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Cultures of Resistance: A multidisciplinary exploration of Black experiences

When USC Press acquisitions editor Ehren Foley decided to develop a series on Black studies, he knew where to turn for advice: Qiana Whitted.

Whitted, an English and African American Studies professor at USC for the past 20 years, was a natural choice. She served on the Press Committee at the time and her network of connections in her field allowed USC Press to recruit associate English professor Courtney Baker from the University of California, Riverside. Foley enlisted the support of Tyina Steptoe, associate history professor from the University of Arizona, completing the multidisciplinary trio of series editors for Cultures of Resistance.

The series is an initiative of the USC Press to highlight the work of professors and researchers of Black studies, focusing on the unique junction between cultural studies and social justice through a scholarly lens.

Together, the team of editors has developed a call for proposals for manuscripts and has gotten to work reviewing early submissions. The questions they want to explore have wide-ranging implications. How does artistic expression through popular culture intersect with movements for social change and social justice? How does it influence, and in turn, become influenced by resistance? 

The editors are thrilled by the series’ ambitious interdisciplinary goals. “Professor Baker often works with cultural studies and film, Professor Steptoe specializes in history and music—for me, it’s literature and comic studies,” explains Whitted, who is recognized internationally for her scholarly work in her field. “Together, we are looking for innovative perspectives on the unique ways that social and cultural change takes shape in Black communities.”

The series is open to a range of submissions, and the editors are excited to welcome manuscripts exploring topics ranging from art, music, literature and film to folkways and foodways. By emphasizing Black studies, they also hope to cast a wider net to draw in stories from not only the United States, but from throughout the Black diaspora and Caribbean.

The series’ first book, Light and Legacies, hit the shelves in late April and explores the theme of Black girlhood through a combination of author Janaka Bowman Lewis’ personal experiences, fictional representations and reflections on her relationship with her young daughter.

Foley is optimistic about the ability of Cultures of Resistance to reach different types of readers by appealing to relevant current issues. “It’s that often hoped-for, rarely achieved crossover between the academy and the public, reaching a wider reading audience than just scholars in the field,” he says. “It feels like an opportunity.”

Whitted, too, is eager to see the impact of the series’ first book. “Most exciting to me is the way that Janaka Bowman Lewis’ work draws from a wide range of resources in literature, history, media, politics, and feminist theory,” she says. “We are all incredibly excited about Light and Legacies, not just the substance of Lewis’ claims about Black girlhood, but also her approach to the topic.”

As Light and Legacies makes its way into the hands of readers, work continues on the manuscript for the series’ second book. It will focus on the history and literature of Black women’s experiences of sexual violence. 

USC Press prioritizes publishing books that showcase a diverse range of life experiences and cultural backgrounds. See the full list of recent publications here.

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