Elisabeth R. Anker, "Ugly Freedoms" (Duke UP, 2022)

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In Ugly Freedoms (Duke UP, 2022), Elisabeth R. Anker reckons with the complex legacy of freedom offered by liberal American democracy, outlining how the emphasis of individual liberty has always been entangled with white supremacy, settler colonialism, climate destruction, economic exploitation, and patriarchy. These "ugly freedoms" legitimate the right to exploit and subjugate others. At the same time, Anker locates an unexpected second type of ugly freedom in practices and situations often dismissed as demeaning, offensive, gross, and ineffectual but that provide sources of emancipatory potential. She analyzes both types of ugly freedom at work in a number of texts and locations, from political theory, art, and film to food, toxic dumps, and multispecies interactions. Whether examining how Kara Walker's sugar sculpture A Subtlety, Or the Marvelous Sugar Baby reveals the importance of sugar plantations to liberal thought or how the impoverished neighborhoods in The Wire blunt neoliberalism's violence, Anker shifts our perspective of freedom by contesting its idealized expressions and expanding the visions for what freedom can look like, who can exercise it, and how to build a world free from domination.

Brittney Edmonds is an Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies at UW-Madison. I specialize in 20th and 21st century African American Literature and Culture with a special interest in Black Humor Studies. Read more about my work at brittneymichelleedmonds.com.

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