occurs. Other KP centers adopted similar programs to access locally grown produce.

I thought about my family and the blackberry bush behind gramma’s house. My aunts and uncles gathering to eat from the bounty of the ocean:  fish, ‘opihi (Hawaiian limpet), limu (seaweed), and wana (sea urchin).

I thought about the colonialism that changed Native Hawaiians’ relationship with food and language. Food was sacred before the missionaries arrived and made food secular. Since then words associated with food do not carry the same weight of sacredness as before. The literal translation of the word hānai (foster child) is “to feed.” When food is sacred, the relationship you have with that person is sacred and carries weight. It circles back to Coté’s talk about food sovereignty, and responsibility and relationships.

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What Would Bertha Lutz Say? Making Sense of the United Nations Secretary-General Election

October 24 is United Nations (UN) Day. In this guest post, Sylvanna Falcón—author of Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activism inside the United Nations—weighs in on the recent election of António Guterres to Secretary-General-Designate of the UN.

Struggles over representation, power, and voice occurred during the first United Nations (UN) conference in 1945 where delegates discussed the structure of this new multilateral institution, including the formation of the Security Council and the drafting of the UN Charter. The struggle over representation at the UN is further complicated by geopolitical dynamics in which certain countries of the world are disproportionately empowered at the UN and tend to stifle the voices of those who are less powerfully positioned. Today, these geopolitical dynamics remain reflected in the Security Council, which wielded its formidable influence regarding the recent election of the next Secretary-General—Portugal’s former prime minister, António Guterres—through secret straw polls. With its current configuration of 15 members, including only one woman (US Ambassador Samantha Power), the Security Council forwarded its recommendation to the General Assembly for a full vote that occurred within a matter of days earlier this month.

Bertha Lutz, the Brazilian delegate to the 1945 UN conference, remarked at the time, “The men like to hear themselves very much.” As one of four women to sign the UN Charter (out of 160 signatories), Lutz was a feminist associated with the Brazilian suffragist movement. She became frustrated with the men from the conference, whom she described as amicable but determined to create an international organization in which women would not play any central role. It would be fitting to ask ourselves in Lutz’s honor why “the men like to hear themselves very much” and about the evaluation criteria the Security Council referenced for their endorsement of Guterres.

The representation of women in high level positions at the UN has been too infrequent. The late Dame Margaret Anstee of Britain, who dedicated her life to the UN, reached the highest level appointment ever occupied by a woman in 1987, when she was named Under Secretary-General. Importantly, seven out of thirteen candidates for the UNSG position were women, indicating that at least the applicant pool had some gender balance to it, but it completely lacked any semblance of equity in terms of regional representation (for example, no applicant came from the African region). While that outcome is disappointing, it is not surprising given the UN has been troubled by problems of representation since its founding.

Mr. Guterres is by all accounts an established and respected diplomat. Having formerly served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he expressed a commitment to gender equality and gender parity in his vision statement, which I believe is at least promising. He wrote, “The UN must be at the forefront of the global movement towards gender equality, an inalienable and indivisible feature of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Perhaps he should look closely at the work of feminist activists who understand that gender equality and parity can only be achieved with a simultaneous commitment to combating global racism.

Sylvanna M. Falcón is author of Power Interrupted and an associate professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She will be awarded the 2016 Gloria E. Anzaldúa book prize given by the National Women’s Studies Association at the 2016 NWSA annual conference in Montréal, Canada, in November.

The Refugee Crisis in Our Backyard: Guest post by ‘Sanctuary and Asylum’ author Linda Rabben

In this guest post, Linda Rabbenhuman rights activist, anthropologist, and author of Sanctuary and Asylum: A Social and Political Historydraws from recent events in the Pacific Northwest to argue for alternatives to detaining refugees. Dr. Rabben will lecture this week about human rights, the history of sanctuary, and responses to the current refugee crisis at the University of Washington and other Seattle venues.

To many people in the United States, the international refugee crisis seems far away, in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. But in fact it’s playing out at the local immigrant detention center in Tacoma and in federal court in Seattle.

In mid-2015 a Somali boy fled his home after his father was murdered. He traveled alone through South and Central America to seek refuge in the United States. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) placed him with a foster family in Portland. But in late 2015 federal officials decided that he was not really a minor. They based their conclusion on a discredited dental radiograph test.

Join us for these events:

October 6 at 4 p.m. // Freedom of Movement – A Human Right?, University of Washington, CMU 120 (Sponsored by Latin American and Caribbean Studies, UW Center for Human Rights, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington Press, and UW Graduate School), Seattle, WA

October 10 at 7 p.m. // Faith Justice Meeting on Immigration, St. Joseph Parish (732 18th Ave. East, Arrupe Room), Seattle, WA

October 18 at 7 p.m. // Barnes & Noble at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC

November 2 at 7:30 p.m. // Ivy Bookshop, Baltimore, MD

Congress had passed a law in 2008 banning immigration authorities from determining age solely on the basis of dental radiographs. But ORR agents arrested the boy at his high school in Portland anyway. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) then shipped him to Northwest Detention Center, a private facility for adults in Tacoma.

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, a Seattle advocacy group, filed a habeas corpus petition on the boy’s behalf. In a May press release NWIRP legal director Matt Adams called ICE’s actions “indefensible. Instead of protecting unaccompanied children, and focusing enforcement actions on those who pose an actual threat to the community, they targeted a child, who, after escaping horrible violence, was now integrated with his foster family, his high school and community.”

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