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.
Congratulations to Common Knowledge on twenty-five years of publication! In honor of the journal’s anniversary, its editors have pulled together a triple-length special issue consisting of outstanding and representative articles, editorial statements, book reviews, poetry, and fiction published over journal’s history.
“A Quarter-Century of Common-Knowledge” maps the life of a journal that Susan Sontag called her “favorite” and that Stephen Greenblatt praises as showing “what it means boldly to choose compromise over contention, reconciliation over rejection, civility over strife.”
Contributors to this volume include many of the most controversial and influential thinkers and writers of the turbulent years since the end of the Cold War, among them
heads of state and government: Václav Havel, King Michael of Romania, Edward Heath
dissidents: Fang Lizhi, Adam Michnik, Sari Nusseibeh
imposing literary figures: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, J. M. Coetzee, Wisława Szymborska, Edward Albee, Lydia Davis, Anne Carson, Yusef Komunyakaa, Thom Gunn, Frank Kermode
groundbreaking social scientists: Amartya Sen, Marilyn Strathern, Albert O. Hirschman, Julia Kristeva, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro
reshapers of religion: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Caroline Walker Bynum, Gianni Vattimo, Jack Miles
political philosophers: Isaiah Berlin, Bernard Williams, Cornelius Castoriadis, György Konrád
theorists of the “linguistic turn”: W. V. Quine, Richard Rorty, Clifford Geertz, Stanley Cavell, Quentin Skinner
microhistorians and their critics: Carlo Ginzburg, Natalie Zemon Davis, Keith Thomas, J. H. Elliott
key developers of science studies: Bruno Latour, Paul Feyerabend, Ian Hacking, Barbara Herrnstein Smith
“The Plantation, the Postplantation, and the Afterlives of Slavery,” a new special issue of American Literature edited by Gwen Bergner and Zita Nunes, interrogates the plantation as a form, logic, and technology that continues to produce inequalities.
Contributors follow the evolution of plantation slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through its subsequent iterations in the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, and into the neoliberal present, where the carceral state props up fantasies of postracialism.
The contributors rethink the necro- and biopolitics of plantation slavery, uncovering laborers’ strategies of self-determination, affiliation, and communication in spite of the plantation’s mechanisms of control.
Wallerstein taught at Columbia University, Binghamton University (where he led the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems and Civilization), and finally at Yale University, where he was a Senior Research Scholar until his death on August 31.
In World-Systems Analysis, Immanuel Wallerstein provided a concise and accessible introduction to the comprehensive approach that he pioneered forty years ago to understanding the history and development of the modern world. Since Wallerstein first developed world-systems analysis, it has become a widely utilized methodology within the historical social sciences and a common point of reference in discussions of globalization. Wallerstein explains the defining characteristics of world-systems analysis: its emphasis on world-systems rather than nation-states, on the need to consider historical processes as they unfold over long periods of time, and on combining within a single analytical framework bodies of knowledge usually viewed as distinct from one another—such as history, political science, economics, and sociology. He describes the world-system as a social reality comprised of interconnected nations, firms, households, classes, and identity groups of all kinds.
In 2011, we published a collection of essays about Wallerstein’s important work, Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World, edited by David Palumbo-Liu, Nirvana Tanoukhi, and Bruce Robbins. Scholars of comparative literature, gender, geography, history, law, race, and sociology all consider what thinking on the world scale might mean for particular disciplinary practices, knowledge formations, and objects of study. The collection shows the impact of Wallerstein’s ideas throughout academe.
In his cover endorsement for World-Systems Analysis, Kai Erickson of Yale University said, “Immanuel Wallerstein’s mind can reach as far and encompass as much as anyone’s in our time.” He will be greatly missed.
Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of Hawai‘i’s official admission into the U.S. as a state. While many tourists visiting Hawai‘i may commemorate Statehood Day by experiencing the astounding natural beauty and rich cultural traditions of the islands firsthand, anyone can devote some time to honoring Hawai‘i on this holiday by learning more about the archipelago’s complicated path to statehood.
We’ve highlighted several of our related titles below. By delving into historical issues of native sovereignty and popular protest against annexation, these books not only challenge wholly celebratory narratives of Hawaiian statehood but also illuminate the complex legacy of settler colonialism in contemporary Hawai‘i.
In the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) of 1921, the U.S. Congress defined “native Hawaiians” as those people “with at least one-half blood quantum of individuals inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778.” In Hawaiian Blood, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui provides an impassioned assessment of how the arbitrary correlation of ancestry and race imposed by the U.S. government on the indigenous people of Hawai‘i has had far-reaching legal and cultural effects.
Kauanui is also the author of Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty, which examines contradictions of indigeneity and self-determination in U.S. domestic policy and international law. In this book, Kauanui shows how Hawaiian elites’ approaches to reforming land, gender, and sexual regulation in the early nineteenth century that paved the way for sovereign recognition of the kingdom complicate contemporary nationalist activism, which too often includes disavowing the indigeneity of indigenous Hawaiians.
In Unsustainable Empire Dean Itsuji Saranillio offers a bold challenge to conventional understandings of Hawai‘i’s admission as a U.S. state, showing that statehood was neither the expansion of U.S. democracy nor a strong nation swallowing a weak and feeble island nation, but the result of a U.S. nation whose economy was unsustainable without enacting a more aggressive policy of imperialism.
A powerful critique of colonial historiography, Noenoe K. Silva’s Aloha Betrayed provides a much-needed history of native Hawaiian resistance to American imperialism. Drawing on Hawaiian-language texts, primarily newspapers produced in the nineteenth century and early twentieth, Silva demonstrates that print media was central to social communication, political organizing, and the perpetuation of Hawaiian language and culture.
Nation Within by Tom Coffman details the complex history of the events between the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1893 and its annexation to the United States in 1898. Highlighting the native Hawaiians’ resistance during that five-year span, Coffman shows why occupying Hawaiʻi was crucial to American imperial ambitions.
A Nation Rising, edited by Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua, Ikaika Hussey, and Erin Kahunawaika′ala Wright, chronicles the political struggles and grassroots initiatives collectively known as the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, raising issues that resonate far beyond the Hawaiian archipelago such as Indigenous cultural revitalization, environmental justice, and demilitarization.
Are you planning a trip to Hawai‘i? If you’re interested in learning more about how to practice forms of socially conscious tourism during your visit, we recommend checking out our forthcoming book, Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai‘i, edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez. In this brilliant reinvention of the travel guide, 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 and complex history. The essays, stories, artworks, maps, and tour itineraries in Detours create decolonial narratives in ways that will forever change how readers think about and move throughout Hawai‘i. Detours will be available in November.
This year we are pleased to launch a new series, Theory in Forms, edited by Nancy Rose Hunt and Achille Mbembe. A few of the books came out this spring and we have several more on the fall list.
Theory in Forms presents new writing showcasing the import of new political contours in our planetary times of crisis, racializations, and securitization. The books address temporal and spatial scales—whether global, transnational, or intimate—and emphasize movement, borders, enclaves, and impasses in (post)colonies, global South(s), and beyond. Inciting experimentation with structure, methods, and the practice of writing, the series argues that form enables theory. Theory in Forms seeks new work that addresses the politics of life and death—whether in history, anthropology, aesthetics, geography, architecture, urban design, or environmental, medical, oceanic, literary, and postcolonial studies—and creates a transversal space for new modes of writing, reflection, and timely interventions.
The first book in this series is Experiments with Empire by Justin Izzo, which examines how twentieth-century writers, artists, and anthropologists from France, West Africa, and the Caribbean experimented with ethnography and fiction in order to explore new ways of knowing the colonial and postcolonial world. Focusing on novels, films, and ethnographies that combine fictive elements and anthropological methods and modes of thought, Izzo shows how empire gives ethnographic fictions the raw materials for thinking beyond empire’s political and epistemological boundaries.
In the West African nation of Togo, applying for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery is a national obsession, with hundreds of thousands of Togolese entering each year. In The Fixer Charles Piot follows Kodjo Nicolas Batema, a Togolese visa broker—known as a “fixer”—as he shepherds his clients through the application and interview process. Relaying the experiences of the fixer, his clients, and embassy officials, Piot captures the ever-evolving cat-and-mouse game between the embassy and the hopeful Togolese as well as the disappointments and successes of lottery winners in the United States.
In Colonial Transactions Florence Bernault moves beyond the racial divide that dominates colonial studies of Africa. Instead, she illuminates the strange and frightening imaginaries that colonizers and colonized shared on the ground. Bernault looks at Gabon from the late nineteenth century to the present, historicizing the most vivid imaginations and modes of power in Africa today: French obsessions with cannibals, the emergence of vampires and witches in the Gabonese imaginary, and the use of human organs for fetishes. Overturning theories of colonial and postcolonial nativism, this book is essential reading for historians and anthropologists of witchcraft, power, value, and the body.