Race and Ethnicity

New Books in December

As the weather cools and the holiday season approaches, treat yourself to one of our great new December titles!

Cover of On Paradox: The Claims of Theory by Elizabeth S. Anker. Cover features the title in large all-caps blue font against a plain white background.

In On Paradox, Elizabeth S. Anker contends that the faith in the logic of paradox has been the watermark of left intellectualism since the second half of the twentieth century, showing how paradox generates the very exclusions it critiques and undercuts theory’s commitment to social justice.

Piro Rexhepi explores the overlapping postsocialist and postcolonial border regimes in the Balkans that are designed to protect whiteness and exclude Muslim, Roma, and migrant communities in White Enclosures.

The contributors to Turning Archival, edited by Daniel Marshall and Zeb Tortorici, trace the rise of “the archive” as an object of historical desire and study within queer studies and examine how it fosters historical imagination and knowledge.

In Feltness, Stephanie Springgay considers socially engaged art as a practice of research-creation that germinates a radical pedagogy she calls feltness—a set of intimate practices of creating art based on touch, affect, relationality, love, and responsibility.

Cover of Ain't But a Few of Us: Black Music Writiers Tell Their Stories by Willard Jenkins. Cover features pink spotted border on left with purple background to the right. Various sized rectangles across the center feature pictures of hands, somone writing, and instruments. Orange subtitle is bottom-right of images, white title is above, and word US in captial pink. Author's name is below-right images in yellow.

Ain’t But a Few of Us, edited by Willard Jenkins, presents over two dozen candid dialogues with Black jazz critics and journalists who discuss the barriers to access for Black jazz critics and how they contend with the world of jazz writing dominated by white men.

In Poverty and Wealth in East Africa, Rhiannon Stephens offers a conceptual history of how people living in eastern Uganda have sustained and changed their ways of thinking about wealth and poverty over the past two thousand years.

Examining a wide range of photography from across the global South, the contributors to Cold War Camera, edited by Thy Phu, Erina Duganne, and Andrea Noble, explore the visual mediation of the Cold War, illuminating how photography shaped how it was prosecuted and experienced.

In Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea, Namhee Lee explores how social memory and neoliberal governance in post-1987 South Korea have disavowed the revolutionary politics of the past.

Cover of New Growth: The Art and Texture of Black Hair by Jasmine Nichole Cobb. Cover is red with black and white lettering and features a historical picture of a Black woman in a low-cut dress in the middle. Where her hair would be is a collection of black brush strokes so that she looks like she is wearing a large wig or hat. Underneath her image, upside down, text reads "the strange sit-in that changed a city."

Through close readings of slave narratives, scrapbooks, travel illustration, documentary film and photography, as well as collage, craft, and sculpture, Jasmine Nichole Cobb explores Black hair as a visual material through which to reimagine the sensual experience of Blackness in New Growth.

The contributors to New World Orderings, edited by Lisa Rofel and Carlos Rojas, demonstrate that China’s twenty-first-century rise occurs not only through economics and state politics, but equally through its relationships and interactions with the Global South.

Focusing on his personal day to day experiences of the “shelter-in-place” period during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, Alberto Moreiras offers a meditation on intellectual life and the nature of thought under the suspension of time and conditions of isolation in Uncanny Rest.

Cover of Ruderal City: Ecologies of Migration, Race, and Urban Nature in Berlin by Bettina Stoetzer. Cover is a photograph focused on a small patch of a yellow flower bush. In the background past the bush is an out of focus bridge with a yellow train on it. The sky is blue.

In Ruderal City, Bettina Stoetzer traces the more-than-human relationships between people, plants, and animals in contemporary Berlin, showing how Berlin’s “urban nature” becomes a key site in which notions of citizenship and belonging as well as racialized, gendered, and classed inequalities become apparent.

Veit Erlmann examines the role of copyright law in post-apartheid South Africa and its impact on the South African music industry in Lion’s Share, showing how copyright is inextricably entwined with race, popular music, postcolonial governance, indigenous rights, and the struggle to create a more equitable society.

Rumya Sree Putcha uses the figure of the Indian classical dancer to explore the complex dynamics of contemporary transnational Indian womanhood in The Dancer′s Voice.

In Feminism in Coalition Liza Taylor examines how U.S. women of color feminists’ coalitional collective politics of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s is an indispensable resource to contemporary political theory, feminist studies, and intersectional social justice activism.

Cover of Cooling the Tropics: Ice, Indigeneity, and Hawaiian Refreshment by Hi'ilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart. White title centered and transparent with "the" centered left and transparent white subtitle to the right. Background features a blue tinged picture of girl eating ice cream in front of light blue, purple, pink, and orange/yellow blended background. Author name in all caps in blue along bottom.

Hiʻilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart charts the social history of ice in Hawaiʻi in Cooling the Tropics, showing how ice and refrigeration underpinned settler colonial ideas about race, environment, and the senses.

The contributors to Siting Postcoloniality, edited by Pheng Cheah and Caroline S. Hau, reevaluate the notion of the postcolonial by focusing on the Sino-sphere—the region of East and Southeast Asia that has been significantly shaped by relations with China throughout history.

Rupal Oza follows the social life of rape in rural northwest India to reveal how rape is a language through which issues ranging from caste to justice to land are contested in Semiotics of Rape.

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 Books in October

Fall is in full swing, so curl up with a hot drink, a cozy sweater, and a new book! Check out our October releases.

Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood is John D’Emilio’s coming-of-age story in which he takes readers from his working-class Bronx neighborhood and Columbia University to New York’s hidden gay male subculture and the political and social upheavals of the late 1960s. You can catch John D’Emilio discussing his book at the Calandra Italian American Institute in New York City later this month.

Exploring her attraction to tininess and the stories of those who share it, Barbara Browning offers a series of charming short essays that plumb what it means to ponder the minuscule in The Miniaturists.

Cover of No Machos or Pop Stars: When the Leeds Art Experiment Went Punk by Gavin Butt. Cover features a group of young people dressed up for a punk showing laughing together.

Gavin Butt tells the story of the post-punk scene in the northern English city of Leeds in No Machos or Pop Stars, showing how bands ranging from Gang of Four, Soft Cell, and Delta 5 to Mekons, Scritti Politti, and Fad Gadget drew on their university art school education to push the boundaries of pop music. Butt will launch his book at an exciting event in Leeds this month, featuring performances by Scritti Politti and The Mekons77.

In Fragments of Truth, Naomi Angel analyzes the visual culture of reconciliation and memory in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Canada established in 2008 to review the history of the Indian Residential School system, a brutal colonial project that killed and injured many Indigenous children.

Drawing on the archives of the Black Panther Party and the National Black Women’s Health Project, Sami Schalk explores how issues of disability have been and continue to be central to Black activism from the 1970s to the present in Black Disability Politics. Schalk launches her book at an event at the Ford Foundation in New York City on October 26.

In Changing the Subject, Srila Roy traces the impact of neoliberalism on gender and sexuality rights movements in the Global South through queer and feminist activism in India. Roy is speaking about her book at The New School and Columbia University later this month.

Filipe Maia offers a theological reflection on hope and the future in the context of financialized capitalism in Trading Futures, arguing that the Christian vocabulary of hope can provide the means to build a future beyond the strictures of capitalism.

Cover of The Promise of Multispecies Justice by Sophie Chao, Karin Bolender, and Eben Kirksey. Cover is green with black and white pictures of a plant between wire. Title sits top left in bold white with a light blue line underlinging it. Authors' names sit bottom right in white without bold.

Coming from the worlds of cultural anthropology, geography, philosophy, science fiction, poetry, and fine art, editors Sophie Chao, Karin Bolender, and Eben Kirksey and the contributors to this volume of The Promise of Multispecies Justice consider the possibility for multispecies justice and speculate on the forms it would take. The authors have developed a multimedia website where you can learn more about this collection.

In Health in Ruins, César Ernesto Abadía-Barrero assesses neoliberalism’s devastating effects on a public hospital in Colombia and how health care workers resisted defunding.

Jovan Scott Lewis retells the history and afterlife of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre and its century-long legacy of dispossession in Violent Utopia, placing it in a larger historical and social context of widespread anti-Black racism and segregation in Tulsa and beyond.

In a new revised and expanded twentieth anniversary edition of his classic book Big Game, Small World, sportswriter Alexander Wolff travels the globe in search of what basketball can tell us about the world, and what the world can tell us about the game.

AnaLouise Keating provides a comprehensive investigation of the foundational theories, methods, and philosophies of Gloria E. Anzaldúa in The Anzaldúan Theory Handbook.

Nomenclature collects eight volumes of Dionne Brand’s poetry published between 1983 and 2010, as well as a new long poem, the titular Nomenclature for the time being.

In Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad, Volume I, Obeah, Tracey E. Hucks traces the history of the repression of Obeah practitioners in colonial Trinidad.

And in Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad, Volume II, Orisa, Dianne M. Stewart analyzes the sacred poetics, religious imagination, and African heritage of Yoruba-Orisa devotees in Trinidad from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.

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.

Peer Review Week: Excerpt from We Are Not Dreamers

It’s Peer Review Week, an annual event to celebrate the value of peer review that brings together scholarly communication stakeholders, including academic publishers, associations, institutions, and researchers. This year’s theme is “Research Integrity: Creating and supporting trust in research.” This week we will share excerpts on the topic of peer review and research integrity from some of our books. Today we present an excerpt from We are Not Dreamers: Undocumented Scholars Theorize Undocumented Life in the United States edited by Leisy J. Abrego and Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales in which they discuss the ethics of doing research with undocumented students and scholars.

This is a unique volume. There is currently no other collection of empirical and theoretical work by undocumented or recently undocumented scholars. As editors of this volume, this was certainly an empirical and analytical matter, but also a methodological one. Each author details their own methodological approach in the chapters, but there are broader methodological interventions
that must also be named. These involve explicitly positioning undocumented scholars as theorists of the undocumented experience while being mindful of the ethics involved in doing this work.
At the outset of this project, we were clear that we did not want this to be a collection of testimonies, narrative reflections, or first-person essays; this is not to say that there is not value in such endeavors, but rather to be clear that such a project is politically, analytically, and methodologically distinct from  our aims here. This volume is an intentional effort to position this work as critical to the field in that it pushes our understanding of undocumented life in the United States at this time. Thus, the positioning of the undocumented immigrant as scholar is a direct departure from the treatment of the undocumented immigrant as subject or object. This positioning is not only pragmatic or practical, it is also methodological.

Part of our politic and analytic around this is that this process of undocumentation (Negrón-Gonzales 2018), while it is discussed in public discourse as a clear-cut matter, is a social, legal, and political construction. There is nothing inherent in people that makes them undocumented. There is nothing unchangeable in society that determines that undocumented people are criminals. On the contrary, people move in and out of undocumenteds status and legal, political, and social treatment of undocumented people changes across different historical moments (Ngai 2004). Methodologically, then, it made sense to us to capture these experiences by including people who have direct experience with being undocumented and scholars, whether they are currently undocumented, daca recipients, or formerly undocumented for a notable part of their lives as students. We feel strongly that the authors in this volume have an important role to play in shaping the field.

The other methodological dimension worth illuminating concerns research ethics. Many theorists of undocumented migration have aimed to be thoughtful in how they approach research ethically (Hernández et al. 2013; Suárez-Orozco and Yoshikawa 2013). Some have written about the ethics of
cocreating theory with undocumented students who are the focus of analysis (Pérez Huber 2010), while others provide undocumented students with research training and writing support (Clark-Ibáñez 2015; Mena Robles and Gomberg-Muñoz 2016; Unzueta Carrasco and Seif 2014). There is, however,
a persistent disconnection in the field more broadly. Undocumented young people note that there is a pattern of researchers entering spaces of organizing—sometimes without permission—only to gather information for their studies, never to be seen again. Those researchers have failed to reciprocate with undocumented immigrant communities, rarely using their skills to support the advocacy work that they document. And in most of those cases, people who participated in the study were not informed of the findings. Authors in this volume have had conversations about how to address these concerns regarding immigration scholars who are not themselves undocumented. One response, in particular, thoughtfully details the problems and suggests best practices for scholars to follow when conducting research with undocumented communities.
Gabrielle Cabrera, one of the authors featured in this volume, along with Ines Garcia and an anonymous student at their undergraduate institution in California, got together shortly after the election of Donald Trump. In an attempt to be proactive in this new political context and rooted in what they saw as the nonreciprocal pattern of engagement described above, they developed a brief guide on research ethics for scholars and researchers who were turning to write about undocumented youth in the midst of heightened political threats.

November 30, 2016
Dear Researchers,
We’d like to emphasize that Undocumented students are not research subjects. We respectfully, but adamantly ask faculty members who are conducting research on and with Undocumented people to please conduct ethical research. By ethical research, we mean:
1. the questions asked to participants should not attempt to uplift the “progressive” efforts of the university;
2. sharing the research and findings with our community through relevant and accessible means; and
3. researchers should not treat Undocumented students as a “trendy” research topic.
We’d also like to take this moment to express the need for critical research on and with Undocumented students. We believe the efforts of faculty are grounded in good intentions and understand the importance of it. We also want to name that research causes harm to our community as it has been known to exploit and commodify our bodies and experiences. Researchers should not collect data about our lives and publish the knowledge solely for their own benefit. Researchers should intentionally disseminate findings into our communities in meaningful and relevant ways. “Policy Recommendations” at the end of articles are not enough. Researchers should not claim to give us “voice” when current research on Undocumented students perpetuate the violent “DREAMER” narrative.
A change in the ways in which Undocumented students are researched needs to occur. We are scholars. We are community members. We are collaborators in the research process. Researchers should not speak on our behalf. Rather, researchers should give us the platform to speak for ourselves. Faculty members have the ability to do this by conducting ethical research that engages our community throughout the process.

As is true of many scholars we have worked with, Cabrera, Garcia, and their peers highlight the need to push back on the dreamer narrative, not only identifying its limitations but also highlighting how it reifies and sanctifies a certain kind of “good” immigrant. This pushback is a persistent theme across the chapters in this book, and the analytical contributions of these young scholars remind us that a key part of decolonizing research methodologies involves disrupting the assumed unmovable distinction between the researcher and the researched. Part of that process involves marginalized people theorizing and producing scholarship about the experiences of their communities.

Leisy J. Abrego is Professor of Chicana/o and Central American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love across Borders. Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales is Associate Professor of Education at the University of San Francisco and coauthor of Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World. We Are Not Dreamers is available for 30% off on our site with coupon SAVE30.

Keywords in Caribbean Studies: A Small Axe Project

We are pleased to share a new annual special section from Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism: “Keywords in Caribbean Studies: A Small Axe Project”, a collaborative effort to examine the genealogy and contemporary lexicon of Caribbean cultural-political terms. The featured section will be published in each July issue of Small Axe, beginning with volume 26, no. 2 (68), which covers the multiplicity of meaning and fraught history of Caribbean discourse terms zwart, negro/a/x, négre, and Black.

“Our keywords project is an exercise in critical vocabulary that is less preoccupied with the production of a singular, authoritative definition for a term than it is with a genealogy of that term’s history and usage,” write the editors about the new special section. “In an effort to synthesize the historical meanings and enduring significance of terms that define our region and guide our study, we seek to trace histories of concepts and speculate imaginatively about their future uses and directions.”

Through this annual published conversation, Small Axe provides a space for readers and scholars to remain attentive to the tension, depth, and complexity of language while invigorating creative new thinking on contemporary and future studies in the Caribbean. Read the introduction to the inaugural collection of essays, made freely available.

Women’s Rights and the Knots of Motherhood: A Guest Post by Jane Lazarre

In June of 2022, the United States Supreme Court ruled to eliminate the right to privacy for American women in choosing when and if to become mothers, a right that has been constitutional since 1973 in the decision Roe vs Wade. 

Cover of The Mother Knot by Jane Lazarre. The cover features a grey line drawing of an infant suckling a breast. The title is place in an orange box. There is also a quote: "A Modern Feminist classic."—Maureen T. Reddy

Restricting and removing women’s rights, silencing our voices, controlling our choices and our bodies, is everywhere and throughout history intimately connected to tyranny. American slavery controlled women’s bodies through rape and forced breeding. It was only in 1919 that women were “given” the “right” to vote, and as American tyrannies rise again, the right to vote is being threatened in many states. From European Fascism and Nazism, to various ideologies and religious fundamentalisms around the world, now in the United States—everywhere tyranny is embedded with issues of caste and class – with racism, white supremacy and misogyny. As always, single mothers, women of color, poor women, and many working mothers without wealth or supports will be the most harmed.

Coincidentally, my first memoir, about pregnancy, giving birth and my first years of being a mother, (The Mother Knot) written and published over forty years ago, widely read then, is now being widely read again in a Spanish language edition as feminist movements gather energy in Spain and in South and Central America. Recently, I spoke with Mexican journalists who still feel the book’s relevance. One young woman described the traumatic experience of becoming a mother alone during the pandemic, then the relief she felt in what she called the “radical honesty” of my story of the knots of motherhood. She described horror felt about the decision of our Supreme Court by many women in South and Central America, where feminism is changing political and personal consciousness as the movement did in the United States in the 1970s. Many there are struggling to understand how America — still in some ways viewed as a democratic ideal if not a reality — can have prohibited the voices of women, turning choice into a crime. I was deeply moved by the continued relevance of my work, but also made aware by these courageous young women of how crucial our voices are — the voices of women everywhere. For the voices of mothers in the United States have never been only about women having and caring for children. Biological mothers join other voices across the arts and professions; women who choose not to be, or cannot be, biological mothers; adoptive mothers and step-mothers; women, including mothers, who reject the classic myth of ourselves as perfect givers, always choosing service to others over service to ourselves, angels of love or she-devils of murderous capacity; women and girls who have been raped by family members or strangers; girls and women who choose to reject the identity of woman altogether; the voices of maternal men, especially but not only biological fathers.

Here, then, is the voice of my thirty-year old self writing, a voice that continues to have resonance over forty years later:

It is rare to read about the experience of motherhood as described by mothers themselves. Much of what we still read about motherhood are descriptions from the point of view of the children – grown up children who are now writers, psychologists, professionals, but existentially and in relation to the people they are describing, children. Thus, unconscious drives and beliefs are hopelessly entwined with what seems to be purely analytic statement. Even women professionals, overly influenced by the ubiquitous myths of placid, fulfilling maternity accepted by their male mentors, or by ongoing social and cultural ideologies, have given us only half the story. And the vicious circle is complete; the myth determines the content of our so-called objective knowledge, and “knowledge” is used to reinforce the myth.

Women are as different from one another as men are—we have many varied personalities and characters and life experiences, are born with every kind of human temperament—yet there is only one persisting image of the “good mother.” At her worst, she is a tyrannical goddess of stupefying love and murderous self-denial whom none of us should or can emulate, or one limited sort of person, not the vast treasure house of human possibility which would be the stuff of a creative and nourishing myth. She is quietly strong, selflessly giving, undemanding, unambitious; she is receptive and intelligent in only a moderate, concrete way. She is of even temperament, always in control of her emotions.

Most of us are not like her. And we must speak about what it is really like, from pregnancy to giving birth, to the many complexities of raising children, to managing separations of all kinds at all ages. Only in this way can we change the conclusions and theories demanding that we sacrifice our self-knowledge to false and simplistic stories distorting the truth. Much of what has been called neurotic in mothers and pathogenic for the children in psychological literature is, on the contrary, a normal part of the experience of being a mother.

Now, the Court has added to these ingrained lies the equivalency of abortion with murder.

This seed of maternal guilt and shame, that we will with the slightest misstep make our children crazy, or criminal, or ill, is the most common fear shared with me by readers over the years, a stream of relief expressed in the possibility that what has been called individual pathology, including chronic conflict about so much of what we do and feel, from pregnancy to giving birth to raising a child — the knot of motherhood — is actually a natural part of one of the most demanding and overwhelming forms of love. When, or if, to continue a pregnancy, to give birth or to choose not to be a mother or not to be a mother again is one of the most complex decisions in life. By criminalizing our choices, the Court has ruled to control our bodies, to silence our thinking and feeling selves.

When I became a mother, I also became something else brand new. Though I did not know it immediately when I held my first newborn child in my arms, that new self would require a  complex fabric of learning and awareness that has been transformative. In 1969 and again in 1973 I became the white/Jewish mother of Black sons. As I began the maternal work of raising my children, living in close connection with my husband’s African American family, I listened and studied about how race and racial identity are embedded in all issues of public policy, in all struggles for freedom and against oppression, in decisions about where one lives, or shops, or attends school or work, of what to be proud of as I learned more about freedom movements in American history, what to be deeply ashamed of, and what to fear for the bodies I love: I began to comprehend the social, political and psychological problem of whiteness.

As the great writer James Baldwin put it, writing about American racism and the history of American slavery: “People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.” I hear the words of Adrienne Rich: “[P]olitics was not something out there, but in here, the essence of my condition.” And of the philosopher, Sara Ruddick: “The maternal act of storytelling [is] a politics of remembering.”

When I reread The Mother Knot today, I hear the voice of a young woman trying to learn how to be a mother while she is longing for a mother herself, the voice of a mother with many privileges who nevertheless experiences confusion, loneliness, sometimes debilitating anxieties and anger along with devotion, attention, and passionate love. I imagine young women, in a society that offers few supports, struggling to choose to be mothers, then trying to be good mothers against a tight social fabric of terrible odds; women and girls choosing not to be mothers doomed, as many were in my own youth, to death or the risk of death.

I can think of three times when historical forces, personal experience and new intellectual awareness came together to form a radical challenge to my identity:

  • When I dispelled the illusion that we are wholly conscious of everything we feel and all the motivations for our actions and choices.
  • When I understood the cruel and damaging blindness of white perspectives on American history and culture I came to call “the whiteness of whiteness” in my memoir about being the white mother of Black sons.
  • When I became aware of the dangerous historical and personal distortions in cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity in part through the experience of motherhood.

“How much it takes to be a writer …” Tillie Olsen writes in her essay “Silences,” a meditation on gender and women writing. “We must have much conviction as to the importance of what one has to say, one’s right to say it. And the will, the measureless store of belief in oneself to be able to come to, cleave to, find the form for one’s own life comprehensions.”

Or Audre Lorde, the poet and writer who taught us so much about the courage required and the necessity for true stories, while reminding us of “the fear of being visible, scrutinized, judged, even perhaps the elemental fears of pain and death.”

We may extend these words not only to writers but to all people.

 Recently I read words from Vincent Harding, a leader of the American Civil Rights  movement, quoted by the poet, Elizabeth Alexander, about how the yearning for freedom flows through history “like a river, sometimes powerful … and rolling with life; at other times meandering and turgid, covered with the ice and snow of seemingly endless winters, streaked and running with blood.”

 A dangerous winter is emerging in this country. It is felt by progressive people here and in many places across the globe where the ideal of liberty is still a commitment and a hope. One essential piece of holding onto that hope is the courage to write and speak with radical honesty.

Jane Lazarre is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Communist and the Communist’s DaughterBeyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black SonsWet Earth and Dreams: A Narrative of Grief and Recovery, and The Mother Knot, all also published by Duke University Press, as well as the novels Inheritance and Some Place Quite Unknown. She has won awards for her fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Lazarre founded and directed the undergraduate writing program at Eugene Lang College at the New School for ten years and taught creative writing and literature there for twenty years. She has also taught at the City College of New York and Yale University. Lazarre lives in New York City.
Portions of this essay were published by ROOM, A Sketchbook for Analytic Action. Some portions, in somewhat different form, are from A Woman Writer in Time, essays forthcoming by Las Afueras, Barcelona, Spain.

A Seat at the Table: Race and Top Chef, a Guest Post by Anita Mannur

The reality cooking show Top Chef finished its nineteenth season on June 2. Anita Mannur, author of Intimate Eating, is an avid viewer of the show and offers this guest post. Mannur is Associate Professor of English at Miami University, author of Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture, and coeditor of Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader

Top Chef 15

Late last week, I tuned in to watch the season finale of Top Chef with a little more than the usual nervousness I often feel when watching the finale. I have watched all 19 seasons of Top Chef since it began airing in 2006 and have even taken in some of the spin-offs such as Top Chef Masters, Top Chef: Just Desserts and even Top Chef Family Style. I enjoy watching Top Chef because, even though contestants of color get eliminated more often than not, it seems to be the one cooking show that is interested in showcasing food, and not some gimmick around food that would act like seeing people run around a grocery store to collect items is even vaguely interesting. Top Chef showcases innovative and interesting cuisine, often at the hands of talented chefs across the country. The fact that the show is hosted by an Indian American, Padma Lakshmi—who has become a fierce advocate for marginalized peoples and important social issues—makes it even more meaningful. But my love-hate relationship with the show boils down to one simple fact: I find it incredibly frustrating to root for the contestants of color only to see them sent home much earlier than they should be. It is not that the people who win the contest are not talented; rather it is simply a case of wishing that there were more opportunities for chefs of color, and particularly women of color, to thrive in an industry that is dominated by cishet white male chefs. Whenever a person of color wins the season, I am relieved. When one roots for the person of color on reality TV, one is all too familiar with the feeling that they will not win the big prize. So, when they do win, it feels more like a relief than anything else.

This season I was especially excited because there seemed to be a record number of people of color on the show. About two-thirds of the season’s contestants were people of color. Week after week, I watched in surprise to see many of them remain on the show until, by some miracle, there were six remaining contestants—all of whom were people of color.  With apologies to Lauren Berlant, every time I watch Top Chef (or for that matter, any reality TV show), I often feel like I am engaging in a form of cruel optimism. Despite knowing better, I always hope against hope that the people of color will not be eliminated. And yet each week, my optimism fades as I see my favorites get eliminated. While it is certainly the case that there have been several people of color who have won Top Chef (and among them several Asian Americans), rarely do Black or Latinx women ever win. Though some may go on to have success in the culinary field, few—if any—get to hear the words, “you are top chef.” To date, no Black or Latinx women have won the title of Top Chef. And frankly, given the ways that Black and Latinx women have shaped America’s culinary history, that is outrageous.

Top Six

So, it was with considerable surprise and growing interest that I watched Season 19 unfold until, finally, there were six contestants left and every single one of them was a person of color. This moment felt unprecedented. At that point it seemed that it was inevitable that a person of color was going to win Top Chef—the finale would include three chefs of color. I was elated. And then I was reminded of the Top Chef spin-off, Last Chance Kitchen, a 10- to 15-minute show that airs on Bravo.com after the conclusion of each episode. As its title suggests, it is the last chance for eliminated chefs. Each week an eliminated chef competes against a previously eliminated chef. If they survive, they compete against the next eliminated contestant until finally a winner of Last Chance Kitchen is crowned and re-enters the main competition. I began watching LCK, and that old familiar feeling came back as I watched the contestants of color, one after another, lose their second chance until finally a winner was declared. Sarah Welch, a quirky white woman who had been eliminated early in the contest, re-entered Top Chef. While interesting in spirit, the whole premise of LCK seems to be that it offers a second chance to a deserving person. But in a moment when this country offers few second chances to people of color, and when different kinds of subjectivities are under erasure, it felt egregious to see that the concept of “deserving” is rooted in a narrative of talent. The dishes are purportedly tasted blindly, suggesting that a kind of equity is at play. And yet I cannot help but think that this utilizes the same logic as color blindness. What would it look like, in a country that is most certainly not color blind, to be more intentional about accessing a narrative of equity that extends to racial inclusion in determining who deserves a second chance? What if the idea of the “second chance” was not rooted in an apolitical and decontextualized narrative about who usually ascends to positions of power, but in one that would think about the political and affective resonance of having three incredibly deserving chefs of color make it to the end? Why, in the end, is it so unimaginable to have a major cooking competition decide that all its finalists will be people of color?

Top Chef

When Welch returned to the contest, there were five people of color: three African Americans (Ashleigh Shanti, Nick Wallace and Damarr Brown), one Latina (Evelyn Garcia) and one Asian Australian (Buddha Lo).  This was unprecedented. In its 16-year history, there had never been this many African Americans left in the contest at this late stage.  But then the old patterns reemerged, and one by one, each black chef was eliminated, and it became apparent that the finale would include a Latina woman, an Asian Australian man, and a white woman. Though I personally liked Welch and her quirky humor (and her deep commitment to showcasing different kinds of miso), I was a little disappointed. And to be honest, the finale was beautiful. All three contestants clearly respected one another and were rooting for one another in ways that felt more reminiscent of The Great British Bake Off than say, The Amazing Race. There is a real and palpable comradery among the contestants, and it was apparent that Garcia, Lo and Welch were invested in each other’s success. The expressions of intimacy and care felt genuine and were a welcome change from the backstabbing and snark that one often comes to expect in US-based reality shows and in several of the early seasons of Top Chef.

However, in the last few weeks of the season, I went from feeling excited about the prospects of a finale including only chefs of color to feeling deflated that it was all for naught and that Top Chef was once again merely pandering and would eliminate the remaining contestants of color for spurious reasons. At the end of each season, viewers are often told that the smallest details can send a person home. For chefs of color, that often takes the form of being sent home for not being “true to their origins or heritage,” a standard that is rarely applied to white chefs who are often praised for having knowledge of diverse cuisines.

In the end, the right person (I think) won. Buddha Lo’s food was inventive, took stock of his racial and ethnic heritage and was beautifully plated. But I was also disappointed not to see Garcia win—not just because she is Latina but because she was an exceptional chef in every way. But of course, only one person can win, even if the runners up do not have to hear the odious phrase, “please pack your knives and go.”

To the show’s credit, they made remarkable strides in showcasing so many talented chefs of color. And my guess is that, despite not winning, many of them will go on to have amazing careers.  But it remained disappointing to see that it took 19 seasons for the producers of the show to keep six people of color in the running, only to then get rid of them one by one, all the while conveying to the audience that a deserving white person needed to be at the final judging panel. Groundbreaking as it was to have this many contestants of color in one season, it was disappointing that it didn’t go further. To have the show come so close to doing something truly transformative, only to thwart expectations and desires at the last minute, was disappointing.

While I will not stop watching Top Chef anytime soon, it also does not escape my attention that we may not see a season like this again.  At the end of the day, it is not too much to ask to see more chefs of color standing in front of the judge’s table as a small, but important, gesture that would remind us that whiteness does not always have to be at the table.

Mannur coverTo read more from Anita Mannur, buy Intimate Eating from our site and save 30% with coupon code E22MANNR.

New Books in May

As we approach the end of the semester, kick off your summer reading with some of our great new titles! Here’s what we have coming out in May.

Shannen Dee Williams provides a comprehensive history of Black Catholic nuns in the United States in Subversive Habits, tracing how Black sisters’ struggles were central to the long African American freedom movement.

The contributors to Re-Understanding Media, edited by Sarah Sharma and Rianka Singh, advance a feminist version of Marshall McLuhan’s key text, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, repurposing his insight that “the medium is the message” for feminist ends.

In Queer Companions, Omar Kasmani theorizes the construction of queer social relations at Pakistan’s most important Sufi site by examining the affective and intimate relationship between the site’s pilgrims and its patron saint.

In The Impasse of the Latin American Left, Franck Gaudichaud, Massimo Modonesi, and Jeffery R. Webber explore the Latin American Pink Tide as a political, economic, and cultural phenomenon, showing how it failed to transform the underlying class structures of their societies or challenge the imperial strategies of the United States and China.

In Passionate Work, Renyi Hong theorizes the notion of being “passionate about your work” as an affective project that encourages people to endure economically trying situations like unemployment, job change, repetitive and menial labor, and freelancing.

Allan E. S. Lumba explores how the United States used monetary policy and banking systems to justify racial and class hierarchies, enforce capitalist exploitation, and counter movements for decolonization in the American colonial Philippines in Monetary Authorities.

In The Lives of Jessie Sampter, Sarah Imhoff tells the story of the queer, disabled, Zionist writer Jessie Sampter (1883–1938), whose body and life did not match typical Zionist ideals and serves as an example of the complex relationships between the body, queerness, disability, religion, and nationalism.

Jodi Kim examines how the United States extends its sovereignty across Asia and the Pacific in the post-World War II era through a militarist settler imperialism that is leveraged on debt in Settler Garrison.

In Legal Spectatorship, Kelli Moore traces the political origins of the concept of domestic violence through visual culture in the United States, showing how it is rooted in the archive of slavery.

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.

Three Questions with Zeynep Korkman & Sherene Razack, Editors of “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism”

Zeynep Korkman and Sherene Razack are editors of “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism,” a new special issue of Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism that traces the global circuits and formations of power through which anti-Muslim racism travels, operates, and shapes local contexts. The full issue is free to read through the end of June; start reading here.

What makes “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism” unique or essential? What does it do that no other collection has done before?

Transnational feminists begin with the idea that gender is not an abstract system but rather one that emerges in and through global capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Attentive not only to the differences in women’s lives but also to the inequalities among women, transnational feminists have long had a preoccupation with global circuits of power. This collection of essays offers insight into how anti-Muslim racism travels along such global circuits. As racism travels and becomes attached to local conflicts, Muslims are installed as a pre-modern, barbaric, racial Other, a racial category that consolidates white supremacy and other civilizational discourses. The collection is the first to discuss how global white supremacy is upheld through anti-Muslim racism.

The transnational feminist analysis that this special issue embraces emphasizes that anti-Muslim racism is a gendered phenomenon. Muslim women are cast as singularly oppressed by Muslim men who in turn are cast as the universal enemy. Meriting extraordinary levels of violence, Muslims are imagined globally as threats to civilization who must be met with force. The global figures of the Muslim as “terrorist,” and the Muslim woman as oppressed and in need of saving, handily obscure the tremendous force that is directed at Muslim communities. Although the discourses of anti-Muslim racism travel globally, there is no singular overbearing structure of oppression. Likewise, Muslims are not any one thing. This special issue attends to the imbrication of the global with the local and to Muslims as complex and dynamically constituted social and political subjects.

What are some topics that readers can expect to find covered in the issue?

Readers of this special issue will be introduced to the interconnections between gendered anti-Muslim legal projects across the globe. In her article Natasha Bakht reveals how there have been attempts to ban Muslim women’s clothing across the globe, bans articulated as about saving Muslim women from the barbarism of their communities even as they impose a host of restrictions and punishments. Muslims meet these challenges in a host of ways. Readers will meet Bengali women who negotiated the transnational spaces opened up by US Cold War–era imperialist ambitions (Shehabuddin), Muslim women in Russia who draw on narratives of religious and cultural histories of strength to resist their racialization in contemporary Russia (Rabinovitch), and pious Pakistani women who draw on narratives of secularism to stake their rights claims (Jamal). The special issue offers a unique look into a revolutionary politics and resistance in the Muslim world through an exploration of the aesthetic practices of Muslim artists (Ali Bhutto) who ask whether a Muslim warrior drag queen can take us to a queer Muslim futurism.

How do you imagine the issue could be used in courses, or as a basis for future scholarship?

“The transnational terrain of anti-Muslim racism demands solidarities across regions.”

The special issue will be of interest to scholars who explore how class, gender, and sexuality are central to formations of racial dominance, how these discourses travel globally, and how to resist. Gender studies scholars will find a nuanced consideration of agency and feminist political organizing. All readers will be able to deepen their knowledge of how race, class, gender, and sexuality interlock in women’s lives, in national discourses, and in imperial and colonial systems.

The enduring contribution of the issue is the message that the transnational terrain of anti-Muslim racism demands solidarities across regions. As feminists, we must learn and unlearn as we trace the investments we each bring to a transnational feminist politics. Our scholarship has to bear the weight of these critical reflections on our own praxis.

New Books in March

Need something to read over Spring Break? Check out our amazing titles coming out this March!

In Bigger Than Life, Mary Ann Doane examines how the scalar operations of cinema, especially those of the close-up, disturb and reconfigure the spectator’s sense of place, space, and orientation. Doane traces the history of scalar transformations from early cinema to the contemporary use of digital technology.

In Poetic Operations, artist and theorist micha cárdenas considers contemporary digital media, artwork, and poetry in order to articulate trans of color strategies for safety and survival. Drawing on decolonial theory, women of color feminism, media theory, and queer of color critique, cárdenas develops a method she calls algorithmic analysis.

In Intimate Eating, Anita Mannur examines how notions of the culinary can create new forms of kinship, intimacy, and social and political belonging. Drawing on critical ethnic studies and queer studies, Mannur traces the ways in which people of color, queer people, and other marginalized subjects create and sustain this belonging through the formation of “intimate eating publics.”

In Warring Visions, Thy Phu explores photography from dispersed communities throughout Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora, both during and after the Vietnam War, to complicate narratives of conflict and memory. While the visual history of the Vietnam War has been dominated by American media, Phu turns to photographs circulated by the Vietnamese themselves.

In Familial Undercurrents, Afsaneh Najmabadi uncovers her family’s complex experiences of polygamous marriage to tell a larger story of the transformations of notions of love, marriage, and family life in mid-twentieth-century Iran.

In Racist Love, Leslie Bow traces the ways in which Asian Americans become objects of anxiety and desire. Conceptualizing these feelings as “racist love,” she explores how race is abstracted and then projected onto Asianized objects.

Throughout Atlantis, an Autoanthropology, Nathaniel Tarn captures this multiplicity and reaches for the uncertainties of a life lived in a dizzying array of times, cultures, and environments. Drawing on his practice as an anthropologist, he takes himself as a subject of study, examining the shape of a life devoted to the study of the whole of human culture.

In Workers Like All the Rest of Them, Elizabeth Quay Hutchison recounts the long struggle for domestic workers’ recognition and rights in Chile across the twentieth century. Hutchison traces the legal and social history of domestic workers and their rights, outlining their transition from slavery to servitude.

In Earworm and Event, Eldritch Priest questions the nature of the imagination in contemporary culture through the phenomenon of the earworm. Through a series of meditations on music, animal mentality, abstraction, and metaphor, Priest uses the earworm and the states of daydreaming, mind-wandering, and delusion it can produce to outline how music is something that is felt as thought rather than listened to.

In Scales of Captivity, Mary Pat Brady traces the figure of the captive or cast-off child in Latinx and Chicanx literature and art between chattel slavery’s final years and the mass deportations of the twenty-first century. She shows how Latinx expressive practices expose how every rescaling of economic and military power requires new modalities of capture, new ways to bracket and hedge life.

In Queer African Cinemas, Lindsey B. Green-Simms examines films produced by and about queer Africans in the first two decades of the twenty-first century in an environment of increasing antiqueer violence, efforts to criminalize homosexuality, and other state-sanctioned homophobia.

In Living Worth, Stefan Ecks draws on ethnographic research on depression and antidepressant usage in India to develop a new theory of value. Framing depressive disorder as a problem of value, Ecks traces the myriad ways antidepressants come to have value, from their ability to help make one’s life worth living to the wealth they generate in the multibillion-dollar global pharmaceutical market.

In The Florida Room, Alexandra T. Vazquez listens to the music and history of Miami to offer a lush story of place and people, movement and memory, dispossession and survival. She transforms the “Florida room”—an actual architectural phenomenon—into a vibrant spatial imaginary for Miami’s musical cultures and everyday life.

In Plastic Matter, Heather Davis traces plastic’s relations to geology, media, biology, and race to show how matter itself has come to be understood as pliable, disposable, and consumable. The invention and widespread use of plastic, Davis contends, reveals the dominance of the Western orientation to matter and its assumption that matter exists to be endlessly manipulated and controlled by humans.

In Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s, Rox Samer explores how 1970s feminists took up the figure of the lesbian in broad attempts to reimagine gender and sexuality. Samer turns to feminist film, video, and science fiction literature, offering a historiographical concept called “lesbian potentiality”—a way of thinking beyond what the lesbian was, in favor of how the lesbian signified what could have come to be.

The contributors to Reframing Todd Haynes, edited by Theresa L. Geller and Julia Leyda, reassess his work in light of his long-standing feminist commitments and his exceptional career as a director of women’s films. They present multiple perspectives on Haynes’s film and television work and on his role as an artist-activist who draws on academic theorizations of gender and cinema.

In Vulgar Beauty, Mila Zuo offers a new theorization of cinematic feminine beauty by showing how mediated encounters with Chinese film and popular culture stars produce feelings of Chineseness. To illustrate this, Zuo uses the vulgar as an analytic to trace how racial, gendered, and cultural identity is imagined and produced through affect.

Jia Zhangke on Jia Zhangke is an extended dialogue between film scholar Michael Berry and the internationally acclaimed Chinese filmmaker. Drawing from extensive interviews and public talks, this volume offers a portrait of Jia’s life, art, and approach to filmmaking.

In this new edition of Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution, C. L. R. James tells the history of the socialist revolution led by Kwame Nkrumah, the first president and prime minister of Ghana.

In Climatic Media, Yuriko Furuhata traces climate engineering from the early twentieth century to the present, emphasizing the legacies of Japan’s empire building and its Cold War alliance with the United States.

China in the World by Ban Wang traces the shifting concept of the Chinese state from the late nineteenth century to the present, showing how the Confucian notion of tianxia—“all under heaven”—influences China’s dedication to contributing to and exchanging with a common world.

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.

Q&A with Badia Ahad and Habiba Ibrahim, editors of “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis”

Badia Ahad and Habiba Ibrahim are the editors of “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis,” a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly that uses crisis as a framework to explore historical and present-day Black temporalities. Contributors consider how moments of emergency shift and redefine one’s relationship to time and temporality—particularly in the material, psychic, and emotional lives of Black people. In today’s post, Ahad and Ibrahim discuss the making of this issue and what the issue can bring to academic courses and future scholarship, highlighting three articles that cover Black negotiations with specific forms of crisis. Preview the issue’s contents, including the Against the Day section, “Universities as New Battlegrounds,” available free for three months, and the editors’ introduction, made freely available; or pick up a copy.

DUP: What guided your interest in editing this special issue? What questions or problems shaped your study?

Badia Ahad, coeditor of "Black Temporality in Times of Crisis," a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly
Badia Ahad, coeditor of “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis,” a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly

A few developments led to the making of this special issue. One is directly related to our own interests in how contemporary blackness might be thought of in terms of historical, experiential, and subjective frameworks of time. Both of our most recent monographs, Black Age: Oceanic Lifespans and the Time of Black Life and Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture, center temporality as an oft-overlooked yet critical aspect of Black being. Both works engage the historical past as a mode of transformation, reclamation, and an occasion to reconsider the predominance of what Aida Levy Hussen refers to as “traumatic time.” While we acknowledged that Black temporality was marked by ongoing and overlapping moments of crises in a negative sense, it was self-evident in the body of literature, visual art, and performance we mined in our respective works that “crises” in Black life also provided the capacity for creativity, renewal, and the imagining of liberation.

A second key development was the rise of social justice movements in the years leading up to and in 2020. The unbroken ongoingness of anti-Black brutality, along with the increasing explicitness of white nationalist sentiment, guided our interest in how to account for the temporality of the present. Broadly speaking, we were interested in how the present currently operates as a framework of analysis in Black studies. In a manner now commonplace, the present has been shaped via psychoanalytic concepts of trauma and melancholia. Repetition and incalculable loss, meanings derived from these conceptual frames, endow the present with historical density, and such temporal weightiness becomes figurative of blackness itself. The present of blackness—and blackness as the present—initiates a question: How has the formation of blackness as a modern social category relied on particular schemas of time? Is blackness still knowable as such when it isn’t mired in the ongoingness of time? Although these questions arise from the most recent years of crisis, we were especially interested in a related but different question: How do we tarry with the ongoingness of anti-Black brutality while making conceptual room for numerous other structures of time and feeling that also constitute the present? This special issue explores how the exigencies of recent years—structured through the “twin pandemics” of police brutality and COVID-19—make the mode of time conspicuous. As ongoing, quick, drawn-out, or ruptured, temporality’s conspicuousness reboots our collective attempts to theorize the past and present conditions of Black life.     

By toggling between big and small structures of time, long historical patterns, and specific, localized events, the essays in this special issue insist that history matters in the face of nationalized efforts to disavow it. For many, the present-day experience of the 2010s intensified the already-palpable sense that we were living in what Saidiya Hartman has called “the afterlife of slavery”—along with the sense that afterlives are interminably long. Nested within this broad-scale afterlife was post-civil-rights-era disillusionment. Liberatory promises of the 1960s gave way to a “colorblind” discourse that disavowed the historical and structural dimensions of late-twentieth century racism. And after three decades of neoconservatism and neoliberalism converging to disempower Black communities across the United States, the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, announced the arrival of a so-called “postracial” era. From the 1970s into the second decade of the twenty-first century, colorblindness and postracialism were ideological technologies for making “history” inexpressible. In the context of such suppression, Black experiences of time—as interminable, stagnant, regressive—became a means to track specific social, cultural, political, and economic developments. Black time allows us to perceive how social processes work, along with the material, affective, and cultural influence such processes have on Black life. As the term “afterlife” suggests, Black experiences of time trouble linear and progressive schemas of historical formation. But in addition to this, Black time reveals ways of knowing that are eschewed through dominant discourse. The affective and social dimensions of time—stagnation and regression, but also the experience of counter-national temporalities—offer us a means of exploring how suppressed or disavowed aspects of life are experienced and expressed.

DUP: How do you imagine “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis” could be used in courses or as a basis for future scholarship?

Habiba Ibrahim, coeditor of "Black Temporality in Times of Crisis," a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly
Habiba Ibrahim, coeditor of “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis,” a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly

This special issue builds on a remarkable body of literature that exposes how Black life has always been in tension with normative conventions of Western (European) temporal constructs. The essays in this issue offer so many entry points for either seminars or for future scholarship. Our Introduction sets forth a provocative question (“How does crisis draw us toward the precarities, but also the possibilities, of Black life?”) that could be fruitfully explored across a range of disciplines/fields as the essays demonstrate (literary studies, media/cinema studies, visual and performance studies). This issue could be used in courses that focus on the conventions and historicity of Black cultural forms and genres—music, film, speculative fiction, the slave narrative, photographic images—and ask questions about methods for studying mass and popular culture. Across all of the essays, culture is the location of emergent experience that draws our attention toward the underlying logic and structure of time. Courses that frame Black culture through either a national or transnational lens could use this issue to consider how cultural forms are related to historical development.   

As we think of this issue’s contributions to Black literary and cultural studies, we are aware of what it offers to scholarship that intervenes in western philosophical concerns with human existence. In recent years, scholarship in Black studies has taken a turn toward questions of Black being, with examples ranging from Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson’s Becoming Human, and Kevin Quashie’s Black Aliveness. Our issue draws attention to how temporality structures Black ontology. Conceptual frameworks such as “the afterlife of slavery” (Hartman), “the wake” (Sharpe), “ontological plasticity,” (Jackson), and “aliveness” (Quashie) each explore, in significantly different ways, the inextricability of temporality from conditions of embodiment, presence, reality, and various modes of social and non-social existence. Across these works, temporality is thought of as the longue durée of transatlantic slavery and colonialism, through the epistemic terms of hierarchically organized forms of life, or as the intersubjective here-and-now. Taken together, temporality is related to not just one but multitudinous registers in which to think of Black life. In this issue, Julius B. Fleming Jr.’s essay, “Anticipating Blackness: Nina Simone, Lorraine Hansberry, and the Time of Black Ontology,” speaks most directly to the relationship between Black time and Black being as it offers its own analytical framework, “the time of black ontology.”

DUP: What are some topics that readers can expect to find covered in the issue?

"Black Temporality in Times of Crisis," a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly

When we discussed the throughline of the essays in this issue, we decided to present the works in a quasi-chronological order because it evinces the narrative of Black negotiations with specific forms of crisis over historical time, across geographic spatialities, and into imagined futures. 

Sarah Stefana Smith’s “Keeping Time: Maroon Assemblages and Black Life in Crisis” weaves her personal navigation with the global pandemic and national racial unrest in 2020, petit-maroon communities in 19th century Virginia, the narrative of Harriet Jacobs, and somatic movement to form a meditation on the precarity of enslavement and emancipation through representations of flight and mobility. This essay produces a sense of warped time reflective of the warped social, political and economic conditions that structured black existence in the antebellum era and persist in our present moment. 

Similarly, Tao Leigh Goffe’s piece “Stolen Life, Stolen Time: Black Temporality, Speculation and Racial Capitalism” brings together a range of media (Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, the HBO series Watchmen, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, and Khalik Allah’s Black Mother) to highlight how Black temporality as “a refusal to labor within the limits of history” frustrates the constraints of Western logics of time even when Black characters are not at the center of the narrative and, in some cases, completely absent. Goffe also draws on “maroon time” as a kind of freedom that takes the form of anticipation, reclamation, and imagination.  

Margo Crawford’s “What Time Is It When You’re Black” extends the conversation around “anticipation” or the “not yet” of black life. In Crawford’s essay the black vernacular term finna signals the liminal space between the trauma of the historical past and the present by which it is shaped (“the afterlife of the afterlife”). Drawing upon the poetry of Nate Marshall, Toni Morrison’s 2015 novel God Help the Child, and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (2014) and The White Card (2019), Crawford shows that “finna-tude” is not a state of black hope but a recognition of “a new kind of grammar” that signals the possibility of emancipatory black futures.