Author: Jessica Castro-Rappl

Q&A with Heather Berg, editor of “Reading Sex Work”

Contributors to “Reading Sex Work,” a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly, theorize sexual labor as both work and a site of labor resistance and transformation. Rather than critiquing sex work itself, they highlight sex workers’ own production of knowledge for navigating racial capitalism, state violence, and economic precarity. In today’s Q&A, issue editor Heather Berg discusses what sets “Reading Sex Work” apart and highlights a few of its contributions. Check out the issue’s contents here, including an interview with femi babylon, which is free through the end of November.

What makes “Reading Sex Work” unique or essential? What does it do that no other collection has done before?

What I hoped to do with this issue was to turn a sex work lens outward rather than a civilian (non-sex worker) gaze in. There’s a lot of fatigue in sex worker communities with the academy’s fascination with sex workers’ stories. One of the things this issue is interested in is that proliferation of scholarly interest. The pieces focus less on learning new things about sex workers than they do sex workers’ confrontations with outsiders’ ideas about their work. That comes through most directly where the authors theorize from their own locations as sex workers. It also comes through in pieces where authors engage fieldwork or literature to think about the politics of knowledge production about sexual labor. What happens when the material realities of sex work run up against theoretical ideas conceived outside that context? How does a sex work lens shift how we read Marxist political economy on the wage, feminist theorizing on gendered performance, or queer of color theorizing on pleasure politics?

The issue is also turning away from making appeals for inclusion or trying to convince anti-sex worker readers to shift their perspective. As crucial as those strategies are, they can leave little room for the stickier questions I wanted to foreground in this issue. Svati Shah’s piece gets at this tension directly, asking sex work scholars to rethink our participation in “the debate.” This is in line with a broader turn in sex workers’ own political strategy, where volumes such as the recent We Too: Essays on Sex Work and Survival are more and more refusing to try to convince readers who aren’t coming in good faith anyway. The essays included in this issue take as a given that sex work is work (if also sometimes anti-work), and the issue’s address is to readers who are already ready to meet us on those terms. 

How do you imagine “Reading Sex Work” could be used in courses or as a basis for future scholarship?

I hope the issue is useful to sex work scholars, who will find fresh perspectives on big questions that are vexing the field. Vanessa Carlisle and femi babylon’s pieces, for example, engage in different ways with what we mean when we call sex work “work.” I think this marks an important departure from (again, really crucial) writing that fights so hard to show that sex work is just work that it can’t ask that question. Julian Glover and Jayne Swift’s pieces will offer new insights on the politics of pleasure, and disrupt the common idea that only workers who have all their material needs met care about it. This shifts, I think, how scholars and organizers might talk about pleasure and survival in what we call the “whorerarchy.”

“The essays included in this issue take as a given that sex work is work (if also sometimes anti-work), and the issue’s address is to readers who are already ready to meet us on those terms.”

I also hope that scholars who don’t write or teach about sex work will use the issue to think about what sex workers’ encounters with knowledge production might have to say about the questions that are most immediate for them. Those interested in platform economies will find new insight about workplace control and resistance in Kate Hardy and Camille Barbagallo’s essay, while those interested in informal labor will find in Svati Shah’s essay key interventions on how we should think about the state.

Scholars of service work will find in the two pieces from Annie McClanahan and Jon-David Settell and Gregory Mitchell and Thaddeus Blanchette new ways to think about what gets sold in service work and what that means for those who enter into the exchange. Crucially, both pieces remind that the exchange doesn’t mean the same thing for workers and consumers.

Finally, the issue is as much for sex worker readers (paywall withstanding) as it is for those curious to learn more. I hope sex working readers will find pieces that feel generative, even as those of us in the academy wrestle with questions of extraction that can’t be easily smoothed over.

Explore the contents of “Reading Sex Work” here, or pick up a copy.

Summer reading recommendations from our staff

It’s officially summer in the northern hemisphere! Looking for a good vacation read? Our staff have you covered with a bunch of great recommendations. We hope you’ll pick up one of these books (or a few!) from your local indie bookstore.

Kristen Twardowski, Library Sales Manager, recommends Made for Love by Alissa Nutting, a “hysterical summer read about technology, surveillance, and escaping your megalomaniac billionaire husband who may or may not want to upload your brain to a computer chip. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, you’ll throw your iPhone into the sea, and you’ll wonder if you should move into a senior living community before age 40. Just the prescription for 2021.”

“An underground cabal of white men (and some women) secretly controlling events at and around a university in North Carolina?! Obviously this is the premise for a work of fantasy: Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn, about a Black girl who comes to an early college program at UNC only to get swept up into a history of magic and secret societies,” says Editor Elizabeth Ault. “Deonn weaves together a wonderful sense of place—the book begins at one of my favorite Durham summer spots, the Eno River Quarry—and braids together Arthurian and Black Southern magical traditions in a moving and absorbing way that manages to be genuinely surprising. The worst part about this book is that it’s clearly the setup for a series; book 2 can’t come fast enough!”

Chris Robinson, Senior Copywriter, recommends Greg Bear’s The Forge of God. “It’s a first contact with aliens book that is unlike all the others I’ve read (any more will spoil the ending) where the alien visitors send all kinds of mixed messages upon arrival. There are a lot of strands running through it: religion, politics, physics, and more developed characters (geologists, oceanographers, White House officials, everyday regular folks who just get caught up in it) than a lot of sci-fi books.”

The Silence of Bones by June Hur is Exhibits Manager Jes Malitoris’s pick: a “murder mystery set in 19th-century Korea, from the perspective of a young woman who serves as an indentured servant to the capital city police; a great page-turner with an ending that surprised me. It is a young adult book (and you can definitely feel it at times in the characterization), but even as an adult reader this was a really enjoyable, complex mystery.”

Project Editor Annie Lubinsky endorses Jeeves and the King of Clubs by Ben Schott. “The author, a lifelong fan of P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories, has created a new adventure for the two characters. Jeeves has been called upon to help the British secret service, and the organization pulls in Bertie Wooster as well. The world will be very familiar to Wodehouse fans, and the antics Bertie gets up to are laugh-out-loud funny. (The book is fully authorized by the Wodehouse Estate, and it’s easy to see why!)”

“Mick Herron’s Slough House series of novels are my idea of perfect vacation reads,” says Charles Brower, Senior Project Editor. “There are seven so far, starting with Slow Horses and including this year’s Slough House, about a group of British intelligence agents stuck in a dead-end London posting because they screwed up or have addiction or anger issues or got on the wrong side of powerful people. Their struggles with their demons mirror Britain’s struggles with Brexit and the ghosts of colonialism and the Cold War. The novels are cleverly plotted and hilarious, and I’ve developed great affection for these very flawed heroes.”

“I love steampunk, fantasy, and magic, so A Master of Djinn was a great book for me,” says Erica Woods Tucker, Production Coordinator. “P. Djèlí Clark does a great job intertwining lots of elements into a book that you can’t put down. The main character, Fatma el-Sha’arawi, is a badass. She knows martial arts, is brilliant, and can do the impossible; her partners are women who are also badass and could have several books of their own. I sailed through this book in a few days. I can’t wait until the next book comes out (there are two small prequels you can check out that are in the same universe). It feels like Fatma has a lot more stories.”

“My favorite vacation read is always a sprawling historical novel, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls fits that description,” says Laura Sell, Publicity and Advertising Manager. “It’s the story of Vivian Morris, who drops out of Vassar in 1940 and moves to New York City to live above a crumbling vaudeville theater that her eccentric aunt owns. Over 500 pages we follow Vivian as she immerses herself in the world of theater and nightlife, makes friends and mistakes, and ultimately learns what she wants from life and love. The book is so richly imagined you can smell the greasepaint, taste the martinis, and hear the jazz as you read.”

“My brother sent me a copy of singer Rickie Lee Jones’s memoir Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour. Jones spent her formative years in the same part of Phoenix that my brother and I grew up in, and she knew some people we knew, so the section about her youth was particularly poignant for me. This memoir is honest and compelling; Jones’s writing, like her singing voice, is quirky, distinctive, and insightful,” says Patty Chase, Digital Content Manager.

Lastly, Project Editor Lisa Lawley recommends two nonfiction books: The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights by Dorothy Wickenden and Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America by Nicole Eustace. “I like when my reads have synergy and both of these books have a lot to say about community. The Agitators follows a group of friends who, despite different temperaments and priorities, pull mostly together to effect abolition in the U.S. and eventually win the vote for women. Insights into the wartime activities of Harriet Tubman, the dynamics of upper-class marriage in the nineteenth century, and a fraught political climate discomfitingly like our own are a bonus. Covered with Night juxtaposes the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee’s concept of reparative justice and the harsh punitive system of colonial America that continues today as members of both communities work to resolve the 1722 murder in Pennsylvania of a Seneca man, Sawantaeny, by two fur traders disgruntled about a trade. The resulting Treaty of 1722, the oldest continuously operating agreement still in our country’s history, was constructed through dialogue between Taquatarensaely—‘Captain Civility’—and other Native leaders with frightened representatives of the colony, who expected harsh reprisal instead of an invitation and path to forgiveness alongside continued inclusion in the Nations’ circles of community.”

2022 Pricing Updates from Duke University Press

In continued recognition of the financial changes that many libraries face as a result of COVID-19, for the second year in a row, Duke University Press will maintain existing prices for the 2022 calendar year for our journals and select electronic collection products.

Pricing will remain unchanged for the e-Duke Books and e-Duke Journals collections, DMJ 100, Euclid Prime, and direct journal subscriptions (with the exception of Prism, which will increase in frequency in 2022). Detailed information is available at dukeupress.edu/libraries. If your library has a custom deal, the library relations team will be in touch in August to confirm your renewal pricing.

Journal Updates

Duke University Press is pleased to announce the addition of Agricultural History to its 2022 list. Agricultural History, founded in 1927, is the journal of record in its field, publishing articles on all aspects of the history of agriculture and rural life with no geographical or temporal limits. It is published quarterly on behalf of the Agricultural History Society. Agricultural History will be included in the e-Duke Journals Expanded collection.

Demography, the flagship journal of the Population Association of America, joined Duke University Press earlier this year and is now available open access. Demography’s platinum open-access funding model relies entirely on financial support from libraries and research centers. Learn how your institution can contribute.

Beginning in 2022, Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature will publish an annual monographic supplement, in addition to its biannual issues, increasing the journal frequency from two to three issues per volume.

Open Access Community Investment Program launches to support OA publishing

Duke University Press is pleased to partner with LYRASIS and Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access (TSPOA) to launch the Open Access Community Investment Program, a project that matches libraries, consortia, and other prospective scholarly publishing funders with nonprofit publishers and journals seeking financial investments to support open-access publishing. Environmental Humanities, an open-access journal published by Duke University Press, is participating in the project’s pilot phase. Learn more about funding through TSPOA.

Annals of Mathematics joins Project Euclid

The Annals of Mathematics, one of the world’s leading mathematics journals, will be hosted on the Project Euclid platform beginning with the 2022 publication year. The Annals is published by the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University with the cooperation of the Institute for Advanced Study. Duke University Press will manage subscription fulfillment and hosting in coordination with Project Euclid.

Scholarly Publishing Collective

Beginning in 2022, Duke University Press will provide journal services including subscription management, fulfillment, hosting, and institutional marketing and sales in a collaboration called the Scholarly Publishing Collective. Partner publishers include Longleaf Services, Michigan State University Press, Penn State University Press, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the University of Illinois Press. Pricing for titles that are part of the Scholarly Publishing Collective will be announced in July 2021.

For more information about 2022 pricing, please contact libraryrelations@dukeupress.edu.

Q&A with GLQ editors C. Riley Snorton and Jennifer DeVere Brody

We’re more than pleased to welcome C. Riley Snorton, professor at the University of Chicago, as the newest coeditor of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. In today’s blog post, he and coeditor Jennifer DeVere Brody discuss their involvement with and vision for the journal. Learn more about GLQ or subscribe here.

What is your professional background, and how did you come to be involved with GLQ? What drew you to the journal?

CRS: I am a writer and professor with training in media and cultural studies and working broadly in the fields of Black studies, queer studies, and transgender studies. I am also involved in movements that work for the liberation of Black, queer and trans lives. I first encountered GLQ as an undergraduate women and gender studies major, and the journal has been a recurring touchpoint in my formal and political education. My first publication in GLQ underscores that point, as I was honored to write a short piece of reflection for the 25th anniversary of Cathy Cohen’s noted essay, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” (GLQ, 1997). Cohen’s essay, to my mind, remains a key example of how queer studies has always had a deep relationship with queer activism.

There were many reasons I was drawn to the journal. It is an honor to serve the field in this capacity, and I feel fortunate to have served alongside Jennifer DeVere Brody and Marcia Ochoa. I greatly admired and am inspired by the editors and editorial team at GLQ and was eager to experience the sociality of queer scholarship through editorial and curatorial work. I also value the short form—the article—as a writing and thinking exercise.

JDB: The editorial team was eager to solidify intellectual connections between Black, queer, and trans studies and we looked to C. Riley Snorton’s scholarship as a model. His contribution for our 25th anniversary issue commented on the most cited essay by Cathy Cohen and we all knew him to be a superb collaborator. It is a joy to work with him and the editorial collective that now meets regularly on Zoom.

What is your vision for GLQ—how do you hope to shape the journal into the future?

CRS: I’ll start by expressing a shared sensibility among the members of the editorial team to highlight scholarship that extends beyond North American (settler colonial) understandings of sex and sexuality.

I have always thought that queer studies (and Black studies and trans studies, for that matter) can be useful for understanding any sort of phenomena, that is that it is a lens for thinking about power, geography, representation, race, feeling, gender, capital, etc., etc. I am also eager to explore the ways GLQ exists beyond print form, whether that’s by hosting incubators for early career scholars, contributing to or producing podcasts, or deepening our online presence.

JDB: Indeed, we hope to think more about other modes of scholarly engagement and incorporating even more visual, sonic, and interactive events.

What recent topics has the journal covered? Are there forthcoming topics or special issues you’re looking forward to?

CRS: I am proud that my time as coeditor coincides with the release of “Cuir/Queer Américas,” a multilingual conversation happening across multiple journals and multiple countries which represents a culmination of the vision of a collective of scholars (including former coeditor Marcia Ochoa) working on queerness and trans* among Latinx and in the Caribbean and across Latin America.

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

CRS: It has been rewarding to work with every member of the editorial team—the State of the Field editors, Books-in-Brief editor, Moving Image, and the associate editors who all bring their vision and expertise to bear on the journal. I am also profoundly grateful to Liz Beasley, GLQ’s managing editor, who is key to keeping all systems running. I want to express respect for every previous editor at the journal and appreciation for the editorial board.

Q&A with Ross King, editor of the Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies

We’re thrilled to welcome the Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies to our publishing program starting with volume 21, issue 1, which is available now. SJEAS is an open-access, international publication that presents research related to the Sinographic Cosmopolis/Sphere of pre-1945 East Asia, publishing both articles that stay within traditional disciplinary or regional boundaries and works that explore the commonalities and contrasts found in countries of the Sinographic Sphere. Today we’re pleased to share an interview with Ross King, editor of SJEAS.

How would you describe SJEAS to someone new to the journal?

SJEAS was launched in 2000. As an international East Asian humanities journal based at a leading South Korean university with seven centuries of excellence in humanities scholarship (Sungkyunkwan University), SJEAS strives to move away from some of the entrenched biases of ‘East Asian’ studies by focusing on pre-1945 humanities in the Sinographic Cosmopolis/Sinographic Sphere; thus, SJEAS now welcomes contributions on pre-1945 Vietnam, which traditionally was not a focus of the journal. Much of East Asian humanities scholarship today is heavily presentist, while also suffering from eurocentrism and (increasingly) sinocentrism. In ‘East Asian’ studies, there is the additional challenge of ‘national studies’ myopia, whereby scholars tend to focus on just one national tradition, and then typically with a lopsided focus on either vernacular or (rarely) Sinitic sources. Thus, SJEAS aspires to challenge such biases and also include comparative and/or transregional perspectives whenever possible.


When did you join SJEAS as editor, and what drew you to the journal?

I joined in 2018, and was drawn by the fact that it is based in Korea at an institution with a strong tradition in premodern East Asian humanities scholarship: the Sungkyunkwan 成均館 was Korea’s foremost seat of learning from 1398 until the end of the Chosŏn dynasty. South Korean scholars are producing robust, theoretically informed humanities scholarship on the Sinographic Sphere across a wide range of fields, and are keen to join the international conversation while also including voices from scholars in neighbouring East Asian countries.


Why is it important for SJEAS to be published open access?

The original terms of the South Korean government funding that helped launch the journal more than twenty years ago stipulated open access; but beyond just that legal requirement, South Korean academia in general is broadly committed to making publicly funded research as widely and freely accessible as possible, and SKKU and SJEAS share that commitment.


How has the journal changed in recent years, and how do you expect it to continue to evolve in the near future?

The most significant change since I joined has been to narrow the temporal focus to pre-1945 and to specify a long-term preference for humanities research on the Sinographic Cosmopolis (including Vietnam), along with a preference for research in translation studies, broadly defined. In previous decades, SJEAS published quite a few articles on post-1945 topics, including work on quite contemporary issues, but there are so many journals now specializing in modern and contemporary topics, and so few focused on pre-1945 (let along ‘premodern’, however one defines that) topics, that we felt it important to narrow the focus.


What are you looking for in submissions?

We are particularly welcoming of contributions that treat pre-twentieth century (before 1945) topics in the humanities. We are keen to highlight the research achievements of colleagues doing cutting-edge research in China (broadly construed), Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Our preference is for solid, primary-source heavy research rather than cutting-edge theoretical or historical work. Research on Vietnam is explicitly encouraged, as is comparative/transnational research. Because of the journal’s anchor in Korea at SKKU, with its centuries-old ties to Korean cultural tradition, we always welcome research on premodern Korean humanities that engages source materials in Literary Sinitic and/or negotiations between Sinitic and vernacular literary culture. I would emphasize that we are willing to put editorial resources into submissions that might (initially) be on shakier ground in terms of the quality of their academic English, provided the research is new and exciting for an international Anglophone audience, and that the English passes a certain relatively high threshold. But all submissions must engage with relevant western or East Asian scholarship outside the national tradition within which it is produced.

Sign up to receive email alerts when new issues of SJEAS are published.

Three Questions with Ellen Samuels & Elizabeth Freeman, editors of “Crip Temporalities”

Ellen Samuels and Elizabeth Freeman are editors of “Crip Temporalities,” a new special issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly that explores the ways in which bodily and mental disabilities shape the experience of time. In today’s post, they describe the groundbreaking scholarship of the issue and its relevance both in and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Preview the issue’s table of contents or purchase “Crip Temporalities” here.

What makes “Crip Temporalities” unique or essential? What does it do that no other collection has done before?

Not only is this the first edited volume to focus on crip time and temporalities, it is also groundbreaking in other important ways. We deliberately foregrounded authors and artists of color to counteract the oft-critiqued whiteness of disability studies in the United States. We also included both foundational disability studies figures and those who are relatively new to the field, so the issue could provoke discussions of crip time across fields, generations, and geographies.

“We believe no one can read this issue and come away unchanged.”

Including visual art and poetry was also important to us, as crip time has been realized perhaps most profoundly in recent years through creative works by sick and disabled artists and writers. Their work, as well as the essays themselves, expose the ragged underside of crip time that its smooth intellectual surface can never fully conceal. We believe no one can read this issue and come away unchanged. 

How does the scholarship collected in this issue hold particular relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The essays, poetry, and art in this issue remind us that many people have been living in “pandemic time” before COVID, and many more will thereafter as “long-haul COVID” emerges. Pandemic time blurs the ordinary ways we segment our days and nights, forces us to confront a possibly shortened lifespan, makes us miss “milestone” events, and involves waiting, multitasking, and fumbling deadlines—all experiences that are routine for people with disabilities. This issue uses an intersectional approach to explore how that kind of temporality feels to crips, in and beyond the pandemic, and the variety of power relations that shape both normative time and temporal aberration. During COVID, this issue also shows, we have witnessed institutions making accommodations that they routinely withheld from, or imperfectly and grudgingly bestowed on, people with disabilities: remote work, flex time, deadline extensions, etc. We hope that the issue will resonate with audiences in and beyond disability studies, for whom the past year has created possibilities for alliances between crips and non-crips.

How do you imagine “Crip Temporalities” could be used in courses, or as a basis for future scholarship?

“As disability studies scholarship moves beyond a rights-based model to aspire to disability justice, this collection offers a keystone for that evolution.”

The essays, art, and poetry in this special issue form a cohesive whole that is well-suited to be taught in full. Students can find different entry points to the material in the different genres, as well as the essays, which range from personal to analytical, exploring crip temporality in contexts as varied as a qualitative study of disabled faculty in the US, violence in occupied Palestine, Black feminist digital humanities, Latina/o/x testimonio, and queer- and crip-of-color self-care. Were I teaching this in a disability studies or gender and women’s studies class, I would ask each student to pick one piece from the issue—essay, poem, art—and talk or write about how it relates to their lives or the world around them. I am confident that every reader will find something profound in this issue, starting with Eli Clare’s magnificent and searing poem, composed in the early days of the pandemic.

As disability studies scholarship moves beyond a rights-based model to aspire to disability justice, this collection offers a keystone for that evolution. Disability justice centers the experiences and voices of Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x, and Asian American disabled people, as well as those who are queer, trans, and/or economically precarious. In accordance with this principle, we sought with “Crip Temporalities” to amplify others’ perspectives and expand the scope of what is published as “disability studies” or “queer studies” or “temporality studies.”

This volume, conceived almost two years ago, appears at a time when the violent devaluing of Black lives in this country—from the malignant neglect of COVID-19 management to the repeated police murders of Black people—constitutes a second pandemic, whose roots run as deep as the nation itself. This volume brings new and important perspectives to a vital ongoing conversation about how disabled bodies get racialized, and how the health, mobility, and bodily functions of racialized populations are compromised.

“‘Crip Temporalities’ is part of a turn in queer studies from spectacularly and knowingly transgressive bodies toward bodies and people who are just getting by, surviving, doing the unglamorous work of self- and mutual care.”

Similarly, “Crip Temporalities” is part of a turn in queer studies from spectacularly and knowingly transgressive bodies toward bodies and people who are just getting by, surviving, doing the unglamorous work of self- and mutual care. Finally, we see the volume as part of the move to revive the genres and modes that count as conceptual critical writing—not only visual art and poetry but also personal narrative, testimonial, manifesto, and beyond—exemplified in the new Duke University Press series Writing Matters!

Learn more about “Crip Temporalities” here.

Welcoming liquid blackness to Duke University Press

We are excited to announce that “liquidity,” the first issue of the open-access journal liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies published by Duke University Press, is now available. Start reading “liquidity” here.

In this inaugural Duke University Press issue—the first of three on the journal’s foundational concepts of “liquidity,” “blackness,” and “aesthetics”—leading voices in Black studies and beyond reflect on the conceptual and practical possibilities and shortcomings of Black liquidity. Conceived as a musical ensemble and framed by a lyrical history of the liquid blackness research group’s method, practice, and praxis, the issue gathers the work of theorists and practitioners spanning different modes of intellectual inquiry and champions experimentalism as a theoretical and artistic practice. In doing so, the issue unflinchingly addresses the entanglement between race, capital, and the constitution of the modern subject as well as the jurisgenerativity of liquid aesthetic practices and their unruly archives—all within the context of what Toni Morrison described as the liquidity of the Black arts.

liquid blackness, edited by Alessandra Raengo and Lauren McLeod Cramer, seeks to carve out a place for aesthetic theory and the most radical agenda of Black studies to come together in productive ways, with the goal of attending to the aesthetic work of Blackness and the political work of form. In this way, the journal develops innovative approaches to address points of convergence between the exigencies of Black life and the many slippery ways in which Blackness is encountered in contemporary sonic and visual culture. The journal showcases a variety of scholarly modes, including audio-visual work and experimental and traditional essays. It aims to explore who can do theory (scholars, artists, activists, individuals, and ensembles), how theory can be done (in image, writing, archiving, curating, social activism), and what a Black aesthetic object is (“high”/“low” art, sound and image, practice and praxis).

Sign up to receive email alerts when a new issue of liquid blackness is published.

Poem of the Week

As we continue our celebration of National Poetry Month, we are pleased to share a poem published in the minnesota review: a journal of creative and critical writing, issue 95. Check back next Tuesday for another featured poem.

boilerplate
Justin Lacour

Smoking cigarettes in my one clean undershirt. This summer feels
like a sermon on pride and speed and neon. We’re indistinct as stars
or skateboarders blurry under streetlights. There’s a savant that can
mimic creation, from birds in a sack to bullets the size of a boy’s hand.
Truckers have jokes about the Department of Transportation we’ll
never understand. Our ideals of authenticity and progress stalemate
over the sushi place turned Waffle House. Some say it’s all about
culture with a lowercase c, while others insist it’s what I do when
no one’s looking that matters (e.g., bondage lit, lots of Sheryl Crow).
The truck stop up ahead glitters like a mirage. We may never be in
the same time zone long enough to compromise our feelings of this
place. Its moments of familiarity as fleeting as an oldies station from
a passing car, before it becomes another thing altogether. Girls’ night
resurfaces, but only as some antinomian treat. The murals conceal
their hobo aesthetics beneath layers of persimmon and mauve. It’s
not enough to say we valued risk, that we were beautiful as hunters—
the ones who said tombstones arch like lovers in a field, their spines
thrust in the air, their backs black with crows.

Remembering David Southern (1946–2021)

On April 1, our dear colleague and friend David Southern, age 74, passed away peacefully at home. David had been an invaluable member of the Press since 1998, and he was passionate in his work as managing editor of the Carlyle Letters, a project that reflected his love of the written word. David grew up in North Carolina and was an accomplished local historian. His lifelong interest in poetry is reflected in years of correspondence with and publication of numerous poets, including those associated with the former Black Mountain College near Asheville. His obituary is available here. In today’s post, we share memories of David’s time at the Press.

“I—like many others at the Press—really cared about David. I had worked with him since 1999 and had some incredible conversations with him throughout the years. He was an intellectual decathlete–a person who knew more about more subjects than anyone I’ve probably ever met. He was incredibly kind, thoughtful, conscientious, funny, and humble. He’ll be deeply missed.

“In 2007, my daughters and I went on a hike with David. David talked to them about odology, different wildflowers and birds, colonial history, etc. It was like spending the afternoon with a very intellectual park ranger, but we never left Durham. My kids were like, ‘David knows something about everything.'” —Rob Dilworth, Journals Director

“David never wanted to be a bother or impose on anyone. To a fault. I often found myself in our check-ins caringly upbraiding him for being (what I felt was) too self-effacing and even nagged him on occasion like the Jewish mother I am. Speaking of which, he always remembered to wish me well on the Jewish holidays. He also always inquired about my kids. He was a mensch.

“Every status report he submitted read more like something I would want to pore over while drinking a glass of wine rather than something I would want to get through efficiently. That’s not to say they weren’t informative or pertinent to work; they were just also so imbued with the affable kind of character you yearn for in a narrative voice and so rich with historical digressions and juicy aside. I (half)joked several times in meetings with him that we should publish his status reports in their own right.

“He’d be so upset to know that he wasn’t able to see the publication of the final volume of the Carlyle Letters. And my tears come as I think of this especially. He always noted that he wanted to leave everything in good order, not to be a bother, impose. I would just tell him, as I tell him in my mind now, that he did so much and that all he had done was already enough. That he was always welcome to bother me more and didn’t have to apologize ever for imposing.” —Stacy Lavin, Senior Managing Editor

“I’m very saddened that we’ve lost David. When I first started at DUP I was fortunate to have an office space directly across from his. David was so kind and generous. I looked forward to seeing him every day in the “JEDIT loft” and always enjoyed talking with him, especially about history and baseball (and how our teams, Atlanta and Kansas City, were faring). I learned so much from David about the history of my new home city and state. I very much admired David and his remarkable erudition, wit, and genuineness. He will be greatly missed. I’m so sorry for his family and for everyone who cared so much for him.” —Ray Lambert, Senior Managing Editor

“The courtliness is real. I can’t count the number of times I was walking behind him in the halls of Brightleaf and he jogged back to open whatever door I was headed for. I fondly recall an evening at the Federal when I sat next to him and his friend at the bar, and David facilitated the entire conversation between us—feeding us tidbits of information about each other that he knew would provoke interest and connection, making sure we came to know and enjoy each other.” —Allison Belan, Director for Strategic Innovation and Services

“I was visiting Bennett Place in Durham with some visiting family and was surprised to hear David’s voice narrating the film at the visitor’s center. He was uncredited but admitted to me that it was indeed him, doing a favor for a friend. So typical. Always full of surprises.

“Upon seeing all the dictionaries in my office, he said I could have his 1934 Webster New International 2nd edition when ‘he was done with it.’ I just smiled thinking that was a long way off. Now I know returning to work will definitely not be the same.” —Charles Carson, Managing Editor

“I want to share a video that features David’s beautiful voice: a fundraising video for the Carlyle Letters that the marketing team created. David shared with me once that he’d been told that the Carlyle Letters would be considered one of the Press’s greatest contributions long after all of us were gone…in addition to the Carlyles, it captures correspondence with so many luminous minds of that time (Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Gaskell). No wonder David had such a passion for the project—he was always in good company. Like Stacy, I am so sorry that he won’t see the publication of the final volume.” —Jocelyn Dawson, Journals Marketing Manager

“David’s courtliness cannot be overstated. It showed in his manner with all of us, in his choice of words, even in his style of composing an email. Here’s one he sent last June to the DUP list in response to some insect photos I had circulated.

“The salutation is naturally a classic southern colloquialism (with a comma added in). But before that, the date. Besides the expressions David chose, I loved his way of dating emails, as if he were writing with a quill pen from the desk of. That habit was part whimsy but also, I think, part an act of resistance to technological constraints. David had to use email, as we all do, but he, immersed in Victorian correspondence, wanted it to be something more—a letter.” —Chris Mazzara, Assistant Managing Editor

“I had the honor to work with David on The Carlyle Letters as the liaison to the technological team at the University of South Carolina that develops and manages the Carlyle Letters Online. David was always courtly and generous in person and in his gracious emails; indeed, I wasn’t sure what I had done to merit such kind appreciation! I especially enjoyed when the academic editors would come to town and the four of us would go out for ‘tea,’ a charming euphemism. Our conversations ranged widely, and I began to realize that David had a wonderful knowledge of many things and had some sort of mysterious connection to everyone and everything. He seemed to magically combine all the best qualities of a scholar, a gentleman, and a hippie. With deep attention, expertise, and patience, he maintained the highest editorial standards on the Carlyle Letters; I am so sad for us and the project that he will not be the one to produce the last volume. We should have been saying all these things at his retirement party after publication of volume 50! I feel that we have lost something incalculable with his passing and that when this special and unique person went away from us, he took a whole world with him.” —Sylvia Miller, Senior Program Manager, Franklin Humanities Institute

“It is so sad to hear of the passing of David Southern. I’d had some interesting conversations with him over the years I’ve been at Duke University Press. I’d always tell him, you definitely have a radio voice (and I thought at least one of those movie announcing voices). I’d once discussed inquiring with him on some North Carolina history of Halifax, Warren, and Nash counties, and he told me, sure, anytime. Now, I sadly wish I’d added that time to my schedule. I’m sure I’d have gained a lot.

“In hearing the news of the loss of him I was stopped in my tracks. He always greeted me warmly in the hallways. Kindness can be rare these days and I truly appreciated his kindness. I will continue to remember him as a quiet, gentle soul. To the man of The Carlyle Letters, you will be missed. Rest in peace, David. And know on a Friday afternoon, we stopped the Press for a moment in your honor.” —Sonya Johnson, IT Project Manager

“I am so honored to have known David. Even with all of his knowledge and accomplishments, he was always so unassuming, welcoming, encouraging, and kind. He taught me what a Japanese apricot was. Once, when I passed him straightening the rug in the Brightleaf hallway, he said he just liked to keep it neat—that is the kind of careful, generous person he was. He will be greatly missed.” —Sadye Teiser, Managing Editor

“Shortly after I began working at DUP, our annual meeting theme was on Press history. We were able to benefit from David’s incredible history of DUP. He graciously met with us to provide information and even accompanied our Front Desk Coordinator, Jennifer Tyska, to Duke Archives for research. My initial impression of David being an incredibly intelligent and kind man never changed from that first interaction. He was a true gentleman and will be greatly missed.” —Bonnie Conner, HR Director

Asian/Pacific American Cultures and Histories Syllabus

In response to recent acts of violence against Asian Americans stemming from a long history of anti-Asian sentiment in the United States, we wish to offer resources to contextualize the experiences of Asian and Pacific Americans. The articles, issues, and books in our Asian/Pacific American Cultures and Histories Syllabus discuss not only complex histories and contemporary experiences of racism and imperialism, but also community formation, solidarity between marginalized groups, and worldmaking possibilities.

All journal articles and issues in the syllabus are free to read until August 31, 2021. The introduction to each book is free, and books may be purchased at dukeupress.edu.

The Asian/Pacific American Cultures and Histories Syllabus is one of several staff-curated syllabi, with topics ranging from global immigration to racial justice to trans rights.