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.
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.
The prize committee had this to say about the winning essay:
“Gregory Laski presents an ambitious, thorough, and wide-ranging discussion of the vexed rhetoric of revenge and forgiveness in the postbellum South. His reading of diverse historical and legal documents concerned with vengeance demonstrates both the risks and utility of vengeance during this period; it also deftly sets up his persuasive reading of Pauline Hopkins’s understudied 1902 novel Winona. Laski dismantles the false distinction between justice and revenge through the notion of “righteous revenge” in paradigm-shifting ways. That this idea engages with larger ethical questions about the redress of (ongoing) wrongs perpetrated against African Americans is made explicit in the elegant coda.”
“Sara Marcus’s essay challenges the prevailing tendency to associate linear time with heteronormativity, capital, racism, and imperialism and—correspondingly—nonlinear time with queerness, resistance, refusal, and escape. Although this association has been useful in some ways, Marcus argues that it sets up a simplistic binary. In an insightful reading of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition, Marcus shows that both normative and nonnormative temporalities are utilized by white supremacists to maintain and assert power. Conversely, teleological concepts for time can be embraced by black characters in the name of progress, while blackness can also interrupt the violence of racism by suspending time. Marcus strongly and convincingly makes the case that neither linear nor nonlinear temporalities are inherently oppressive or liberatory and therefore that scholars working on time abandon these cut-and-dried associations.
“Julius B. Fleming Jr. assembles a wide-ranging and unique archive to theorize what he terms ‘black patience,’ a concept whose contours, uses, and misuses he traces with meticulous care and bold insight. In the process, he advances a methodological approach to black patience (and to other useful notions, including time and timing more generally) that should deeply inform scholarship in African American culture, political organizing, and performance. This essay is a feat of original research, syncretic analysis, and inventive theorization.”
Congratulations to Gregory Laski, Sara Marcus, and Julius B. Fleming Jr.!
In TSQ’s newest issue “Trans Futures,” edited by micha cárdenas and Jian Neo Chen, contributors introduce times and spaces of trans critique, experience, and imagination that challenge conventions of discipline, genre, method, and perception. They examine the state’s capacity to control trans lives and to render trans futures less than possible, and they also envision trans and queer practices of survival, reproduction, and transformation that move beyond these limitations.
In the preface to “The Theology of American Popular Music” (3:2, 1989), Black Sacred Music editor Yahya Jongintaba (then known as Jon Michael Spencer) described theomusicology as “a musicological method for theologizing about the sacred (the religious/churched), the secular (the theistic unreligious/un-churched), and the profane (the atheistic/irreligious) . . . principally incorporating methods borrowed from anthropology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy.” Jongintaba saw theomusicology as a distinct branch of musicological study akin to ethnomusicology. He further envisioned it as a way to drive scholarly interest in popular music, which was then still largely ignored by musicology (popular music studies was still very much in its infancy) and religious studies.
During its nine years of publication (1987–1995), the journal took a broad approach to its subject area, publishing scholarly essays on spirituals, the blues, rock, hip hop, and musical practices of the African and African-American church alongside a rich collection of archival documents recounting Black musical life from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Below are a few highlights.
In “Musicology as a Theologically Informed Discipline” (8:1, 1994), journal editor Yahya Jongintaba lays out what he sees as the parameters of theomusicology as distinct from ethnomusicology. As he re-articulates the points about the interdisciplinary influences mentioned above, he also makes pointed critiques about the colonialist, eurocentric, and racist roots of those disciplines. He suggests that “theology can, in turn, liberate the social sciences by its willingness to confront oppressive scholarly methods, constructs, and intents on ethical grounds.”
“On Afro-American Popular Music: From Bebop to Rap” (6:1, 1992), part of the special issue “Sacred Music of the Secular City: From Blues to Rap,” is a reprint of a 1983 article in which Cornel West “provide[s] a cognitive mapping of the major breaks and ruptures in Afro-American popular music in light of their changing socioeconomic and political contexts from bebop to rap, from Charlie Parker to the Sugarhill Gang.” He gives special attention to Motown, the “technofunk” of Parliament/Funkadelic, and rap as dynamic expressions of Black identity and norm-breaking.
The journal also featured some of the earliest scholarly discourse around hip hop, contained in the issue “The Emergency of Black and the Emergence of Rap” (5:1, 1991). Contributors to the issue chart the distinct phases of rap’s first decade, analyze the way Nation of Islam ideology weaves its way through Public Enemy’s music and performance, and investigate the African spirituality of MC Hammers “U Can’t Touch This.” Perhaps the most provocative article in the issue is Sonja Peterson-Lewis’s “A Feminist Analysis of the Defenses of Obscene Rap Lyrics,” which responds to the 2 Live Crew obscenity trial in 1990. Peterson-Lewis critiques 2 Live Crew’s lyrics, particularly the way their depictions of violence against women reinforce sexist tropes.
Another key contribution from the journal was its publication of important archival materials. Most of its regular issues feature some kind of historical reprint: antislavery songs; accounts of the use of spirituals in various contexts; and articles by figures such as Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes. In the issue Unsung Hymns by Black and Unknown Bards (4:1, 1990), Jongintaba collected 100 hymns—some are just lyrics, others include sheet music—written by 14 hymnists over nearly two centuries. While none of the authors are anonymous (like the authors/composers of many spirituals), most had been forgotten to history.
Finally, the journal published two invaluable readers of the prominent African-American composers William Grant Still (6:2, 1992) and R. Nathaniel Dett (5:2, 1991). The Dett Reader compiles 20 essays written between 1918 and 1938, documenting his research into the origins and history of spirituals. The Still Reader features 35 essays spanning 40 years discussing his views on classical music, race, and the role of the composer in the 20th century. These issues represent the most comprehensive collections of primary documents by these men.
Black Sacred Music provided a trove of innovative research and significant historical documents that cannot be found anywhere else. Today, scholars on four continents are involved in producing an array of theomusicology-focused books, articles, dissertations, theses, papers, lectures, blogs, and courses.
Notable contributors include Philip V. Bohlman, Michael Eric Dyson, Andrew Greeley, Mark Sumner Harvey, Willie James Jennings, D. Soyini Madison, Sonja Peterson-Lewis, Harold Dean Trulear, William C. Turner Jr., Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, Cornel West, and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
All journal articles and issues in these syllabi are freely available online until September 30, 2020. And you can save 40% on featured books and journal issues through the end of 2019 using coupon code SYLLABI at dukeupress.edu.
Our team at the Press sees scholarship as a powerful basis for understanding our current sociopolitical climate and working toward a brighter future. We encourage you to read and share the content we’ve selected, and we hope you find it valuable in preparing courses.
We’re excited to welcome History of the Present to our journals publishing program starting with its tenth-anniversary issue this spring. Joan Wallach Scott and Brian Connolly, two of the journal’s editors, sat down with us to discuss the journal’s resistance to mainstream standards, the kind of scholarship that the journal makes space for, and why joining Duke University Press feels like coming home.
would you describe History of the Present to someone who’s new to the
Brian: I think it’s for people
who are interested and engaged in critical theory in the broadest sense, who
are also interested primarily in historical problems—how to address critically
theorized historical problems across multiple disciplines.
Joan: It’s for people who tend,
in whatever discipline they are part of, to use history to think the
interpretive and theoretical questions that they have. It’s not at all a
journal confined to historians.
founding editors, what need did you see for History of the Present to
exist? What gaps does it fill?
Joan: We felt that the standard
history journals had requirements for what counted as a serious scholarly
article that we were very much in resistance to and critical of. As a group, we
shared an impatience with a certain kind of orthodoxy, both methodological and
presentational—how articles had to look and conform to some standard. We wanted
to provide the space for people who are doing critical work—not only in history—to
publish and not have to conform to the orthodox standards of mainstream
Brian: There was a sense in the historical discipline that it had its moment with post-structuralism and psychoanalysis in the 1990s and that “history” had moved past that. Most of us involved in founding the journal were working with some kind of theory, and we found that others—those who were doing the same kind of historical work we were interested in whether as historians or in other fields—had the same complaints. We wanted the journal to offer an interdisciplinary space for people working with theory, and while post-structuralism was one of our theories, it wasn’t the only one.
Joan: We were sick and tired of
the notion that theory was over, and we wanted to say, no, theory is not over!
It’s critical to the work that we do, and that a lot of people in other
disciplines do as well. We wanted to have a place where that could be okay,
where that could be demonstrated. We also wanted to give an opportunity for
publication to younger scholars doing theoretically-informed work because their
work was being turned down by some of the mainstream journals. It really was a
kind of rebellion.
Brian: Particularly in literary
studies, things like postcritique and surface reading have emerged to say that
critique had its place and we’re trying to find a space after it. As a journal,
we push against that, but we also say that these concerns with critique don’t
look the same in history or anthropology or political theory as they do in
literary criticism. So it reinvigorates the questions around critique.
are you looking for right now in submissions?
Joan:We’re looking for
articles that demonstrate the importance of theoretical thinking for the
empirical work that’s being examined. We’re not anti-empirical at all. The
point is to see how somebody’s theoretical perspective, whether it’s Marxist or
Foucaldian or Derridian or psychoanalytic, is informing the kind of reading
that they do. The articles that get us most excited are the ones where you can
see that operating within the article. The ones least interesting to us are
those that are entirely descriptive: describing a body of material without any
new insight into what it could mean or how you could read or understand it.
Brian: We’re also looking for
articles that think about the relationship between the past and present as
something like a problem—rather than saying “if we just understood the past
this way, then we would understand the present better,” saying that the
relationship between past and present is problematic and complicated and
political and ethical.
special issues are planned for the journal?
Brian: There are two issues in the works that are related to each other, although they weren’t planned that way. One special issue will think about the way that what are called the new histories of capitalism, which emerged more or less around the recession of 2008, called for a rewriting of the history of capitalism. Some of that work doesn’t seem so new, so we hope the issue will look at some of the ways of thinking about the history of capitalism that get pushed to the side.
Joan: It would be a critical
look at what’s taken to be the new history of capitalism.
Brian: The other special issue is
on reproduction and racial capitalism—histories of racial capitalism and how
reproduction gets articulated in those spaces. And we have more ideas for
future issues, like psychoanalysis and history, which wouldn’t just be five or
six articles that theorize psychoanalytic history but would rather show what a
psychoanalytically informed history would look like.
that’s where we distinguish ourselves, on the one hand from historians who are
concerned only with empirical evidence, and on the other hand from pure theory.
We don’t necessarily discourage pure theory essays, but we’re not a philosophy
of history journal. We look for balance between theory and history.
DUP: History of the Present has a team of seven editors, rather than just one or two. Can you talk about this decision and how it benefits the journal?
Joan: We didn’t ever want to
have a journal with one editor and an editorial board. A group of us came
together to talk about founding a journal, and it never seemed like it would be
anything else but the group of us doing it. It means that you get a lot of good
input right away. When an article is submitted to the journal, before it’s sent
out for readers, at least three of us read and respond to it.
You get a
collective take on an article with different sorts of responses, and that makes
a huge difference. The fact that we come at it from slightly different
perspectives, we each have different personal tastes as well as scholarly
commitments and interests, means that an article gets a better reading than it
might from a single editor or managing editor who is saying “this is for us;
this is not for us.”
Brian: It also allows us to work
with authors more. If an article has a kernel of something great in it, we have
seven people to split the labor to help the author develop that. We’re able to
develop relationships that one editor just wouldn’t have time for.
Joan: We have a reputation now
as a journal that makes good articles better through this kind of editorial
there anything else you’d like to add?
Joan: Coming to Duke University
Press is very important to us in our tenth year. In our first year, we won Best
New Journal from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, so it isn’t that
we’ve lacked visibility, or that we haven’t increasingly seen submission of
articles that are the kind we’d like to publish. We do see more and more people
who get what we’re about and who want to be published in the journal—one author
said their dream was to publish in History of the Present!
coming to Duke puts us in the company of other journals that we feel very much
akin to, like Social Text and Public Culture and differences.
differences was our inspiration—Elizabeth Weed, one of the editors, said
we should have a journal to make space for the kind of critical historical work
we’re interested in doing. She and Denise Davis, the managing editor, gave us
enormously useful advice at the beginning. None of us had ever done a journal
Duke brings us into a family that feels more like who we are—a family of
like-minded, critically engaged journals. That’s been tremendously exciting for
us as we enter our second decade.
Brian: Despite the name History
of the Present, we are just as interested in the past as in the present. In
fact, we’re interested in all chronological periods, and we’re also looking to
expand the geographical reach of the journal, to encourage submissions from
people working in places like sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the
Joan: Every once in a while, we
have an article that is immediately relevant to contemporary events—for
example, an upcoming article in our first issue with Duke is about Saudi Arabia
and the war in Yemen. We also have an article about sanctuary, which although
it starts in ancient Greece, is about sanctuary as a political concept. Moving
to Duke, we’re excited for the chance to make some of these immediately topical
articles freely available for a limited period—articles that look at
contemporary issues, but with a question about how they got to be what they are
now and with the assumption that the way they were in the past was different.
Examining both the liberatory potential of sanctuary and its limits, the contributors argue for intersectional strategies of resistance that connect the struggles of disparate groups against repressive and violent power.
Wen-Hua Kuo is editor in chief of East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal (EASTS) and Professor at the Institute of Science, Technology and Society and the Institute of Public Health at National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan. We sat down with him to discuss the history of EASTS, what sets the journal apart, and where EASTS is heading from here.
How did you come to be involved with EASTS?
I’ve been involved with the journal since its inception. When EASTS was in its preparation, I was in the United States; I earned my degree in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) at MIT. When I finished my degree, I started participating in activities like attending the annual meetings of 4S, the Society for Social Studies of Science—the first time I attended was in 2006. This was about the same time that scholars in Taiwan were trying to become more international in their approach to the history and philosophy of science. We had published an English journal on the history and philosophy of science (an STS-related field in the East Asian context) with a local publisher, but it didn’t work out. This time, we had the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan, which recognized science studies as an emerging topic and had the mission of promoting our work to a wider readership. I feel very lucky to have joined the journal at the very beginning—at that time, although we had several scholars working in STS, I was one of only a handful with a degree in the field.
What qualities set EASTS apart from other journals in the field?
First, there are several journals published in Asia, but even some journals with longer histories than us still have some trouble with English. Although we’re not native English speakers, we’re very careful about that. We feel like for new topics like STS, you need to speak the same language so that it’s readable for scholars and for a common understanding of theoretical terms. You need some common ground to start with.
On another front, we treasure local communities: this was the most important feature in mind when we started EASTS. We’re not just a channel between Taiwan and the rest of the world; we want to see interactions among Asian societies. We intentionally set up an editorial structure to reflect that at the beginning, and we keep that tradition in mind while reviewing or soliciting papers or opening up special issues.
Can you talk about EASTS’s rich archive of special issues?
Over the years, we’ve created many special issues—probably ⅔ of our issues are thematic. This is one of the ways we recognize local traditions. The cover of our issue “Life, Science, and Power in History and Philosophy” (13.1) features a bust that’s instantly recognizable to people from Japan, especially those involved in the history of medicine, and it tells a story.
A good thing about special issues is that you can have local scholars control the quality of the issue and invite or encourage local contributors. The journal’s structure sets some basic limitations and provides a form that scholars can build on with their own creative, innovative sense. In that sense, Duke University Press did a great job working with us on that because we have a structure for our scholarship.
What are you looking for in submissions now?
Our main source is international meetings, like 4S. We also attend regional conferences or conferences on Asian studies. This is very competitive work; at every conference, people compete for visibility. One phenomenon we’ve observed is that there are more and more STS or science panels at Asian studies conferences. That’s very different from what we had 10 years ago when I was a graduate student—in Asian studies, the dominant topics were culture, language, religion.
We also now have some local STS societies in East Asia: Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, and we’ve seen sizable submissions from some of these areas. And we value using the lens of STS to explore understudied areas such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and even Cambodia and India. That’s something we didn’t expect in the beginning, but we’re interested in providing good scholarship on these areas.
How would you like to shape the journal’s direction going forward?
We want to return to something universal, which is a bit of a conceptual change. Historically, we’ve emphasized the regional: providing scholarship on areas that are overlooked, understudied, marginalized, or even distorted by mainstream narratives. Now, though, it’s time for us to consider region as a lens for looking at the world. Some people assume that Asia is like Mars or the moon, separated from the rest of the world—but instead, through empirical studies or case studies on Asia, you can see the world in a different way.
We want to change the world through Asia. We want to pay more attention to connections, behaviors, common interests, collaborations, rather than just focusing on the differences between regions. That’s how we can creatively deal with global issues.