We wish we could be meeting authors and readers in-person at the CAA Annual Conference. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to offer a 40% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code CAA21 until March 31, 2021. Don’t forget to check out our booth in the Virtual CAA exhibit hall, which includes interviews with authors Delinda Collier, Bakirathi Mani, Anna Watkins Fisher, and Ricardo Montez. Since we cannot take photos of authors with their new books in our booth, this year, we instead offer an album of book selfies they have taken from home.
View our art and art history catalog below for a complete list of all our newest titles in the field and across disciplines. You can also explore all of our books and journals in art and visual culture on dukeupress.edu.
Join Duke University Press authors for panels at CAA:
If you were hoping to connect with Ken Wissoker, Elizabeth Ault, or another of our editors about your book project at MLA, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our online submissions guidelines here.
Duke University Press is pleased to partner with nonprofit scholarly journal publishers and societies to provide journal services including subscription management, fulfillment, hosting, and institutional marketing and sales in a collaboration called the Scholarly Publishing Collective (SPC).
Beginning in 2021, the SPC will provide subscription management and fulfillment services, in partnership with Longleaf Services, to Cornell University Press, Texas Tech University Press, and the University of North Carolina Press. The SPC online content platform will launch in 2022, hosting journals and fulfilling digital access on behalf of Michigan State University Press, Penn State University Press, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the University of Illinois Press.
“Finding a powerful hosting platform for our eighty scholarly journals, as well as securing the expert sales and marketing services of the SPC, will transport our journals to new levels of impact,” said Patrick Alexander, director of Penn State University Press. “We’re thrilled about offering enhanced services to our societies, journal editors, and libraries, and we are eager to work with colleagues at Duke University Press, one of the most talented teams in university press publishing.”
Through the SPC, publishers will have access to resources that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive, such as a best-in-class web platform, proven customer relations and library relations teams, and a network of global sales agents with insight into university press content.
“We are honored to be working with this prestigious group of publishers,” said Duke University Press director Dean Smith. “The SPC gives us an opportunity to support a healthy ecosystem for nonprofit, mission-driven publishing and to help ensure that these publications and organizations remain vital to the communities they serve.”
Duke University Press is a nonprofit scholarly publisher with a focus on the humanities, the social sciences, and mathematics. The Press publishes approximately 140 books annually and more than 50 journals, as well as offering several electronic collections and open-access publishing initiatives.
For more information, contact: Allison Belan Director for Strategic Innovation and Services allison.belan [at] duke.edu
What makes “Left of Queer” unique or essential? What does it do that no other collection has done before?
When we first started to conceive “Left of Queer” almost three years ago, we did not think it would be feasible to publish a “state of the field” assessment akin to the special Social Text issue “What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now?” That earlier issue, published in 2005, became a classic statement of sorts by queer-of-color scholars attempting to assert the centrality of race, empire, and diaspora in queer studies. In the intervening years, the field has expanded and become so multifaceted that much of what we might call queer studies today would not have necessarily been recognized as such in the 1990s, when the field first emerged, or even in the aughts, as it was becoming more institutionalized. Instead of reiterating the centrality of work that already enjoyed broad readership, we decided to explore the peripheries of queer studies: What were the latent issues that could be elaborated in greater depth? Who did we think was underread? Who was writing scholarship that might be considered as part of the broader theoretical and political commitments of queer studies, but rarely taught or read in this manner? In short, we sought to amplify less obvious connections.
For instance, we mark an ongoing, decades-long debate about geopolitical exceptionalism in queer theory. This concern emerged in the 1990s with critical attention to the imperial travels of the term “queer,” for instance in rights discourses and tourism. It sparked a lively interrogation of the ongoing tensions—the convergences and divergences—between queer studies and area studies, and between queer studies and anthropology, but it did not sufficiently recognize the ways in which the field itself was driven by an unmarked politics of location. While the 2005 special issue brought a specific uptake of the global, the transnational, and the real-politik effects of the 9/11 war on terror as well as US occupation, “Left of Queer” explicitly focuses on this geopolitical exceptionalism by provincializing a version of queer studies that tends to function as American area studies. All the essays in this special issue open up problems of area in relation to materiality—whether land, bodies, labor, subjects, or objects.
What is one article that stands out to you from the issue?
We think all the articles are exceptional, but let us talk about two in relation to the interventions described above.
One strong example of the peripheries of queer studies—of scholarship that should be considered as part of the broader theoretical and political commitments of the field and as amplifying geopolitical exceptionalisms in the field—is the fantastic roundtable on safe space and securitization, edited by Christina Hanhardt and Jasbir. Here, the participants, many of whom are not thought of as queer studies scholars per se, connect recent debates about safe space, trigger warnings, campus alert systems, and Title IX that largely focus on sexual and racial traumas on US campuses to broader questions about securitization and militarization globally. Jennifer Doyle’s trenchant Campus Sex, Campus Security inspired in part the questions for the roundtable. Safe space for whom? And how does one’s safety and security potentially threaten the safety and security of others? How do we think of safe space on campus and in the gayborhood in relation to border walls and checkpoints as well as to problems of occupation and trespass more broadly?
Another strong example of how “Left of Queer” provincializes queer studies can be found in Petrus Liu’s brilliant contribution, “Queer Theory and the Specter of Materialism.” Petrus’s essay troubles so much of queer studies “proper” because it situates a genealogy of the field in China rather than embedding it in a western origin narrative. Instead, he conceives both queer studies and Marxism as materialist theories foregrounding the constitutive sociality of the self, and he places them in a Chinese politics and history that does not replay the unresolved schisms of queer studies and Marxism animating the field in the ’90s. In this manner, the essay displaces the problematic developmentalism of homonationalism—what a relief!—giving us an alternate starting point for what queer theory is and, indeed, what queer studies could be.
To this end, our introduction marks out an important shift from interrogating the politics of (neo)liberal inclusion and progress fueling the ongoing march of rights and recognition on the global stage to fighting white supremacy, authoritarianism, fascism, and militarization. It moves from the critique of human rights that animates a shift from “the woman question” to “the homosexual question” today and focuses instead on abolitionist, anti-nationalist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist forms of resistance and insurgency.
How do you imagine “Left of Queer” could be used in courses?
In terms of the lower-division classroom, we hope that our two very readable roundtables on safe space and on trans will be both critically useful and easily accessible for undergraduates. These roundtables speak directly to pressing debates and concerns on campus: the movement to abolish the carceral state, the policing of black and brown bodies on campus, the attack on non-binary genders. The volume as a whole, we think, is also perfect for graduate seminars exploring both the history of sexuality and topic matters that are connected to but also complicated sexuality as a focal point: courses on global labor, on political theory and economy, on indigeneity, on areas studies. The broad interdisciplinarity of “Left of Queer,” plus our expansion from subjectless critique (problematizing “proper” queer subjects) to objectless critique (moving away from subject positions altogether and illuminating the biopolitical and necropolitical aspects of disaster capitalism) is an additional heuristic for cutting across our various themes.
We have mentioned several of the contributions already. In light of Christina Crosby’s recent and sudden passing, we wanted to end with a special mention of the incredible article that Christina and her partner Janet Jakobsen contributed, “Disability, Debility, and Caring Queerly.” [This article is freely available through the end of April.] One of the final pieces of published writing from Christina’s acclaimed career as a Victorianist, feminist, queer studies, Marxist, and critical theory scholar, this article delves into the messy materialities of queer care and kinship underpinning networks of disability—chains of labor, care work, racial and economic privilege, and affect that are often managed or concealed under the rubric of “independence” (and sometimes even “interdependence”) but without which the disabled subject of rights discourse would neither cohere nor be recognizable as a political actor. That these complex life-sustaining but also debilitating networks must now be transformed to mourn Christina’s tragic loss is a bittersweet testament to the possibilities of queer worldmaking. Christina was unflinching in her exploration of chronic pain—of a body undone—and what it means to live a disability all the while owning the grief of a life once lived. As her friends, colleagues, students, and readers, we honor Christina’s indelible legacy.
Today’s post is by Sexual Hegemony: Statecraft, Sodomy, and Capital in the Rise of the World System editor, Max Fox. Fox is also an editor of Pinko magazine, a former editor of the New Inquiry, and translator of The Amphitheater of the Dead. In Sexual Hegemony, Christopher Chitty traces the 500 year history of capitalist sexual relations, showing how sexuality became a crucial dimension of the accumulation of capital and a technique of bourgeois rule. Christopher Chitty (1983–2015) was a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
I met Christopher Chitty in 2009, in the context of a student movement against the university as presently constituted. We occupied buildings, issued communiqués and rallied support, statewide at first, then nationally and internationally. I had thought at the start we might not have had a resonant cause, but soon discovered that the financial crisis and ensuing recession ran directly through campuses everywhere. Though supposedly a machine for class stability if not mobility, the university instead was sequestering exotic social villains like credit default swaps and the end of economic growth in our tuition, stabilizing itself by immiserating us. In this, we discovered that the university was not apart from the world but showed us exactly how it worked.
The university held itself up as a refuge from the market where thought could take place. But the movement against it was my most significant teacher, and Chris personified it for me. And his research into what was revolutionary about the sexual liberation movement addressed another question, one that I hadn’t been able to formulate to myself. I didn’t yet know how to square the obvious shortcomings of the NOH8 era of lobbying for gay rights with the equally plain danger presented by its enemies, but Chris braided the critique. I took our arguments about the bankruptcy of the university seriously, and when I left school and committed myself to building a publishing infrastructure that could support and circulate left thinking outside of an academy that seemed unsupportive at best, it was above all Chris and his work that I had in mind.
So when he committed suicide, suddenly, in 2015, I almost collapsed. Grieving his death also meant grieving the political coherence that I felt his work had promised me. But it was not just my self concept at risk. His work concerned the meaning of the struggle in which hundreds of thousands had died, and its bearing on the future liberation and survival of everyone else. He had impressed upon me that the losses from the HIV/AIDS epidemic were not just private tragedies but formed a front in the wider war against the global liberation struggle of the 60s and 70s, and so represented a revolutionary legacy which we let fade at our own peril. With these as the stakes, I simply could not let his project end with him.
So taking on the work felt like no decision at all, though I had never edited such a lengthy text nor did I really see the level of intellectual preparation it would require going in. I had to play a number of different roles — researcher, archivist, fact-checker, copy editor, agent, etc. I drew the line at ghostwriter. Freud mentions in “Mourning and Melancholia” that neurotic identification with the lost object is “the expression of there being something in common, which may signify love.” But however much I loved Chris and however much I wanted to continue living out the aspects we shared in common, this process was a long confrontation with how much he eluded me.
Chris left numerous versions of the chapters he’d been working on. To adequately present his work I had to dig around in his digital files. I both craved and feared that I would uncover an intact manuscript that neatly presented a polished, compact system. But there were only drafts, notes, incomplete sketches of what even in its unfinished form struck me as monumental. I opened one google doc that promised a full chapter on the American century which stopped loading after the third page. I panicked, afraid that the file had been corrupted somehow, but scrolling to the bottom revealed that he simply hadn’t written any further. It felt like I had lost him all over again. I couldn’t work for the rest of the week.
Given such a volatile process, it’s not a surprise that it took about five years to publish Sexual Hegemony, though I had had much more optimistic plans. At each step of the way there was a new delicate, unrushable negotiation with his family, the publisher, the collaborators, etc. I was lucky to be graced with a supportive social world. I had generous friends and comrades who offered to let me watch their pet or empty apartment when I had to find a place to focus, and forbearing boyfriends and roommates who put up with what must have been difficult moods for years at a time. I was able to finish it thanks to cheap rent and flexible copywriting gigs I took on to subsidize the work. And the willingness of relative strangers like Christopher Nealon and Courtney Berger to agree to collaborate on such a project with an untested steward like me was an act of faith I can only attribute to the unmistakable power of Chris’s work.
I am grateful for everything that allowed me to share it with readers from a platform that encourages that it will be read. And I am proud that I refused to let mere death prevent his insights from getting out. But how do I register the simultaneous tragedy it represents? I find it very hard not to see him as a casualty of the university which we struggled against together. The fact that I was able to arrange support for my efforts with his work posthumously isn’t a triumph, either, just a story of differently distributed costs. The oblivion still menacing attempts at thinking and writing seriously outside of the academy is a grave political risk as the university now enters an even deeper crisis than the one which brought Chris and I together in 2009. But the fear that gripped me when he died, that he might somehow take the memory of this movement with him, has thankfully abated. Maybe because now the crisis we fought is so endemic as to be unremarkable, our strenuously defended political orientation is more widespread. As I wrestled him these past five years to preserve his legacy in a book, I didn’t anticipate another metamorphosis that continues, though without him. Behind my back grew a movement ready to see itself in him, take his thought, and begin the work of tearing everything down.
The prize committee offered this praise for the winning essay: “Carlos Alonso Nugent’s remarkable article addresses two generations of artists whose work stages environmental struggle in the US-Mexico borderlands. Moving between the imagined environments of the Precarious Desert of Adelina Otero-Warren and Fabiola Cabeza de Baca of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s and the Alianza Federal de Mercedes’s Pueblo Olvidado revival in the 1960s and 1970s, Nugent constellates an archive of environmental writing that is shaped by its complex relationships to colonial power and land claims. Throughout, we not only see exquisite and nuanced readings but an approach to ecology, media, and archival work that should transform how we frame accounts of the borderlands in the twentieth century.”
The honorable mention for this year’s Foerster Prize was Blake Bronson-Bartlett’s “Writing with Pencils in the Antebellum United States: Language, Instrument, Gesture” (vol. 92, issue 2; the essay is freely available through April here). The committee had this to say about the honorable mention: “Blake Bronson-Bartlett’s account of writing in the nineteenth century tells a surprising and highly original story about materiality and writing in the period. The article challenges materialist studies of nineteenth-century archives to take up scenes of writing with media-historical rigor and trains its focus on the case of the pencil as a convincing model for an analysis that can capture the interlaced relationships among instrument, language, and gesture. Bronson-Bartlett reimagines the subject of writing with a refreshing intimacy.”
Congratulations to Carlos Alonso Nugent and Blake Bronson-Bartlett!
We wish we could be meeting authors and readers in-person at the AHA annual convention.We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to offer a 30% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code AHA21 until February 15, 2021. View our History catalog below for a complete list of all our newest titles in the field and across disciplines. You can also explore all of our books and journals in history on dukeupress.edu.And don’t forget to check out our booth in the Virtual AHA exhibit hall, which includes interviews with authors Cait McKinney and Vanessa Freije.
Editorial Director Gisela Fosado has a message for fellow Virtual AHA attendees, and recommendations for the latest titles.
Happy New Year, Wonderful AHA Historians!
I hope the winter holiday break was a restful one and that everyone is staying safe. In lieu of being able to share my new favorite history books in person at the AHA, I wanted to recommend a few books briefly here.
First off, I hope everyone will check out two new Southern history books, one that is hot off the press, Brandi Brimmer’s Claiming Union Widowhood: Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South and a second, Theodore Segal’s Point of Reckoning: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University, which will be released next week. Brimmer’s book tells the story of how poor black women during and after the Civil War asserted their rights as citizens individually and collectively to make claims on the State and to define themselves and their community with the dignity and respect they knew they deserved. Segal’s book chronicles the struggles faced by the first Black undergraduates to enroll at Duke in 1963 and narrates the challenges they faced and the movements they led for change in the years that followed.
Continuing on the theme of social movements for change, I hope you’ll take a look at Elizabeth Sine’s and Joanne Rappaport’s new books. Elizabeth Sine’sRebel Imaginaries: Labor, Culture, and Politics in Depression-Era California, weaves together the stories of the multiracial workers who formed the basis of California’s economy and who gave rise to an oppositional culture that challenged the modes of racialism, nationalism, and rationalism in the decades following the Great Depression. Joanne Rappaport’s Cowards Don′t Make History: Orlando Fals Borda and the Origins of Participatory Action Research examines a group of Colombian intellectuals, led by the pioneering sociologist Orlando Fals Borda, who collaborated with indigenous and rural organizations to in the early 1970s to create Participatory Action Research, a form of research aimed to be used as a political organizing tool.
Another great book for Latin Americanists (as well as historians of the Cold War) is Eric Zolov’s new book, The Last Good Neighbor: Mexico in the Global Sixties. Revising previous accounts of this period, Zolov offers a new take on Mexican domestic politics and international relations during the long 1960s, tracing how Mexico emerged from the shadow of FDR’s Good Neighbor policy to become a geopolitical player in its own right during the Cold War. Not only does The Last Good Neighbor unearth much new archival material in international diplomacy, left politics, and the workings of the PRI regime, but its transnational approach to understanding the evolving left in Mexico is important and innovative.
I’ll close my recommendations with a book for animal enthusiasts and highlight Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times, edited by Antoinette Burton and Renisa Mawani. Featuring twenty-six animals (including yaks, tigers, vultures, whales, mosquitos and platypuses, the book shows how animals have played central roles in the history of British imperial control. Unconventional and innovative, Animalia shows how the politics of empire—in its racial, gendered, and sexualized forms—played out in multispecies relations across the British Empire.
Looking forward to seeing you all at next year’s AHA!
If you were hoping to connect with Gisela Fosado, Joshua Gutterman Tranen, or another of our editors about your book project at MLA, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our online submissions guidelines here.
Congratulations to Zong-qi Cai, who won the Distinguished Editor Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) this year, and to Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, which won Best Digital Feature! The CELJ announced the awards this past Saturday at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention.
“The global impact of Cai’s editorial work is signaled by his efforts to bridge the work of North American and Chinese sinologists. For example, he has consistently promoted and published English translations of key essays by Chinese scholars. Moreover, Cai is committed to publishing interdisciplinary work by early career and senior scholars that brings new theoretical perspectives to Chinese literature and culture. … In sum, Cai’s simultaneous work on three journals shows a deep commitment to editing,” the CELJ wrote.
Meridians was co-winner of the inaugural Best Digital Feature award for its “On the Line” component. The CELJ wrote, “The range of multimedia offered on the website—which complements the print journal—was commended for the ways in which it uses digital technology to give women of color a voice. ‘On the Line’ was cited as a particularly effective example of a print journal using digital features to complement journal content and grow audience engagement. The feature’s collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit was praised by judges, as was its commitment to reaching new readers with urgently pressing content.”
We wish we could be meeting authors and readers at the MLA 2021 Annual Convention.We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to offer a 30% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code MLA21 until February 15, 2021. View our Literature and Literary Studies catalog below for a complete list of all our newest titles in the field and across disciplines. You can also explore all of our books and journals in literature and literary studies on dukeupress.edu.
Executive Editor Courtney Berger and Senior Executive Editor Ken Wissoker each have a welcome message for fellow MLA attendees, and their recommendations for the latest titles.
Most Januarys I end up with a new piece of winter weather gear—lined boots, a long down coat, thicker socks–prompted by the almost inevitable polar vortex or winter storm that accompanies the MLA conference. This year, I won’t be acquiring any new gear (except for maybe some new headphones). Instead, like many of you, I’ll be attending MLA from the warmth of my home in my reliable work-from-home uniform of sweatpants and cardigan. It has been a year since I’ve traveled to an academic conference, and I miss it. I miss meeting you all in person and getting updates on your writing and on your lives. I miss hearing about exciting new projects. And I especially miss showing off our new books and talking with folks in the book exhibit.
Nonetheless, I am excited for this year’s MLA program, which is truly stellar, and for all of the new books that we will be bringing to you in our virtual exhibit, also stellar. You will be seeing me at a lot of panels (a luxury that I’m not usually afforded during in-person conferences). Some of the ones on my list include: Black Feminist Poethics; Dissident Black Feminisms, Black Feminist Dissidence; Editing and Inclusivity; Quare Souths; and Scaling Trans Studies. (My Friday schedule is booked from morning ‘til night. How about yours?)
And now for some of my top picks from this year’s new books:
Riché Richardson’s Emancipation’s Daughters: Reimagining Black Femininity and the National Body is a book for our moment. Richardson focuses on the ways that black women leaders in the U.S.—including Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, Condoleezza Rice, and Michelle Obama–have expanded and challenged exclusionary and white-centered notions of the “national body” and political subjectivity. The book also features some of Richardson’s own quilts created as homage to the Black women leaders she discusses in the book.
In Infamous Bodies: Early Black Women’s Celebrity and the Afterlives of Rights, Samantha Pinto also focuses on iconic Black women, in this case women from the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Sally Hemings, Sarah Baartman, and Sarah Forbes Bonetta. Through her provocative and engaging reading of these women’s lives and continued legacies, Pinto reveals how the forms of pleasure, risk, violence, desire, and ambition that these women experienced can offer powerful models of political embodiment and vulnerability that remain relevant today.
In Counterlife: Slavery after Resistance and Social Death Christopher Freeburg asks: how can we think about the lives and artwork created by and about slaves outside of a framework of resistance and freedom? Taking up a diverse set of texts—from Black spirituals to “The Boondocks”—Counterlife is a rich and provocative book that shows how enslaved Africans created meaning through artistic creativity, religious practice, and historical awareness both separate from and alongside concerns about freedom.
Race and Performance After Repetition, edited by Soyica Diggs Colbert, Douglas A. Jones, and Shane Vogel, brings together an impressive set of contributors to focus on the relationship between race and temporality in performance, pushing past the trope of “repetition” to consider pauses, rests, gaps, afterlives, and other forms of temporal interruption. There will also be a panel featuring some of the contributors on Sunday morning.
Sexual Hegemony: Statecraft, Sodomy, and Capital in the Rise of the World System is Christopher Chitty’s posthumous first book, and it’s an incredibly expansive project, taking on 500 years of the history of capitalism and male-male sexual relations in Europe and the U.S. Revising Foucault’s account of the production of modern sexuality, Chitty offers a Marxist history of male homosexuality, focusing on the policing of male-male sexual relations as integral to the consolidation of capital and private property under the bourgeoisie. A must read for folks working in queer studies.
Influx & Efflux: Writing Up with Walt Whitman–Jane Bennett’s long-awaited follow up to Vibrant Matter–will be of special interest to folks in literary studies. Bennett turns to Whitman to help answer the question: What kind of “I” inhabits a world of vibrant matter? In Whitman she finds a model for what she calls a “processual self” – a self constantly in formation, susceptible to influence but also exerting an influence of its own. Bennett’s thinking is expansive and generous; it’s a pleasure to read this book.
Finally, even though it’s not out yet, I can’t resist pointing you towards Kevin Quashie’s Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being, the latest installment in the Black Outdoors series edited by Sarah Cervenak and J. Kameron Carter. Quashie builds his book on a seemingly simple prompt: “Imagine a black world.” Not a world where the racial logics of antiblackness are inverted, but rather a world where blackness is totality, where black being and the rightness of black being is assumed rather than justified. It’s a beautiful book that draws upon a wealth of Black feminist writing and poetry, from Audre Lorde to Nicky Finney. Quashie’s writing is magnetic. This one makes my must-read list for 2021.
There are plenty more books for you to browse at our virtual exhibit and on our website. Make sure to use the code MLA21 to receive a 30% discount (through March 31st).
If you would like to contact me about a project, you can send me an email, or you can submit your proposal through our online portal. I look forward to seeing folks in person next January (and perhaps sporting a new bit of winter weather gear as well).
I share with Courtney the sense of loss of our meeting in person. I’ve been attending MLA every year for many years, back to the last millennium. I was the rare person attached to the old conference schedule, when it met between Christmas and New Year’s. I loved arriving in a city in that liminal time, seeing chosen family, and finding a moment for a little sale shopping, a restaurant I had only read about. But even after the meeting moved to the start of January, I still love it. The chance to see so many people in such a short time. Panels that even now can crystalize a political or theoretical moment. I can remember lots of less-than-great things too – the hidden book display in Boston a mile away from everything – but overall, I’m missing all of you and the event.
So here we are with MLA, the play-at-home game. A consolation prize. Are we consoled? This is my fourth or fifth online conference and I’m here to say it’s not the same. Entering a room for a panel and finding a friend and joining them beats seeing a person on the same Zoom session every time. Still, we can sit where we want and get coffee without waiting in a twenty-minute line. We can actually see the speaker up close. Hang on to their words — or slip out to another session without being too conspicuous.
Like seeing people in person, seeing books in person is hard to replace. I’m in this business, so generally arrive at MLA thinking I’m up on things, but when I go around the book exhibit, there are always great books I hadn’t heard about. I love being in the booth and showing people the new titles – my old bookseller self — that will interest them. So here are a few exciting recommendations from our list. There are many – that’s why we have two booths – but here are some highlights!
Sara Ahmed’s next book Complaint! will be out in the fall, but if you haven’t read its companion, What’s the Use? it is a must. Like all of Sara’s book’s it is filled with perfectly described scenes and with clarifying sentences one recalls over and over again in meetings and in everyday life.
Speaking of meetings, Katina Rogers’ Putting the Humanities to Work asks what we need to do to rethink the literature PhD process from curriculum to department websites to hiring, that would make a program work better for all involved. Matt Brim’s Poor Queer Studies talks about the difference in teaching and theorizing in rich institutions and poor ones and asks how queer theory would have been different if it had developed in and for poorer students and communities of color.
Two books that would be headliners on any list came out this past fall. Jack Halberstam’s Wild Things and José Estaban Munoz’s long-awaited final book, The Sense of Brown. Both books are events. Halberstam is thinking through more wild and open relations to nature and sexuality. The book takes up more literature than his recent books, so will be especially good to think with for readers at MLA. José Munoz’s book has been in process for two decades. The thinking and writing runs parallel to Cruising Utopia and the book contains his important work on Brown feeling and the sense of Brown, Latinx performance, and much more.
It’s a particularly strong season for Latinx and Americas work in general. I’m very excited about former MLA President Diana Taylor’s ¡Presente! bringing her thinking about performance and politics together in some sparkling new ways. Also Arlene Dávila’s Latinx Art which made several end-of-year best lists, Ren Ellis Neyra, The Cry of the Senses, – just out – and the fabulous Keith Haring’s Line by Ricardo Montez. Finally, don’t miss Jillian Hernandez’s Aesthetics of Excess.
Equally important have been a series of books in Black Studies. R.A. Judy’s long-awaited Sentient Flesh, Ashon Crawley’s moving and beautiful The Lonely Letters, Shana Redmond’s capacious and necessary Everything Man, each brilliant thinking and creative critical writing. Don’t neglect Brigitte Fielder’s acclaimed Relative Races. And just out, Anthony Reed’s beautiful Soundworks on the interplay of Black poetry and experimental musics.
Amitava Kumar’s challenge to academic writers, Every Day I Write the Book, is perfect for thinking about opening up one’s own writing. And if one wanted an example of someone who did this with wonderful skill and ease, read Emily Lordi’s transformative, The Meaning of Soul – both a fabulous book on soul music and an exemplary book of prose style.
One thing I love about our list and this moment – perhaps similar to the combination of theory and writing — is when thinkers take two conversations and think them together. Erin Mannings’s For a Pragmatics of the Useless, thinks Black theory in relation to neurodiversity, while Ian Baucom’s History 4° Celsius puts the history of the Black Atlantic with the Anthropocene.
And flip to page 29 of our literature & literary studies catalog to peruse exciting new issues from journals such as Comparative Literature, English Language Notes, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Modern Language Quarterly, Transgender Studies Quarterly, and many more. Don’t forget that journal issues are eligible for the 30% conference discount with code MLA21!
If you were hoping to connect with Courtney Berger, Ken Wissoker, or another of our editors about your book project at MLA, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our online submissions guidelines here.
Demography, the flagship journal of the Population Association of America, will become platinum open access in 2021 as it joins Duke University Press. Since its founding in 1964, Demography has mirrored the vitality, diversity, high intellectual standard, and wide impact of population studies. It is the most cited journal in its field and reaches the membership of one of the largest professional demographic associations in the world. Libraries and institutions, learn how you can support Demography’s conversion to open access.
“In moving Demography from a traditional paid subscription model to open access, we’re thrilled that the worldwide community of population researchers will have access to its content, especially at this moment when access to reliable, peer-reviewed information is critically important,” said Dean Smith, Director of Duke University Press.
liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies carves out a place for aesthetic theory and the most radical agenda of Black studies to come together in productive ways, with the goal of attending to the aesthetic work of blackness and the political work of form. In this way, the journal develops innovative approaches to address points of convergence between the exigencies of black life and the many slippery ways in which blackness is encountered in contemporary sonic and visual culture. The journal showcases a variety of scholarly modes, including audio-visual work and experimental and traditional essays. Read an interview with founding editors Alessandra Raengo and Lauren McLeod Cramer.
While the American Dialect Society has chosen a Word of the Year for three decades now, this year’s selection was—to use a popular word these days—unprecedented. Like so much else in 2020, the deliberations were moved online, and in the first-ever virtual vote, held on Thursday, Dec. 17, the winner of the Word of the Year honors was Covid. It was a highly appropriate choice, given how Covid—short for COVID-19, the name given by the World Health Organization for the disease caused by novel coronavirus—has become a stand-in for the pandemic and all the ways it has shaped our lives.
The ADS first picked a Word of the Year, or WOTY as it’s known to its friends, at its annual meeting in December 1990, after the society’s long-time executive secretary Allan Metcalf proposed making a selection modeled on Time’s “Person of the Year.” For the first time since then, the ADS was unable to meet in person for its conference, and so plans were made to turn WOTY into a virtual event that would be open to all who wanted to participate. Ultimately, more than three hundred attendees joined a Zoom webinar, where they actively participated in the discussion and cast their votes.
As the sponsor of the event, Duke University Press was essential in making the virtual WOTY a reality. The Press has had a longstanding relationship with the ADS as the publisher of the society’s quarterly journal American Speech. As part of my duties as chair of the New Words Committee, I oversee “Among the New Words” in American Speech, a feature that has run in the journal since 1941. When I took on the role in 2011, I reflected on the history of “Among the New Words” in a post on this blog, and the eighty-year tradition continues in the forthcoming Feb. 2021 issue of American Speech. The next installment, which will debut a new format for the feature, is co-authored by Charles E. Carson, managing editor for American Speech, and Kelly E. Wright, a doctoral student in sociolinguistics at the University of Michigan. Word of the Year nominees always provide fertile ground for the neologisms covered in “Among the New Words.”
When the ADS made the decision over the summer to cancel its annual meeting, which was scheduled to be held in conjunction with the Linguistic Society of America in early January 2021, that opened up the possibility of holding the WOTY vote as a free-standing event. In devising plans with ADS executive director Julie Roberts of the University of Vermont, we hit upon the idea of live-streaming WOTY and moving the date up to December. As part of the registration process, we fielded nominations for words that people wanted to see in contention. Duke University Press graciously offered to sponsor the proceedings and hosted the webinar on Zoom. The live-stream went off without a hitch, as hundreds of participants were able to join in a lively debate over which words should be recognized as best capturing the zeitgeist of 2020.
In the overall WOTY category, Covid won out over such nominees as social distancing, unprecedented, pandemic, and even 2020, which has become its own lexical item to sum up all the feelings inspired by this particularly chaotic year. Additionally, votes were made in ten other secondary categories. These included the Digital Word of the Year (doomscrolling, for the obsessive practice of scanning social media and websites for bad news), Most Useful (Before Times, for the time before the beginning of the pandemic), and Most Likely to Succeed (antiracism, the practice of actively working to prevent or combat racism).
There was no shortage of creativity in the nominated words. My personal favorites included oysgezoomt, a word formed in Yiddish that means “Zoomed out” or fatigued from exposure to Zoom, and Blursday, a useful term for when you don’t quite know what day of the week it is (a common affliction in the pandemic era). Despite—or perhaps because of—the hardships of the past year, it was a vibrant time for the creation of new words, especially in the arena of what I’ve called “coronacoinages.” While Covid, a word that was unknown to anyone a year ago, may best encompass what we have collectively gone through in 2020, it represents only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the pandemic has transformed the lexicon. The diverse set of nominated words provides ample evidence for this flurry of linguistic activity in a year like no other.
The 2020 Word of the Year nominees will be considered in a future installment of “Among the New Words” in the Duke University Press journal American Speech. In the meantime, you can peruse the full list of nominated words in the press release on the results of the WOTY voting. Additionally, the entire live-stream has been archived on the American Dialect Society’s YouTube channel.