Cultural Studies

Readings for World Refugee Day

The United Nations World Refugee Day, marked every year on June 20, commemorates the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees. With thousands of families displaced around the world and with the current humanitarian crisis at the US border, it seems especially crucial to understand what is behind these issues. We’ve compiled recent scholarship from our journals and books on the refugee crisis and migration studies. 

ddsaq_117_2_coverThe most recent issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, “Rethinking Migration and Autonomy from within the ‘Crises’,” edited by Martina Tazzioli, Glenda Garelli, and Nicholas De Genova, focuses on the “autonomy of migration” in light of the economic crisis. It brings together the most cutting-edge approaches to migration, such as migration and logistics, with reappraisals of categories of political theory, such as “autonomy” and migrant “subjectivity.” Read the introduction to the issue, “Autonomy of Asylum?: The Autonomy of Migration Undoing the Refugee Crisis Script,” made freely available.

978-0-8223-6916-5Nicholas De Genova is also editor of the recent book The Borders of “Europe”, which features Martina Tazzioli and Glenda Garelli as contributors, as well as Stephan Scheel, who is a contributor to the SAQ issue. Addressing the new technologies and technical forms European states use to curb, control, and constrain the autonomy of migration, the contributors show how the continent’s amorphous borders present a premier site for the enactment and disputation of the very idea of Europe. Attending to migrant and refugee supporters as well as those who stoke nativist fears, this timely volume demonstrates how the enforcement of Europe’s borders is an important element of the worldwide regulation of human mobility.

Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, contributors to “Rethinking Migration and Autonomy from within the ‘Crises,'” are also authors of Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor, which charts the proliferation of borders generated by contemporary globalization, investigating their implications for migratory movements, capitalist transformations, and political life. Fellow contributor Verónica Gago is author of the new book Neoliberalism from Below, which examines how Latin American neoliberalism is propelled not just from above by international finance, corporations, and government, but also by the activities of migrant workers, vendors, sweatshop workers, and other marginalized groups.

R2R final logoOur Migration Studies reading list, part of our “Read to Respond” series, encourages thoughtful, educated debate on this pressing issue. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

“Queer about Comics”: A Selected Reading List

Today we’re featuring a selected reading list on the intersection of queer studies and comics studies compiled by Ramzi Fawaz, co-editor (with Darieck Scott) of “Queer about Comics,” a special issue of American Literature (volume 90, issue 2), now available.

ddaml_90_2_coverQueer about Comics” explores the intersection of queer theory and comics studies. The contributors provide new theories of how comics represent and reconceptualize queer sexuality, desire, intimacy, and eroticism, while also investigating how the comic strip, as a hand-drawn form, queers literary production and demands innovative methods of analysis from the fields of literary, visual, and cultural studies.

Contributors examine the relationships among reader, creator, and community across a range of comics production, including mainstream superhero comics, independent LGBTQ comics, and avant-garde and experimental feminist narratives. They also address queer forms of identification elicited by the classic X-Men character Rogue, the lesbian grassroots publishing networks that helped shape Alison Bechdel’s oeuvre, and the production of black queer fantasy in the Black Panther comic book series, among other topics.

To learn more about the issue, browse the table-of-contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

Additionally, these three articles have been made freely available for a short time, until December 15, 2018:


“Queer about Comics”: A Selected Reading List

Comics and Graphic Narratives

Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele. Queer: A Graphic History. London: Icon Books, 2016.

Alison Bechdel. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Alison Bechdel. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. New York: Mariner Book, 2007.

Jennifer Camper, ed. Juicy Mother Volume 1: Celebration. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2005.

Jennifer Camper. Rude Girls and Dangerous Women. New York: Laugh Line Press, 1994.

Charles Zan Christensen, ed. Anything That Loves: Comics beyond “Gay” and “Straight”. Seattle: Northwest Press, 2013.

Jaime Cortez. Sexile: A Graphic Novel Biography of Adela Vazquez. New York: Institute for Gay Men’s Health, 2004.

Howard Crus. Stuck Rubber Baby. New York: DC Comics, 2000.

Blue Delliquanti. Oh Human Star. Vol. 1. Self-published, 2017.

Diane Dimassa. The Complete Hothead Paisan: Homocidal Lesbian Terrorist. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 1999.

Dylan Edwards. Transposes. Seattle: Northwest Press, 2012.

Edie Fake. Gaylord Phoenix. Los Angeles: Secret Acres, 2010.

Gay Comix (September 1980–July 1988). Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press.

Kieron Gillon (writer) and Jamie McKelvie (artist). Young Avengers Omnibus. New York: Marvel, 2014.

Sina Grace (writer) and Alessandro Vitti (artist). Iceman Volume 1: Thawing Out and Iceman Volume 2: Absolute Zero. New York: Marvel Comics, 2018.

Justin Hall, ed. No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2013.

Nagata Kabi. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. Los Angeles: Seven Seas, 2017.

Robert Kirby. Curbside Boys: The New York Years. New York: Cleis Press, 2002.

Ed Luce. Wuvable Oaf. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2015.

Jon Macy. Teleny and Camille. Seattle: Northwest Press, 2010.

Cristy C. Roads. Spit and Passion. New York: Feminist Press at CUNY, 2012.

Tommy Roddy, Carl Hippensteel, et al. Pride High. Seattle: Northwest Press, 2017.

Ariel Schrag, Potential: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag. New York: Touchstone, 2008.

A. K. Summers. Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2014.

Gengoroh Tagame. My Brother’s Husband. Vol. 1. Translated by Anne Ishii. New York: Pantheon, 2017.

Shimura Takako. Wandering Son: Book 1. Translated by Matt Thorn. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2011.

Mariko Tamaki (writer) and Jillian Tamaki (artist). Skim. San Diego: Groundwork Books, 2010.

Tom of Finland. Tom of Finland: The Complete Kake Comics. Cologne, Germany: Taschen, 2014.

David Wojnarowicz (writer), James Romberger (artist), and Marguerite Van Cook (artist). Seven Miles a Second. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2013.

Scholarship

Michelle Ann Abate, Karly Marie Grice, and Christine N. Stamper, eds. “Lesbians and Comics” (special issue). Journal of Lesbian Studies 22.4 (2018).

Noah Berlatsky. Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peters Comics, 1941–1948. New York: Rutgers University Press, 2015.

Hillary Chute. “Why Queer?” in Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere. New York: Harper, 2017.

Brian Cremins. “Bodies, Transfigurations, and Bloodlust in Edie Fake’s Graphic Novel Gaylord Phoenix.” Journal of Medical Humanities, 34.2 (June 2013).

Ramzi Fawaz. The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics. New York: New York University Press, 2016.

Ramzi Fawaz. “Stripped to the Bone: Sequencing Queerness in the Comic Strip Work of Joe Brainard and David Wojnarowicz.” ASAP/Journal 2.2 (May 2017).

Margaret Galvan. “Making Space: Jennifer Camper, LGBTQ Anthologies, and Queer Comics Communities.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 22.4 (2017).

Andréa Gilroy. “The Epistemology of the Phone Booth: The Superheroic Identity and Queer Theory in Batwoman: Elegy.” ImageTexT 8.1 (2015).

Gayatri Gopinath. “Chitra Ganesh’s Queer Re-Visions.” GLQ 15.3 (2009).

Justin Hall. “Erotic Comics.” In The Routledge Companion to Comics, ed. Frank Bramlett, Roy T. Cook, and Aaron Meskin. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Michael Harrison. “The Queer Spaces and Fluid Bodies of Nazario’s Anarcoma.” Postmodern Culture 19.3 (2009).

Yetta Howard. “Politically Incorrect, Visually Incorrect: Bitchy Butch’s Unapologetic Discrepancies in Lesbian Identity and Comic Art.” Journal of Popular Culture 45.1 (February 2012).

Ashley Manchester. “Teaching Critical Looking: Pedagogical Approaches to Using Comics as Queer Theory.” SANE journal: Sequential Art Narrative in Education 2.2 (2017).

Michael Moon. Darger’s Resources. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

Paul Petrovic. “Queer Resistance, Gender Performance, and ‘Coming Out’ of the Panel Borders in Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III’s Batwoman: Elegy.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 2.1 (2011).

Jonathan Risner. “‘Authentic’ Latino/as and Queer Characters in Mainstream and Alternative Comics.” In Multicultural Comics: From Zap to Blue Beetle, edited by Frederick Luis Aldama. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

Darieck Scott. “Big Black Beauty: Drawing and Naming the Black Male Figure in Superhero and Gay Porn Comics.” In Porn Archives, edited by Tim Dean, Steven Ruszczycky, and David Squires. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

Darieck Scott and Ramzi Fawaz, eds. “Queer about Comics” (special issue). American Literature 90.2 (June 2018).

Sina Shamsavari. “Gay Ghetto Comics and the Alternative Gay Comics of Robert Kirby.” Queer Studies in Media and Popular Culture 2.1 (March 2017).

Patrick Walter. “A Post-Colony in Pieces: Black Faces, White Masks, and Queer Potentials in Unknown Solider.” In The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art, edited by Frances Gateward and John Jennings. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015.

Andrea Wood. ‘“Straight’ Women, Queer Texts: Boy-Love Manga and the Rise of a Global Counterpublic.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 34.1/2 (Spring–Summer 2006).

New Books in June

We wrap up our Spring 2018 season with some great books this month.

978-0-8223-7152-6.jpgFrom Andean antiquity and Spanish colonialism to the present, the latest addition to our Latin America Readers series, The Bolivia Reader provides a panoramic view of Bolivia’s history, culture, and politics through a wide ranging collection of sources, most of which appear here in English for the first time.

Derek P. McCormack’s Atmospheric Things analyzes artistic, political, and technological uses of the balloon to show how its properties and capacities are central to understanding how we sense, perceive, and modify meteorological and affective atmospheres as well as the force of the atmosphere in modern life.

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First appearing in 1964, and long since out of print, Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel’s landmark book The Popular Arts takes seriously the importance of studying popular culture, thereby opening up an almost unprecedented field of analysis of everything from film, pulp crime novels, and jazz to television and advertising. This edition also includes a new introduction by Richard Dyer, who contextualizes The Popular Arts within the history of cultural studies and outlines its impact and enduring legacy.

In What Does It Mean to Be Post-Soviet Madina Tlostanova traces how contemporary post-Soviet art mediates the post-Soviet human condition through analyses of art and through interviews with artists and writers, showing the important role that radical art plays in building new modes of thought and a decolonial future.

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Featuring 270 full color images, Victorian Jamaica, edited by Tim Barringer and Wayne Modest, explores the extraordinary archive of visual representation and material objects to provide a comprehensive and pluralistic account of Jamaican society during Queen Victoria’s reign, thereby expanding our understanding of the wider history of the British Empire and Atlantic world during this period.

In Posthumous Images Chad Elias analyzes a generation of artists working in Lebanon who interrogate Lebanon’s civil war (1975–1990), showing how their appropriation and creation of images challenge divisive political discourse, give a voice to those silenced and forgotten, and provide the means to reimagine Lebanon’s future.

 

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Now Available: First Issue of English Language Notes Published by Duke University Press

ELN_561-cov_early_for-JmktWe are pleased to announce that the first issue of English Language Notes published by Duke University Press, volume 56, issue 1, “Critical and Comparative Mysticisms,” is now available.

A respected forum of criticism and scholarship in literary and cultural studies since 1962, English Language Notes (ELN) is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of scholarship in literature and related fields in new directions. Broadening its reach geographically and transhistorically, ELN opens new lines of inquiry and widens emerging fields. Each ELN issue advances topics of current scholarly concern, providing theoretical speculation as well as ptractical interdisciplinary recalibrations. Offering semiannual, topically themed issues, ELN also includes “Of Note,” an ongoing section featuring related topics, review essays or roundtables of cutting-edge scholarship, and emergent concerns. ELN is a wide-ranging journal that combines theoretical rigor with innovative interdisciplinary collaboration.

“Critical and Comparative Mysticisms” contains essays on mysticisms through a critical lens. This rarely, if ever, articulated vision of mysticisms juxtaposes them with other disciplinary and epistemological avenues of critical thought, such as historical, political, and literary studies. Mystical traditions, which often lie at the margins of institutionalized religions, tend to break down the boundaries that develop within religious contexts over time and offer syncretic alternatives to them. Mysticisms also offer alternative versions of knowledge seeking, being, and experience that contribute to a distinct and compelling branch of contemporary critical theory, intervening in current ideologically loaded discourses of religion and drawing on the vast archive of mystical thought, writing, and art from around the world in all periods. This special issue also contains a roundtable section with brief interventions concerning various angles of mysticism.

Read the introduction, made freely available, and browse the table of contents.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. In solidarity, we’d like to share some of our scholarship on gender identity and sexuality.

ddtsq_5_1_coverThe first issue from TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly‘s fifth volume is its first nonthemed, open-call issue, inviting a broad scope of scholarship in the field of trans studies. The issue features “Policy,” “Research Note,” and “Translation” sections, as well as a reproduction of an “action art object” collectively created by several trans artists and art scholars for distribution at the 2016 International Trans* Studies Conference in Tucson. The issue also includes several book reviews.

From the introduction by editors Paisley Currah and Susan Stryker:

“As a complement to whatever other actions we might take as individuals, we, as editors of this academic journal, hope the articles we are able to publish in this issue of TSQ can make their own contributions, in their own ways, to empowering trans lives, using knowledge and analysis to improve social conditions and contesting the violence being directed against us.”

Read the introduction to the issue now, made freely available.

ddglq_24_1_coverThe most recent issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies features a forum on the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. It offers a range of responses to the murders of forty-nine people—and the injuring of many more—that took place in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, at Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, Florida. While acts of violence—everyday and spectacular—have long histories in queer and trans communities (threatening trans and queer people of color with double, triple, quadruple forms of jeopardy), one guiding question for this collection of contributions revolves around what is at stake in responding to and unpacking violent and publicly mediated events after the fact, after the events have faded from public consciousness. Read the special forum, “GLQ Forum/Aftereffects: The Pulse Nightclub Shootings,” made freely available.

Look for these upcoming issues

ddaml_90_2_coverAmerican Literature‘s “Queer about Comics,” edited by Dariek Scott and Ramzi Fawaz, explores the intersection of queer theory and comics studies. The contributors provide new theories of how comics represent and re-conceptualize queer sexuality, desire, intimacy, and eroticism, while also investigating how the comic strip, as a hand-drawn form, queers literary production and demands innovative methods of analysis from the fields of literary, visual, and cultural studies.

Contributors examine the relationships among reader, creator, and community across a range of comics production, including mainstream superhero comics, independent LGBTQ comics, and avant-garde and experimental feminist narratives. They also address queer forms of identification elicited by the classic X-Men character Rogue, the lesbian grassroots publishing networks that helped shape Alison Bechdel’s oeuvre, and the production of black queer fantasy in the Black Panther comic book series, among other topics.

GLQ-Clit Club 2“The Queer Commons,” a special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies edited by explore how contemporary queer energies have been directed toward commons-forming initiatives from activist provision of social services to the maintenance of networks around queer art, protest, public sex, and bar cultures that sustain queer lives otherwise marginalized by heteronormative society and mainstream LGBTQ politics. This issue forges a connection between the common and the queer, asking how the category “queer” might open up a discourse that has emerged as one of the most important challenges to contemporary neoliberalization at both the theoretical and practical level.

Contributors look to radical networks of care, sex, and activism present within diverse queer communities including HIV/AIDS organizing, the Wages for Housework movement, New York’s Clit Club community, and trans/queer collectives in San Francisco. The issue also includes a dossier of shorter contributions that offer speculative provocations about the radicalism of queer commonality across time and space, from Gezi Park uprisings in Turkey to future visions of collectivity outside of the internet.

 

 

 

Recent Scholarship on Trans* Surgery

TSQ_5_2_coverThe Surgery Issue,” a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly edited by Eric Plemons and Chris Straayer, explores the vital and contested place of surgical intervention in the making of trans* bodies, theories, and practices. This issue engages “the surgical” in its many forms. Contributors contemplate a wide scope: physical, technical, and social aspects of the body; trans* and transition-related surgeries broadly construed; local and international endeavors; the conceptual, the theoretical, and the practical; the historical and the speculative.

Trans* surgery has been an object of fantasy, derision, refusal, and triumph. For decades after its establishment in the 1950s, clinicians considered a desire for reconstructive genital surgery to be the linchpin of the transsexual diagnosis. Drawing on earlier legacies of sexology and plastic surgery and the emerging specialties of endocrinology and surgical transplant, early emphasis on genital surgery determined clinical legibility, shaped forms of identification, produced institutional capacities, and became the object of criticism by those for whom a desire for body alterations indicated profound pathologies on the parts of patients and their willing surgeons. Subsequent contestations of the medico-surgical framework troubled the place of surgical intervention and helped mark the emergence of “transgender” as an alternative, more inclusive term for gender nonconforming subjects who were sometimes less concerned with surgical intervention.

Beginning in the 1990s, new histories of trans* clinical practice challenged the institutional claim that transsexuals were uniform in their desire for genital surgery, and trans* authors began to advocate relationships to their surgically altered bodies as sites of power rather than capitulation. Still others refused a focus on surgery-centric conceptualizations of trans* on the grounds that it obscures the conditions of how and for whom surgery is available, values Euro-American histories of transsexualism, and obfuscates the reality that trans* subjectivity might be as much about justice and rights as it is about physical transition.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Eric Plemons, coeditor of “The Surgery Issue,” is also author of the recent book The Look of a Woman: Facial Feminization Surgery and the Aims of Trans- Medicine. Developed in the 1980s, facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a set of reconstructive surgical procedures intended to feminize the faces of trans- women. Plemons foregrounds the narratives of FFS patients and their surgeons, showing how the increasing popularity of FFS represents a shift away from genital-based conceptions of trans- selfhood. He demonstrates how FFS is changing the project of surgical sex reassignment by reconfiguring the kind of sex that surgery aims to change.

New Books in May

The semester is ending, graduates are heading off to bright futures, and we are bringing out more great scholarly books. Check out the titles we have coming out in May.

In Althusser, The Infinite Farewell Emilio de Ípola proposes an original reading of Althusser in which he shows how Althusser’s oeuvre is divided between two different projects: that of his canonical works, and a second subterranean current of thought that runs throughout his entire oeuvre and which only gained explicit expression in his later work.

978-0-8223-7079-6.jpgIn Cow in The Elevator Tulasi Srinivas uses the concept of wonder—feelings of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime—to examine how residents of Banglore, India pursue wonder by practicing Hindu religious rituals as a way to accept and resist neoliberal capitalism.

In Fugitive Life Stephen Dillon examines the literary and artistic work of feminist, queer antiracist activists who were imprisoned or became fugitives in the United States during the 1970s, showing how they were among the first to theorize and make visible the co-constitutive symbiotic relationship between neoliberalism and racialized mass-incarceration.

978-0-8223-7130-4.jpgSusan Murray’s Bright Signals traces four decades of technological, cultural, and aesthetic debates about the possibility, use, and meaning of color television within the broader history of twentieth-century visual culture.

In Colonial Lives of Property Brenna Bhandar examines how the emergence of modern property law contributed to the formation of racial subjects in settler colonies, showing how the colonial appropriation of indigenous lands depends upon ideologies of European racial superiority as well as legal narratives that equated civilized life with English concepts of property.

Lyndon K. Gill’s Erotic Islands foregrounds a queer presence in foundational elements of Trinidad and Tobago’s national imaginary—Carnival masquerade design, Calypso musicianship, and queer HIV/AIDS activism—to show how same-sex desire provides the means for the nation’s queer population to develop survival and community building strategies.

978-0-8223-7087-1.jpgIn Ontological Terror Calvin L. Warren intervenes in Afro-pessimism, Heideggerian metaphysics, and black humanist philosophy, illustrating how blacks embody a metaphysical nothing while showing how this nothingness destabilizes whiteness, makes blacks a target of violence, and explains why humanism has failed to achieve equality for blacks.

In Empire of Neglect Christopher Taylor shows why nineteenth-century British West Indian letters were remarkably un-British by exploring how West Indians reoriented their affective, cultural, and political worlds toward the Americas in response to the liberalization of the British Empire and the resulting imperial neglect.

A sensitive ethnography of psychotherapy in Putin’s Russia, Shock Therapy by Tomas Matza offers profound insights into how the Soviet collapse not only reshaped Russia’s political system but also everyday understandings of self and other.

Drawing on over 300 prosecutions of sex acts in colonial New Spain between 1530 and 1821, in Sins against Nature Zeb Tortorici shows how courts used the concept “against nature” to try those accused of sodomy, bestiality, and other sex acts, thereby demonstrating how the archive influences understandings of bodies, desires, and social categories.

978-0-8223-7109-0.jpgIn On Decoloniality,Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh introduce the concept of decoloniality by providing a theoretical overview and discussing concrete examples of decolonial projects in action. The book launches a new series of the same name.

The contributors to Territories and Trajectories, edited by Diana Sorensen, propose a model of cultural production and transmission based on the global diffusion, circulation, and exchange of people, things, and ideas across time and space.

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

Q&A with Magdalena J. Zaborowska, Author of Me and My House

Zabrowska2Magdalena J. Zaborowska is Professor of Afroamerican and American Studies and the John Rich Faculty Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, and the author and coeditor of several books, including James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile, also published by Duke University Press, and How We Found America: Reading Gender through East European Immigrant Narratives.
Her latest book, Me and My House: James Baldwin’s Last Decade in France, uses James Baldwin’s house in the south of France as a lens through which to reconstruct his biography and to explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity in his complex and underappreciated later works.

What initially drew you to James Baldwin’s house in the South of France? What was it like the first time you visited?

Me and My HouseI first visited that house, known locally as “Chez Baldwin,” in the Provençal village of St. Paul-de-Vence in June 2000. I was fascinated with the writer’s international peregrinations and admired his cosmopolitan, decades-ahead-of-our-time approach to how one’s composite self, inflected by race, gender, sexuality, and class, was key to understanding one’s national identity within and without one’s home country. I also wanted to get a sense of the domestic environment in which he wrote his later works, and where he thrived as a black queer American artist, who was reviled both by US black nationalists and white liberals at the time.

Like most readers, I had first read the best known early Baldwiniana of 1953-63, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, and The Fire Next Time. The works written at Chez Baldwin, during 1971-87, were another matter. They revealed an author transformed, testing new ideas and approaches to identity, trying his hand at new forms. I wanted to look for material and tangible reasons for that transformation. I was teaching in Denmark until 2000, and thanks to Aarhus University’s support made my trip to Provençe, where I first encountered Baldwin’s most enduring home. Another draw was my interest in the interpenetration of literary and literal social spaces, or how material environments become metaphoric representations by means of evocative language and imagery on the pages of books. Perhaps, because I was an immigrant, I was curious as well about how the writer lived his life in French and in such a remote location, especially given his earlier fondness for metropolitan locations like Istanbul, New York, London or Paris. In the early 1970’s, when Baldwin moved there, St. Paul-de-Vence was a sleepy, slow-paced Provençal village, rather than the densely commercialized tourist destination it is today.

My first visit to the house and surrounding gardens in June of 2000 was a revelation on several levels. First, because of how unlike the place that Baldwin had come from it was, and second, because it made him into a homeowner and someone who lived, so to speak, on and off the land. Third, as he explains it in the little-known Architectural Digest piece on his house published just a few months before his death in 1987, as he grew older and frailer, he loved the light, peace, and quiet that filled the old structure. He had first rented rooms, and then bought, piece by piece as money from his books came in, the property from an eccentric old lady. In his last interview, literally on his deathbed, he explains that the place had led him to discover and embrace a rather mythic “peasant” mindset that he traced back to his parents, who migrated to New York from Maryland and Louisiana. He loved the ancient olive, orange, and almond trees, and enjoyed flowers and herbs that enveloped the house in a lush embrace. He was beloved by the town, and wished to be buried there after his death, which we know did not happen. The more I looked, the more I found and realized, too, that Chez Baldwin had to be a character of sorts in the book along with the writer.

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The patio in front of Baldwin’s study, with his writing/reading table. Photo by Magdalena J. Zaborowska, 2000.

How did seeing the space where Baldwin lived and worked change your own perceptions of him and how did it inspire your research?

At first, I was overawed at being inside the parts of the house that were not rented out at the time (the most important space, Baldwin’s study and quarters downstairs, and in the back, were off limits, alas). Imagine, sitting on the living room couch where Baldwin once sat, or at the so-called Welcome Table in the gardens, while wearing one of his straw hats (which actually did happen, courtesy of Jill Hutchinson, who took care of the house and invited me in to see it). When I went through the interiors, I was shocked that no one wanted to salvage the material riches it still contained—books, journals, furniture, and artwork—that witnessed Baldwin’s daily life, and must have provided inspiration and tactile framework for his daily labor of writing. It struck me, too, that Baldwin must have had lots of work-related clutter, like so many of us, that he liked mantelpiece decorations arranged in symbolic manners, that he was playful; I was told of his favorite records and pillows; I looked through the possessions he left behind.

The house helped me appreciate how his acts of dwelling were inextricably intertwined with acts of literary creativity, how the rooms and gardens provided a stage on which he placed his characters (The Welcome Table) or how architectural elements of the interior and its decor appeared on the pages of his novels (Just Above My Head), not to mention his local friends’ influence on all of his works that he would read to and discuss with them regularly. The house embodied and exuded but also enabled and nurtured his fascinating, complex personality. The late Baldwin insisted on his uniqueness precisely because his blackness and queerness, his effeminate, “sissy” mannerisms made him an outcast in his home country and elsewhere. That house was a domestic and authorial haven where he could be fully himself.

I was also astonished while at Chez Baldwin that there were no sites in the United States where I could glimpse his domestic legacy; that school kids could not access the private life of one of the greatest twentieth-century American writers. On the other hand, that fact was not at all surprising, for until recently, the matter of African diasporic artistic legacies has not been preserved, cherished, and memorialized. Quite the opposite, material remnants of black lives have been systematically erased, demolished, and ignored.

My immigrant origins and early work on immigrant women writers provided another inspiration. Years before I arrived in St.Paul-de-Vence, I had visited Maria Kuncewiczowa’s house, known as “Kuncewiczowka,” in the town of Kazimierz on the Vistula in Poland. In fact, I ended up spending a night there, and while on subsequent visits noticed how fast it was becoming a cultural epicenter for the region, drawing authors, visual artists, and actors. That nothing similar was happening with Baldwin’s legacy either in France or in the United States was painful to behold. That early experience, my first visit to Chez Baldwin in 2000, and then a conference in Istanbul a year later, led me to Baldwin’s story in Turkey. From there, where I first glimpsed the tremendous vitality of transient domestic spaces to Baldwin’s artistic vision, no matter how remote from his birthplace of Harlem, it only made sense to return to St. Paul-de-Vence and pick up where I had started something that made sense only a decade later.

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The welcome table and books in Baldwin’s “last room,” an upstairs living room that was transformed into his bedroom during the final few months of his life. Photo by Magdalena J. Zaborowska, 2000.

Baldwin’s works from this period (1971-1987) are underappreciated, both by readers and scholars, compared to his earlier works. Why do you think this is? What can readers and scholars learn about Baldwin from his later works?

These works are bold and complex, and much ahead of their time, as their largely superficial and negative reviews, or homophobic responses to them by the likes of Eldridge Cleaver in Soul on Ice (1968), demonstrate all too clearly. No Name in the Street (1972), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), The Devil Finds Work (1976), Just Above My Head (1979), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and the unpublished play The Welcome Table (1987) ushered in a new Baldwin, more complex and mature as an author, one who became disillusioned growing older as a black queer American, who had no choice but to live abroad to get his work done and to feel safe. The latter issue is often overlooked, especially by those who think it somehow uncool that, in his later life, the activist Baldwin, who came from dire poverty in Harlem, was a bourgie owner of a fancy property in France, where he entertained lavishly, and kept lovers and an entourage of hangers-on. This attitude may have something to do with the kind of politics of respectability on both sides of the proverbial US color line then. Along with the stifling, binary, hetero-patriarchal, misogynist, mainstream social norms that often masqueraded as patriotism, nationalism, or ethnocentrism, that attitude made him an outcast and rendered him, in a sense, homeless in the US. And Baldwin, of course, being who he was, wrote vehemently against all these oppressive politics in his later works.

I think that today we should be happy for his rags-to-riches story, and celebrate the fact that he had found a haven where he was cherished and nurtured and was able to write some of his most interesting works. As many of his letters to friends and family evidence, he was acutely aware that his portrayal of queer and interracial love and sex in Another Country and Just Above My Head not only angered but also threatened both black nationalists, who despised his sexuality and integrationist views, and the so-called white liberals, who objected to his candor concerning their complicity in national race relations and what they perceived as his “black anger.” These later works are daring both in terms of content and narrative structure, characterization, and imagery. They reveal a writer who wants to grow and experiment, and who is not afraid to test new waters. Baldwin considered his last novel his best, for example. I agree, for the more one reads Just Above My Head, the more its formal and thematic radicalism becomes clear and compelling (move over postmodernism…). Another matter is that reading late Baldwin requires work and intellectual willingness to be challenged, if not changed. You cannot encapsulate any of his ideas in 140 characters; you have to fight for who you can become thanks to his literary witnessing. That’s what great literature has always done, and that’s why we find his writings so relevant to our racially and politically troubled moment today.

You suggest that because of his gender and sexuality, not many scholars have written about the role of domesticity in Baldwin’s writing. How does a familiarity with Baldwin’s house in France help us understand more about the domestic themes (?) in his later works?

Queer domestic life, not to mention doubly-marginalized black queer or queer of color home-making, has been a taboo in US culture. As Baldwin writes in many of his essays, there are racial and sexual secrets and myths undergirding American cultural and social history that sharply cut across racial and class lines. He shows us how the official, traditional representations of how black and white Americans have envisaged domesticity since the mid-twentieth century have been superficial, small-minded, and provincial at best. Crafted to uphold the myth of the ideal national house, they may let us, for example, learn about Alice B. Toklas and Gertude Stein. But since these eccentric women lived as lesbians in Paris and not in Pittsburgh, we are supposed to chalk their lives up to having been inflected, if not tainted, by foreign, indeed, perverse “European” freakishness. Such expulsions of gender and sexual identity beyond the borders of the national house in the portrayals of cultural icons like Baldwin strip them of their complexity and adulterate their art. For example, even in the recently popular Raul Peck’s art film, “I Am Not Your Negro,” we encounter the so-called “Baldwin brand,” or the desexualized race man, rather than the intersectionality-promoting radical, who exploded binaries of identity, and by 1985-87 advocated for domesticating androgyny and black queer sex both in his works and on the pages of Playboy magazine. To those who would not accept him even today, and there are many, the radical better remain hidden at Chez Baldwin.

James Baldwin’s house in France was recently destroyed to make room for luxury condos. What do you think has been lost with that destruction?

The demolition of Chez Baldwin demonstrates yet again the power of capital over human need. The brutal erasure of that house strives to make our collective desire to connect with each other by means of affect and by preserving material places and remnants of lives that matter to us, that we love and want to keep tangible, insignificant. (Think of Rosa Parks’s house in Detroit, which was recently slated for demolition, and was saved only by having been moved to Berlin, where it now thrives as a popular museum.) It also means that there will be no brick-and-mortar museum for this writer, for there are no comparable sites in the US; the demolition makes France look bad, too, given that Baldwin was a recipient of its highest distinction, the Legion of Honor. Baldwin’s wish for his house was that it become a retreat for writers; there were plans and parties, and money, ready to implement his vision. That this did not happen demonstrates astonishing lack of imagination, as well as the sad reality of unequal valuation of legacies that still propels racialized politics of archiving, preservation, and memorialization. Among over seventy writers’ houses open to the public in the US today, there are only two devoted to African Americans. For all the sweat and blood its gestation and birth have taken, I am thrilled that some of Baldwin’s domesticity survives on the pages of my book.

What will happen to Baldwin’s “material archive”—all his belongings from the now-destroyed house? What can we learn from his day-to-day possessions? Is there a particular object that is most special to you?

Thanks to the aforementioned late David Baldwin’s partner, Jill Hutchinson, to whom he entrusted the care of the house he had inherited from James in 1987, most of the contents have been rescued from ending up in the trash when the property was lost. My own painstaking efforts to preserve the Chez Baldwin archive in digital form since 2000 have also opened a way for it to be considered for acquisition by a notable US institution. (I am unable to disclose the details at the moment.) I am returning to St. Paul-de-Vence next July to document a few more artifacts that were given by Baldwin to members of the Roux family; I am also in contact with a new entity there, Les Amis de la Maison-Baldwin, who has been fundraising to host exhibits and maintain a cultural center devoted to the writer.

My favorite artifact is the welcome table from Baldwin’s last room that Hutchinson has preserved at her own house, its surface imprinted with rings left by drinking glasses, scratches, and indentations marking various moments in Baldwin’s life that we will never know. Positively obsessed with making the only material remnants of Baldwin’s domesticity available to a wider audience, I am currently working on a companion project to Me and My House. It will yield a digital exhibit that will serve as a virtual writer’s house-museum for Baldwin in the absence of a brick-and-mortar one. I envisage it as open-access and showcasing the house and its grounds, as much as its contents. Down the road, it will be accompanied by an e-book and include other archival materials that I have amassed over the years; I am looking forward to involving graduate and undergraduate students and enlisting the wisdom of my University of Michigan colleagues in this project. I am currently mired in writing grant proposals and securing funding for it and for my upcoming research trip to Chez Baldwin. Grateful for being cheered on in these efforts by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and by my units at the University of Michigan, Institute for the Humanities, and the Departments of Afroamerican and African Studies and American Culture, I am also looking forward to writing more on Baldwin and collaborating again, I hope, with the marvelous folks at Duke University Press, who have helped me bring Me and My House into the worl

Head to our website where you can read the introduction to Me and My House for free. You can order Me and My House from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or save 30% when you order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E18ZABOR at checkout to save.

New in Surveillance Studies

Our list in security studies has been growing lately, with a particular emphasis on the study of government surveillance. Take a look at some of our newest scholarship in this essential field:

ddthe_48_1_coverMass surveillance has turned into one of the twenty-first century’s darkest, if most predictable, realities. The networks we depend on now seem far larger, more totalizing, and less private than previously imagined. “Spectatorship in an Age of Surveillance,” a special issue of Theater, explores the ways in surveillance—from governments’ mass spying to all-seeing networks—and the fields of theater and performance inform each other: What forms of surveillance have found their way into our lives online and off? How might theater and performance help us to see them?

Much of the issue takes Live Arts Bard’s 2017 performance biennial We’re Watching as a point of departure while other contents venture into poetry, visual art, and cinema. Among the performances featured in the issue, choreographer Will Rawls and poet Claudia Rankine contemplated blackness and (in)visibility in What Remains; Big Art Group staged the interplay of intimacy and impenetrability in Opacity using computer code and probability; and Alexandro Segade’s queer dystopic drama Future Street proposed a Blade Runner for the post-Snowden era. The issue gathers scripts and photographs from these productions alongside essays, interviews, and reviews that help us to understand surveillance, not only as an anonymous system of digital control but more incisively, as a human behavior enacted by the individual self. Read the introduction, made freely available.

978-0-8223-7081-9As Katherine Verdery observes, “There’s nothing like reading your secret police file to make you wonder who you really are.” In 1973 Verdery, an anthropologist, began her doctoral fieldwork in communist Romania. She returned several times over the next twenty-five years, during which time the secret police compiled a 2,781-page surveillance file on her. Part memoir, part detective story, part anthropological analysis, My Life as a Spy offers a personal account of how government surveillance worked during the Cold War and how Verdery experienced living under it.

From the first vistas provided by flight in balloons in the eighteenth century to the most recent sensing operations performed by military drones, the history of aerial imagery has marked the transformation of how people perceived their world, better understood their past, and imagined their future. In Aerial Aftermaths Caren Kaplan traces this cultural history, showing how aerial views operate as a form of world-making tied to the times and places of war.

978-0-8223-6973-8Life in the Age of Drone Warfare, a collection edited by Lisa Parks and Caren Kaplan, offers a new critical language through which to explore and assess the historical, juridical, geopolitical, and cultural dimensions of drone technology and warfare. Contributors show how drones generate particular ways of visualizing the spaces and targets of war while acting as tools to exercise state power.

Ten years on, Jasbir K. Puar’s pathbreaking Terrorist Assemblages remains one of the most influential queer theory texts and continues to reverberate across multiple political landscapes, activist projects, and scholarly pursuits. Puar argues that configurations of sexuality, race, gender, nation, class, and ethnicity are realigning in relation to contemporary forces of securitization, counterterrorism, and nationalism. The Tenth Anniversary Expanded Edition features a new foreword by Tavia Nyong’o and a postscript by Puar entitled “Homonationalism in Trump Times.”

978-0-8223-6898-4In Saving the Security State Inderpal Grewal traces the changing relations between the US state and its citizens in an era she calls advanced neoliberalism. Marked by the decline of US geopolitical power, endless war, and increasing surveillance, advanced neoliberalism militarizes everyday life while producing “exceptional citizens”—primarily white Christian men who reinforce the security state as they claim responsibility for protecting the country from racialized others.

During the Second World War, an FBI program called the Special Intelligence Service (SIS) assigned 700 agents to combat Nazi influence internationally. The mission, however, extended beyond countries with significant German populations or Nazi spy rings. In The FBI in Latin America, Marc Becker interrogates a trove of FBI documents from its Ecuador mission to uncover the history and purpose of the SIS’s intervention in Latin America and for the light they shed on leftist organizing efforts in Latin America.

Nationalism and Free Speech

The most recent issue of World Policy Journal, “Nationalism and Free Speech,” edited by Jessica Loudis, is now available.

m_ddwpj_35_1_coverIt’s rare right now to hear the terms “nationalism” and “free speech” outside the context of partisan politics, but these terms can provide entry points into how a country understands itself, and which legacies its citizens value—or conspicuously don’t. In this issue, contributors explore the mythologies that bind a nation and consider how societies around the world define themselves in terms of what citizens are—and aren’t—allowed to say and represent.

Topics include the novelist Yukio Mishima and the history of homosexuality in Japan, which has traditionally been accepted in practice, though not in law; the role of psychoanalysis in Argentina during and after its authoritarian regime; how Jamaica’s roots-reggae revival is a return to a tradition of musicians providing social commentary; and Britain’s New Age Traveler movement, a freewheeling 70s-era subculture whose impromptu festivals shaped the development of UK public-space laws.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, made freely available.