THE HEADSCARF IN THE UNITED STATES (or the celebration of freedom on this 4th of July)

The Fourth of July is so close you can almost sense it. And to most people, it feels like freedom and independence. But how does it feel to the Muslim American women wearing a headscarf (or hijab) on that day?

The question about the headscarf, its meaning, and, more than anything, the experience of the women that wear it, has fascinated me for a long time. Maybe because some people don’t seem to think much about it, beyond the simple act of wearing a scarf in itself; maybe because to others, it evokes sentiments of distrust and anxiety, led mainly by stereotypical images propagated on TV.

In April 2014 I traveled to Turkey and asked questions about this practice myself. Because I knew little about it, I was surprised to find out that most Muslim women embraced the covering of their hair, and sometimes their whole body, as an expression of their identities. They talked about religious liberty, their sense of femininity carefully embroidered and woven in cloth.

A few years later, as I strolled the streets of Casablanca, Morocco, I was witness to the same phenomena. Arm in arm, gossiping in their burkas, or with smiling eyes in a hijab, women were voicing their beliefs. How is it that I had not seen through the veil of my own cultural bias, unable to understand the subtleties of wearing a head-covering scarf?


The issue of Islamic head-covering and the political and social debates on the topic are as multiple as they are complex. This 4th of July, I invite those interested in unveiling its construction and political consequences, to listen to our latest podcast with Bozena Welborne, Aubrey Westfall, and Sarah Tobin, co-authors of The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States.

On this Independence Day, their book provides us with a chance to hear from Muslim American women, to learn about their values and beliefs, and how they express their identities in a country that aims to be the model of democratic pluralism.



“I love identifying myself as that, as a Muslim American, especially in that order, too, because this is my country and my religion is the most important to me. But after that, like . . .  this is where I was born, this is where I was raised and I was born with these values, American values of tolerating freedom of expression and freedom of religion and freedom of the press, and I think that’s one reason why our country is so successful is because we’re tolerating so much diversity and therefore people from all over the world can come and bring their talents into our country. So, I take a lot of pride in that phrase, Muslim American.”

—The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States (p.162)



Recommended artist to follow with this post:


About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She is grateful to have had the opportunity to travel around the world and meet people from various countries, with different cultural values and religious beliefs, and to be part of a diverse, multi-cultural and heterogeneous community.


THE HEADSCARF IN THE UNITED STATES (or the celebration of freedom on this 4th of July)

A Photographer Grows in Brooklyn

Before leaving California in October 1970, to return to NYC, I bought a 35mm camera at a San Jose pawnshop. Because it was the heavier of the two cameras in my $30 price range, I chose a Nikon rangefinder. I was lucky, 22 years old and wanted to be a photographer.

Back home, I took a photography class at the School of Visual Arts, a job with the telephone company and began photographing my family and friends in South Brooklyn. I never felt comfortable at SVA so I rented a small storefront in Sunset Park and set up my own black and white darkroom. I bought a paperback book on photography, and carried it everywhere, reading and re-reading every section.

I returned to college and graduated in 1972. Over the next few years, I completed a Masters degree and worked as a cab driver, cameraman, waiter, photographer’s assistant, bartender and carpenter. But no matter what I did to earn money, I kept photographing. I made my own prints in a variety of darkrooms – almost always ill equipped for washing big prints. So I often used a bathtub.

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Looking back on it now, I smile thinking of my eager young self. I walked around South Brooklyn with my camera and a hand-held light meter, recording each exposure in a 2 x 3 inch spiral notebook. I enjoyed working as a photo assistant in a Manhattan commercial studio, but deep down always preferred photographing in my neighborhood.

Somewhere around 1975, one of my mother’s cousins gave me a Speed Graphic. This classic camera – made famous by Wegee and familiar to me as the logo of the New York Daily News – used 4×5 inch sheet film.

It was quite a while before I was ready to meet the challenges of photographing with a large format camera but I learned.

When I began learning about the craft and art of photography, I was influenced by Robert Leverant’s book Zen in the Art of Photography: “A camera is an extension of ourselves. An appendage to bring us closer to the universe.”

My universe in the 1970’s was South Brooklyn where my ongoing interest in photographing working class family life and religious expression began. Although I photograph throughout NYC with a variety of cameras, I still like to shoot family events in BxW with an old medium format camera.


About the author of this blog post: Larry Racioppo was born and raised in South Brooklyn, and he has been photographing throughout New York City since 1971. Living in Rockaway, NY, with his wife, interior designer Barbara Cannizzaro, and their dog, Juno, he can’t believe his good luck.

You can pre-order and learn more about his upcoming book, BROOKLYN BEFORE, here.

A Photographer Grows in Brooklyn

What happens when we feed birds?

Jones Birds at My Table

Feeding wild birds is probably something so familiar, so everyday, so commonplace—so tame perhaps—that we can forget that this is a fundamentally artificial activity. In virtually every case, the types of food we use to attract birds to our house yards—typically mixtures of various seeds but sometimes leaf-overs from a family meal—are entirely different to those they consume in their natural diet. Our feeders also concentrate birds into closer interactions than they would normally tolerate, often bringing together species which would never have anything to do with each other. Even the structure of the feeder itself is starkly unnatural: a swaying glass cylinder or a conspicuous platform, typically in an open and potentially dangerous setting. Continue reading “What happens when we feed birds?”

What happens when we feed birds?

Celebrating Our Cornell University Authors

As Commencement Weekend (May 22–24) fast approaches, it seems an opportune time to highlight some recent books whose authors and editors teach at Cornell University. The range of topics represented in this selection of books by Cornell professors published by the Press since 2013 (and forthcoming in Fall 2015) provides a glimpse of the broad scope of both our list and the university’s curriculum:

Mobilizing against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism, edited by Lee H. Adler (ILR School), Maite Tapia, and Lowell Turner (ILR School)

Cornell: A History, 1940–2015 by Glenn C. Altschuler (American Studies) and Isaac Kramnick (Government)

Introductory Food Chemistry by John W. Brady (Food Science)

Empire of Language: Toward a Critique of (Post)colonial Expression by Laurent Dubreuil (Romance Studies)  Continue reading “Celebrating Our Cornell University Authors”

Celebrating Our Cornell University Authors

The Thirtieth Anniversary of the Phelps Dodge Strike

This summer marks the thirtieth anniversary of the long, often violent, community-rending—but for women, in particular, sometimes empowering—Phelps Dodge Strike in the copper towns of Arizona. Cornell University/ILR Press authors Barbara Kingsolver (Holding the Line) and Jonathan Rosenblum (Copper Crucible) both wrote books about the Phelps Dodge strike that continue to be taught today at universities like Gonzaga, University of Minnesota, George Mason, and elsewhere. Professor Anna O’Leary, a leader of the women’s auxiliary of Morenci Local 616 who teaches at University of Arizona in Tucson, writes in a letter to the Latinopia blog that “…[M]any striker families moved on to other places in search of work and a new life. For many, it was a period of uncertainty and struggle and adaptation. However, being able to keep our heads held high in knowing that we were on the right side of history, helped in this period of adjustment as they brought other rewards to our children and a different future that had been difficult to envision at the time.

Rosenblum asked Morenci Miners Local 616 former president Angel Rodriguez to write a few words about why, alongside economic matters, his members belonged to the union:

“30 years ago on June 30, 1983, over 2,000 miners went on strike against the copper giant, Phelps Dodge (PD) Corporation at its Morenci, Ajo, Douglas and Bisbee operations and its refinery in El Paso, Texas. Copper miners at PD had gone on strike every three years. The general feeling among union leaders was optimism that in this round of negotiations we could avert a strike. The copper industry was feeling the effects of a slow economy and a market glut of copper worsened by foreign copper imports. According to the industry, the price of copper was not enough to cover the costs of producing the red metal and still make a profit. At the time, I had been President of Local Union 616 since 1977.

The company was proposing to terminate the 1980-83 contract and all other agreements, settlements, letters of understanding, dating back to the 1950’s…The company’s proposals were an obstacle to any meaningful negotiations on any level as they were steadfast and unbending. They weren’t looking for concessions, they wanted total capitulation. Thinking back, this was one time where our unity worked against us. At the time, we were firm in our position that whatever pattern was set by one of the other copper companies, that would be the basis for a settlement not only for us, but all the other copper industry negotiations. . . . The company had hired scabs to replace us and eventually led them to petition for a decertification vote. Needless to say, all the unions overwhelmingly lost the election, After 32 months, strikers were placed on the preferential hiring list and eventually many were recalled and resumed working for the company without union representation. The strike was a bitter strike with striker on scab and scab on striker violence and police brutality. In short, the aftermath was a divided community where families and long-time childhood friends remained bitterly divided. A way of life was destroyed.”

Rodriguez underlined what that way of life had meant to the mining community, especially the political participation of Mexican Americans:

“The union became the vehicle for Mexican Americans to run for political office and win elections to city, county and school boards and in some cases, state offices. It instilled the value and importance of being registered and voting in elections to elect their supporters to public office. Membership in the union was an empowering experience that gave the miners and their families the ability to standup and fight for the right for their children to speak Spanish when not in class at school without being punished. They fought for the right to walk into the movie theater and sit in any area other than designated/segregated area. They fought for the right for their children to go to the swimming pool on any day of the week, not only on the day before the pool was to be drained, so the Anglo kids could go swimming in ‘clean’ water the following week. They were able to go bowling where previously that had been denied service at the bowling alley, unless they were working there. The union empowered the miners to desegregate the restaurants that didn’t serve ‘Mexicans’ and be served. The miners’ families fought for the right to use the public library in Morenci.
In the midst of the hardships on the miners and their families, they always found a way to alleviate their hardships by engaging in community events that entertained them and helped them mix the good with the bad. It strengthened their bond.
What workers could accomplish once they felt the power a union could bring them!”

The Thirtieth Anniversary of the Phelps Dodge Strike

Recommended Reading List for the New SEIU President

As Mary Kay Henry begins her tenure as the President of the Service Employees International Union, we’d like to suggest the following ILR Press titles for information, guidance, and inspiration—

A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement by Amy B. Dean and David B. Reynolds

Power in Coalition: Strategies for Strong Unions and Social Change by Amanda Tattersall

Working for Justice: The L.A. Model of Organizing and Advocacy by Ruth Milkman, Joshua Bloom, and Victor Narro (editors)

A Shameful Business: The Case for Human Rights in the American Workplace by James A. Gross

Building More Effective Unions, Second Edition by Paul F. Clark

Safety in Numbers: Nurse-to-Patient Ratios and the Future of Health Care by Suzanne Gordon, John Buchanan, and Tanya Bretherton

Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress by Candacy A. Taylor

Global Unions: Challenging Transnational Capital through Cross-Border Campaigns by Kate Bronfenbrenner (editor)

The Sex of Class: Women Transforming American Labor by Dorothy Sue Cobble (editor)

Recommended Reading List for the New SEIU President

From Predators to Icons in the New Yorker

From Predators to Icons: Exposing the Myth of the Business Hero by Michel Villette and Catherine Vuillermot is prominently featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Sure Thing” in the January 18, 2010 issue of the New Yorker. An abstract is available here: The Sure Thing

Here’s an excerpt:
“Michel Villette and Catherine Vuillermot set out to discover what successful entrepreneurs have in common. They present case histories of businessmen who built their own empires . . . and chart what they consider the typical course of a successful entrepreneur’s career. . . . The truly successful businessman, in Villette and Vuillermot’s telling, is anything but a risk-taker. He is a predator, and predators seek to incur the least risk possible while hunting.”

From Predators to Icons in the New Yorker

On the Irish Waterfront featured in the Wall Street Journal

Edward T. O’Donnell reviewed On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York by James T. Fisher in the September 9, 2009 Wall Street Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

“It may be hard for some to imagine an era when the waterfronts clustered around New York City constituted America’s dominant commercial port. Yet as late as the 1950s the region’s 900 piers—spread over Manhattan’s West Side, South Brooklyn, and Hoboken and Jersey City, N.J.—handled more cargo than any port in the world. This is the setting for James T. Fisher’s On the Irish Waterfront, a fascinating work of history that explores the rise of New York’s commercial port from the early 1900s to the 1950s and the corruption that eventually infiltrated all levels of the cargo business, until a crusading priest helped to put a stop to it—and inspired a classic film along the way.”

Read the whole review here.

On the Irish Waterfront featured in the Wall Street Journal

Counter Culture in Publishers Weekly

Great review of Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress by Candacy A. Taylor in September 7, 2009 online edition of Publishers Weekly:

“Oral historian, photographer and former waitress Taylor turned her aching joints into the springboard for a mission: uncovering the experiences of diner waitresses in this sociological overview. Most are “lifers,” now senior citizens who abhor the idea of retirement. Others may see these women as uneducated service workers, but waitresses see themselves as psychologists, nurses, and family to their beloved regulars, who expect a little sass with their ham and eggs. Along with their extraordinary work ethic and oversized personalities, there are reminders of the occupational reality of below-minimum wages (which must be supplemented by substantial tips) and lack of medical and retirement benefits (which might be one reason these lifers just can’t stay away from their greasy spoons). With color photographs (mostly by Taylor) of waitresses in their diners on almost every page plus feisty first-person anecdotes about how the women handle nasty customers and customers who sneak out without paying the bill (one waitress threw a ketchup bottle at them), this unique perspective is much like the professional diner waitress–difficult to pigeonhole, impossible to ignore.”

Counter Culture was also featured as one of the “Indie Top 20” books in Publishers Weekly on August 31:
“This book has been eight years and 26,000 miles in the making, and we are very proud to be publishing it,” says publicist Jonathan Hall. What appeals to Ron Watson, lead buyer of the university press group at Ingram, about Taylor’s photographic homage to career waitresses is that it offers “great social history in a very commercial package at a bargain trade paperback price.”

Counter Culture in Publishers Weekly

Condensed Capitalism on Truthout

On the Truthout blog, Condensed Capitalism: Campbell Soup and the Pursuit of Cheap Production in the Twentieth Century by Daniel Sidorick is reviewed by Seth Sandronsky, who points out the timeliness of this particular example of well-done labor history:

“This book is useful to the Facebook generation. It is entering a labor market where owners use automation and the speed-up to intensify the working day and wring more profits from the increased productivity. It almost sounds like the 1930’s, when workers at Campbell and at firms across the US rose up to form labor unions where none existed. Almost.”

Read the whole review here.

Condensed Capitalism on Truthout