Literary Criticism & Theory

W. G. Sebald and the Global Valences of the Critical

The newest issue of boundary 2, “W. G. Sebald and the Global Valences of the Critical,” edited by Sina Rahmani, is now available.

Since his death nearly two decades ago, W. G. Sebald’s literary star among academics and critics has risen to astounding heights. In this special issue, contributors assert that Sebald’s transformation from controversial yet obscure Germanist to seemingly permanent fixture of scholarly monographs, articles, reviews, syllabi, and conference proceedings offers an instructive glimpse behind the velvet rope of global literary eminence.

His meteoric rise, they argue, shines a light on the hegemonic role the Anglophone literary market plays in the processes that authors and their texts undergo when they migrate from a national literary market to a planetary readership.

Read the free introduction, as well as Uwe Schütte’s “Troubling Signs: Sebald, Ambivalence, and the Function of the Critic,” available free through the end of October.

Q&A with Jane Bennett

Jane Bennett is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University and author of Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, also published by Duke University Press.

In her newest book, Influx and Efflux: Writing Up with Walt Whitman, she explores the question of human agency amidst a world teeming with powerful nonhuman influences, drawing upon Whitman, Thoreau, Caillois, Whitehead, and other poetic writers to link a non-anthropocentric model of self to a democratic pluralism and a syntax and style of writing appropriate to the entangled world in which we live.

Your book Vibrant Matter introduced so many of us to new materialist theory—the idea that we as humans are deeply engaged with a more-than-human material world. How does Influx and Efflux relate to the questions you took up in that book?

Vibrant Matter honed in on vital forces overlooked by a picture of the world as divided naturally into passive-reactive objects and active-creative subjects, and it figured the human being as one lively element among others within the complex ecology of human-nonhuman assemblages. It trained a cyclops eye on the liveliness of the ordinary nonhuman entities and processes by which we live—think, for example, of the powerful lure of certain objects and possessions, or of the effects of pesticides or pharmaceuticals on health, or of how you follow the lead of your materials as you cook, draw, garden.

In highlighting a more-than-human vitality, and in pitching its analysis at the grand, even cosmic level of “matter,” Vibrant Matter also cast shade on some other important efforts. These efforts include those defending humanism as an indispensable tradition of inquiry in the face of attacks against it as economically useless; or those exposing structures of (gendered, racialized, capitalist) injustice; or those in search of a philosophy of human agency that accounts for both its assemblage-quality and its capacity to add something qualitatively new to the world.

Influx and Efflux speaks to these previously shaded efforts, especially that last one. It returns to the matter of human subjectivity. What models of self and efficacy make sense within a non-anthropocentric ontology? What kinds of “I” and “we” can act effectively, and live well, alongside so many other lively bodies and forces? How to affirm the strange bubbling up of “individuality” within a world of vibrant matter? To pursue these tasks, I use Walt Whitman’s American poetry as my guide. I seek help also from other poetic voices unafraid to name, ride, and “write up” whatever laudable possibilities circulate quietly, even in dark times.

The book’s title references Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” in which the ocean’s flowing in and out refers to everyday movements in which outside influences enter bodies, infuse and confuse their organization, and then exit, themselves having been transformed into something new. Why did you choose to think with the phrase “influx and efflux” for this book?

I am drawn to pictures of the world that emphasize the role of becoming while also thinking about how entities (knots and clots) form in the process. One of the ways to do the latter is to acknowledge the configuring power of metamorphosis—to include within one’s “structural analysis” the arrangements made by rhythms of self-alteration (“influx and efflux”). It is notable also that Whitman’s phrase describes a process operative both in the ocean and in the “I.” The self that emerges in Leaves of Grass is the product of a process that repeats across human-nonhuman borders:

Sea of stretch’d groundswells,
Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,
Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell’d yet always-ready graves,
Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea,
I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases.
Partaker of influx and efflux I.

—Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” (Section 22)

You write about Whitman’s approach to the power of sympathy as a physical force: he saw his poetry as generating a cloud of possibility for abolitionist thought by highlighting the linked value of every body-soul, rather than directly engaging with the racialized violence of slavery in a way that might make people defensive. What might poetry have to offer for us in the polarized and tense political moment we are in right now?

There are loud voices in American politics today avowing hate, racism, guns, patriarchy, xenophobia, greed, extreme inequality, and authoritarian rule. For them, sympathy and empathy are but expressions of weakness. They deny not only their entanglements with other people but also their profound susceptibility to nonhuman forces—preferring to believe that climate change or a viral pandemic is a hoax propagated on behalf of the weak.

Such views have faced a direct, forceful, and high-intensity counter-response—by a militantly pro-democratic opposition to entrenched structures of privilege and domination. I applaud the Left’s use of outrage, revulsion, and militancy in the effort to counter right-wing attitudes, judgments, and actions. Influx & Efflux, however, takes another tactic—it leans into other moods and it relies more upon indirect powers, including wonder at the vitality of matter and a protean attraction to the bodies and things one regularly encounters. It seeks to harness the power of wonder and those vague, ahuman affections (“sympathies”) on behalf of a decent, egalitarian, and ecological public culture. I think that neglect of the energy of protean sympathies has made its own contribution to the rise of the cruel, authoritarian, and earth-destroying politics we currently endure.

It’s not that positive moods and indirect influences should replace the critical orientations and more express forms of opposition practiced by the Left; they are offered instead as a political supplement to them. The rhetorical groove of the book is less calling out and more calling toward, but I don’t think that renders it depoliticized, especially if “political” denotes that which is capable of inducing societal transformation. There is a form of political efficacy that relies upon direct action and intense affect, but there is also a form proceeding by subtle influence and gentler sensitivities—by a force that is only apparently “weak.”

Your own doodles appear on the book’s cover as well as throughout the manuscript. How should readers approach these doodles? What is their relationship to the written text?

People exist and subsist on many planes or registers at once—the conceptual and the spatial, the shaped and the vague, the static and the vibratory, the everyday and the cosmic. Each plane intersects with the others in experience, such that “experience” is itself an overrich mix of impressions, tempos, feelings, and moods. In short, life is complicated. Or, as Paul Klee put it, “It is not easy to orient yourself in a whole that is made up of parts belonging to different dimensions.”

The doodles—as lines and shapes on their way to elsewhere (Klee says they are “out for a walk”)—express, perhaps, one of the many non-linguistic registers of experience. The peculiar experience of agency that comes to the fore while doodling—an “I” that is carried along by a creative process that would not be the same without me and yet carries on whether I am there or not—is one theme of the book. The doodles speak without words to what the process-forward philosophy of the book also tries to pronounce.

One of the questions you explore in your work is what it looks like to write in a non-anthropocentric way. How do you include the more-than-human in your writing practice?

Simply naming and describing the presence of the not-quite human in any given field of perception, conception, reception, or deception is a start. Work to undo the learned tendency to overlook those aspects of one’s encounters that are not apparently useful for pragmatic action. Another tactic is to pay close attention to the verbs you speak—do they insinuate that the humans on the scene have more power or control of the action than they really do? The book experiments with using “middle-voiced” verbs as a way to “write up” a multi-specied kind of agency. Even though the “middle voice” is not marked formally in English (as it is in classical Greek and Sanskrit), it is still present in certain ways of speaking. It designates performances undertaken within an ongoing field of activities, rather than decisions of subjects who enter a field either to do something (the active voice) or to be acted upon (the passive voice). For example, the verbs “to partake,” “to inaugurate,” “to inflect,” and “to attest to” express an efficacy that both receives and twists, an efficacy that no singlet could own.

One of your chapters takes up Thoreau’s attempt to filter the influence of humans out of his life, but maximize the influx of the not-quite-human sparks of the Wild. Is there anything Thoreau might offer for those of us who are spending this springtime physically isolated from other humans?

Yes, lots. Get outside, even around the block. Make good advantage of the official (coronavirus pandemic) directive to avoid people, to eschew anthropocentrism. Now you can notice the intensive swarms of otherwise insignificant things in your immediate vicinity. This practice of attention may slowly expand (even cosmic-ize!) your perspective. You too are, when all is said and done, a minuscule bundle of energies in a cosmic swirl. The news, social media, the internet, and your conventional frame of mind/body all focus relentlessly on the social, political, economic, human-historical dimensions of your existence. But your being is also elsewhere, in excess of those planes or dimensions. You are other-than-human and more than conventional too: you live via and are impressed by a virtual realm that is real even if not expressly overt. Inhabit that more fully.

Read the introduction to Influx and Efflux free online and save 30% when you use coupon code E20BNNTT.

Preview our Fall 2020 Catalog

F20-catalog-coverWe’re excited to unveil our Fall 2020 catalog. Check out some highlights from the season below and then download a copy for a closer read. These titles will be published between July 2020 and January 2021.

On the cover we’re featuring an image from artist Lorraine O’Grady’s Writing in Space, 1973–2019, which gathers her statements, scripts, and previously unpublished notes charting the development of her performance work and conceptual photography. The book is edited by Aruna D’Souza.

We lead off with Diary of a Detour by Lesley Stern, a memoir of living with cancer and the unexpected detours illness can produce. Poet Eileen Myles calls it “the most pleasurable cancer book imaginable.” It’s illustrated with delightful drawings of Stern’s chickens, who brought solace during her journey.

The Sense of BrownThe next pages feature a couple of queer studies superstars: Jack Halberstam and the late José Esteban Muñoz. Muñoz was working on The Sense of Brown when he died in 2013. Scholars Joshua Chambers-Letson and Tavia Nyong′o have edited his unfinished manuscript and added an introduction. The book is a treatise on brownness and being as well as Muñoz’s most direct address to queer Latinx studies. Jack Halberstam’s new book Wild Things offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the twentieth century. It’s sure to please fans of his bestselling previous books Female Masculinity and The Queer Art of Failure. LGBTQ studies scholars will also want to check out Information Activism: A Queer History of Lesbian Media Technologies by Cait McKinney and Sexual Hegemony, in which Christopher Chitty traces the 500-year history of capitalist sexual relations by excavating the class dynamics of the bourgeoisie’s attempts to regulate homosexuality. And Left of Queer, an issue of Social Text edited by David L. Eng and Jasbir K. Puar, offers a detailed examination of queerness and its nearly three-decade academic and political mainstreaming and institutionalization.

Two books on the fall list will be helpful to recent PhDs as they navigate the job market and the complicated world of academe. Putting the Humanities PhD to Work by Katina L. Rogers grounds practical career advice in a nuanced consideration of the current landscape of the academic workforce. And we announce a fourth edition of The Academic’s Handbook. This edition of the popular guide is edited by Lori A. Flores and Jocelyn H. Olcott and is completely revised and expanded. Over fifty contributors from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds offer practical advice for academics at every career stage, whether they are first entering the job market or negotiating post-tenure challenges of accepting leadership and administrative roles.

How to Go Mad without Losing Your MindBlack studies continues to be a strong part of our list. This winter we publish a new book by Katherine McKittrick. In Dear Science and Other Stories she presents a creative and rigorous study of black and anticolonial methodologies, exploring how narratives of imprecision and relationality interrupt knowledge systems that seek to observe, index, know, and discipline blackness. Dear Science is the first book in the new Errantries series, edited by McKittrick, Simone Browne, and Deborah Cowen. In Sentient Flesh R. A. Judy offers an extended meditation on questions of blackness, the human, epistemology, and the historical ways in which the black being is understood. And we’re also looking forward to La Marr Jurelle Bruce’s How to Go Mad without Losing Your Mind, an urgent provocation and poignant meditation on madness in black radical art.

Latinx ArtFall brings some great new art and art history titles, including Latinx Art by Arlene Dávila, who draws on numerous interviews with artists, dealers, and curators to provide an inside and critical look of the global contemporary art market. Looking at Latinx aesthetics from a popular culture perspective, Jillian Hernandez’s Aesthetics of Excess analyzes the personal clothing, makeup, and hairstyles of working-class Black and Latina girl to show how cultural discourses of aesthetic value racialize the bodies of women and girls of color. And in ¡Presente!, Diana Taylor offers the theory of presente as a model of standing by and with victims of structural and endemic violence by being physically and politically present in situations where it seems that nothing can be done. In Liquor Store Theater, Maya Stovall uses her conceptual art project—in which she danced near her Detroit neighborhood’s liquor stores as a way to start conversations with her neighbors—as a point of departure for understanding everyday life in Detroit and the possibilities for ethnographic research, art, and knowledge creation. In Beyond the World’s End, T. J. Demos explores a range of artistic, activist, and cultural practices that provide compelling and radical propositions for building a just, decolonial, and environmentally sustainable future. And in Keith Haring’s Line, Ricardo Montez traces the drawn and painted line that was at the center of Keith Haring’s artistic practice, engaging with Haring’s messy relationships to race-making and racial imaginaries.

The Meaning of SoulIf you love music books, you’re in luck this fall. We offer Black Diamond Queens by Maureen Mahon, which documents the major contributions African American women vocalists such as Big Mama Thornton, Betty Davis, Tina Turner, and Merry Clayton have made to rock and roll throughout its history. And in The Meaning of Soul, Emily J. Lordi examines the work of Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Solange Knowles, Flying Lotus, and others in order to propose a new understanding of soul, showing how it came to signify a belief in black resilience enacted through musical practices.

We’re featuring a great group of Latin American studies titles this fall. In The Cuban Hustle, Sujatha Fernandes explores the many ways artists, activists, and ordinary Cubans have sought to hustle, survive, and express themselves in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse. We also welcome back returning authors Brett Gustafson with Bolivia in the Age of Gas and Joanne Rappaport with Cowards Don’t Make History.

For a Pragmatics of the UselessWe welcome back a number of other returning authors as well. In History 4° Celsius Ian Baucom continues his inquiries into the place of the Black Atlantic in the making of the modern and postmodern world. Catherine Besteman offers a sweeping theorization of the ways in which countries from the global North are reproducing South Africa’s apartheid system on a worldwide scale in her new book Militarized Global Apartheid. Erin Manning’s latest book For a Pragmatics of the Useless explores the links between neurotypicality, whiteness, and black life. Joseph Masco returns with The Future of Fallout, and Other Episodes in Radioactive World-Making, which examines the psychosocial, material, and affective consequences of the advent of nuclear weapons, the Cold War security state, climate change on contemporary US democratic practices and public imaginaries. And in The Wombs of Women, Françoise Vergès traces the long history of colonial state intervention in black women’s wombs during the slave trade and postslavery imperialism as well as in current birth control politics.

Fall also brings essential new journal issues in political science and political history. In “Fascism and Anti-Fascism since 1945,” an issue of Radical History Review, contributors show how fascist ideology continues to circulate and be opposed transnationally despite its supposed death at the end of World War II. And “The ACA at 10,” a two-part issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, marks the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act with essays from prominent analysts of US health policy and politics that explore critical issues and themes in the ACA’s evolution.

There’s so much more! We invite you to download the entire catalog and check out all the great books and journals inside. And be sure to sign up for our email alerts so you’ll know when titles you’re interested in are available.

Welcoming the Romanic Review to Duke University Press

ROM_new_prWe are pleased to welcome the Romanic Review to our publishing program starting with its new issue “Category Crossings: Bruno Latour and Medieval Modes of Existence,” now freely available online for three months.

Bruno Latour’s philosophical project has long been conceived as a critique of modernity, starting with Enlightenment dualisms (nature/culture, words/things, sacred/secular) and extending to the Cyber Age’s promise of unmediated access to knowledge (what Latour calls “Double Click”). The contributors to “Category Crossings,” guest-edited by Marilynn Desmond and Noah D. Guynn, consider the relevance of Latour’s critique for the study of the medieval premodern and ask how his call for a renewal of metaphysics—and for a diplomatic encounter between the various modes of existence—might be used to defamiliarize modern intellectual habits. Read the issue, free for three months, here.

The Romanic Review, edited by Elisabeth Ladenson, is a journal devoted to the study of Romance literatures. Founded in 1910 by Henry Alfred Todd, it is 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. The journal publishes both special thematic issues and regular unsolicited issues. It covers all periods of French, Italian, and Ibero-Romance languages and literature, and it welcomes a broad diversity of critical approaches. Learn more about the journal, including how to submit or subscribe.

New Books in May

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We’re pleased to announce that we’ve extended our Spring Sale through  May 25, which will allow you to pick up some new titles at 50% off this month. Use coupon SPRING50 to save.

In the beautifully illustrated, full-color book  AFRICOBRA, painter, photographer, and cofounder of Chicago arts collective AFRICOBRA Wadsworth A. Jarrell tells the definitive history of the group’s creation, history, and artistic and political principles and the ways it captured the rhythmic dynamism of black culture and social life to create uplifting art for all black people.

Eric Zolov presents a revisionist account of Mexican domestic politics and international relations during the long 1960s in The Last Good Neighbor, 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. Look for a Q&A with Zolov on our blog later this month.

Through innovative readings of gay and lesbian films, Lee Wallace offers a provocative argument in Reattachment Theory that queer experiments in domesticity have profoundly reshaped heterosexual marriage to such an extent that now all marriage is gay marriage.

François Ewald’s The Birth of Solidarity—first published in French in 1986 and appearing here in English for the first time—is one of the most important historical and philosophical studies of the rise of the welfare state. This edition is edited by Melinda Cooper.

Louise Amoore examines how machine learning algorithms are transforming the ethics and politics of contemporary society in Cloud Ethics, proposing what she calls cloud ethics as a way to hold algorithms accountable by engaging with the social and technical conditions under which they emerge and operate.

In Re-enchanting Modernity, Mayfair Yang examines the reemergence of religious life and ritual after decades of enforced secularized life in the coastal city of Wenzhou, showing how local practices of popular religion, Daoism, and Buddhism influence economic development and the structure of civil society.

In Writing Anthropology, fifty-two anthropologists reflect on scholarly writing as both craft and commitment, offering insights into the myriad roles of anthropological writing, the beauty and the function of language, the joys and pains of writing, and encouragement to stay at it. This collection is edited by Carole McGranahan.

In Beijing from Below, Harriet Evans tells the history of the residents in Dashalar—now redeveloped and gentrified but once one of the Beijing’s poorest neighborhoods—to show how their experiences complicate official state narratives of Chinese economic development and progress. 

Alex Blanchette explores how the daily lives of a Midwestern town that is home to a massive pork complex were reorganized around the life and death cycles of pigs while using the factory farm as a way to detail the state of contemporary American industrial capitalism in Porkopolis. As the coronavirus tears through meatpacking plants around the U.S., Blanchette’s analysis is highly relevant. We’ll feature a Q&A with him on our blog later in the month.

Drawing on examples of things that happen to us but are nonetheless excluded from experience, as well as critical phenomenology, genealogy, and feminist theory, Cressida J. Heyes shows how and why experience has edges, and analyzes phenomena that press against them in Anaesthetics of Existence.

In The Government of Beans, Kregg Hetherington uses Paraguay’s turn of the twenty-first century adoption of massive soybean production and the regulatory attempts to mitigate the resulting environmental degradation as a way to show how the tools used to drive economic growth exacerbate the very environmental challenges they were designed to solve.

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

 

New Titles in Asian American Studies

We regret to announce that in the ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we will be unable to meet with you during the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS) conference, which has been cancelled.

We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new books at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to extend a 50% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues through May 1. Use coupon code SPRING50 to save 50% when ordering online. In addition, if you spend $100 or more, we are offering free shipping to U.S. addresses. Journal subscriptions and society memberships don’t qualify for the 50% discount, but they do count toward the $100 threshold.

Across Oceans of LawBig congratulations to Renisa Mawani, whose book Across Oceans of Law is the winner of the AAAS Book Award for Outstanding Achievement in History. The prize committee wrote, “Grappling with the interconnectedness of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans—and the ways in which Asian Indians navigated the reach of the British empire—Mawani shifts our perspectives not only from U.S.-centric histories, but also from terrestrially-bound histories. . . . Mawani is able to ground her conceptual insights, transforming what could have remained an abstract, legal history of maritime law into a richly materialized narrative of mobility, empire, and race.” 

Check out some of the other great titles we would have featured in our booth at AAAS. 

Nandita Sharma traces the development of the categories of migrants and natives from the nineteenth century to the present in Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants to theorize how the idea of people’s rights being tied to geographical notions of belonging came to be.

In a brilliant reinvention of the travel guide, Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i, 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. This volume is edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez.

Rick Bonus tells the stories of Pacific Islander students at the University of Washington as they and their allies struggled to transform a university they believed did not value their presence into a space based on meaningfulness, respect, and multiple notions of student success in The Ocean in the School: Pacific Islander Students Transforming Their University.

In Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawai`i and Oceania, 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.

Drawing on Marxist phenomenology, geography, and aesthetics and film from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan made between the 1990s and the present, Erin Y. Huang theorizes the economic, cultural, and political conditions of neoliberal postsocialist China in Urban Horror: Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility.

In Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures, Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora trace the ways in which robots, artificial intelligence, and other technologies serve as surrogates for human workers within a labor system that is entrenched in and reinforces racial capitalism and patriarchy.

Weaving U.S. history into the larger fabric of world history, the contributors to Crossing Empires: Taking U.S. History into Transimperial Terrain 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.

Examining the work of writers and artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, and Allan deSouza, Kandice Chuh advocates for what she calls “illiberal humanism” as a way to counter the Eurocentric liberal humanism that perpetuates structures of social inequality in The Difference Aesthetics Makes: On the Humanities “After Man.”

If you were hoping to connect with one of our editors about your book project at AAAS, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our submissions guidelines here. We are now accepting submissions online!

Once again, we’re sorry to miss you in person but hope the 50% discount with free U.S. shipping on orders over $100 will make it possible for you to pick up some new books and journal issues. Use coupon SPRING50 at checkout and see the fine print on the sale here.

New Books in April

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Curling up on the couch with a great book is an excellent way to practice social distancing this month. All these titles will deliver before our sale ends on May 1, so check our website regularly. You can save 50% on all in-stock titles with coupon SPRING50

Tyler Bickford traces the dramatic rise of the “tween” pop music industry in Tween Pop, showing how it marshaled childishness as a key element in legitimizing children’s participation in public culture.

The contributors to Playing for Keeps examine the ways in which musical improvisation can serve as a way to negotiate violence, trauma, systemic inequality, and the aftermaths of war and colonialism. This volume is edited by Daniel Fischlin and Eric Porter.

John F. Szwed’s Space is the Place is the definitive biography of Sun Ra—composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, entrepreneur, poet, self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, and a founder of Afrofuturism. We are pleased to be bringing this classic back into print with a new preface.

In Vital Decomposition, Kristina M. Lyons presents an ethnography of human-soil relations in which she follows state soil scientists and peasant farmers in Colombia’s Putumayo region, showing how their relationship with soil is key to caring for the forest and growing non-illicit crops in the face of violence, militarism, and environmental destruction.

Micha Rahder explores how multiple ways of knowing the forest of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve shape conservation practice, local livelihoods, and landscapes in An Ecology of Knowledges.

In Relations, Marilyn Strathern provides a critical account of anthropology’s key concept of relation and its usage and significance in the English-speaking world, showing how its evolving use over the last three centuries reflects changing thinking about knowledge-making and kin-making.

In Virtual Pedophilia, Gillian Harkins traces the genealogy of the transformation of cultural construction of the pedophile as a social outcast into the image of normative white masculinity from the 1980s to the present, showing how his “normalcy” makes him hard to identify and stop.

In A People’s History of Detroit, Mark Jay and Philip Conklin use a Marxist framework to tell a sweeping story of Detroit from 1913 to the present, outlining the complex socio-political dynamics underlying major events in Detroit’s past, from the rise of Fordism and the formation of labor unions to deindustrialization and the city’s recent bankruptcy.

In Revolution and Disenchantment, Fadi A. Bardawil explores the hopes for and disenchantments with Marxism-Leninism in the writings and actions of revolutionary intellectuals within the 1960s Arab New Left.

In Tehrangeles Dreaming, Farzaneh Hemmasi draws on ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles and musical and textual analysis to examine how the pop music, music videos, and television made by Iranian expatriates express modes of Iranianness not possible in Iran.

The Lonely Letters is an epistolary blackqueer critique of the normative world in which Ashon T. Crawley meditates on the interrelation of blackqueer life, sounds of the black church, theology, mysticism, and the potential for platonic and erotic connection in a world that conspires against blackqueer life.

Drawing on Whitman and Adorno, Morton Schoolman proposes aesthetic education through film as a way to redress the political violence inflicted on difference society constructs as its racialized, gendered, Semitic, and sexualized other in A Democratic Enlightenment.

In Kwaito Bodies, Xavier Livermon examines the cultural politics of the youthful black body in South Africa through the performance, representation, and consumption of Kwaito—a style of electronic dance music that emerged following the end of apartheid.

Reflecting on the experience, philosophy, and practice of Latin American indigenous and Afro-descendant activist-intellectuals who mobilize to defend their territories from large-scale extraction, Arturo Escobar shows in Pluriversal Politics how the key to addressing planetary crises is the creation of the pluriverse—a world of many epistemological and ontological worlds.

The contributors to AIDS and the Distribution of Crises outline the myriad ways that the AIDS pandemic exists within a network of varied historical, overlapping, and ongoing crises borne of global capitalism and colonial, racialized, and gendered violence. This collection is edited by Jih-Fei Cheng, Alexandra Juhasz, and Nishant Shahani. It is currently available to read free online as part of our Navigating the Threat of Pandemic syllabus.

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New Books in March

Spring is just around the corner—so it’s time to stock up on books for a whole new season of reading. Check out all of these titles arriving in March!

In I Never Left Home, poet and revolutionary Margaret Randall tells the moving, captivating, and astonishing story of her life, from her childhood in New York to joining the Sandanista movement in Nicaragua, from escaping political repression in Mexico to raising a family and teaching college.

Demanding Images is Karen Strassler’s ethnography of Indonesia’s post-authoritarian public sphere, exploring the role of public images as they gave visual form to the ideals, aspirations, and anxieties of democracy.

Focusing on a wide range of media technologies and practices in Beijing, Underglobalization by Joshua Neves examines the cultural politics of the “fake” and how frictions between legality and legitimacy propel dominant models of economic development and political life in contemporary China.

A writing manual as well as a manifesto, Every Day I Write the Book combines novelist and essayist Amitava Kumar’s practical writing advice with interviews with prominent writers, offering guidance and inspiration for academic writers at all levels.

In Negative Exposures, Margaret Hillenbrand explores how artistic appropriations of historical images effectively articulate the openly unsayable and counter the public secrecy that erases traumatic episodes from China’s past.

The contributors to Visualizing Fascism, edited by Julia Adeney Thomas and Geoff Eley, examine the imagery and visual rhetoric of interwar fascism in East Asia, southern Africa, and Europe to explore how fascism was visualized as a global and aesthetic phenomenon.

In his new book-length prose poem, The Voice in the Headphones, musician David Grubbs draws on decades of recording experience, taking readers into the recording studio to tell the story of an unnamed musician who struggles to complete a film soundtrack in a day-long marathon recording session.

Rahul Mukherjee explores how the media coverage of and debates about nuclear power plants and cellular phone antennas in India frames and sustains environmental activism in Radiant Infrastructures.

Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky theorizes the process genre—a filmic genre characterized by its representation of chronologically ordered steps in which some form of labor results in a finished product—in The Process Genre.

In The Queer Games Avant-Garde, Bonnie Ruberg presents twenty interviews with twenty-two queer video developers whose radical, experimental, vibrant, and deeply queer work is driving a momentous shift in the medium of video games.

Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas traces how parenting practices among urban elites in Brazil and Puerto Rico preserve and reproduce white privilege and economic inequality in Parenting Empires.

In Rock | Water | Life, Lesley Green examines the interwoven realities of inequality, racism, colonialism, and environmental destruction in South Africa, calling for environmental research and governance to transition to an ecopolitical approach that could address South Africa’s history of racial oppression and environmental exploitation.

Matt Brim shifts queer studies away from sites of elite education toward poor and working-class students and locations in Poor Queer Studies, showing how the field is driven by those flagship institutions that perpetuate class and race inequity in higher education.

In Paris in the Dark, Eric Smoodin takes readers on a journey through the streets, cinemas, and theaters of Paris to sketch a comprehensive picture of French film culture during the 1930s and 1940s.

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New Journals in 2020: History of the Present & Romanic Review

This coming year, we’re excited to welcome History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History and the Romanic Review to our journals publishing program. Both journals will begin publication with Duke University Press in late spring.

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.

An Interview with Milette Shamir and Irene Tucker, editors of Poetics Today

We sat down with Milette Shamir and Irene Tucker, the new editors of Poetics Today, which aims to develop systematic approaches to the study of literature. Shamir is based at Tel Aviv University in the department of English and American Studies, and Tucker is based at the University of California, Irvine, in the English department.

DUP: You both are new coeditors, beginning your terms in July. What are your professional backgrounds, and how did you come to be involved with Poetics Today?

Milette: That’s an interesting question, because my background is actually in American studies, a field not usually associated with the kind of scholarship that Poetics Today promotes. So I come to the journal as something of an outsider.

But as a former student and twenty-year faculty member at Tel Aviv University’s School of Cultural Studies, where Poetics Today was born and is housed today (at the Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics), editing the journal does not feel all that strange to me. Poetics Today has a long and rich tradition at Tel Aviv University. It was started at the university in the ’70s by the late professor Benjamin Harshav, and to this day it has links to the kind of literary scholarship that flourished in Tel Aviv at that time and that, at its peak, had worldwide impact, especially in the fields of poetics, narratology, and literary theory. For many years, the journal’s editor was TAU professor Meir Sternberg. For me, taking on this journal and continuing the work of generations of scholars at Tel Aviv University is a great honor, and I am committed to the journal’s legacy even if it lies a bit outside of my own intellectual comfort zone. 

Irene: I’m more of a formalist than Milette, but not in a particularly narratological way—I’m interested in thinking about the ways that this long tradition of looking at narrative form can interact with some of the new and interesting historicist and multimedia questions that have emerged recently.

I also have a long, if not entirely continuous, association with Tel Aviv University. When I was in graduate school, I had a chapter on the early Hebrew novel that I did research on at the Porter Institute. I’ve gone back to Tel Aviv University for a number of sabbaticals and for a third book project that I’m working on now, on the subject of ambivalence about state sovereignty in modern Jewish and Israeli political thought and in contemporary Israeli literature. So, like Milette, I feel a sense of institutional investment in Poetics Today’s tradition and curiosity about new directions that it could take. Also, we work well together, so it seemed like a fun thing to do.

DUP: What is your vision for Poetics Today, and how do you hope to shape the journal for the future?

Milette: Poetics Today was from the beginning an international journal in the full sense of the word—many of its contributors and its readers are based in different countries around the world—not just in North America and the UK, but also in all parts of Europe, South America, and Asia. Its global reach is really impressive, especially given the dominance of North American scholarship in most literary journals. In recent years, several voices in our profession have been making the point that the growth of interest in “world literature” should be accompanied by increasing attentiveness to literary criticism outside of the US and to the way non-US-based scholars think about literary analysis and theory from a diversity of perspectives. 

Since Poetics Today has for decades now been bringing together scholars from different countries, it provides a natural environment for conversations between these globally diverse approaches. This is something that I’m really interested in encouraging.

DUP: Are there places in the world that you’re particularly interested in?

Irene: I think that we’d like to reach out in a lot of different directions. Scholars from Latin America seems a group with which we’d like to be in more regular and sustained conversation. So far in terms of submissions, we’ve gotten lots of interesting stuff from various places in the Middle East, various kinds of scholars in different parts of Africa. We’re not built around a certain national point of interest since national literature is not our structuring principle. We actually can turn and pivot among different kinds of audiences.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that while there has recently emerged a critical movement that calls itself “the New Formalism,” in some, though certainly not all, versions of this self-designated practice, the thing that is “new” about it is its nostalgia for an earlier professional and intellectual moment. This impulse seems to me connected to the recent proliferation of work in various sub-disciplines on “the state of the field,” which seems similarly animated by a certain melancholy. It is almost as if in this moment of crisis in the humanities—which we can’t legitimately call a “moment” any more—people are uncertain whether the work they—we—are doing matters in any lasting way and so are responding by looking back to a time when literary studies was generally acknowledged to command respect. 

Part of what I’m interested in thinking about that we could do with Poetics Today are the ways in which, rather than opting for this kind of melancholic retrospection, we might think of new ways of linking subfields that have been understood to be isolated from one another, if not in active tension. So, for example, we might think about the relations of narrative form and the various sorts of scholarly modes associated with archives. Or we might explore the narrative effects of the proliferation of different modes of delivery—audiobooks and streaming, just to take some fairly obvious examples. How have the changes in the economics of television changed the narrative forms stories take? Scholarship about narrative form has lots to illuminate and to learn from those sorts of cultural studies scholars studying the shifting economics of television.

DUP: Are there any special issues coming up that you’re looking forward to?

Milette: There are several exciting issues in preparation or under consideration. We are currently working on a special issue that brings together comparative literature and cognitive approaches to literary studies, edited by Lisa Zunshine. Another one in the works offers a critical extension of postsecular thinking into aesthetic discourses, cultural criticism, and arts practices. It is edited by Silke Horstkotte of Universität Leipzig and James Hodkinson of the University of Warwick.

Irene: We’re publishing a special issue on logic and narrative in which contributors are thinking about how questions of mathematical form are connected to questions of literary form. This issue came out of a conference on the topic that seemed very promising, so we invited the organizers, Jeffrey Blevins and Daniel Williams, to create a special issue.

Milette: To return to the international reach of Poetics Today, we’re currently considering a special issue that will come out simultaneously with a special issue in the French journal Cahiers de Narratologie, centering around the influential philosopher and theorist Paul Ricoeur. The two journals will publish different but complementary articles, each in its own language.

DUP: What are you looking for right now in submissions?

Milette: The scope of Poetics Today is very broad. As long as a submission falls within the general topics of the journal and is a smart, innovative article that is also self-conscious of being part of an ongoing conversation in its area, we will consider it. We are less inclined to accept articles that offer readings of texts without thinking about the larger theoretical or critical implications of those readings.

Irene: Yeah, I guess my basic principle is: does this piece of writing make me think new things that suggest moving in different ways? Does it make me say, Huh, that’s kind of cool, as opposed to a kind of retreading of a given set of questions? Because we do get lots of articles that are beautifully written but seem very positioned within what we would call normal science. I’m more inclined to consider something that feels a little rough but is moving in a lot of interesting directions, and to see whether we can shepherd it through, as opposed to going with something that feels it’s happy within the terms of an existing discourse.

DUP: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Milette:  I think this is a good opportunity to thank our predecessor, Brian McHale. Brian’s work over the past five years was outstanding, and it is thanks to him that we are able to transition into the role of editors with full confidence in the journal and its strengths.