Add Books from SUNY Potsdam Authors to your 2011 Reading List


The New Year is a great opportunity to add new non-fiction books to your reading list.

This holiday season, you can check out a selection of four books recently written and edited by North Country authors from SUNY Potsdam’s accomplished faculty—whether you’re seeking a gift for yourself or someone you love.

For those interested in learning more about an often-overlooked segment of North Country society, SUNY Potsdam Department of Anthropology Chairwoman Dr. Karen M. Johnson-Weiner’s book may be right for you.

“New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State,” published by Cornell University Press, highlights the daily existence and diversity of Amish communities in New York State. Dr. Johnson-Weiner draws on 25 years of experience observing, participating, interviewing and conducting archival research to emphasize the contributions of New York’s Amish to the state’s rich cultural heritage.

“New York Amish” contains information that many New Yorkers may be surprised to learn about their Amish neighbors, including facts about the role of men and women, technology, attitudes toward food, entertainment, the powerful role of forgiveness and their view on the world. The book traces the origins of the Amish in the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, and goes on to follow the lives of modern-day Amish families in different regions of New York State.

In a review, Philip P. Arnold of Syracuse University said: “New York Amish traverses between the history of the Anabaptists in the sixteenth century and anthropological work among contemporary Amish communities. Karen M. Johnson-Weiner makes a notable contribution by bringing Amish history into the larger religious narrative of New York. Throughout, she allows the reader to appreciate the variation and complexity of these communities in a respectful way.”

In addition to “New York Amish,” Dr. Johnson-Weiner is also the author of “Train Up a Child: Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools.” Her book is 240 pages and is available in hardcover for $24.95. You can find it at SUNY Potsdam’s College Store located in the Barrington Student Union, or order it online at the Cornell University Press website, at

History buffs would be interested in Dr. Shiho Imai’s book, “Creating the Nisei Market: Race and Citizenship in Hawaii’s Japanese American Consumer Culture,” for a fascinating glimpse into an often-overlooked aspect of U.S. history.

In 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Japanese immigrants ineligible for American citizenship because they were not “white,” dismissing the plaintiff’s appeal to skin tone. Unable to claim whiteness through naturalization laws, Japanese Americans in Hawaii developed their own racial currency to secure a prominent place in the island’s postwar social hierarchy.

Published by the University of Hawaii Press, “Creating the Nisei Market” explores how different groups within Japanese American society (in particular the press and merchants) staked a claim to whiteness on the basis of hue and culture. Using Japanese- and English-language sources from the interwar years, it demonstrates how the meaning of whiteness evolved from mere physical distinctions to cultural markers of difference, increasingly articulated in material terms.

Dr. Imai, who is an assistant professor of history at SUNY Potsdam, is the 2010 recipient of the St. Lawrence County Branch American Association of University Women Research Award.

The book’s transnational focus stems for Dr. Imai’s own upbringing. Born in
Tokyo, but raised in New York due to her father’s transfer, she, too, is a product of the history of migration and trade between the U.S. and Japan. Dr. Imai’s interest in the relationship between cultures extends beyond her research. Her SUNY Potsdam course, “Imagining Asia: Intercultural Encounters between the U.S. and Asia,” for example, explores the political, economic, and cultural underpinnings of the movement of people, labor, and capital across the Pacific.

As she notes in the acknowledgment, her research was funded in part by
SUNY Potsdam’s Research and Creative Endeavors Program. The trip to Honolulu allowed her to complete the epilogue, where she draws a link between prewar and postwar notions of Japanese American “whiteness.”

“Creating the Nisei Market” is 232 pages and is available in hardcover for $38. It can be found at the University of Hawaii Press website, at

If historical archaeology has always held a fascination for you, you may be intrigued by Assistant Professor Dr. Benjamin C. Pykles’s first book. “Excavating Nauvoo: The Mormons and the Rise of Historical Archaeology in America” is published by the University of Nebraska Press. Dr. Pykles is a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology at SUNY Potsdam.

This detailed study of the excavation and restoration of the city of Nauvoo, Ill., reveals the roots of historical archaeology in the United States. In the late 1960s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsored an archaeology program to authentically restore the city of Nauvoo, which was founded along the Mississippi River in the 1840s by the Mormons as they moved west. Non-Mormon scholars were also interested in Nauvoo because it was representative of several western frontier towns in this era. As the archaeology and restoration of Nauvoo progressed, however, conflicts arose, particularly regarding control of the site and its interpretation for the public.

The field of historical archaeology was just coming into its own during this period, with myriad perspectives and doctrines being developed and tested. The Nauvoo site was one of the places where the discipline was forged. This well-researched account weaves together multiple viewpoints in examining the many contentious issues surrounding the archaeology and restoration of the city of Nauvoo, providing an illuminating picture of the early days of professional historical archaeology.

Dr. Pykles’s book is 416 pages and hardcover. It is available for $50 online at the University of Nebraska Press website at,674186.aspx.

If you’re more interested in history and economics, then the recently published anthology, “The Appeal of Insurance,” may be a great read for you. Published by the University of Toronto Press, the book is edited in part by Dr. Geoffrey W. Clark, a professor of history at SUNY Potsdam.

The essays presented in “The Appeal of Insurance” examine the history of insurance as a process of negotiation between the embedded social, legal and cultural norms out of which the practice grew. Today, insurance is a global economic colossus and a fixture in the developed countries of the world. This book measures how far the industry’s influence has reached, as it became an agent of discipline and control over public and private matters. By tracing the boundaries of acceptable (and compensated) from unacceptable (and uncompensated) risk, insurers directly or indirectly govern people, products and markets, and by this process become one of the most powerful and pervasive agents of social and economic control in the world.

"‘The Appeal of Insurance’ is an excellent collection that reflects a growing interest in insurance research within the social sciences. Clearly written and accessible to a variety of audiences, this is a volume of world-class scholarship,” Luis Lobo-Guerrero of Keele University said in a review.

The anthology edited by Dr. Clark is 256 pages and is $50 in hardcover. It is available online at the University of Toronto Press website, at

For more information about the selection of books by SUNY Potsdam faculty, staff and alumni available at the College Store, contact Janet Robbins at (315) 267-2573 or

You can check out the online selections at SUNY Potsdam’s College Store anytime at

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, the State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts.