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Duke to publish paper by Obama's mother

Duke University Press will publish Ann Dunham's graduate school dissertation this December, 14 years after her death.

Dunham, who is the mother of President Barack Obama, completed the work in 1992 for her doctorate in anthropology at the University of Hawaii, after doing 14 years of thesis research through the late 1980s, Duke University Press Publicist Laura Sell said.

"[The dissertation] still definitely has a lot of relevance," Sell said. "We sent it out to a lot of pretty high-powered reviewers, who all said it's a worthy work of scholarship and people can learn a lot from it."

Duke University Press' editorial department invited Robert Hefner, director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University and president of the Association for Asian Studies, to write an afterword for the book.

Hefner said in an interview that he was "honored and delighted" to do so.

The book, which will be titled "Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia," is focused on the metalworking industries in the Javanese village of Kajar and their position as a possible economic alternative in an area that traditionally depends on rice for survival.

The dissertation-at the request of Dunham's daughter, Maya Soetoro-Ng-was edited by Alice Dewey, Dunham's graduate adviser, and Nancy Cooper, her fellow graduate student in anthropology.

"We're well-known for publishing in anthropology, so the book kind of came to us through a couple of authors who knew [Dewey and Cooper]," Sell said.

Sell added that the publication of the dissertation has been a very accelerated process, and that normally a book's transition would be much slower.

"There will be a special panel on the book at the American Anthropological Association in December, so we wanted to make sure the book would be ready for that," she said.

Hefner commended the efficiency of the book's publication.

"[Duke University Press Editorial Director] Ken Wissoker and Duke University Press have done an outstanding job getting the manuscript to production," he said.

Although actual sales numbers can't be predicted at this point, Duke University Press has high hopes for Dunham's work, Sell said.

"We have high hopes that some people who are not anthropologists will read it and that people who are anthropologists will take a lot from it," she said.

Sell said everyone at Duke University Press is proud to play such a large role in publishing the work of President Obama's mother.

"Everyone here is excited, and we certainly hope-we know the President knows about it-we hope that he will have some words about it," she said.


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