New Journals in 2020: History of the Present & Romanic Review

This coming year, we’re excited to welcome History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History and the Romanic Review to our journals publishing program. Both journals will begin publication with Duke University Press in late spring.

History of the Present, a journal devoted to history as a critical endeavor, is edited by Joan Wallach Scott, Andrew Aisenberg, Brian Connolly, Ben Kafka, Jennifer Morgan, Sylvia Schafer, and Mrinalini Sinha. The journal’s aim is twofold: to create a space in which scholars can reflect on the role history plays in making categories of contemporary debate appear inevitable, natural, or culturally necessary; and to publish work that calls into question certainties about the relationship between past and present that are taken for granted by the majority of practicing historians. Read more about the journal in our editor interview.

The Romanic Review is a journal devoted to the study of Romance literatures. Founded in 1910 by Henry Alfred Todd, it covers all periods of French, Italian, and Ibero-Romance languages and literature, and it welcomes a broad diversity of critical approaches. It is edited by Elisabeth Ladenson and published by the Department of French and Romance Philology at Columbia University in cooperation with the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures and the Department of Italian.

Black British Art Histories

Black British Art Histories,” the latest issue of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, edited by Salah M. Hassan and Chika Okeke-Agulu, is available now.

Until the early 1990s, curating or writing black British art histories was centered mainly on correcting or addressing the systemic absences of such artists from the canons of British art and modern and contemporary art. However, increased art world attention to individual black British practitioners and scholarship has led to the emergence of expansive, deeply nuanced art histories that do much more than attend to or counter the withering and brutalizing omission of black British artists in both the art scene and art history chronicles.

Contributors to this special issue reflect on and expand this work, offering articles that embody perceptive, probing, and illuminating considerations of a range of artists whose practices are fascinating, complex, and of great art historical importance.

Check out the table of contents and read the introduction, as well as a tribute to the late Olabisi Obafunke Silva, a Nigerian contemporary art curator, both made freely available.

January Events

As we start a new year and a new semester, we hope you’ll be able to get out and see some of our authors at events around the U.S. You can also catch us at the MLA conference in Seattle and the AHA in New York City.

978-1-4780-0653-4January 11: Marsha Gordon and Allyson Nadia Field, co-editors of Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film, show films and discuss their book at UCLA’s Film and Television Archive.
7:30 pm, Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

January 12: E. Patrick Johnson is joined by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, author of Dub, to discuss Johnson’s new book Honeypot at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.
3:00 pm, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave, Chicago, IL 60637

January 22: Alexis Pauline Gumbs again joins E. Patrick Johnson, this time at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop, to discuss Honeypot. This event is sponsored by Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics.
7:00 pm, 720 9th St, Durham, NC 27705

January 23: E. Patrick Johnson heads west to Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe to read from Honeypot.
55 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801

Work!.jpgJanuary 23: Elspeth Brown lectures about her book Work! A Queer History of Modeling at UCLA’s LGBTQ Studies department.
4:00 pm, Charles E. Young Research Library, 280 Charles E Young Dr N., Los Angeles, CA 90095

January 29: E. Patrick Johnson, author of Honeypot, will appear at Harvard Book Store.
7:00 pm, 1256 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

January 30: Elspeth Brown speaks about Work!at USC Libraries ONE Archives. A reception follows.
6:30 pm, 909 West Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007

New Books in January

If one of your resolutions for 2020 is to read more books, we’ve got you covered. Ring in the new year with these captivating new releases!

In Beneath the Surface, Lynn M. Thomas constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond, theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies.

Weaving U.S. history into the larger fabric of world history, the contributors to Crossing Empires de-exceptionalize the American empire, placing it in a global transimperial context as a way to grasp the power relations that shape imperial formations. This collection is edited by Kristin L. Hoganson and Jay Sexton.

Engaging contemporary photography by Sally Mann, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and others, Shawn Michelle Smith traces how historical moments come to be known photographically and the ways in which the past continues to inhabit, punctuate, and transform the present through the photographic medium in Photographic Returns.

Spanning the centuries between pre-contact indigenous Haiti to the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the selections in The Haiti Reader introduce readers to Haiti’s dynamic history and culture from the viewpoint of Haitians from all walks of life. This volume is edited by Laurent Dubois, Kaiama L. Glover, Nadève Ménard, Millery Polyné, and Chantalle F. Verna.

The contributors to Futureproof (edited by D. Asher Ghertner, Hudson McFann, and Daniel M. Goldstein) examine the affective and aesthetic dimensions of security infrastructures and technology with studies ranging from Jamaica and Jakarta to Colombia and the US-Mexico border.

Examining abjection in a range of visual and material culture, the contributors to Abjection Incorporated move beyond critiques of abjection as a punitive form of social death to theorizing how it has become a means to acquire political and cultural capital in the twenty-first century. This volume is edited by Maggie Hennefeld and Nicholas Sammond.

Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-Barriga argue that border wall construction along the U.S.–Mexico border manifests transformations in citizenship practices that are aimed not only at keeping migrants out but also enmeshing citizens into a wider politics of exclusion in Fencing in Democracy.

In Politics of Rightful Killing, Sima Shakhsari analyzes the growth of Weblogistan—the online and real-life transnational network of Iranian bloggers in the early 2000s—and the ways in which despite being an effective venue for Iranians to pursue their political agendas, it was the site for surveillance, cooptation, and self-governance.

In Invisibility by Design, Gabriella Lukács traces how young Japanese women’s unpaid labor as bloggers, net idols, “girly” photographers, online traders, and cell phone novelists was central to the development of Japan’s digital economy in the 1990s and 2000s.

Presented in the context of the nonprofit arts collective More Art’s fifteen-year history, and featuring first-person testimony, critical essays, and in-depth documentary materials, More Art in the Public Eye is an essential, experiential guide to the field of socially engaged public art and its increasing relevance. This volume is edited by Micaela Martegani, Jeff Kasper, and Emma Drew, and we are distributing it for More Art.

Shana L. Redmond traces Paul Robeson’s continuing cultural resonances in popular culture and politics in Everything Man, showing how he remains a vital force and presence for all those he inspired.

In The Complete Lives of Camp People, Rudolf Mrázek presents a sweeping study of the material and cultural lives of internees of two twentieth-century concentration camps and the multiple ways in which their experiences speak to and reveal the fundamental logics of modernity.

In Avian Reservoirs, Frédéric Keck traces how the anticipation of bird flu pandemics has changed relations between birds and humans in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, showing that humans’ reliance on birds is key to mitigating future pandemics.

Collecting texts from all corners of the world that span antiquity to the present, The Ocean Reader (edited by Eric Paul Roorda) charts humans’ relationship to the ocean, treating it as a dynamic site of history, culture, and politics.

The contributors to Blue Legalities attend to the seas as a legally and politically conflicted space to analyze the conflicts that emerge where systems of governance interact with complex geophysical, ecological, economic, biological, and technological processes. This collection is edited by Irus Braverman and Elizabeth R. Johnson.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for our e-mail newsletters, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

An Interview with Milette Shamir and Irene Tucker, editors of Poetics Today

We sat down with Milette Shamir and Irene Tucker, the new editors of Poetics Today, which aims to develop systematic approaches to the study of literature. Shamir is based at Tel Aviv University in the department of English and American Studies, and Tucker is based at the University of California, Irvine, in the English department.

DUP: You both are new coeditors, beginning your terms in July. What are your professional backgrounds, and how did you come to be involved with Poetics Today?

Milette: That’s an interesting question, because my background is actually in American studies, a field not usually associated with the kind of scholarship that Poetics Today promotes. So I come to the journal as something of an outsider.

But as a former student and twenty-year faculty member at Tel Aviv University’s School of Cultural Studies, where Poetics Today was born and is housed today (at the Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics), editing the journal does not feel all that strange to me. Poetics Today has a long and rich tradition at Tel Aviv University. It was started at the university in the ’70s by the late professor Benjamin Harshav, and to this day it has links to the kind of literary scholarship that flourished in Tel Aviv at that time and that, at its peak, had worldwide impact, especially in the fields of poetics, narratology, and literary theory. For many years, the journal’s editor was TAU professor Meir Sternberg. For me, taking on this journal and continuing the work of generations of scholars at Tel Aviv University is a great honor, and I am committed to the journal’s legacy even if it lies a bit outside of my own intellectual comfort zone. 

Irene: I’m more of a formalist than Milette, but not in a particularly narratological way—I’m interested in thinking about the ways that this long tradition of looking at narrative form can interact with some of the new and interesting historicist and multimedia questions that have emerged recently.

I also have a long, if not entirely continuous, association with Tel Aviv University. When I was in graduate school, I had a chapter on the early Hebrew novel that I did research on at the Porter Institute. I’ve gone back to Tel Aviv University for a number of sabbaticals and for a third book project that I’m working on now, on the subject of ambivalence about state sovereignty in modern Jewish and Israeli political thought and in contemporary Israeli literature. So, like Milette, I feel a sense of institutional investment in Poetics Today’s tradition and curiosity about new directions that it could take. Also, we work well together, so it seemed like a fun thing to do.

DUP: What is your vision for Poetics Today, and how do you hope to shape the journal for the future?

Milette: Poetics Today was from the beginning an international journal in the full sense of the word—many of its contributors and its readers are based in different countries around the world—not just in North America and the UK, but also in all parts of Europe, South America, and Asia. Its global reach is really impressive, especially given the dominance of North American scholarship in most literary journals. In recent years, several voices in our profession have been making the point that the growth of interest in “world literature” should be accompanied by increasing attentiveness to literary criticism outside of the US and to the way non-US-based scholars think about literary analysis and theory from a diversity of perspectives. 

Since Poetics Today has for decades now been bringing together scholars from different countries, it provides a natural environment for conversations between these globally diverse approaches. This is something that I’m really interested in encouraging.

DUP: Are there places in the world that you’re particularly interested in?

Irene: I think that we’d like to reach out in a lot of different directions. Scholars from Latin America seems a group with which we’d like to be in more regular and sustained conversation. So far in terms of submissions, we’ve gotten lots of interesting stuff from various places in the Middle East, various kinds of scholars in different parts of Africa. We’re not built around a certain national point of interest since national literature is not our structuring principle. We actually can turn and pivot among different kinds of audiences.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that while there has recently emerged a critical movement that calls itself “the New Formalism,” in some, though certainly not all, versions of this self-designated practice, the thing that is “new” about it is its nostalgia for an earlier professional and intellectual moment. This impulse seems to me connected to the recent proliferation of work in various sub-disciplines on “the state of the field,” which seems similarly animated by a certain melancholy. It is almost as if in this moment of crisis in the humanities—which we can’t legitimately call a “moment” any more—people are uncertain whether the work they—we—are doing matters in any lasting way and so are responding by looking back to a time when literary studies was generally acknowledged to command respect. 

Part of what I’m interested in thinking about that we could do with Poetics Today are the ways in which, rather than opting for this kind of melancholic retrospection, we might think of new ways of linking subfields that have been understood to be isolated from one another, if not in active tension. So, for example, we might think about the relations of narrative form and the various sorts of scholarly modes associated with archives. Or we might explore the narrative effects of the proliferation of different modes of delivery—audiobooks and streaming, just to take some fairly obvious examples. How have the changes in the economics of television changed the narrative forms stories take? Scholarship about narrative form has lots to illuminate and to learn from those sorts of cultural studies scholars studying the shifting economics of television.

DUP: Are there any special issues coming up that you’re looking forward to?

Milette: There are several exciting issues in preparation or under consideration. We are currently working on a special issue that brings together comparative literature and cognitive approaches to literary studies, edited by Lisa Zunshine. Another one in the works offers a critical extension of postsecular thinking into aesthetic discourses, cultural criticism, and arts practices. It is edited by Silke Horstkotte of Universität Leipzig and James Hodkinson of the University of Warwick.

Irene: We’re publishing a special issue on logic and narrative in which contributors are thinking about how questions of mathematical form are connected to questions of literary form. This issue came out of a conference on the topic that seemed very promising, so we invited the organizers, Jeffrey Blevins and Daniel Williams, to create a special issue.

Milette: To return to the international reach of Poetics Today, we’re currently considering a special issue that will come out simultaneously with a special issue in the French journal Cahiers de Narratologie, centering around the influential philosopher and theorist Paul Ricoeur. The two journals will publish different but complementary articles, each in its own language.

DUP: What are you looking for right now in submissions?

Milette: The scope of Poetics Today is very broad. As long as a submission falls within the general topics of the journal and is a smart, innovative article that is also self-conscious of being part of an ongoing conversation in its area, we will consider it. We are less inclined to accept articles that offer readings of texts without thinking about the larger theoretical or critical implications of those readings.

Irene: Yeah, I guess my basic principle is: does this piece of writing make me think new things that suggest moving in different ways? Does it make me say, Huh, that’s kind of cool, as opposed to a kind of retreading of a given set of questions? Because we do get lots of articles that are beautifully written but seem very positioned within what we would call normal science. I’m more inclined to consider something that feels a little rough but is moving in a lot of interesting directions, and to see whether we can shepherd it through, as opposed to going with something that feels it’s happy within the terms of an existing discourse.

DUP: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Milette:  I think this is a good opportunity to thank our predecessor, Brian McHale. Brian’s work over the past five years was outstanding, and it is thanks to him that we are able to transition into the role of editors with full confidence in the journal and its strengths.

A Decade of Duke University Press

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As we enter a new decade, we thought it would be interesting to take a look back at what was happening at Duke University Press ten years ago, in 2010, and consider how we plan to move forward in the 2020s.

Director of Duke University Press in 2010: Steve Cohn
Director in 2019: Dean Smith

We are excited to be starting a new decade at the Press with a new director. After serving as director for twenty-five years, Steve Cohn retired in June 2019 and Dean Smith took over our helm. Dean plans to continue our commitment to open access, deepen our partnerships with other units on campus, develop new products and business models, and expand into new subject areas.

Number of Employees
2010: 93
2019: 120

As we expand the number of books and journals we publish, we need more staff to acquire, edit, produce, and market our products. We’ve also been expanding our efforts to become a more inclusive workplace through the efforts of our Equity and Inclusion group. In 2019 over half our staff participated in initiatives sponsored by that group. Think you’d make a great addition to our team? Check out our job openings.

Number of Books Published
2010: 120
2019: 140

We’ve increased the number of titles we publish each year and expect to continue expanding as we enlarge our editorial team with a new Editorial Director in 2020.

Bestselling Books

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2010: African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston
It’s bittersweet to revisit our bestselling title of 2010, as jazz great Randy Weston passed away in 2018. Booklist called his autobiography “a moving testament to a life well lived.”

Living a Feminist Life2019: Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed
Our bestselling book of 2019 is also our bestselling book of the decade. Living a Feminist Life was called “an instant classic” by Bitch Magazine. And check out Sara Ahmed’s latest book What’s the Use?, published this October.

Top Selling Books of the Decade

Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed
Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway
Vibrant Matter by Jane Bennett
The Mexico Reader edited by Gilbert M. Joseph and Timothy J. Henderson
Cruel Optimism by Lauren Berlant
The Affect Theory Reader edited by Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth
The Queer Art of Failure by Jack Halberstam
Liquidated by Karen Ho
The Cuba Reader edited by Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr, Alfredo Prieto, and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff
Meeting the Universe Halfway by Karen Barad

Number of Open-Access Books
2010: 0
2019: 80+

We are pleased to participate in several open access programs, including TOME (where we have more open-access titles than any other university press) and Knowledge Unlatched. You can find most of our open access books on the OAPEN platform.

Number of Open-Access Journals

2010: 0
2019: 2

Our efforts to make scholarship widely available also include the publication of two fully open-access journals: Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory and Environmental Humanities.

Number of Journals Published

2010: 40
2019: 54

In 2020, we look forward to adding two more journals to our publishing program: History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History and the Romanic Review. We’ve enjoyed expanding our list in subject areas including Asian studies, gender and feminist studies, language and literature, mathematics, and more.

Most Popular Articles on Social Media

Published in 2010: “Creaky Voice: A New Feminine Voice Quality for Young Urban-Oriented Upwardly Mobile American Women?” by Ikuko Patricia Yuasa, American Speech 85:3

Published in 2019: “The Trump Effect: Postinauguration Changes in Marketplace Enrollment” by David Anderson and Paul Shafer, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 44:5

Social Media

Twitter (@DukePress) Followers
2010: 3200
2019: 33,800

Facebook (Duke University Press) Page Followers
2010: 1000
2019: 12,828

Social Media was still pretty new in 2010, but the Press has been on Twitter since 2008 and Facebook since 2007. Over the decade we’ve added presences on YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Please join us on all these sites!

In the next decade, we will celebrate our centennial (2026) and we look forward to continuing our work publishing bold, progressive scholarship for many more decades.

Radical Transnationalism

Radical Transnationalism,” the latest issue of Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, edited by Laura Briggs and Robyn C. Spencer, is available now.

This special issue brings together scholarship that illustrates how transnational feminisms operate in relation to different regions, historical periods, fields, and methodologies. It showcases writings on populations often not considered in transnational feminist scholarship, including African Americans; the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Okinawa, and Africa; and transgendered/genderqueer people.

Understanding that “transnational” applies not only to geographies but also to processes, and that transnational feminism emerges from multiple locales across the Global South and North, contributors investigate settler colonialism, racialization, globalization, decoloniality, and post-socialism as gendered political and economic projects across various geographies and time periods.

Check out the table of contents and freely available introduction.

The Most Read Articles of 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on the most read articles across all our journals. Check out the top 10 articles that made the list, all freely available until the end of January.

Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy” by Alice E. Marwick
Public Culture volume 27, issue 1 (75)

Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin” by Donna Haraway
Environmental Humanities volume 6, issue 1

Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” by Cathy J. Cohen
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies volume 3, issue 4

After Trans Studies” by Andrea Long Chu and Emmett Harsin Drager
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly volume 6, issue 1

Necropolitics” by Achille Mbembe
Public Culture volume 15, issue 1

Markup Bodies: Black [Life] Studies and Slavery [Death] Studies at the Digital Crossroads” by Jessica Marie Johnson
Social Text volume 36, issue 4 (137)

Twin-Spirited Woman: Sts’iyóye smestíyexw slhá:li” by Saylesh Wesley
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly volume 1, issue 3

Gender and Nation Building in Qatar: Qatari Women Negotiate Modernity” by Alainna Liloia
Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies volume 15, issue 3

All Power to All People?: Black LGBTTI2QQ Activism, Remembrance, and Archiving in Toronto” by Syrus Marcus Ware
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly volume 4, issue 2

Unruly Edges: Mushrooms as Companion Species: For Donna Haraway” by Anna Tsing
Environmental Humanities volume 1, issue 1

W. Ian Bourland on the Legacy of Rotimi Fani-Kayode

Ian_BourlandIn this guest post, W. Ian Bourland writes about artist Rotimi Fani-Kayode on the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of his death, December 21, 1989. Bourland is the author of Bloodflowers: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Photography, and the 1980s, which examines Fani-Kayode’s art as a touchstone for cultural debates surrounding questions of gender and queerness, race and diaspora, aesthetics and politics, and the enduring legacy of slavery and colonialism. Bourland is Assistant Professor of Global Contemporary Art History at Georgetown University.

 

This month, Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s would have been 64 years old. Instead, he died in a hospital for infectious diseases in north London, survived by his partner, the writer Alex Hirst. They had met six years earlier when Fani-Kayode returned to London after seven years in the United States. There, he received formal and informal educations in Washington and New York, at university and in the countercultural spaces of clubland, the black gay poetry, and the rapidly changing eighties art world. In so doing, he broke with his family’s aspirations that he go into a “respectable” field, and consigned himself to permanent exile as an out gay man during a time of widespread homophobia and in the wake of the early days of the AIDS crisis. I explore this art and the context in which it was created in Bloodflowers.

BloodflowersFrom the time that Fani-Kayode knocked on Hirst’s door, he was a fixture in the community spaces around Brixton. Intellectuals like C.L.R. James, luminaries of the Caribbean Arts Movement, experimental theatre producers, and local non-profit gallery owners all converged in this landscape south of the Thames; they were part of a larger movement on the part of the Greater London Council and leftist leaders—from Darcus Howe to Ken Livingstone—to push back against the austerity and xenophobia of the Thatcher years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in this era of conservatism and in advance of the art sector boomtimes of the 1990s, Fani-Kayode’s art existed below the radar for mainstream audiences. He published in the pages of Square Peg, a queer journal that Hirst co-edited; and showed his photographs at a range of smaller spaces throughout the city. Dozens of his black-and-white photographs of men were published by Gay Men’s Press by 1988, and they circulated globally, mostly in specialist book shops. He also co-founded Autograph ABP, which continues to thrive to this day. It is now housed in a David Adjaye-designed building in the Shoreditch neighborhood that it shares with the Stuart Hall library. They recently staged a powerful show of portraits by South African artist and activist Zanele Muholi who, in many ways, is a successor of Fani-Kayode’s.

To some extent, it is remarkable that Fani-Kayode’s art has persisted. He died with few resources, his archive only preserved by the grace of friends like Hirst and Autograph director Mark Sealy. In the closing weeks of 1989, the “globalized” network of the contemporary art world that we now take for granted was in its infancy. The idea of professors and curators and academic journals taking his photographs seriously—taking contemporary African art seriously at all—seemed unlikely. And yet, the work survived: in shows in France, a collection with the publisher Revue Noire, and in 1996 in the landmark In/Sight exhibition of modern and contemporary African photography at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The museum still has some of those magnificent chromogenic prints, initially secured by the late Okwui Enwezor over two decades ago. They were on display this autumn alongside works by Lyle Ashton Harris, Glenn Ligon, Catherine Opie, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others. Smaller solo shows have been held throughout the United States, and even as far away as Cape Town.

I came to know Fani-Kayode’s work through the writing of Enwezor, Kobena Mercer, and Steven Nelson back in 2006. Then, he was widely celebrated as a key figure in the emerging field of contemporary African art history: he had written a powerful artist’s statement declaring himself to be a Yoruban photographer working in Europe, and his virtuosic photographs drew freely on iconographies from the western Africa and its diasporas. These he put in dialogue with Baroque painting, photographic modernism, classical myth and Christian symbolism. In short, his oeuvre is an art historian’s dream, and a source of boundless inspiration to viewers from many walks of life.

But I think Fani-Kayode was so important then, as now, for the visionary quality of his life and practice. This was literally true, in his invocation of a Yoruban “technique of ecstasy,” states of reverie in his method. But it was also socially resonant. He built on histories of gay liberation and black radicalism, but merged them in provocative ways that put pressure on a range of cultural boundaries and stereotypes. His pictures figured subjects that we might now think of in terms of queer or intersectional identities and what Stuart Hall was then theorizing as “New Ethnicities.” Moreover, Fani-Kayode was attuned to European history and contemporary politics—wary of ethno-nationalism and the lures of fascism, he thought of his camera as a weapon in a fight for survival fought every day by people of color, refugees, and exiles all over the world. Certainly these problems are as pressing today as they were in 1989.

I often felt a deep sadness writing Bloodflowers. I wondered what it would have been like for Fani-Kayode to survive long enough to see his work hang in some of the most important museums in the world, to see friends and contemporaries go on to great success, securing blue chip gallery representation, winning the prestigious Turner Prize. If only he had made it a few more years, he might have enjoyed the fruits of a post-Cold War world in which “difference” was suddenly so highly valued. Of course, Mercer and others wrote of the ambivalence with which such victories were won, the narrow path and creative strictures many black artists faced as the price of admission to the gilded circuit of fairs and biennials and wealthy dealers. As a singular voice and a defiantly independent artist, Fani-Kayode would have likely chafed at such expectations, but his perspective would have been a vital one as the decade unfolded.

Fani-Kayode is now widely recognized as one of the most important artists of the 1980s, is part of landmark group shows, and his reputation seems to grow with each passing year. He’s even featured alongside peers like Yinka Shonibare in the textbook I use in many of my courses. Looking back during this season of retrospection, on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the apparent cultural and political sea change that it augured, it is easy to wonder how much progress we have made. Three decades later, it seems that the art world has caught up to Fani-Kayode’s powerful example; in so many other ways, our collective work is only beginning.

You can read the introduction of Bloodflowers free online now, and purchase a paperback copy of for 30% off using the coupon code E19BRLND.

 

Our Editors Pick Their Books of the Decade

As we come to the end of a decade, our editors look back at some of the most influential books we’ve published since 2010.

Ken Wissoker, Editorial Director

In the WakeI’m proud to have worked on a great number of field-changing and prize-winning books this decade, many of which had sway far beyond the academy. The one title that stands out for me is Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake. I’d worked with Christina on her exceptional first book Monstrous Intimacies so knew there was more brilliance to come. I can still picture the room at MLA in Vancouver where I first heard her present In the Wake’s powerful poetic text, compelling at so many layers at once. We were awed by her ability to move from the deeply familial and personal to the scale of world history without losing either the tone or the theory; by the stark realism of her account of Black death; and by the call to live on despite the weather. The book came out in November of 2016, by mid-March of the following year, artist Cauleen Smith had adopted the book’s title for her contribution to the 2017 Whitney Biennial.  I’ve since seen Sharpe’s work deeply engaged by Torkwase Dyson and other artists. Her narrating of the wake, the ship, the hold, and the weather — along with the idea of wakework itself — has been taken up by writers, critics, activists and readers, who felt Sharpe had named something for their lives. This quick recognition —the sense of being recognized, seen, or heard — is unusual and deeply special.  The book is an extraordinary gift to our ongoing political moment, one that will resonate for many years to come.

Courtney Berger, Executive Editor

Vibrant MatterIt’s been 10 years since we published Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (January 2010).  When I first read the manuscript, I knew it would be important. I knew that Bennett’s generous and reflective way of thinking and her engaging writing style would widen its audience beyond political theory (Bennett’s home discipline). But I had no idea how influential the book would be, setting the stage for a decade of conversation and debate about “thing-power” and the agential capacities of the nonhuman. Bennett’s plea to recognize the influence of nonhuman forces and things in the political realm and to decenter the human resonated with me and many others seeking new ways of thinking about our relationship to our environment. Influential books often provoke debate and this one certainly has done that. But, for me, the books that matter in the long run are the ones that invite me to think with them. Vibrant Matter is that kind of book. Bennett’s ideas have generated critique, disagreement, and reflection, all of which has pushed scholarship in new and important directions.  Notably, Mel Chen’s Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (2012) builds upon Bennett’s attention to the affective dimensions of the nonhuman material world, but shows us how race, sexuality, and disability have shaped our notions of liveliness and of who and what matters in this world.  In The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century (2017) Kyla Schuller extends this critique, illustrating how the 19th century sciences of “impressibility” and animacy helped to solidify ontologies of racial difference, ideas that have had an often unacknowledged afterlife in new materialist philosophies.  Moreover, Bennett’s work has helped to lay the ground work for innovative book series like ANIMA, edited by Mel Chen and Jasbir Puar, which brings queer, race, and disability theory to bear on our understanding of life and matter, and Elements, edited by Stacy Alaimo and Nicole Starosielski, which foregrounds the material elements as lively forces that shape politics and culture.

My task was to name one book of the decade, and as you see, instead I named one book, and two more, and then two book series. Maybe that’s my way of dodging the task. But it also speaks to the expansive and generative quality of books, as they travel, intersect, and influence one another, as well as the vibrancy of the scholarly conversations I’m so privileged to be a part of. I can’t wait to see which books make their mark in the coming decade. . . .

Gisela Fosado, Editor

Light in the DarkGloria Anzaldúa’s brilliant book Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro is a work that is decades ahead of its time.  Published in 2015, but written before Anzaldúa’s untimely death in 2004, the book engages feminist and queer aesthetics, ontologies, epistemologies, and ethics, offering a new decolonial vision for our world.  It’s a must-read for all feminist scholars.

Elizabeth Ault, Editor

My book of the decade is Kristin Peterson’s Speculative Markets. I arrived at Duke Press in 2012, mere weeks after Speculative Marketsdefending my dissertation in American studies (focused on Black-cast sitcoms of the 1970s). I was pretty burnt out after 6 years of grad school, and feeling a little distant and alienated from the political passion and the joy of intellectual inquiry that had put me on an academic path in the first place. Speculative Markets was one of the first books I got to work on at the Press. Peterson’s book, an ethnography of pharmaceuticals in Nigeria, wasn’t an obvious fit with my areas of expertise. But the book begins with a blistering account of structural adjustment in the global 1970s and 80s, providing African perspectives on the global rise of neoliberalism, which had loomed large in my previous work. Thinking neoliberalism, the durability of colonial forms, speculation, and global anti-Blackness from Nigeria with Peterson introduced me to what cultural and medical anthropology and African studies can do. The book reoriented my perspective, introduced me to new conversations, and reminded me of the power of scholarship. It’s helped me chart the course that has comprised my career here at the Press over the past 7 years, which is why it’s my book of the decade.

Miriam Angress, Associate Editor

RemnantsOne of the books I’m joyful to have worked on is Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering, written by Rosemarie Freeney Harding with her daughter Rachel Elizabeth Harding. The author—an influential civil-rights activist—believed in the unity of all great spiritual teachings, and practiced multiple religions herself; she looked for the compassionate underpinnings of these traditions, such as the link she saw between Tibetan Buddhist teachings and lessons she learned from her mother as they visited dying relatives. Remnants incorporates stories of her civil rights leadership, co-founding an early integrated community center in Atlanta with her husband Dr. Vincent Harding, and working with friends and colleagues including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Anne Braden, Dr. Howard Thurman and Sue Bailey Thurman, and Sweet Honey in the Rock singer Bernice Reagon.

Rachel Harding (Associate Professor of Indigenous Spiritual Traditions at University of Colorado) worked with her mother on the memoir for a decade before Freeney Harding’s death in 2004. After that, she excavated her mother’s voice from journals, previously published material, recordings, and her own memories.

Sandra Korn, Assistant Editor

Normal Life2011 was the year I realized that I was queer, and the year that I officially scrapped my parents’ dreams that I would become a scientist, when I switched my undergraduate major to Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies. It’s also the year that Dean Spade first published Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law with South End Press. Same-sex marriage legalization and hate crime laws covering gender identity were slowly sweeping the U.S. state by state. Yet Dean Spade taught me that waiting for the courts to grant legal equality (the model adopted by the gay and lesbian rights movement) would never be sufficient to address the root causes of violence against trans people across the planet. Instead, Spade argues that trans liberation requires a grassroots movement, led by trans people most impacted by criminalization, surveillance, and detention and deportation. Duke Press published the second edition of Normal Life in 2015, and this book feels just as necessary as we head into 2020.