In TSQ’s newest issue “Trans Futures,” edited by micha cárdenas and Jian Neo Chen, contributors introduce times and spaces of trans critique, experience, and imagination that challenge conventions of discipline, genre, method, and perception. They examine the state’s capacity to control trans lives and to render trans futures less than possible, and they also envision trans and queer practices of survival, reproduction, and transformation that move beyond these limitations.
In the newest issue of Cultural Politics, contributors discuss the historical significance and cultural legacies of 1968 from the vantage point of contemporary politics. “Legacies of ’68: Histories, Geographies, Epistemologies,” edited by Morgan Adamson and Sarah Hamblin, maps out the transnational connections between the various 1968 movements and traces the legacies of these ideas to see how the year continues to shape political, cultural, and social discourse today.
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History in Premodern Korea,” edited by Jungwon Kim, take these archives beyond their usual definition as collections of historical documents of the past by revealing how these archives cast light on what and who were left out of the conventional historiography of premodern Korea.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 preface to “The Theology of American Popular Music” (3:2, 1989), Black Sacred Music editor Yahya Jongintaba (then known as Jon Michael Spencer) described theomusicology as “a musicological method for theologizing about the sacred (the religious/churched), the secular (the theistic unreligious/un-churched), and the profane (the atheistic/irreligious) . . . principally incorporating methods borrowed from anthropology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy.” Jongintaba saw theomusicology as a distinct branch of musicological study akin to ethnomusicology. He further envisioned it as a way to drive scholarly interest in popular music, which was then still largely ignored by musicology (popular music studies was still very much in its infancy) and religious studies.
During its nine years of publication (1987–1995), the journal took a broad approach to its subject area, publishing scholarly essays on spirituals, the blues, rock, hip hop, and musical practices of the African and African-American church alongside a rich collection of archival documents recounting Black musical life from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Below are a few highlights.
In “Musicology as a Theologically Informed Discipline” (8:1, 1994), journal editor Yahya Jongintaba lays out what he sees as the parameters of theomusicology as distinct from ethnomusicology. As he re-articulates the points about the interdisciplinary influences mentioned above, he also makes pointed critiques about the colonialist, eurocentric, and racist roots of those disciplines. He suggests that “theology can, in turn, liberate the social sciences by its willingness to confront oppressive scholarly methods, constructs, and intents on ethical grounds.”
“On Afro-American Popular Music: From Bebop to Rap” (6:1, 1992), part of the special issue “Sacred Music of the Secular City: From Blues to Rap,” is a reprint of a 1983 article in which Cornel West “provide[s] a cognitive mapping of the major breaks and ruptures in Afro-American popular music in light of their changing socioeconomic and political contexts from bebop to rap, from Charlie Parker to the Sugarhill Gang.” He gives special attention to Motown, the “technofunk” of Parliament/Funkadelic, and rap as dynamic expressions of Black identity and norm-breaking.
The journal also featured some of the earliest scholarly discourse around hip hop, contained in the issue “The Emergency of Black and the Emergence of Rap” (5:1, 1991). Contributors to the issue chart the distinct phases of rap’s first decade, analyze the way Nation of Islam ideology weaves its way through Public Enemy’s music and performance, and investigate the African spirituality of MC Hammers “U Can’t Touch This.” Perhaps the most provocative article in the issue is Sonja Peterson-Lewis’s “A Feminist Analysis of the Defenses of Obscene Rap Lyrics,” which responds to the 2 Live Crew obscenity trial in 1990. Peterson-Lewis critiques 2 Live Crew’s lyrics, particularly the way their depictions of violence against women reinforce sexist tropes.
Another key contribution from the journal was its publication of important archival materials. Most of its regular issues feature some kind of historical reprint: antislavery songs; accounts of the use of spirituals in various contexts; and articles by figures such as Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes. In the issue Unsung Hymns by Black and Unknown Bards (4:1, 1990), Jongintaba collected 100 hymns—some are just lyrics, others include sheet music—written by 14 hymnists over nearly two centuries. While none of the authors are anonymous (like the authors/composers of many spirituals), most had been forgotten to history.
Finally, the journal published two invaluable readers of the prominent African-American composers William Grant Still (6:2, 1992) and R. Nathaniel Dett (5:2, 1991). The Dett Reader compiles 20 essays written between 1918 and 1938, documenting his research into the origins and history of spirituals. The Still Reader features 35 essays spanning 40 years discussing his views on classical music, race, and the role of the composer in the 20th century. These issues represent the most comprehensive collections of primary documents by these men.
Black Sacred Music provided a trove of innovative research and significant historical documents that cannot be found anywhere else. Today, scholars on four continents are involved in producing an array of theomusicology-focused books, articles, dissertations, theses, papers, lectures, blogs, and courses.
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.
Notable contributors include Philip V. Bohlman, Michael Eric Dyson, Andrew Greeley, Mark Sumner Harvey, Willie James Jennings, D. Soyini Madison, Sonja Peterson-Lewis, Harold Dean Trulear, William C. Turner Jr., Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, Cornel West, and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
The current field of literary history is rapidly expanding, presenting an exciting but also bewildering time for historians of literature. Designations of literary periods have become progressively more flexible while some scholars have simply abandoned the idea of distinct literary periods and geographically limited literary histories altogether. In the newest issue of Modern Language Quarterly, “Literary History after the Nation?” edited by Peter Kalliney, contributors consider the status of modern literary history in this moment of flux. They pose the question: now that the unspoken national and regional assumptions of literary studies are being challenged, how should we write literary history?
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.
We’re pleased to announce that “Violence and Policing,” a new issue of Public Culture, edited by Shamus Khan and Madiha Tahir, is freely available until September 30, 2020. Read the full issue here.
By identifying parallels between police and military power, contributors argue that policing is more than merely the practice of the institution of the police but is the violence work of maintaining a specific social order.
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.