- Editor’s Note
This issue of American Quarterly includes engaging and insightful essays that cover a range of important topics for American studies scholars, including issues of creative production and representation in photography and art, the uses of sexuality in labor organizing, postwar cultural memory, and an essay about the state of the field of American studies.
This first issue of AQ in 2013 begins with an essay by George Lipsitz and Barbara Tomlinson, “American Studies as Accompaniment,” where the authors offer deep historical knowledge and understanding of the field of American studies. Calling on us as scholars, teachers, and activists, they argue that the future of American Studies requires us to know “the work we want our work to do.” In this context, they call on scholars to refuse the construction of scholarly relations as competition and instead think of these relations as “accompaniment.” The essay provides a searing analysis of neoliberalism’s impact on the academy and the field of American studies, yet importantly traces the positive vision and optimistic energy that drives the field.
Robert K. Chester’s essay focuses on the wartime and postwar representations of African American, Doris Miller, as a hero in the US national and historical memory of Pearl Harbor. Through this examination, Chester offers a broadening analysis for the place of race in American cultural memories of World War II. The shifting frames of remembering Miller provide the context for Chester’s crucial concept, “retroactive multiculturalism,” which identifies the process whereby racial inequalities are relegated to the past in order to highlight military triumphalism.
The next article offers a provocative and important analysis of the uses of sexuality by the United Farm Workers (UFW). Ana Raquel Minian shows the prolific appearance of sexuality (from prostitution to homosexuality to sexual abstinence and birth control) in much of the UFW’s public discourse and documents, including speeches, songs, and the pages of the union’s newspaper, El Malcriado. As Minian convincingly argues, heteropatriarchal ideas about sexuality were used to frame the UFW, and contributed to the union’s success. In her analysis, she asks us to consider what larger issues are at stake when particular hegemonic representations are utilized in struggles for systemic change. [End Page vii]
Following, we have Iyko Day’s essay, which examines representations in the realm of landscape art. She looks at photographer and artist Tseng Kwong Chi’s photographs of US and Canadian landscapes as a queer parody of the western conventions that have dominated landscape art in the first part of the twentieth century. These parodies (of artists such as Ansel Adams and Gutzon Borglum) are critical political representations that focus on the eugenic ideals projected into the settler colonial landscape.
Finally, we have an essay by Shelley Jarenski which examines African American artists’ and writers’ engagement with the visual aesthetics of panoramas. In this well-designed research project, Jarenski raises important issues for American studies scholars about social identities and visual culture. She investigates the cultural role of panoramas and argues that, while panoramas have been used in imperialist projects, they have also been a source for African American political and artistic projects. Taking a broad historical look, she focuses on J. P. Ball’s 1855 abolitionist panorama as well as contemporary artist Kara Walker’s panoramic silhouettes, and re-reads the second autobiography of Frederick Douglass through this lens.
We also include in this issue a timely and important forum on “Visual Culture and the War on Terror,” edited by Matt Delmont. Featuring an introduction and an essay by Delmont, the forum also includes short essays by Evelyn Alsultany, Sasha Torres, Stacy Takacs, Anjali Nath, and Erika Doss. As Delmont says in his introduction, we need to think carefully about the role of visual culture in the “War on Terror,” as “visibility and invisibility are deeply intertwined in the war on terror, and as such, the study of visual cultures offers a critical vantage point from which to understand what is seen and what remains unseen in this war.”
In this issue, we also introduce a new feature of AQ: “Interview.” The AQ editorial board felt that there are some occasions where it...