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Book Talk: Migrants in the Crossfire of Love and Law

01-crossing-the-gulf-mahdavi-bookIn her new book, Crossing the Gulf: Love and Family in Migrant Lives, Associate Professor of Anthropology Pardis Mahdavi tells heartbreaking stories about migrants and trafficked mothers and their children in the Persian Gulf and talks to state officials, looking at how bonds of love get entangled with the law. Mahdavi talked to PCM’s Sneha Abraham about her book and the questions it poses about migration and families. This interview has been edited and condensed.

PCM: Talk about the relationship between family and migration.

MAHDAVI: Our concept of family has been reconceptualized and reconfigured in and through migration. People are separated from their blood-based kin; they’re forming new kinds of fictive kinship in the labor camps or abroad. Some people migrate out of a sense of familial duty, to honor their families. Sometimes they get stuck in situations which they feel they can’t get out of because of their family and familial obligations. Other people migrate to get away from their families, to get away from the watchful eyes of their families and communities. Families are not able to necessarily migrate together, and children are not able to migrate with their parents; they’re in a more tenuous relationship now than we would recognize when we look at migrants really just as laborers.

Laws complicate those relationships. Laws on migration, citizenship and human trafficking create a category of people caught in the crossfire of policies—and those people are often women and their children, and often they are trapped in situations of illegality.

PCM: Would you tease out the question of migration versus trafficking? That is something you’re exploring in your book.

MAHDAVI: I think it’s a real tension that needs to be teased out in the larger discourse. That’s the central question. What constitutes migration? What constitutes trafficking? It’s very difficult and that space is much more gray than we think. We’ve tended to assume that women in industries like the sex industry are all trafficked. We assume if there’s a woman involved, it’s the sex industry; if it’s a minor, it is trafficking; if it’s a male, if they’re in construction work, that’s migration. But that’s just not true. Trafficking really boils down to forced fraud or coercion within migration. It’s kind of a gray area, a much larger area than we think. The utility of the word “trafficking” really is questioned in the book. How useful is that word? The very definitions of migration and human trafficking are extremely politicized and depend on who you ask and when. Some people might strategically leverage the term, whereas other people strategically dodge it.

Some interpretations have positively elevated the importance of issues that migrants face; other people might say that the framework is used to demonize migrants or further restrict their movement.

PCM: What’s an example of a policy that affects these issues of migration and trafficking?

MAHDAVI: The United States Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) is one policy, kind of a large one, to the extent that the report ranks all the countries into tiers and then makes recommendations based on their rankings. And sometimes the recommendations that the TIP report makes actually exacerbate the situation instead of making it better.

For instance, the United Arab Emirates is frequently ranked Tier 2, or Tier 2 Watchlist [countries that do not comply with minimum standards for protecting victims of trafficking but are making efforts], and the recommendation is that there should be more prosecutions and there should be more police. Now, the police in the U.A.E. are imported oftentimes, and from my interviews with migrant workers, it’s often the police who are raping sex workers and domestic workers. So you double up your cops, you double up your perpetrators of rape. So that is a policy that’s not helping anyone.

Other policies are more tethered to citizenship. They don’t have soil-based or birthright citizenship in the Gulf. Citizenship passes through the father in the U.A.E. and Kuwait. Citizenship also passes through the father in some of the sending countries, for instance, up until recently Nepal and India. So that means a domestic worker from India or Nepal, five years ago, who goes to the U.A.E., perhaps is raped by her employer or has a boyfriend and gets pregnant and has a baby, that woman is first incarcerated and then deported because as a guest worker she is contractually sterilized, and that baby is stateless because of citizenship laws that are incongruent.

There is a whole generation of people that have been born into this really problematic situation.

PCM: You write about “children of the Emir.” Who are they? 

MAHDAVI: So, “children of the Emir” is kind of the colloquial nomenclature given to a lot of the stateless children. They could be children of migrant workers, children who oftentimes were born in jail; maybe they were left in the Gulf when their mothers were deported. They may have been left there intentionally. It’s not clear, but they’re stateless children who were born in the Gulf. And some of them are growing up in orphanages; others are growing up in the palaces. There was a lot of tacit knowledge about these children and rumors that the Emir or members of the royal family are raising them. But nobody could find the kids. Nobody knew where they were or if it was actually true that they were being raised in the palaces or not. That was rumor until I conducted my research and I was able to confirm that by interviewing these children. And it is true that some are raised in various palaces, given a lot of opportunities, and treated very well.

So now many of them are adults, living and working in the Gulf but still stateless. Recently there’s been a slew of articles that have indicated that some of the Gulf countries, the U.A.E. and Kuwait included, are engaging in deals with the Comoros Islands where, in exchange for money to build roads and bridges, they are getting passports from the Comoros Islands. Initially it was thought that they would just get passports to give to these stateless individuals, but the individuals had to remain in the Gulf. However, a closer look at some of the contracts indicates that some of these stateless individuals who are being given Comoros citizenship actually will have to go to the Comoros Islands, which is a very disconcerting prospect for many stateless individuals in the Gulf. And for people who are from the Comoros Islands, they are now thinking, “Oh, our citizenship is for sale,” to stateless individuals who are suddenly told that they are citizens of a country they’ve never even heard of.

PCM:  You write about something you call “intimate mobility.” What is that?

MAHDAVI: Intimate mobility is kind of a trope that I’m putting forward in the book. Basically, it’s the idea that people do migrate in search of economic mobility and social mobility—which is obvious to a lot of people—but people also migrate in search of intimate mobility, or a way to mobilize their intimate selves. For example, they migrate to get away from their families in search of a way or space to explore their sexualities. Some form new intimate ties through migration. For others, their intimate subjectivities are challenged when one or more members of the family leave. My book is asking us to think about how intimacy can be both activated and challenged in migration.

PCM: What does it mean to mobilize one’s intimate self?

MAHDAVI: There was a young woman who migrated, who left India because her parents wanted her to get married in an arranged marriage. But she left because she saw herself as somebody who would not want to marry a man. She identifies as a lesbian, and so she migrated to Dubai so that she could explore that sexual side of herself. So that’s some of the intimate mobility I’m talking about.

On the flip side, I talk about intimate immobility and I talk about how people’s intimate lives, as in their intimate connections with their children back home or their partners back home, become immobilized when they are in the host country. Their intimate selves are immobilized because they can’t fully express their love for their children or for their partners. And also women who are guest workers or low-skilled workers legally cannot engage in sexual relations so they can’t as easily engage in a relationship.

Pardis Mahdavi is associate professor of anthropology, chair of the Pomona College Anthropology Department and director of the Pacific Basin Institute. Crossing the Gulf is her fourth book.

Bookmarks Fall 2016

collier-moabutahMoab, Utah by Day & Night
In his new book of landscape photography, Grant Collier ’96 shares the eerie beauty of earth and sky in the canyon country of eastern Utah. EXCERPT: “In my dreams, I occasionally find myself standing atop impossibly large arches or bizarre, almost whimsical pillars of stone. I will wander far too close to the edge, but I have little fear, as I am rapt in awe by the splendor of the scene. Only in the landscape around Moab do these dreams ever meld with reality. The scenery here is so otherworldly that it seems precariously balanced on the cusp of fantasy.”


kruse-walkingwithalzheimersWalking with Alzheimer’s:
A Thirty Year Journey
This book by physician Shelly Kruse ’76 is both a personal memoir of her mother’s progressing illness and a guidebook for families and caregivers. EXCERPT: “My mother drove everyone crazy. Her favorite activity was calling out, ‘Help me, help me, help me.’ She sounded sincere and in trouble and would continue however long it took for someone to arrive. After the nurse or myself came running to ask, ‘What’s wrong, Jo?’ she would smile sweetly and reply, ‘Nothing.’ Then a few minutes later, she would do the same thing again.”


_daglow-fogseller1The Fog Seller
This Sausalito-based, literary mystery from Don Daglow ’74, the creator of the Emmy Award–winning Neverwinter Nights, has won a number of awards. EXCERPT: “Liam the Fog Seller stands atop the round concrete bench in the Powell St. BART station, 50 feet below the streets of San Francisco. He wears a black satin top hat, a tuxedo with tails, baggy black pants, neon yellow T-shirt and a diaphanous pale blue scarf. “Ladies and Gentlemen!” he proclaims, drawing a glare from an old Chinese woman sitting nearby. “The trains that roll through this station will take you away from this place and time!”


mayer-rosasverybigjobRosa’s Very Big Job
With illustrations by Sarah Vonthron-Laver, this children’s book by Ellen Mayer ’74, about a spunky preschooler named Rosa who enlists her imaginative grandfather to lend a helping hand to her busy mom, is part of Mayer’s new series of “Small Talk Books,” which are designed to demonstrate practical techniques parents can use to facilitate language development in their children. Other titles in the series include Cake Day, with illustrations by Estelle Corke, and a pair of board-books titled Red Socks and A Fish to Feed, both illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu.


fleming-legacyofthemoraltaleThe Legacy of the Moral Tale:
Children’s Literature and the English Novel, 1744–1859
Patrick Fleming ’05 traces the rise of the moral tale in children’s literature and its impact upon such authors as Charles Dickens and Maria Edgeworth. EXCERPT: “By the time he wrote Great Expectations, Dickens had changed his didactic narrative style. Unlike his earlier novels, Great Expectations does not take the form of an example illustrating a moral precept, rewarding the virtuous characters and punishing the villains. If Great Expectations is to succeed in its didactic goals, the experience of reading the novel must accomplish this task.”


ronald-alphabetfunAlphabet Fun:
Playing ‘Eye’
In her new children’s book, based on a game she plays with her grandchildren, Alice Ronald ’63 teaches imaginative observation using photographs of found alphabet letters in everyday objects. “When I was little,” she explains, “my father played a game with my brother and me. It was called Playing Eye. We looked for animal shapes in the clouds or slightly different colors and shapes in trees or flowers or rocks. Playing Eye trains young minds to observe and to use the artistic parts of their brains. I am continuing the Playing Eye game with my grandchildren.”


henning-preparingtoteachsocialstudiesPreparing to Teach Social Studies for Social Justice:
Becoming a Renegade
Nick Henning ’95 and co-authors Ruchi Agarwal-Rangnath and Alison Dover offer a guide to teaching justice-oriented social studies classes within the Common Core State Standards. EXCERPT: “Before the beginning of each school year, every teacher is faced with the important content-focused curricular question, “What will I teach?” Embedded within this question are the corollary questions, “What do I want to teach?” and “What am I supposed to teach?” For most justice-oriented teachers in accountability driven classrooms, the answers to these two questions often do not match…”


wogan-peakperformancePeak Performance:
How Denver’s Peak Academy Is Saving Millions of Dollars, Boosting Morale and Just Maybe Changing the World. (And How You Can Too!)
J.B. Wogan ’06 joins co-author Brian Elms, a founding member of Denver’s Peak Academy, to offer a guide to improving organizational performance. EXCERPT: “It’s the small innovations that can transform a process—and the small questions that can cause you to reexamine the way something’s always been done. When you’re looking for an opportunity to innovate, think small, and ask yourself this question: Is there anything you do just because it’s always been done that way?”

Bookmarks Summer 2016



First Words

On Dostoevky’s Introductions

Lewis Bagby ’66, emeritus professor of Russian at the University of Wyoming, examines Fyodor Dostoevsky’s use of forewords to introduce some of his greatest and most challenging works of fiction, from Notes from the Underground to The Brothers Karamozov. Excerpt: “Dostoevsky did not wish to be overtly directive in his fiction. Nor did he wish to poke his nose out of his hole into the great world: in the manner of Gogol’s Rudy Panko. Like his beloved Pushkin, he chose to remain in the background and to allow other voices to speak, not for him, but for themselves.”



Mediterranean Summers

Karen Heath Clark ’66 invites you to join her, her husband and their dog, Roka, on an eight-year Mediterranean adventure aboard their 39-foot trawler. Excerpt: “Roka went with us everywhere. She learned to sit between us on a motorscooter seat. She sat quietly under the table during dinner. She is an expert at taking escalators and elevators and riding buses. She learned to ride in a basket on Bruce’s bike attached behind his seat and trotted on her leash alongside my bike, even in heavy traffic. She seemed to relish her time with us on the boat and the many adventures she experienced.“


Collier’s Guide to Night Photography in the Great Outdoors

Nature photographer Grant Collier ’96 shares his detailed expertise in capturing the beauty of nighttime scenes and the wonders of the heavens with a camera. Excerpt: “I’ve seen many night shots where there is just a flat, dark horizon with the night sky above it. While the sky may be dramatic, the shots are little different from countless other images of the night sky. What really sets a good night photo apart from the others is the foreground. Not only does it make the image more unique, but it can also add depth to an image and draw the viewer into the scene.”


Fairfield’s Auction

A Witherston Murder Mystery

An auction of rare Cherokee artifacts, Appalachian antiques and a young African grey parrot leads to murder in the second Witherston murder mystery by Betty Jean Craige ’68. Excerpt: “Why should this story matter to us Witherstonians? Because those of us living in the twenty-first century have inherited more than money and furniture from our ancestors. And we’ve inherited more than their genes. We have inherited perspectives and prejudices—through the stories we’ve heard at family dinners, the novels we’ve read, the songs we’ve sung.”



Red Flags

A Kate Reilly Mystery

In her fourth mystery about racecar driver Kate Reilly, Tammy Kaehler ’92 offers up another high-octane thriller, this time from the world of Grand Prix racing. Excerpt: “As a driver, I actively listened to the health of my racecar with my entire body. I was attuned to the feel of balanced suspension and a happy engine—in a Corvette C7.R set up for right and left turns. This IndyCar chassis might have a Chevrolet engine, but that was the only similarity. The car felt bent—less so on the banking than on the flat. But still broken.”




21 Days to Resilience

How to Transcend the Daily Grind, Deal with the Tough Stuff, and Discover Your Strongest Self

In this practical self-help guide,

psychologist and health and wellness expert Dr. Zelana Montminy ’04 offers a research-based toolkit to help people develop their capacity to handle whatever life may throw at them. Excerpt: “Hope is our fuel. It’s our choice. Resilient people choose to overcome feelings of hopelessness. They don’t rely on changing experiences or emotions to define their reality. They choose to look forward, to hope.”



America’s Great National Forests, Wildernesses & Grasslands

Professor of Environmental Analysis Char Miller and photographer Tim Palmer create an arresting tome about America’s diverse public lands. Excerpt: “The Sandhills of Nebraska, a vast stretch of rolling prairie in the center of the state, seem an unlikely place for a national forest, let alone one administered in conjunction with the iconic high-elevation forests of the Rocky Mountains. Yet the Nebraska National Forest’s very existence is a perfect reflection of the ambition of late 19th-century and early 20th-century foresters to manage landscapes, treeless or wooded, and make them productive.”



The Babylon Complex

Theopolitical Fantasies of War, Sex, and Sovereignty

Associate Professor of Religious Studies Erin Runions examines the tangled intersection of religion and politics in the U.S., focusing on the ambivalent image of Babel or Babylon. Excerpt: “For those bothered by the increasing diversity that appears within the nation as a result of globalization, Babel is a negative term. For instance, the conservative Pat Buchanan consistently applies the image to complain about difference: that the United States is converting from a Christian nation into the Tower of Babel (1997) or that love of diversity is producing the Tower of Babel and destroying the idea of America (2009).”

The Freedom to Work

Google’s Laszlo Bock ’93 is on a crusade to transform the American workplace.

> read more


What’s Stressing Your Face? coverWhat’s Stressing Your Face?

In this “doctor’s guide to proactive aging and healing,” dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Dr. Glynis Ablon ’88 discusses a variety of stress-related conditions, from rosacea to hair loss, psoriasis to shingles, along with treatments ranging from psychotherapy to electrical stimulation. (Basic Health Publications, 2015; 184 pages; $15.95)


Ira’s Shakespeare Dream coverIra’s Shakespeare Dream

Glenda Armand  ’75 joins with illustrator Floyd Cooper to tell the true story of Ira Aldridge, an aspiring Black actor who defied convention and prejudice to become one of the most celebrated Shakespearean  actors of the 19th century. (Lee and Low Books, 2015; 40 pages; $18.95)


Leopards at My DoorLeopards at My Door cover

Harriet Denison ’65 recalls her adventurous years in the Peace Corps during the mid-1960s, teaching at the Bwiru Girls’ Secondary School in Tanzania (where she had regular visits from leopards and an array of other wildlife), and later on, her work with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India, treating people afflicted with leprosy. (Peace Corps Writers, 2014; 252 pages; $15.00)


Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela cover

In her second book for young readers, Beatrice Gormley ’64 offers a moving biography of South African civil rights activist, long-time political prisoner, author, Nobel Prize winner and eventually President Nelson Mandela, exploring the man behind the iconic smile—his struggles, his triumphs, and the sacrifices he had to make along the way. (Alladin, 2015; 256 pages; $17.99)


Our Dried VoicesOur Dried Voices cover

This science fiction novel by Greg Hickey ’08 offers a vision of a far-distant future in which colonists on a planet called Pearl, where there is no longer any need for human labor, conflict or thought, suddenly find themselves struggling with the sabotage of the machines that their utopian lives depend upon. (Scribe Publishing Co, 2015; 234 pages; $13.99)


The Panchen Lama’s Debate Between Wisdom and the Reifying HabitThe Panchen Lama’s Debate Between Wisdom and the Reifying Habit cover

Kenneth Liberman ’70 spent a decade translating the principal work of the renowned first Panchen Lama, Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen (1570–1662), styled as a witty philosophical text employing the tension between shes rabs (wisdom) and bdag ’dzin (the reifying habit) as dramatic characters. (Motilal Banarsidass, India, 2014; 224 pages; $35.00)


Loving LA the Low Carbon WayLoving LA the Low Carbon Way cover

Grace Moremen ’52 and Jacqueline Chase offer a guide to the City of Angels by Metrolink, subway, light rail and bus, with 24 adventures that include such destinations as the Griffith Observatory, Watts Towers, the Observation Deck at City Hall, the Tar Pits and many other treasures hidden in plain sight. (Dream Boat Press, 2015; 230 pages; $15.00)


The Best Kind of CollegeThe Best Kind of College cover

Subtitled “An Insiders’ Guide to America’s Small Liberal Arts Colleges,” this set of essays, edited by Pomona Professors Susan McWilliams and John E. Seery, makes the case for the continuing importance of small, residential liberal arts colleges as a key part of America’s higher education smorgasbord. (SUNY Press, 2015; 314 pages; $80.00)


Daily Life in Wartime Japan, 1940–1945Daily Life in Wartime Japan, 1940–1945 cover

Pomona Professor Samuel Yamashita’s new book puts a human face on wartime Japan, with an intimate picture of what life was like for ordinary Japanese during the war. Drawing upon diaries and letters written by

servicemen, kamikaze pilots, evacuated children and many others, he lets us hear the rich mix of voices speaking during the course of the war. (University Press of Kansas, 2016; 256 pages; $29.95)

Manners for the 21st Century

Etiquette sitting on a plate and silverware arrangement

Emily Post’s Etiquette By Peggy Post, Anna Post, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning ’99 William Morrow, 2011 736 pages • $39.99

As the great-great-grandson of the world’s most famous expert in etiquette and a fifth-generation steward of “the family business,” Daniel Post Senning ’99 is a co-author of the 18th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette. He and his cousins Anna and Lizzie Post are part of a new generation working to keep that classic work relevant in the 21st century.

PCM: Today the word ‘etiquette’ has an old-fashioned ring. Is that justified?

Daniel Post Senning: It’s certainly a perception that I’m used to. The Emily Post Institute is a five-generation family business. The original Emily Post was my great-great-grandmother, and she wrote the first edition of Etiquette in 1922.

If you were to pick up that book today, it would read like a historical document. It’s actually quite remarkable as that. There are people who love looking at etiquette books that have been produced throughout history. One of my favorites, Castiglione’s The Courtier, predated The Prince. Oftentimes, a good book of etiquette will tell you a lot about a culture or a time.

We are very fortunate to be part of a tradition that has continued to update that original book. It was incredibly popular in its time. They couldn’t print it fast enough. But as times changed, they found that it was absolutely necessary to revise it. It’s that process of revision that I think has really become the substance of what we do at The Emily Post Institute.

PCM: Define ‘etiquette’ for me.

DPS: We say that etiquette is a combination of manners and principles. For us, the manners are time-, location- and culture-specific. They’re the particular expectations we have of others and ourselves in a particular social situation. The principles are what we use to guide us as manners change and evolve, or to help us make choices when we’re in a new situation. For us at the Emily Post Institute, the fundamental principles for all good etiquette are consideration, respect and honesty.

Here’s an Emily Post quote for you, “Any time two people come together and their lives affect one another, you have etiquette.” Etiquette is not some rigid code of manners. It’s simply how persons’ lives touch one another. Any time you have people interacting, you’ve got social expectations.

PCM: So how do you become an expert on etiquette? Is it something you just absorb?

DPS: I never thought a liberal arts education would prepare me so well for the work that I do. Being someone who writes about etiquette, researches about etiquette, teaches about etiquette, I find myself drawing from so many disciplines and so many skill sets. When I’m teaching and I’m presenting, my background in dance and the performing arts comes out. When I’m doing research, my background in critical inquiry comes out. When I’m assessing a new study that we’re getting, and I’m looking at data that’s come in from our survey partners, my background in microbiology and having the ability to look at data sets come into play.

Let me tell you a personal story. I was living in Claremont, working with the Laurie Cameron Company out of the Pomona College Dance Department, when I first started working for Emily Post. At the time, I was answering questions via email. My cousins and I cut our teeth on those emails. We would get batches of questions. We’d go through the books. When there was a particular question that had a historical precedent—questions about how you use formal titles or orders of introduction or protocol and courtesy around weddings—oftentimes we would refer to the book and find an answer that was pretty concrete.

Other times, there are relationship situations that people are trying to resolve, and that framework of consideration, respect and honesty comes into play. You ask yourself: Is the advice that I’m giving considerate? Is it taking into account all the people who are involved? Is it respectful? Is it recognizing their worth and their value? Is it honest? Is it something I can do with a sense of integrity and sincerity? It’s really a pretty powerful framework to give advice from.

PCM: How much of etiquette is timeless and how much do you believe is bound to the times?

DPS: Our whole approach is that etiquette is a moving, living, breathing thing. It changes and evolves all the time. That’s why the book is currently in its 18th edition. It’s never been out of print, and we think that’s really important. That’s why it’s important to continue to update it, because it is a moving target. If it were to ossify, it would lose its meaning very quickly.

When you look at the 1922 edition of Etiquette and the 18th edition of Etiquette, there’s some material that looks remarkably similar. You can probably guess that the way my great-great-grandmother described using a knife and fork is very similar to the way I would describe that today. Manners around how we share food and how we eat change relatively slowly. Those are cultural expectations that are very firm. The ones that we see changing the most rapidly are manners around communication.

PCM: So, do you have etiquette suggestions for Twitter?

DPS: We absolutely do. The framework that we use is relationships. When you’re assessing behaviors around new communication technology, you use the relationship as your guide. My cousin Anna’s really good at this. When she’s presenting, she’ll take her phone, hold it up and say, “This is my phone. It’s the newest, the latest, the greatest. It’s amazing. I can do incredible things with it. It’s not rude. It’s not polite. It’s how I use it that matters.” If you think about the relationships that are being impacted and affected, it helps you make good choices in those environments.

PCM: Still, there’s a lot of rudeness out there in cyberspace. Do you think this is a particularly bad-mannered period in history?

DPS: Sometimes we hear from people, “Oh, there are no manners today; manners are in a state of decline.” One of the nice things about having a generational perspective on this work is that every generation perceives that to be true, witnesses the changes that occur over time and thinks that the state of manners are in decline.

Like so many things in life, I really think of it as a pendulum. I think that people challenge and push the boundaries, and then there’s a response. New structures come into being. I think the generation that had the most difficult time with this was my parents’ generation, and even my grandmother, who was writing in the late ’60s and early ’70s. You had a generation that was intentionally trying to deconstruct the social order at that time.

I don’t think that happens in the same way right now. Quite the contrary, I think we might be in a time where, because there is so much choice, because we do live in an increasingly casual and informal world, people are looking for information to help them make choices in that environment.

PCM: You said it’s mostly about relationships. But a lot of modern communication is more like broadcasting. Emily Post didn’t have to worry about the etiquette of announcing one’s foibles to seven billion people around the world.

DPS: Absolutely, but here, too, there are lessons to be learned from the past. When I teach conversation skills, I’ll teach three tiers to a conversation. Tier one is safe territory—sports, the weather, pop culture, local celebrities, what you had for breakfast that morning. Tier two is potentially controversial. People have different and valid opinions about these topics. They were not table talk. They were reserved for private conversation—religion, politics, dating, your love life. The third tier, the most intimate, is family and finance. You don’t ask probing questions or offer too much information unless someone has already opened the door to that in some way.

Those rules for conversation around a dinner table or in the workplace function very well for the online space, where you’re talking about a much bigger conversation, but one where a sense of discretion and propriety are really important.

One of the immediate associations people often have with etiquette is that it’s common sense or that it’s the Golden Rule. It’s treating other people the way you’d want to be treated. You hear that a lot. I like to emphasize the Platinum Rule these days, the evolution of the Golden Rule. In an increasingly diverse and complex world, it’s really important to treat other people the way they would want to be treated. It’s no longer enough to go around applying your own standard to everybody that you meet. You need to make an effort also to take into account the different standards that different people have. That’s a challenge for all of us to continue to push ourselves to be aware of not just our own perspective, but that of others as well.

PCM: So what’s the future of etiquette?

DPS: Sometimes people ask me, “What would success look like in this business?” and I say, “If I can be a steward for this tradition, if I can hand it off to the sixth generation, I’ll absolutely consider that a success.”

We’re approaching the hundredth anniversary of the original publishing of Etiquette. The 20th edition will be out in 2022. They stopped, as you know, publishing Encyclopedia Britannica a couple of years ago. Being in the publishing industry, particularly publishing reference books, is a really challenging thing.

One of the challenges for our generation has been figuring out how to not just continue to evolve our content, but also to continue to find new mediums for it. The vehicle that I most like to promote these days is a podcast that I’m doing with my cousin Lizzie called Awesome Etiquette. It’s produced by American Public Media, the folks that do Marketplace, and Prairie Home Companion, and Splendid Table. It’s a Q and A show, kind of a Car Talk of etiquette.

To me, Emily was also a radio star. She was a lifestyle personality who was recognizable across America. The return of Emily Post to radio, I think, is a really big deal for us.

PCM: But is the printed book still the core of the business, or is it becoming less important?

DPS: It’s the backbone of what we do. There have been other etiquette experts who have done amazing work. A contemporary of Emily’s, Amy Vanderbilt, produced an amazing book. Letitia Baldrige in the 1960s, the Kennedy White House social secretary—her book is also very good.

Emily Post’s Etiquette is unique in the fact that we are a reference book that has continued to change and evolve, and has been in print for over 90 years now. There is no replacing that. We sometimes call ourselves a social barometer. In figuring out which manners have lost their utility and have gone out of fashion and which are emerging and coming into being, the process of editing and rewriting that book every five to seven years is substantively the most important work that we do.

Who Decides Who’s a Terrorist?

Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Terrorists cover

Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Terrorists
By Colin J. Beck
Polity, 2015 / 208 pages / $22.95

Pomona College Professor of Sociology Colin Beck says the genesis of his recently released book, Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Terrorists, can be traced back to a student’s question during his course of the same name. “I’m just wondering why some groups get labeled as terrorists and others don’t?” asked Emily Miner ’12, an English major who was a sophomore at the time.

An excellent question, as there had been no large-scale case studies on how those designations were made, says Beck. So he, in collaboration with Miner over the course of two years, looked at organizations listed as terrorist groups by the U.S. and the European Union, and then compared it to a dataset on terrorist events that occurred.

Policymakers and those responsible for the designation of “terrorist,” seize on certain markers, Beck says. Beck and Miner couldn’t find clear geopolitical interests at play, but they did find that the labels weren’t given based on activity. Threat markers that landed groups on the terrorist list included whether they attack airplanes or U.S. and E.U. allies, and whether they are Islamic or not—just by virtue of ideology, not whether they had necessarily engaged in many or high-profile terrorist acts.

“What I concluded was that this is basically done in an ad hoc fashion. There’s not a shadowy cabal of government experts sitting around with lots of information,” says Beck, who calls that finding astounding.

“Looking through the terrorism lists, my sense was that most of the groups you’d want to designate are on there. But there’s also a number who really don’t make sense to receive sanctions when other similarly sized active organizations do not. Basically, it appears to be the irrationality of using markers—such as whether a group attacks airplanes or is an Islamist organization—that drives the results at the margins,” Beck says.

Beck believes this calls into question many of the justifications for the continuing “War on Terror.” This focus on a few markers that signal terrorism—especially the post-9/11 focus on Islamist organizations—suggests that governments are not well equipped to perceive and respond to emerging threats, he says. “The Islamic State was quite downplayed during its initial formation, as was Boko Haram, etc. Like in matters of grand military strategy, it seems that governments are always preparing to fight the last war rather than the next one,” says Beck.

Beck and Miner wrote a paper about their findings, which was published in the journal Social Forces. Miner, who is now an English teacher in Los Angeles, says of her work with Beck, “Researching together was an amazing opportunity; even though I felt vastly underqualified in comparison, Colin very deliberately involved me in every step of the process, and the study and paper felt completely collaborative. I learned a lot about the different pieces of sociological research, from data collection to analysis to publication,” she says.

So how do you know who’s a terrorist? Beck points to three aspects that are key to making the designation: First, whether or not the perpetrator is a legitimate wielder of violence—per international norms, governments are the only entities permitted to use violence, and so violent non-governmental actors are usually illegitimate, says Beck. Two, whether their violent action is routine or not routine; terrorism is non-routine violence, not actions during wartime. Finally, who is the intended target of the action? “If you just want to hurt the person, that’s murder, that’s not terrorism.”

In Beck’s “Radicals, Revolutionaries and Terrorists” course, students study groups and personalities from Che Guevara to Al Qaeda to Weather Underground. This semester, Beck will include ISIS and the Arab Spring in the curriculum. Beck says the class discussions and feedback from students gathered over the years were integral to the development of his book. “They were the first audience as well as the inspiration,” says Beck.

In his book—which critics have called “sweeping and powerful”—Beck examines eight questions about radicalism, including its origins, dynamics and outcomes. He points out that terrorism is not a new phenomenon. There was a wave of terrorist activity around the world starting in the late 19th century through World War I, when more heads of state were assassinated than at any other time in history, he says. Then as now, there were sharp increases in telecommunications technology and international trade, ups and downs in global economic cycles and demographic pressures, says Beck.

Beck says the impact of globalization is one factor that sets our current era apart from past ones. “Globalization gives movements a stage and a target. International connectivity makes it more likely that contention in one place will become contention in another,” he says.

ISIS is a fascinating case, says Beck, and its rise is no surprise, as it developed in ungoverned spaces left by the American invasion of Iraq and the Syrian civil war. They are here to stay for the near term, he says, but in the long term, “when radical groups tend to seize power, they tend to either do themselves in by becoming either more radical or moderate over time.”

Beck hesitates to make predictions, but he says the question is whether ISIS will change as other revolutionary movements have over time, like the Tamil Tigers or Hezbollah or Hamas. He says ISIS’s endgame is still unclear and he questions what their objectives are, despite their stated aims.

“What is important is to look behind their actions,” says Beck, “because the first wisdom of sociology is that things are not what they seem.”


Working Through the Past Labor and Authoritarian Legacies in Comparative Perspective coverWorking Through the Past
Labor and Authoritarian Legacies in Comparative Perspective

Coedited by Teri L. Caraway ’89 with Maria Lorena Cook and Stephen Crowley, this collection of essays examines the clash of labor movements and authoritarian governments. ILR Press, 2015 / 296 pages / $27.95


Global Families A History of Asian International Adoption in America cover
Global Families
A History of Asian International Adoption in America

Catherine Ceniza Choy ’91 looks at the complex history and impact of Asian international adoption in the United States. NYU Press / 244 pages / $25.00


Straights Heterosexuality in Post-Closeted Culture cover

Heterosexuality in Post-Closeted Culture

James Joseph Dean ’97 explores how straight Americans make sense of their sexual and gendered selves in a time of dramatic change in societal attitudes. NYU Press, 2014 / 320 pages / $26.00


 Hitler’s Money Trail How He Aquired It, How He Squandered It cover
Hitler’s Money Trail
How He Aquired It, How He Squandered It

David Green ’58 fills a gap in 20th-century history by investigating the financing of Adolf Hitler’s dramatic makeover of the German economy and war machine.CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015 / 294 pages / $16.95


Two Women Against the Wind A Tierre del Fuego Bicycling Adventure cover

Two Women Against the Wind
A Tierre del Fuego Bicycling Adventure

Réanne Hemingway-Douglass ’63 recounts her 300-mile bicycle journey across the southern tip of South America, one of the most remote and beautiful regions on the planet. Cave Art Press, 2015 / 130 pages / $12.95



Faust, Parts I and II

This curatorial version of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s masterwork, intended to bring the tragedy back to the theatre, was translated into English by Douglas Langworthy ’80 and trims the 21-hour work to only six. Richer Resources Publications, 2015 / 247 pages / $18.95


Supporting the Dream High School-College Partnerships for College and Career Readiness cover
Supporting the Dream
High School-College Partnerships for College and Career Readiness

Charis McGaughy ’91 and Andrea Venezia ’91 offer educators a guide to cross-system partnerships to support college-bound students. Corwin, 2015 / 152 pages / $28.95


Frederick Law Olmstead
Plans and Views of Public ParksFrederick Law Olmstead Plans and Views of Public Parks cover

Coedited by Lauren Meier ’79 with Charles E. Beveridge and Irene Mills, this lavishly illustrated volume reveals Olmstead’s design concepts for more than 70 park projects. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015 / 448 pages / $74.95


Driving Hungry A Memoir cover

Driving Hungry
A Memoir

The author of the cult blog “Taxi Gourmet,” Layne Mosler ’96 takes her readers on a delicious tour from the back seat of taxis in Buenos Aires, New York and Berlin. Pantheon, 2015 / 320 pages / $24.95


Southern California Mountain CountrySouthern California Mountain CountryPCMfall2015_Page_24_Image_0011 Places John Muir Walked and Places He Would Have Loved to Know cover
Places John Muir Walked and Places He Would Have Loved to Know

Photographer Glenn Pascall ’64 provides a delightful visual tour of the high country of Southern California, using the words of John Muir to tie the photography together. Sierra Club Angeles Chapter 2015 / 106 pages / $24.99


Interstellar CinderellaInterstellar Cinderella cover

This futuristic retelling of the classic tale, in a new picture book written by Deborah Underwood ’83 and illustrated by Meg Hunt, gives Cinderella a fairy godrobot and an unladylike knack for interstellar mechanics. Chronicle Books, 2015 / 40 pages / $16.99


On Betrayal cover
On Betrayal

In his second book and first novel, Reuben Vaisman-Tzachor ’88 offers an intricately woven tale of betrayal and redemption spanning generations, places, cultures and languages. CBH Books, 2015 / 266 pages / $24.99


 Impunity, Human Rights, and Democracy Chile and Argentina, 1990-2005 cover

Impunity, Human Rights, and Democracy
Chile and Argentina, 1990-2005

Thomas Wright ’63 traces a triumph for human rights—the erosion and collapse of the impunity of former repressors in Chile and Argentina. University of Texas Press, 2014 / 206 pages / $55.00


Ideas With Consequences The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution cover
Ideas With Consequences
The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution

Assistant Professor of Politics Amanda Hollis-Brusky shows how a network of lawyers, judges, scholars and activists worked successfully to push American constitutional law to the right. Oxford University Press, 2015 / 264 pages / $29.95


From Trafficking to Terror Constructing a Global Social Problem cover
From Trafficking to Terror
Constructing a Global Social Problem

Associate Professor of Anthropology Pardis Mahdavi challenges the anti-Muslim panic surrounding two socially constructed conflicts, the “war on terrorism” and the “war on trafficking.” Routledge, 2013 / 106 pages / $18.42

Bookmarks (PCM Summer 2015)

PCM-summer2015-web3_Page_24_Image_0003The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish
Vengeance and Heresy in Medieval Ireland
In a detailed case study of witchcraft and heresy, based on Celtic sources, Maeve Brigid Callan ’92 examines the competing forces that guided Irish history during the story 14th century. Cornell University Press 2014/ 304 pages / $46.00

A Witherston Murder Mystery
In her 18th book and first novel, Betty Jean Craige ’68, professor emerita at the University of Georgia, folds a potent environmental message into a timely and down-home who-dunit that promises to be the first in a series. Black Opal Books 2014 / 318 pages /$12.99

PCM-summer2015-web3_Page_24_Image_0004Exploring the Salish Sea
An Artist’s View
Réanne Hemingway Douglass ’63and her husband,Don Douglass, cele-brate the beautyand ecological diversity of the inlandsea of Washingtonstate and BritishColombia in a textwritten to accompany the artwork of Margy Gates. Cave Art Press 2014 / 104 pages/ $10.95

PCM-summer2015-web3_Page_24_Image_0006More Studies in Ethnomethodology
Kenneth Liberman ’70 introduces his readers to this sociological approach rooted in phenomenology, with a focus on understanding unspoken rules people use to create order in unstructured situations, from game-playing to map-reading. SUNY Press 2014 / 312 pages / $26.95


Behind the Mask
Embrace Risk and Dare to Be Better
Donald F. Hastings ’51, with daughter and co-author Leslie Anne Hastings, offers a memoir of his career as CEO of Lincoln Electric Company that is full of shrewd business wisdom and inspiring, outside-the-box ideas. XLibris 2014 / 210 pages / $16.51



The Wood of Green
Poems, Stories, and Studies
Alan Lindgren ’86 offers a collection that varies in style—poetry, fiction and philosophical essays—and in language—poems in English, German and Spanish and stories in English and in German, with English translations. Sun Sings Publications 2014 / 558 pages / $18.95


PCM-summer2015-web3_Page_24_Image_0008Tokens on the Table (A Tip is Not Enough) and Contrary Mary (All in Good Time)
In this double book, J. Cris Miller ’59 offers a romance set in the 1870s in New Mexico and a mystery set in the Illinois/Indiana casinos of the 1990s. Each is the first in a planned series. JCMA 2002 / 500 pages / $11.95


PCM-summer2015-web3_Page_24_Image_0007Soundtracks of Asian America
Navigating Race through Musical Performance
Grace Wang ’95 considers the experiences of Asian Americans in Western classical and popular music, as well as “Mandopop,” to explore how they use music to construct narratives of self, race, class and belonging. Duke University Press 2015 / 272 pages / $23.95


Preston Versus Amazon


By Adam Conner-Simons ’08

THE WORDS THAT galvanized a thousand authors to speak out against a powerful corporate retailer were written along a dirt road, in an 8-by-10 shack, by a wispy-haired, self-described “wimp.”

This past year Amazon spent many months in testy negotiations with Hachette, the fourth-largest book publisher in the U.S. When no agreement had been reached by May, Amazon began delaying shipment of Hachette books, shutting down pre-orders, and even removing the publisher’s titles from its all-important recommendation algorithms.

Such gestures aren’t trivial—when the entity responsible for selling 40 percent of America’s printed books makes yours difficult to buy, sales drop.

Sitting here on the deck of his spacious summer house overlooking Maine’s pristine Muscongus Bay, thriller writer Douglas Preston ’78 clearly isn’t worried for his own livelihood. He’s published more than a dozen best-sellers and cultivated a devout following that will find him with or without Amazon.

But what keeps him up at night—and what spurred him to write 500 words that put his name in the headlines and a sizable thorn in Amazon’s side—is thinking about all the young authors that he says have been “held hostage in the middle of a back-room deal between two big corporations.”

In June, Preston penned an informal letter about Amazon’s actions, with the idea that a few writers might co-sign. After famous friends like Stephen King and Nora Roberts started spreading the word, the letter went viral, and within a matter of days more than 900 of his peers had gotten on-board and joined the group that Preston had dubbed “Authors United.”

It wasn’t a completely united front—a vocal contingent of self-published authors posted lengthy screeds online calling him a “one-percenter,” a “pinhead” and worse, while Amazon reps dismissed him in the press as “entitled” and “an opportunist.” When Amazon found out that he planned to publish his letter as a full-page ad in The New York Times, the company’s head of e-books tracked down his phone number and called to issue veiled threats and try to stop him.

Preston shrugs when he reflects on how the situation escalated and how he, improbably, became the face behind a movement that he never set out to lead.

“I’ve never been much of an activist about these things,” he says. “But [Amazon’s tactics] felt like an act of betrayal. We writers helped a struggling start-up become one of the world’s largest companies, and this is how they repay us?”


Amazon’s path to global dominance hasn’t come without making some enemies. CEO Jeff Bezos has internally referred to his team’s business strategy as “the Gazelle Project,” in that Amazon approaches publishers “the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”

The Hachette dispute is far from Amazon’s first: in 2010 it deleted the “buy” option for all MacMillan books, which quickly forced the publisher to cave in during negotiations. The company often paints publishing houses as middlemen and gatekeepers—relics from another era whose skills at distribution and publicity have been rendered moot by instant downloads and viral word-of-mouth.

Many self-published authors agree. Sci-fi writer Hugh Howey has collected more than 8,000 signatures for a Change.org petition arguing that companies like Hachette are “resisting technology” rather than adapting to the changing times.

Preston, naturally, begs to differ. He sees publishers as vital curators, editors and investors, and believes that the biggest challenge for Authors United is, ironically enough, telling the right stories.

Here’s his: it’s 1978, and he’s a fresh-faced college grad creating communications content for the American Museum of Natural History. The job pays peanuts but lets him explore all of the museum’s hidden treasures, from majestic butterfly exhibits to a hair-raising “dinosaur graveyard” in the basement.

A few years into the gig, he gives a tour to an editor named Lincoln Child, who suggests that he pull his anecdotes into a book.

While novels can often be cobbled together on nights and weekends, Preston’s journalistic writing would require some heavy daytime reporting. As a first-time author, Preston isn’t in a position to drop everything to write, but his publisher St. Martin’s Press gives him an advance of $7,200 that lets him take six months off from his job.

“Without that cash, there’d be no first book and I might not even be doing this for a living right now,” he says.

The experience made Preston recognize the importance of publishers as venture capitalists for ideas—a tradition that, in a sense, extends back to the Renaissance, when royal families like the Medicis funded artwork by Michelangelo and Sandro Botticelli.

“These publishers supported me when I was unknown and believed in me enough to keep releasing my books even when the first few didn’t sell,” says Preston, who’s been with Hachette for 20 years. “What’s lost in the narrative is that, if authors couldn’t get advances, an awful lot of extremely important books wouldn’t get written.”


As with most business disputes, Amazon and Hachette’s boils down to dollar signs. Their main disagreement has revolved around e-books, which now make up almost a third of the market. Currently 30 percent of each e-book’s revenues go to Amazon, and 70 percent go to Hachette, which then carves out a cut for the author (usually 10 to 15 percent). While nobody knows exactly what was happening behind closed doors during negotiations, Amazon was reportedly pressing for 50 percent of revenues.

What’s also at stake are e-book prices themselves. Amazon has famously been selling many e-books at a loss, and says that prices above $9.99 hurt overall sales. Hachette, meanwhile, has been reluctant to set a precedent for lower prices that might cannibalize hardcover sales.

Preston says he has no particular problems with $10 e-books, but at the same time is flummoxed by the animosity leveled at authors whose books are being sold for a few dollars more.

“Some people have said e-books should be cheaper because they’re ‘just words,’ but then why isn’t anybody out picketing the makers of ‘Grand Theft Auto’ for charging $65 for a video game that’s ‘just electrons?’” he asks. “It devalues all the work that goes into the creative process. Is every book really worth just $9.99 to you?”

Amazon has likened e-books to paperbacks, another technological advance that lowered literature’s costs but also allowed for its increased availability. Many authors would counter that the Amazon-driven trend toward lower and lower e-book prices threatens the long-term viability of the entire profession.

“Amazon is doing the same thing Spotify is doing—treating creative content as though it were a commodity, like a TV set or a vacuum,” Preston says. “They’ve spurred a massive price devaluation of books that’s caused consumers to expect artificially low prices—and the net result is that it’s now exceedingly difficult for young authors to make a living.”


It’s not just first-time authors who’ve felt the pinch, which is why many authors were wary about signing a letter like Preston’s that would pit them against such a massive retail juggernaut. Novelist Lucy Ferriss ’75 was gung-ho about Authors United last summer, but as the publication date of her next book approached, she started reflecting on the wide reach of Amazon, which owns both the review site Goodreads and Audible (the seller of the majority of the world’s audiobooks).

“It becomes much more real when your own sales are tied into it,” Ferriss says. “It’s startling to realize how much of my personal investment as an author is caught up in getting good results with Amazon.”

Despite her reservations, she’s stayed on-board—in no small part because of Preston’s dedication. She recalls that when he and his brother Richard ’76 (a fellow writer) joined Pomona’s literary magazine Passwords, it only took a matter of weeks for her team of editors to voluntarily hand over control.

“They were impeccably organized, they had goals, and we were hopelessly incompetent,” she says with a laugh. “With Authors United, it doesn’t surprise me that Doug’s been able to essentially herd an army of feral cats. Once he decides to get something done, he does it.”

Since the initial letter, Authors United tried to reach out directly to members of the Amazon Board, with no luck. Preston was also approached by a team of prestigious pro bono lawyers who will be submitting a formal brief for the Department of Justice that outlines Amazon’s antitrust violations. He hopes it will encourage, if not an actual lawsuit, then at least more transparency on the part of retailers and publishers’ business dealings.

“Amazon makes most publishers sign non-disclosure agreements, such that we don’t even know what’s going on with these contracts,” he says. “What’s the nature of these relationships, and what is Amazon asking for? The DOJ has to bring this all out in the open so the American people can look at the facts for themselves.”


When I met with Preston on a crisp autumn morning in October, he sounded frustrated and a tad overwhelmed. He was promoting the publication of his third novel of 2014, gearing up for a book fair in United Arab Emirates, working on the next installment in his popular “Pendergast” series, and fielding phone calls from journalists about the ongoing publishing feud.

“Truth be told, I’m sick and tired of the situation, and would love to get rid of Authors United and go back to writing books,” he told me then.

Less than a month later, Hachette and Amazon reached a deal that made Hachette responsible for setting e-book prices, but also gave Amazon the opportunity to offer “specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.”

Preston views the resolution as just the end of one battle in a larger war for writers, publishers and retailers. Despite the tedious and thankless nature of his role, he says he takes comfort in the fact that his efforts have put a spotlight on the changing landscape of his industry—and the tricky economics that come with being an author in the digital age.

“If nothing else, it’s reassuring to look at the list of folks who’ve signed the letter and see everyone from cookbook authors and sci-fi writers to poets and Nobel laureates,” he says. “I’ve been in this industry long enough to know that it’s rare to get writers to agree on anything.”