"As will be evident from the pages of this issue (if not evident before), Small Axe takes history seriously. We are forever quarreling with, quarreling about, history. We have never been content with the idea that the past is a self-evident or neutral or passive domain that will supply us with ready-made answers to our questions in the present or our hopes for the future. Much—perhaps everything—depends on what we ask, andhow. Much—perhaps everything—depends, in other words, on the historiographical questions that shape and drive, that animate, our preoccupations. Small Axe seeks to make us more reflexively aware of these questions and their assumptions so that we can better discern what they enable (perhaps politically) and what they do not.”
- excerpt from “Preface: Debt, Redress" by David Scott in "Caribbean Historiography," a special issue of Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism (volume 18 and issue 1, number 43)
“The Soviet Union collapsed more than twenty years ago: this is how long it takes for an infant to become and adult. In Russia, twenty-one years used to be a significant period: twenty-one years after Leon Trotsky led the revolution of 1917, for example, Joseph Stalin led the terror of 1938. The unprocessed memory of the catastrophic Soviet past keeps Russia in its interminable post-Soviet condition. This is a time of melancholy, the work of mourning that remains incomplete and unsuccessful: the loss has been incorporated into the subject, who cannot (meaning that he does not want to) free himself from it. For some, the loss is the unburied millions of victims of the Soviet regime; for others, by contrast, it is the grandeur of the Soviet empire. One person finds these two sorrows incompatible; another sees them reinforcing each other.”
— excerpt from “Post-Soviet Russia: The Land of the Oil Curse, Pussy Riot, and Magical Historicism,” by Alexander Etkind in “Second-Hand Europe,” a special issue of boundary2 (volume 41 and issue 1, Spring 2014), edited by Wlad Godzich and Anita Starosta
Indeed, if freedom is not equality, then either it is superiority—mastery—or it is subjection and dependence on some power, which is absurd. Thus, correlatively, equality must be thought as the general form of the radical negation of all subjection and all mastery, that is, as the liberation of freedom itself from an external or internal power that takes it over and transforms it into its opposite.
The newest issue of American Literature explores technology in the context of American literary history. It was partly produced on Scalar, a website that publishes peer-reviewed multimodal pieces formed by new media. Essays touch upon a range of topics, from the letters of Thomas Jefferson to contemporary independently produced video games. For more information, or to view the Scalar pieces, which are open access, click here.
"New Media and American Literature," a special issue of American Literature, edited by Tara McPherson, Patrick Jagoda, and Wendy H. K. Chun, volume 85 and issue 4, December 2013
“What we could call jazz’s constellation of multiple technologies of the body is further reified by its distinction from other modes of dance music. One vice investigator, reporting on his experience at a jazz-filled dance hall, describes the wildly uneven distribution of sexual energies and emotions that emerged in response to distinct musical forms: “While dancing with Helen a second time a waltz was suddenly struck up by the orchestra and I observed about 25 men leaving the floor. I said ‘What is the matter, the dance is not over is it?’ She replied ‘No, the cops are here.’ I said ‘How do you know that?’ She said ‘That’s the signal. Just as soon as they come we get that and we are ordered to immediately break into a waltz.’” According to the same report, the “six piece colored orchestra” had been playing jazzy fox-trots before breaking into the staid waltz after the unexpected arrival of the police. The quick-time rhythms and looser motions of the fox-trot are themselves the reason for unwelcome surveillance; the waltz, on the other hand, though at an earlier time considered shocking for its mandated embrace, had become respectable and morally faultless… Performing a waltz was intended to cleanse the dance hall and its patrons in the eyes of authority.
Jazz thus transmitted a series of codes for rebellion—against respectable sexuality, racial segregation, and even civilization—though these codes often had a troubling provenance. Furthermore, its kinetic music was seemingly infectious. Jazz threatened to spill forth from the nightclubs and cabarets, seeping onto the street but also stimulating and entering the body. Jazz was thus perceived as a primitivizing, uncivilizing technology of the body, inasmuch as the body would be compelled by its music toward promiscuous movements, emotions, desires, and pleasure across boundaries of a multiple nature.”
From Imperial Blues: Geographies of Race and Sex in Jazz Age New York by Fiona I.B. Ngô (Duke University Press, 2014)
When did you begin to identify as an anarchist?
Some of it has to do with a cousin of mine who I never knew all that well, but I think he considered himself an anarchist and suggested that I look into the thing. As a late teenager, I hadn’t really thought of myself as having a specific political identity. I was sort of default radicalism. The cousin said I should read up on Spain. I asked my dad, and he was trying to be fair, so he gave me George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia. Dad cautioned me, “Bear in mind that the guy has a total bias, and a lot of what he says is bullshit. But it’s a good place to start.” And my father was brought in by the very antianarchist people, and he propagandized against them all the time. But he knew many anarchists personally when he was there and they got along. The position he ended up taking on Spain was that it was necessary to build a modern army to fight the Fascists, but suppressing the actual revolution was insane and suicidal. The anarchist military structure wasn’t going to work, but the anarchist social structure and political economic structure [were]. When they shot that down, that was the beginning of the end. So I read Orwell and I read up on Spain and politics, and, you know, I came around to the realization that anarchism is a reasonable position.
-excerpt from “Finance Is Just Another Word for People’s Debts: An Interview with David Graeber,” by Hannah Appel in “The Fictions of Finance,” a special issue of Radical History Review, number 118, Winter 2014.
“There are multiple stories about how the two met. The classic version, told repeatedly, is that they had noticed each other early on. She was in her second year, he in his first. But rather than start a conversation, they circled each other warily, each sizing the other up. Then one day in the library, after Bill kept gazing at Hillary down at the other end of the Gothic-arched room, Hillary strode up to him and said, in effect, “Look, if we’re going to spend all this time staring at each other, we should at least get to know who the other is.” And the rest, supposedly, is history.”
From Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal by William H. Chafe (Duke University Press, 2014)
“Moments such as these in the film force us to rethink the illegality and criminality with which we might at first have associated Angel and Isaac. Rather than permit us to interpret the boys’ participation in gangs as resulting from some stereotypical inner violence or evil, the film prompts us to consider the impact that housing segregation, poverty, racism, a lack of social services, a failed educational system, unfulfilled longings, and the awareness of being barred from fully participating in the benefits of a society that one is nevertheless forced to serve have had on these characters. Popular guidebooks tout Chicago as a multicultural ‘city of neighborhoods,’ but such representations work to obscure the official historical neglect of some parts of the city as well as the inequalities and racial tensions between communities that can make just walking through town an object lesson in American contradictions. On the Downlow asks us to scrutinize not just the gang nations but the gangsterism of the nation itself.”
— excerpt from Bill Johnson González, “The Limits of Desire: On the Downlow and Queer Chicago Film,” in “Queering the Middle,” a special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, volume 20 and issue 1-2.
THE GLOBAL, THE REGIONAL, AND THE LOCAL
“Rio’s favelados were living through a period of momentous change at global, national, and local levels. For a brief period in the late 1970s and 1980s, they seemed to be in control of that change, or at least in control of the changes in their own lives and neighborhoods. By the early 1990s, that control and the opportunity it represented were lost, for at least a generation.
The world moved to the city in the second half of the twentieth century. The green revolution of high-yield crops and mechanized agriculture simultaneously freed most of humanity from the need to raise its own food and destroyed sustenance agriculture, sending former peasants, campesinos, camponeses, and other former farmhands and their descendants in search of urban employment. Galloping urbanization took on many variations but in the Global South was generally characterized by the proliferation of self-built housing for the urban poor in any perch they could secure long enough to nail together a rough shelter.
Rio de Janeiro had a head start on this pattern of urbanization, as Rio’s favelas already had fifty years of history behind them: new waves of urbanization then drove their expansion in the second half of the twentieth century. Partly as a result, Rio’s pattern of urban settlement differed from the “cup and saucer” model of a formal core ringed by informal peripheries common in most cities across the Global South. In Rio, favelas were scattered throughout the city, including within its downtown core and adjacent to luxury residential neighborhoods. As a result , the urban poor could never simply be pushed to the outskirts of the city, and conflict over urban space became central to urban life. As elsewhere, however, the population of the urban poor and the percentage living in self-built housing on irregular lots expanded dramatically during the second half of the twentieth century.”
From Hard Times in the Marvelous City: From Dictatorship to Democracy in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, by Bryan McCann (Duke University Press, 2014)