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Architecture, Planning, and Consumer Culture on the American Home Front
How does one write an experimental ABC, an impossible theory that would deal with a series of phenomena, concepts, places, sensations, persons, and moods? A para-philosophy? Returning to a once-abandoned project of fragmented thoughts where the author’s voice moves from the serious to the pathetic, to the absurd, to the cynical, Simon Critchley’s ABC of Impossibility finds new life in the form of this small encyclopedic and aphoristic text where the reader bears witness to the slow emergence of an attempt at a poetic ontology. ABC of Impossibility is a unique undertaking that reexamines the poetic site of the fragment as thought. Following a heritage of fragmented, aphoristic thinkers including Pascal, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Pessoa, Critchley revitalizes a para-philosophical thinking that can only be uttered by way of another. As he declares in the opening pages, “In writing this, I promise to tell the truth, but not to be myself.”
On Peace, Place, and Postcoloniality
Traditional narratives of the period leading up to the Civil War are invariably framed in geographical terms. The sectional descriptors of the North, South, and West, like the wartime categories of Union, Confederacy, and border states, mean little without reference to a map of the United States. In Abolitionist Geographies, Martha Schoolman contends that antislavery writers consistently refused those standard terms.
Through the idiom Schoolman names “abolitionist geography,” these writers instead expressed their dissenting views about the westward extension of slavery, the intensification of the internal slave trade, and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law by appealing to other anachronistic, partial, or entirely fictional north–south and east–west axes. Abolitionism’s West, for instance, rarely reached beyond the Mississippi River, but its East looked to Britain for ideological inspiration, its North habitually traversed the Canadian border, and its South often spanned the geopolitical divide between the United States and the British Caribbean.
Schoolman traces this geography of dissent through the work of Martin Delany, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others. Her book explores new relationships between New England transcendentalism and the British West Indies; African-American cosmopolitanism, Britain, and Haiti; sentimental fiction, Ohio, and Liberia; John Brown’s Appalachia and circum-Caribbean marronage. These connections allow us to see clearly for the first time abolitionist literature’s explicit and intentional investment in geography as an idiom of political critique, by turns liberal and radical, practical and utopian.
The Historiography of a Concept
Latinos, Asian Americans, and the Achievement Gap
Today the achievement gap is hotly debated among pundits, politicians, and educators. In particular this conversation often focuses on the two fastest-growing demographic groups in the United States: Asian Americans and Latinos. In Academic Profiling, Gilda L. Ochoa addresses this so-called gap by going directly to the source. At one California public high school where the controversy is lived every day, Ochoa turns to the students, teachers, and parents to learn about the very real disparities—in opportunity, status, treatment, and assumptions—that lead to more than just gaps in achievement.
In candid and at times heart-wrenching detail, the students tell stories of encouragement and neglect on their paths to graduation. Separated by unequal middle schools and curriculum tracking, they are divided by race, class, and gender. While those channeled into an International Baccalaureate Program boast about Socratic classes and stress-release sessions, students left out of such programs commonly describe uninspired teaching and inaccessible counseling. Students unequally labeled encounter differential policing and assumptions based on their abilities—disparities compounded by the growth in the private tutoring industry that favors the already economically privileged.
Despite the entrenched inequality in today’s schools, Academic Profiling finds hope in the many ways students and teachers are affirming identities, creating alternative spaces, and fostering critical consciousness. When Ochoa shares the results of her research with the high school, we see the new possibilities—and limits—of change.