This special issue, Race, Empire, and the Crisis of the Subprime, interjects into the discourse and conditions of an ongoing global economic and racial crisis. That is, it is not a "coda" to the crisis, signaling a conclusion, or a kind of retrospective on the ravages of global and racial capitalism. Neither does it serve to locate the "origins" of what has come to be known as the "subprime crisis." Rather, it is a necessary intervention in the midst of crisis, a recognition of the historical legacies that envelop and frame the 2008 global economic crisis, as well as a call to critically acknowledge the varied spaces and homes worldwide that this latest crisis has shaped, destroyed, or irrevocably changed. As such, this special issue is an excellent example of the efforts by American studies scholars, as well as those in other disciplines, to imagine and theorize an "American" studies that is deeply, and inevitably, transnational and transhemispheric. Above all else, it is a reminder that global racial capitalism cannot be understood within the frame of economics alone; rather, it needs to be theorized and imagined as a set of cultural, political, and geographic practices on and within persons and places.
As is clear from the volume of scholarship on the current global economic crisis, including the essays presented in this special issue, there are complex, multilayered, and deeply interrelated reasons for, and effects of, the global economic crisis of 2008. During the years 2007-8, around the world, stock markets fell, large financial institutions collapsed or were bought out, and governments in even the wealthiest nations scrambled to develop rescue packages to bail out their financial systems. The collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market and the reversal of the housing boom in other industrialized economies had a ripple effect in other nations. The failure of the national economies of Spain and Greece (to name just two) has had resounding impacts on the European Union (EU) experiencing the disciplinary power of debt. Importantly, however, as the authors in this volume persuasively point out, the current crisis has important precedents in other crises in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s. Relatedly, and most urgently for the contributors to this volume, the 2008 global crisis was triggered by what the volume's coeditors call "unpayable debts" by "high-risk borrowers," namely (in the United States), black and Latino/a borrowers and communities. [End Page v]
The culture of the current economy has generated a variety of impulses and reactions to the financial crisis of the early twenty-first century: there have been financial responses in the form of government corporate subsidies; subversive challenges to capitalism in terms of alternative lifestyles; ideological proclamations about what capitalism is and should be; recuperative answers that privilege a new, "leaner," global market; and so on.
While there has been a range of reactions, for the most part state responses have not called attention to larger infrastructural failures that contributed to the global economic crisis, such as mortgage fraud, corporate greed, racism, and colonial histories. Rather, the global crisis has often been staged as a sort of "media event," where there are contrived debates between pundits on television, conservative radio hosts on talk radio, and corporate "citizens," who carelessly and dangerously point to what the coeditors of this special issue recognize as the stylized "high-risk borrower," the working class and people of color, who become the literal iteration of the "subprime" as a way to place blame on particular persons while exonerating others, particularly those at the "top of the guilt [profit] hierarchy." Indeed, the 2008 global economic crisis has been skillfully shape-shifted into an opportunity for some corporate players, where there are efforts to brand the crisis, as a way to frame it as an opportunity for—indeed, a moral obligation of—the individual worker to address. In turn, this focus on particular individuals as recuperative players in a global crisis renders invisible the "high-risk borrower" and the ravages of capitalism on racialized communities.
Importantly, the coeditors of this volume pose a different set of questions to both understand the politics of economic crisis and to figure how to situate the current moment historically and transnationally. In their introduction, and throughout each of the eleven essays in the volume, the authors ask: how do we theorize racial/ postcolonial subjugation and economic exploitation in relation to the current financial crisis? This volume insists the "subprime" be read through the "dual lens of race and empire": indeed, as explicit referents to these modernizing practices, but to also delve into the intersections and contradictions within these globalizing historical processes.
Global racial capitalism forged, and was forged by, the nation-state form and its modes of governance. In a time of global crisis, it is surely the case that the nation is more important than ever; fluid economic boundaries and cultural hybridity do not make the nation obsolete, but rather center its importance even more, as the nation mounts its response to threat. It is imperative we measure the flux of the nation as well as how it is stabilized, and the essays in this volume work efficiently to do just that. [End Page vi]
As with every issue, this special issue wouldn't be possible without the tireless energies of the AQ managing editor, Jih-Fei Cheng. He has greatly assisted not only in the timely production of the volume but also in gathering media materials for the print edition and accompanying webpage for special issues, "Beyond the Page" (found on the AQ website, americanquarterly.org). We were also fortunate to have the help of editorial assistants provided by the American Studies Master's program at California State University, Fullerton, each school term. In the last year, they include Keith G. Cottenbach, Patrick Covert, Monica Duboski, Yvonne L. England, Melissa Hoon, Diann Rozsa, Corrigan Vaughan, and Jason Ward. Paula Dragosh, the copy editor for AQ, remained patient and attentive throughout, even when pressed for time. Our gratitude also goes to Kristopher Zgorski and Brian Shea at the Johns Hopkins University Press for the time and care they have invested in the production of the journal issue and the management of our website.
We are thankful to the USC Dornsife College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism for their support.
As with our previous special issue, you may find more materials related to this volume online at http://www.press.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/special_issue.html. [End Page vii]