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.
If one of your resolutions for 2020 is to read more books, we’ve got you covered. Ring in the new year with these captivating new releases!
In Beneath the Surface, Lynn M. Thomas constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond, theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies.
Weaving U.S. history into the larger fabric of world history, the contributors to Crossing Empires de-exceptionalize the American empire, placing it in a global transimperial context as a way to grasp the power relations that shape imperial formations. This collection is edited by Kristin L. Hoganson and Jay Sexton.
Engaging contemporary photography by Sally Mann, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and others, Shawn Michelle Smith traces how historical moments come to be known photographically and the ways in which the past continues to inhabit, punctuate, and transform the present through the photographic medium in Photographic Returns.
Spanning the centuries between pre-contact indigenous Haiti to the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the selections in The Haiti Reader introduce readers to Haiti’s dynamic history and culture from the viewpoint of Haitians from all walks of life. This volume is edited by Laurent Dubois, Kaiama L. Glover, Nadève Ménard, Millery Polyné, and Chantalle F. Verna.
The contributors to Futureproof (edited by D. Asher Ghertner, Hudson McFann, and Daniel M. Goldstein) examine the affective and aesthetic dimensions of security infrastructures and technology with studies ranging from Jamaica and Jakarta to Colombia and the US-Mexico border.
Examining abjection in a range of visual and material culture, the contributors to Abjection Incorporated move beyond critiques of abjection as a punitive form of social death to theorizing how it has become a means to acquire political and cultural capital in the twenty-first century. This volume is edited by Maggie Hennefeld and Nicholas Sammond.
Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-Barriga argue that border wall construction along the U.S.–Mexico border manifests transformations in citizenship practices that are aimed not only at keeping migrants out but also enmeshing citizens into a wider politics of exclusion in Fencing in Democracy.
In Politics of Rightful Killing, Sima Shakhsari analyzes the growth of Weblogistan—the online and real-life transnational network of Iranian bloggers in the early 2000s—and the ways in which despite being an effective venue for Iranians to pursue their political agendas, it was the site for surveillance, cooptation, and self-governance.
In Invisibility by Design, Gabriella Lukács traces how young Japanese women’s unpaid labor as bloggers, net idols, “girly” photographers, online traders, and cell phone novelists was central to the development of Japan’s digital economy in the 1990s and 2000s.
Presented in the context of the nonprofit arts collective More Art’s fifteen-year history, and featuring first-person testimony, critical essays, and in-depth documentary materials, More Art in the Public Eye is an essential, experiential guide to the field of socially engaged public art and its increasing relevance. This volume is edited by Micaela Martegani, Jeff Kasper, and Emma Drew, and we are distributing it for More Art.
Shana L. Redmond traces Paul Robeson’s continuing cultural resonances in popular culture and politics in Everything Man, showing how he remains a vital force and presence for all those he inspired.
In The Complete Lives of Camp People, Rudolf Mrázek presents a sweeping study of the material and cultural lives of internees of two twentieth-century concentration camps and the multiple ways in which their experiences speak to and reveal the fundamental logics of modernity.
In Avian Reservoirs, Frédéric Keck traces how the anticipation of bird flu pandemics has changed relations between birds and humans in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, showing that humans’ reliance on birds is key to mitigating future pandemics.
Collecting texts from all corners of the world that span antiquity to the present, The Ocean Reader (edited by Eric Paul Roorda) charts humans’ relationship to the ocean, treating it as a dynamic site of history, culture, and politics.
The contributors to Blue Legalities attend to the seas as a legally and politically conflicted space to analyze the conflicts that emerge where systems of governance interact with complex geophysical, ecological, economic, biological, and technological processes. This collection is edited by Irus Braverman and Elizabeth R. Johnson.
Harry Harootunian is Max Palevsky Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Chicago; professor emeritus of East Asian studies at New York University; and the author of numerous books, most recently, Uneven Moments: Reflections on Japan’s Modern History. In this guest post, he discusses the challenges of uncovering the truth of his parents’ experiences in the Armenian genocide while writing his memoir The Unspoken as Heritage: The Armenian Genocide and Its Unnaccounted Livesand grapples with the multigenerational echoes of the event amidst a resurgence of political interest.
The recent resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the Turkish massacres of 1915-1916 as a full-fledged “genocide” resurfaces the historical plight of an ethnic group designated for extinction as a “reviled” race—one that was nearly eliminated over a century ago. Since that time, its survivors and their descendants have lived with the memories of murder and mutilation scarcely acknowledged by world opinion. The events exist only as a living presence that continues to guarantee social solidarity in the shadowed diaspora communities scattered throughout the globe. Because the event faded into the background noise of 20th century political history, sovereign states failed to grant it the status of genocide. Successive U.S. presidents have routinely rejected the resolution whenever it has appeared for a vote, apparently in fear of alienating America’s Turkish ally. Even Barack Obama caved in to Turkish sensitivities after promising in his presidential campaign that he would approve of the resolution if elected. Obama was already on record for criticizing the firing of a former ambassador to Armenia for having used what he—Obama—believed was the “proper” word of genocide for describing the massacres of 1915-16. But in his presidency he failed to promote the resolution and see it through its acceptance. Turkey’s membership in NATO is cited a primary reason for this continued campaign of disavowal in the postwar decades, and the initiative was constantly sidestepped because, as former president George W. Bush recently warned, supporting such a resolution would further complicate relations with the West Asia region (Middle East). Explanations for inaction towards resolution always comprised a paradoxical combination of appeals to American national interest and Turkish sensitivity. In the case of the latter, the insistence on coddling Turkish sensibilities when Turkey has continuously and confidently denied the existence of the event, while the former was apparently justified by the presence of American air bases in the region. With the current American president’s mysteriously slavish devotion to Turkey’s thuggish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan, business ties masquerading as a concern for national interest will undoubtedly lead to another veto.
The sudden resurfacing of the resolution and its recent genocidal recognition in the U.S. House raises the question of what circumstances prompted action after decades of indifferent rejection. Where did the political energy come from to exhume the long-ignored Armenian genocide and murder of 1,500,000 inhabitants of the empire? It occurred to me that The Unspoken As Heritage: The Armenian Genocide and Its Unaccounted Lives, my new memoir chronicling my parents’ escape from impending mass extinction and their subsequent migration to the U.S., might now seem relevant in understanding of the recent race to ratify the resolution. My account concentrates on the immense imperative of adapting from the pre-capitalist communities of a dysfunctional land empire to a modern capitalist social order and the impact 500 years of oppressive colonial rule as a “reviled” race had on this transition. Using the figure of the Armenian genocide to explain recent changes in U.S. Middle East policy, however, excluded the histories of those who suffered most from it. The Armenians perceived distance suggested that it was still unclear whether the stigmatic judgment of revilement remains an unerasable tattoo for those who survived its excesses or who came after.
The reason for the resurgence in interest in the Armenian genocide is the fear that the withdrawal of a small American force in Syria would lead Turkey to once more resort to genocide to rid the region of Kurds. What is interesting about this rapid shift is the willingness to forgo previous concerns for Turkish sensitivity by branding Turkey with an aptitude for unleashing mass murder. Americans had no trouble immediately remembering what modern Turkey had been socialized to forget. Neither policy makers nor self-styled defenders of human rights seemed aware that Kurds had been one of the principal, energetic forces (along with the Turkish military) in the execution of murders, massacres and massive theft of the very Armenians whose historical experience of near extinction was now being invoked to spare the Kurds from a similar fate. In The Unspoken as Heritage, I note the intensely eager role of the Kurds in carrying out the labor of massacre and mutilation under the Ottoman state’s sponsored encouragement. Ample scholarship shows evidence of attempts to make the Kurdish involvement in the Armenian genocide appear as common sense. This narrative, rooted in the struggle over acquisition of cultivable agricultural land, went back to the early 19th century when Kurdish brigades carried out systematic but unscheduled pogroms against Armenians. But again, ironically, once the state had successfully eliminated much of the Armenian population in the killing fields and mass deportations, it was replaced by the new Turkish nation-state, which, in the early 1930s, turned to the older strategy of ethnic cleansing by removing and annihilating the Kurds that has persisted to the present day. In view of this congestion of ironies, it now seems pertinent to explain how I’ve tried to construct my parents’ singular experience, which is the kind of ‘history’ tropic condensations invariably exclude.
The memoir attempts to re-compose what my two sisters and I could recall of our parents’ escape and migration from the perspective of our lives growing up in late depression Detroit through the years of World War II. Our parents, Ohaness Der Harootunian and Vehanush Kupalian, remained silent about what experiences compelled them to make such a long unplanned and perilous trek from their homeland, and my goal has been to construct an account that might reveal something about their early lives in Anatolia. Throughout our lives, they maintained a disciplined silence on their experience of the genocide, their collective loss, and the struggles of building a life in an alien country. As I look back to the years of our childhoods, their resolute silence, which first appeared as a mystery of origins, was transmuted into a permanent void that became our lasting heritage. My parents, like the names of the dead, were linked to experiences deposited in an unapproachable locked realm, what author Patrick Modiani, in another context, once described as “dormant memories,” forever unspoken and unawakened.
When I was younger, questions concerning our parents’ lives before the U.S. never occurred to me. When finding answers to these and other questions became a compelling imperative, I concluded that approaching them through the historical optic of the genocide would only perpetuate the Armenian genocide as a sideshow of Turkey’s involvement in World War I. Moreover, I had no qualifications to write such a history, even if I wanted to. My interests were guided by the recognition that I never really knew who my parents were. I was convinced that whatever prompted the desire to clear up the mystery might put an end to the void of this silent repression that had engulfed and dominated our lives and animated theirs.
This project stems from an intense concern with the long and multi-generational afterlife of the genocide that has remained at the heart of the Armenian diaspora. For Armenians of successive generations like mine, this concern has itself become a form of heritage that obliges each to prevent memories of the event from falling into permanent indifference and forgetfulness. As a result, I became preoccupied with understanding why the experience subjected our parents to a collective silence of the unspoken that became our inheritance. I began to sense how difficult this project had become, frustrated by the sudden realization of how little I knew of my parents and that my sisters and I never questioned what brought them to the U.S.
In the absence of sufficient resources, I’ve resorted to a re-composition of what they separately went through, hesitantly trying to envision their accompanying thoughts and feelings based off what the three of us were able recall or thought they endured as they escaped imminent death. The re-composition I cobbled together resembles most an archaeological excavation that pries and sifts through loose, unrelated fragments to serve as an incomplete representation of a life lived. To wrest them from their silent confinement and imagine the details of their fractured lives, I assumed the fictive figure of an uninvited intruder in their thoughts. Though our parents rarely spoke of their individual encounters, the experience of genocidal witness, loss and escape stalked their efforts to rebuild their lives abroad. The shadow of their earlier experience followed them as they struggled to navigate through the barriers of chronic economic and social failure.
We inherited the political toll of destruction produced by the void and its aftermath. Our starting point is our father’s loss of his entire family, a large unit comprised of several brothers and sisters (the count and names remain unknown), mother, father, grandparents and even great-grandparents; our mother came from a smaller family and was left with no relatives: her father died when she was an infant, her brother perished in the genocide and her mother never returned after putting Vehanush into a German missionary school for safe-keeping even though she made it to Beirut and remarried. As children we confronted the namelessness of departed relatives since it was effectively disallowed to speak of their past, as if it never existed. Yet we came to realize much later that naming something gives it life, which enabled us to recognize that the genocide powerfully altered and reshaped these people. Naming it allows us to enter its forgotten precincts and retrieve their repressed memories. The memoir details the lasting effects that are passed into our unasked-for legacy.
The lived irony of a genocide reproduced by its victims’ prolonged silences recalls how the Armenian genocide unintentionally (or intentionally) alludes to the Kurds’ possible fate upon the removal American troops in Syria. If the latter is ultimately an uninformed political tactic, involuntarily slipping from metaphor into momentary irony, its unwelcome contrast with the former further reinforces the truth of Marx’s observation that history, in the second time around, always appears as farce.
‘Tis the season for brand new books! This month, we’re releasing a variety of compelling titles from a wide range of disciplines—art, history, music, theory and philosophy, cultural studies, and many more. Check out these great reads available in December.
Andrea Smith examines the racial reconciliation movement in Evangelical Christianity through a critical ethnic studies lens in Unreconciled, evaluating the varying degrees to which Evangelical communities that were founded on white supremacy have attempted to address racism and become more inclusive.
In Picasso’s Demoiselles, eminent art historian Suzanne Preston Blier uncovers a previously unknown history of the influences and creative process of Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, one of the twentieth century’s most important, celebrated, and studied paintings.
In The Sonic Episteme Robin James examines how twenty-first-century conceptions of sound as acoustic resonance shape notions of the social world, personhood, and materiality in ways that support white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
In Listen But Don’t Ask Question Kevin Fellezs traces the ways in which slack key guitar—a traditional Hawaiian musical style played on an acoustic steel-string guitar—is a site for the articulation of the complex histories, affiliations, and connotations of Hawaiian belonging.
Militarization: A Reader, edited by Roberto J. González, Hugh Gusterson, and Gustaaf Houtman, offers an anthropological perspective on militarization’s origin and sustained presence as a cultural process in its full social, economic, political, cultural, environmental, and symbolic contexts throughout the world.
Originally published in French in 1997 and appearing here in English for the first time, David Lapoujade’s William James: Empiricism and Pragmatism is both an accessible and rigorous introduction to and a pioneering rereading of James’s thought.
With topics that span the sixteenth century to the present in Latin America, the United States, Australia, the Middle East, and West Africa, the contributors to Ethnopornography show how ethnopornography—the eroticized observation of the Other for supposedly scientific or academic purposes—is fundamental to the creation of race, colonialism, and archival and ethnographic knowledge. This volume is edited by Pete Sigal, Zeb Tortorici, and Neil L. Whitehead.
In Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan Patrick Galbraith examines Japanese “otaku,” their relationships with fictional girl characters, the Japanese public’s interpretations of them as excessive and perverse, and the Japanese government’s attempts to co-opt them into depictions of “Cool Japan” to an international audience.
In premodern Korea, archives were gathered and housed not only in official or state storerooms but also in unofficial sites such as libraries of lineage associations and local academies. Contributors to the newest Journal of Korean Studies, “Archives, Archival Practices, and the Writing of History in Premodern Korea,” edited by Jungwon Kim, take these archives beyond their usual definition as collections of historical documents of the past by revealing how these archives cast light on what and who were left out of the conventional historiography of premodern Korea.
In the newest issue of English Language Notes, “Memory, Amnesia, Commemoration,” edited by Ramesh Mallipeddi and Cristobal Silva, contributors explore the interrelationship between history (the study of past events) and memory (the ways in which the past is remembered and accessed). Specifically, they investigate how catastrophes—colonization, slavery, war, genocide, and disease pandemics—impact memory; how traumatic events are remembered by victims, survivors, and descendants; and the collective forgetting of traumatic pasts.
This month, we’re offering a cornucopia of fresh titles in anthropology, media studies, sociology, history, native and indigenous studies, and more. Take a look at all of these exciting new books available in November!
What does it mean to be a decolonial tourist? We are excited to present our first travel guide book, Detours, edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez. In the book artists, activists, and scholars redirect readers from the fantasy of Hawai‘i as a tropical paradise and tourist destination toward a multilayered and holistic engagement with Hawai‘i’s culture, complex history, and the effects of colonialism. We’ll have lots of copies at the American Studies Association meeting in Honolulu later this month.
Mark Goodale’s ethnographic study of Bolivian politics and society between 2006 and 2015, A Revolution in Fragments, reveals the fragmentary and contested nature of the country’s radical experiments in pluralism, ethnic politics, and socioeconomic planning.colonialism.
In The Politics of Taste Ana María Reyes examines how the polarizing art of Beatriz González disrupted Cold War aesthetic discourses and the politics of class and modernization in 1960s Colombia.
Nicholas D’Avella offers an ethnographic reflection on the value of buildings in post-crisis Buenos Aires in Concrete Dreams, showing how everyday practices transform buildings into politically, economically, and socially consequential objects, and arguing that such local forms of value and practice suggest possibilities for building better futures.
In his engaging and moving book, Honeypot, E. Patrick Johnson combines magical realism, poetry, and performative writing to bear witness to the real-life stories of black southern queer women in ways that reveal the complexity of identity and the challenges these women face. Johnson is on a book tour for Honeypot. Look for a post later this month with all the dates.
In Trans Exploits Jian Neo Chen examines how contemporary trans of color artists are tracking and resisting their displacement and social marginalization through new forms of cultural expression, performance, and activism.
In Punctuations Michael J. Shapiro examines how the use of punctuation—conceived not as a series of marks but as a metaphor for the ways in which artistic genres engage with intelligibility—in art opens pathways for thinking through the possibilities for oppositional politics.
In a meditation on loss, inheritance, and survival, The Unspoken as Heritage, renowned historian Harry Harootunian explores the Armenian genocide’s multigenerational afterlives that remain at the heart of the Armenian diaspora by sketching the everyday lives of his parents, who escaped the genocide in the 1910s.
Tyler Denmead critically examines his role as the founder of New Urban Arts—a nonprofit arts program for young people of color in Providence, Rhode Island—and how despite its success, it unintentionally contributed to Providence’s urban renewal efforts, gentrification, and the displacement of people of color in The Creative Underclass.
Kamari Maxine Clarke explores the African Union’s pushback against the International Criminal Court in order to theorize affect’s role in shaping forms of justice in Affective Justice.
In Before the Flood, Jacob Blanc examines the creation of the Itaipu Dam—the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world—on the Brazil–Paraguay border during the 1970s and 1980s to explore the long-standing conflicts around land, rights, indigeneity, and identity in rural Brazil.
In Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film, edited by Allyson Nadia Field and Marsha Gordon, the contributors examine the place and role of race in educational films, home movies, industry and government films, anthropological films, church films, and other forms of noncommercial filmmaking throughout the twentieth century.
Deborah A. Thomas uses the 2010 military and police incursion into the Kingston, Jamaica, Tivoli Gardens neighborhood as a point of departure for theorizing the roots of contemporary state violence in Jamaica and other post-plantation societies in Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation.
In Progressive Dystopia Savannah Shange traces the afterlives of slavery as lived in a progressive high school set in post-gentrification San Francisco, showing how despite the school’s sincere antiracism activism, it unintentionally perpetuated antiblackness through various practices.
In Sacred Men Keith L. Camacho examines the U.S. Navy’s war crimes tribunal in Guam between 1944 and 1949 which tried members of Guam’s indigenous Chamorro community and Japanese nationals and its role in shaping contemporary domestic and international laws regarding combatants, jurisdiction, and property.
Maile Arvin analyzes the history of racialization of Polynesians within the context of settler colonialism across Polynesia, especially in Hawai‘i, arguing that a logic of possession through whiteness animates European and Hawaiian settler colonialism in Possessing Polynesians.
In his experimental ethnography, Ethnography #9, Alan Klima examines moneylending, gambling, funeral casinos, and the consultations of spirits and mediums to predict winning lottery numbers to illustrate the relationship between contemporary Thai spiritual and financial practices and global capitalism’s abstraction of monetary value.
In Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation, Sakari Tamminen traces the ways in which the mandates of 1992’s Convention on Biological Diversity—hailed as the key symbol of a common vision for saving Earth’s biodiversity—contribute less to biodiversity conservation than to individual nations using genetic resources for economic and cultural gain.
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.
The sixteenth-century encounter between Mesoamericans and Europeans resulted in a tremendous loss of life in indigenous communities and significantly impacted their health and healing strategies. In “Mesoamerican Experiences of Illness and Healing,” new from Ethnohistory, contributors explore archival indigenous and Spanish-language documents to address how indigeneous people experienced bodily health in the wake of the European encounter and uncover transformations of health discourses and experiences of illness.
They also investigate healing practices and medical chants; changing notions of the causes of illnesses; and the language of cleansing ceremonies, bone-setting, midwifery, and maternal medicine.
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.